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Old 02-17-2018, 03:53 PM   #1
Raider
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Default '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Hi everyone guy from Florida here with a '98 Saturn SL2 DOHC that I installed the Cylinder head and complete timing chain kit a few years back and still running killer.
Problem I'm having here is that My low side was about 22 psi and high about 100. I decided to bleed a little of the gas out and it wasn't cold at all. Nothing cold, Just regular warm air and a little oily residue. enough to cover my index, ring and middle fingers. Took about 2-3 minutes to release it all. Putting a vacuum on 'er now for 45 mins.. An hour in a half later the system is holding vacuum.
Anyone have any ideas on how I lose all my freon and have that much ambient air in a sealed system ? Thank you so much for reading.

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Old 02-17-2018, 04:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Presuming those pressures were read with the compressor running to have two pressures, it's easy to misunderstand how refrigerants creates pressures and confuse it as air. Air is compressible but no matter how much its pressurized, its still air and will never act as a refrigerant to remove heat in any evaporator coil. You were measuring refrigerant pressures and despite the low and moderate pressure readings, this just points to a system that lost most of its refrigerant. A fully charged system will show operating pressures of around 28-35 psi on the low side while high side pressures will show anywhere from 200-300 psi, depending on outside temperatures and humidity. Higher temperatures, higher high side pressures. Your system leaked, period. Where it leaked, if an original system never repaired but topped off usually leaks from any fitting and service ports if the valves leak and the caps aren't tightened with O-rings. All Saturns have dye mixed permanently in oil to circulate freely. Once a leak occurs, refrigerant (invisible), oil and dye are released. Oil stains the area, dye glows greenish yellow with an inexpensive uv light. If you noticed, removing the service caps should show dye sitting in the Schrader valves.

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Old 02-17-2018, 05:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Thanks for the quick reply. Well that sounds real logical. It was like 15 psi low side and 170 on the high at 75 degrees with 66% humidity here just south of Tampa, Fl.
I put in 24 oz of strait up R134A (2ea 12 oz cans) no additives.
then it held about 30 low and 175 high but blew nice and cold as I held the rpm's at 2000 RPM's with the good ol RichPin06 credit card trick.

I replaced all the port gaskets about 4 years ago when I took the compressor off and changed the oil in it and also put on a new accumulator. I'm kicking myself for not doing the expansion valve then. Anyway, after the vacuum and recharge about 6 or 7 months later I noticed it leaking from the glass window on the compressor. I bled all the rest of the air out then put a good amount of silicone engine gasket sealer all over it and let it sit for a few days. Recharged it and it worked fine for about 3 years I guess. Time for a new or remanufactured compressor and expansion valve. Might as well do the condenser and accumulator while I'm at it. Is what gets me is if I have a leak why am I holding vacuum ?

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Old 02-17-2018, 06:28 PM   #4
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Two reasons: 1)things that leak under pressure sometimes do not leak under vacuum as the vacuum closes up the leak, and 2)R-134a is a very small molecule compared O2 or N2 (air).

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Old 02-17-2018, 06:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Thanks Old Nuc. This is Jon. The guy you helped out a bunch doing the timing chain and cylinder head install about 5 to 6 years ago. I forgot my original user name and I think that email got compromised a ways back. She still running awesome!!!!! I think it's the same freon leak from before that I gunked up and smoothed out with permatex orange on the compressor glass. I'll keep monitoring it and get a reman. or new compressor, expansion valve, accumulator and condenser before summer starts. Fairly easy to do on this car. Probably be a good idea to get new gauge manifolds also.

So maybe when the compressor is on its sucking air into that leak I plugged before maybe ?

Last edited by Raider; 02-17-2018 at 06:45 PM.. Reason: add a question

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Old 02-17-2018, 06:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Leaks are 98% of all vehicle ac problems despite many armchair quarterbacks declaring compressor/thermal expansion valve, zero leaks in their system. I am not an expert on vehicle ac systems. All I do is practice repairs since r12 days with most repairs fixed the first time using known diagnosing and troubleshooting principles with as complete an understanding of refrigeration fundamentals. Once skills are acquired and equipment bought, practicing repairs either results in restoring ac function back to factory operation or not. Not - continuing refilling a leaking system that wasn't repaired correctly. The target of all vehicle ac repairs to restoring it back to factory condition. Anyone can do it but must have all the info, skills and equipment to duplicate repairs made by repair shops, sometimes exceeding shop repairs by replacing only parts that are necessary and not padding a bill for greater profit. I repair my ac systems to keep money in my wallet.

A vacuum that holds perfectly after shutting off the vacuum pump and observing the needles not moving after 15-30 minutes is usually a good indication of a sealed system. There are no guarantees that a perfectly held vacuum will result in pressurizing a system to hold refrigerant. Since a vacuum forces atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi at sea level), this doesn't imply the opposite (20-450 psi) will hold high pressures. Compressors generate heat and aluminum expands, making it important to have seals work wherever used. Fortunately, engineers in the hvac community did all the work to make ac no longer an option but standard on most cars with many being reliable for years. The only way vehicle ac system fail is from three evils - heat, cold and vibration. Refrigerators stand in one spot for ten, twenty, thirty years before wearing out or replaced just because its old and not stylish....... Vehicle ac systems are damaged easily by soft aluminum stress hardening leading to stress cracks, expansion and contraction.

There is no air your system. You bled out remaining r134a. As little as 8 ounces out of 24 ounces will still produce pressures but zero cooling. As mentioned, refrigerant is not air and chemically formulated to operate as a medium to remove heat from inside a car. Rough estimates are anywhere from 20,000 btu to 50,000 btu of ac is used in vehicles. Infrared heat transmitted from the engine thru the firewall is added heat that has to be removed in addition to passengers throwing off heat as well as hot air and more infrared heat from the sun heating the interior.

If you spent the money or borrowed the vacuum pump, invest in an inexpensive uv blacklight. Use it to search for the elusive leak no one wants to spend time searching for but will throw away money on refill kits to refill................a leaking system. Sealer only guarantees a more expensive repair as it contaminates a system that will have to be flushed of all all sealant and oil to restore a system. When it left the factory, every vehicle ac system runs with only three ingredients, r134a, dye and oil. No car manufacturer uses sealer. Sealer is a band aid to eventual repairs.

Personally, you haven't documented proof of compressor, receiver/drier or thermal expansion failure. All you've posted is about a leak that hasn't been found. A vacuum is not the perfect way to prove a system isn't leaking especially if its a very slow leak that eludes many experts. I don't use a perfect vacuum to prove a sealed system. Once I make repairs and the ac system is cooling, the real test is having it back again a year later, to prove a sealed system is repaired to factory condition without need to 'top off' and run as new (as it did when it was bought new and worked for several years until wear and tear occurs).

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Old 02-17-2018, 07:41 PM   #7
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

I have a UV black light and I'll check for leaks again. I've owned this Saturn for 8 years now. I'm about 90% sure it's the original compressor. I replaced the accumulator and both AC lines and blower motor like 3-4 years ago. I also replaced all the little o-ring gaskets and lubricated them with R12 Mineral Oil. I do remember finding a very slow leak around the AC compressor Sight Glass. So I just assume to replace all the major components as I'm sure the compressor, expansion valve and condenser are still the original parts. They're going on 20 years old in Florida driving. Is what sucks about AC repair is that if you don't have a recovery tank or machine you have to buy new refrigerant during every repair. So I'm like screw it. I'll just replace it all at once and it's done. I'm tempted to do the evap core also just to do it so I know how to do it. Might as well. I want to put a newer stereo system in it also. And the glove box is broken need one of those also. I don't mine buying new parts with my hard earned money. I been threw hell and back with this special little car. It has never broken down on me or left me stranded. Starter failed once but I got her started with a 3 lb hammer and few F. B and C Bombs. lol

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Old 02-17-2018, 07:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Leaks are 98% of all vehicle ac problems despite many armchair quarterbacks declaring compressor/thermal expansion valve, zero leaks in their system. I am not an expert on vehicle ac systems. All I do is practice repairs since r12 days with most repairs fixed the first time using known diagnosing and troubleshooting principles with as complete an understanding of refrigeration fundamentals. Once skills are acquired and equipment bought, practicing repairs either results in restoring ac function back to factory operation or not. Not - continuing refilling a leaking system that wasn't repaired correctly. The target of all vehicle ac repairs to restoring it back to factory condition. Anyone can do it but must have all the info, skills and equipment to duplicate repairs made by repair shops, sometimes exceeding shop repairs by replacing only parts that are necessary and not padding a bill for greater profit. I repair my ac systems to keep money in my wallet.

A vacuum that holds perfectly after shutting off the vacuum pump and observing the needles not moving after 15-30 minutes is usually a good indication of a sealed system. There are no guarantees that a perfectly held vacuum will result in pressurizing a system to hold refrigerant. Since a vacuum forces atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi at sea level), this doesn't imply the opposite (20-450 psi) will hold high pressures. Compressors generate heat and aluminum expands, making it important to have seals work wherever used. Fortunately, engineers in the hvac community did all the work to make ac no longer an option but standard on most cars with many being reliable for years. The only way vehicle ac system fail is from three evils - heat, cold and vibration. Refrigerators stand in one spot for ten, twenty, thirty years before wearing out or replaced just because its old and not stylish....... Vehicle ac systems are damaged easily by soft aluminum stress hardening leading to stress cracks, expansion and contraction.

There is no air your system. You bled out remaining r134a. As little as 8 ounces out of 24 ounces will still produce pressures but zero cooling. As mentioned, refrigerant is not air and chemically formulated to operate as a medium to remove heat from inside a car. Rough estimates are anywhere from 20,000 btu to 50,000 btu of ac is used in vehicles. Infrared heat transmitted from the engine thru the firewall is added heat that has to be removed in addition to passengers throwing off heat as well as hot air and more infrared heat from the sun heating the interior.

If you spent the money or borrowed the vacuum pump, invest in an inexpensive uv blacklight. Use it to search for the elusive leak no one wants to spend time searching for but will throw away money on refill kits to refill................a leaking system. Sealer only guarantees a more expensive repair as it contaminates a system that will have to be flushed of all all sealant and oil to restore a system. When it left the factory, every vehicle ac system runs with only three ingredients, r134a, dye and oil. No car manufacturer uses sealer. Sealer is a band aid to eventual repairs.

Personally, you haven't documented proof of compressor, receiver/drier or thermal expansion failure. All you've posted is about a leak that hasn't been found. A vacuum is not the perfect way to prove a system isn't leaking especially if its a very slow leak that eludes many experts. I don't use a perfect vacuum to prove a sealed system. Once I make repairs and the ac system is cooling, the real test is having it back again a year later, to prove a sealed system is repaired to factory condition without need to 'top off' and run as new (as it did when it was bought new and worked for several years until wear and tear occurs).

I forgot to ask. Whatever was still in the system that I had let out was ambient air temperature. It wasn't freezing cold and it wasn't a misty spray or colored. I had no stains on my fingers and nothing dripped from the manifold gauge lines. only oily substance I'm guessing was compressor oil. that was colorless. Now after I recharged the system I had neon yellow dripping from the manifold lines when I was putting the gauges away.

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Old 02-17-2018, 11:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

That yellow tint is the dye that is in most refill canisters.

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Old 02-18-2018, 03:10 AM   #10
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Quote:
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I forgot to ask. Whatever was still in the system that I had let out was ambient air temperature. It wasn't freezing cold and it wasn't a misty spray or colored. I had no stains on my fingers and nothing dripped from the manifold gauge lines. only oily substance I'm guessing was compressor oil. that was colorless. Now after I recharged the system I had neon yellow dripping from the manifold lines when I was putting the gauges away.
Refrigerant as a gas, unpressurized, will not freeze anything or anyone. Under pressure and released, it absorbs heat from the surrounding area - fingers, face, eyeballs, aluminum, anything it's sprayed onto and may create instant freeze burns on human contact. In its natural state, refrigerant is just a gas. When compressed to high pressures, it turns into a liquid. As it enters the expansion valve, its released by careful metering to allow this liquid to expand back to a gas, absorbing heat from the evaporator coils to create cold air as airflow goes thru to cool the interior. All you did was release less than a pound of refrigerant at less than high pressure and not enough to chill your fingers. And I'll remind you again, you did not release any air in system. You released remaining refrigerant before evacuating system.

The neon yellow dye is as mentioned, store refrigerant with dye. Saturn used in green/yellow dye at factory assembly. While it's more problematic when replacing parts, if there's any doubt about what was used to top off this system and you're concerned about making proper repairs, you might consider replacing the receiver/filter/drier with new seals, using a UV light to search for leaks before evacuating the system again. And replace both service valves while your system is opened.

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Old 02-18-2018, 02:51 PM   #11
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

Oh Ok. Got it now. Thanks for your profesional explanation. I appreciate you. Haven't had time to check with black light yet. Have some AC repairs and lost all my brake fluid for some reason in my 04 Impala. The Impala is bone dry. My marriage anniversary is today and taking my wife to see Samson and go to a high end steak house. did check for coldness and it's still cold. Not sure if it was actually the site glass where it was leaking. If my memory is correct it's where the caution sticker is directly to the left of the suction hose intake port is on the opposite side of the clutch and pulley.

So why wouldn't it blow cold air with freon in there and the compressor clutch engaged? Too low ? I released the old, yellow tint came out and put in new freon and now it's cold with the yellow tint.

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Old 02-18-2018, 04:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

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Two reasons: 1)things that leak under pressure sometimes do not leak under vacuum as the vacuum closes up the leak.
My '95 Explorer really bought that point home. Ford used something like a neoprene can cooler on the steel accumulator. When the shop (before I had the tools) pulled a vacuum on it the neoprene must have been sucked into the rusted pinhole and sealed it up. The Freon was gone two weeks later when I first tried to use it

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Old 02-18-2018, 09:19 PM   #13
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

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Oh Ok. Got it now. Thanks for your profesional explanation. I appreciate you. Haven't had time to check with black light yet. Have some AC repairs and lost all my brake fluid for some reason in my 04 Impala. The Impala is bone dry. My marriage anniversary is today and taking my wife to see Samson and go to a high end steak house. did check for coldness and it's still cold. Not sure if it was actually the site glass where it was leaking. If my memory is correct it's where the caution sticker is directly to the left of the suction hose intake port is on the opposite side of the clutch and pulley.

So why wouldn't it blow cold air with freon in there and the compressor clutch engaged? Too low ? I released the old, yellow tint came out and put in new freon and now it's cold with the yellow tint.
The sight glass was always on the receiver/filter/drier/accumulator, the canister bolted next to the condenser coil......... on older r12 systems. When r12 'became' dangerous to the ozone layer that every chemical company knew long ago but didn't reveal it until the EPA became a federal entity and found out chlorofluorocarbons deleted the ozone layer way above us to allow more ultraviolet light to the surface of this little one we all live on, suddenly r12 is poison and banned. Sight glasses were used to monitor high pressure liquid refrigerant. No more sight glasses when r134a replaced r12. Tighter design eliminated sight glass usage, period.

What you're seeing on the back of S-series ac compressors is a large diameter plug, a calibration screw that's not supposed to leak refrigerant. Your leak is right there and cannot be tightened as any adjustment will destroy the calibration already made at assembly. The slotted plug that allows using a large wide blade Phillips screwdriver or quarter, half dollar, is never adjusted in hopes of tightening a worn out seal. Once unscrewed or tightened from its original position, you readjusted a fine calibration that can result in the compressor outputting zero pressure or very high pressure - both renders the compressor useless. This combination plug/adjustable screw is only made during factory assembly and a paper seal warns against making any adjustments. As little as 1/4 or 1/8th turn CW or CCW ruins this compressor. The large diameter O-ring fails as time goes by. And any attempt to remove it to replace the O-ring with a full charge or refrigerant in system will simply explode by pushing out plug it's unscrewed, releasing the full charge of refrigerant all at once. This is where it's no longer a diy repair project unless a person is fully aware of refrigerant under pressure with ac not running. Freeze burns, oil spray into eyes is not a laughing matter at this point if someone indiscriminately removes this plug with a full charge of refrigerant. Only one person has posted this problem and his follow-up in a thread to sealing it with epoxy. Search for threads from JerryHughes about a rear compressor leak. There are no service procedures to replace a worn O-ring on this plug so a diy repair using epoxy and a very clean area free of dirt and oil on the plug and threads using a permanent epoxy seal to pressure proof this plug was his solution instead replacing a perfectly good compressor. He posts from time to time and you can send him a private message for his solution. Here may have pictures in his thread to show results.

When less than a full charge of refrigerant is running, less cooling occurs. At least half a system charge is needed to feel any cool air. As the system is filled from half to full, cooling begins. You described, in my estimation, much less than half a system charge, enough to allow compressor operation but not enough to cool. This knowledge comes from understanding refrigeration and isn't explained in technical manuals. Practical knowledge and experience.

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Old 02-18-2018, 10:04 PM   #14
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Default Re: '98 SL2 DOHC AC freon issue

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Originally Posted by Raider View Post
Thanks for the quick reply. Well that sounds real logical. It was like 15 psi low side and 170 on the high at 75 degrees with 66% humidity here just south of Tampa, Fl.
I put in 24 oz of strait up R134A (2ea 12 oz cans) no additives.
then it held about 30 low and 175 high but blew nice and cold as I held the rpm's at 2000 RPM's with the good ol RichPin06 credit card trick.

I replaced all the port gaskets about 4 years ago when I took the compressor off and changed the oil in it and also put on a new accumulator. I'm kicking myself for not doing the expansion valve then. Anyway, after the vacuum and recharge about 6 or 7 months later I noticed it leaking from the glass window on the compressor. I bled all the rest of the air out then put a good amount of silicone engine gasket sealer all over it and let it sit for a few days. Recharged it and it worked fine for about 3 years I guess. Time for a new or remanufactured compressor and expansion valve. Might as well do the condenser and accumulator while I'm at it. Is what gets me is if I have a leak why am I holding vacuum ?
www.car-part.com

You can source a used compressor, from a local wrecking yard.

Seals eventually wear out, and parts can degrade with time. Even though am A/C system is sealed, eventually leaks can and do occur. If you can install the UV dye, when recharging, it is recommended.

Even the condenser, lines, fittings, and o-rings can develop pinhole leaks. This will cause a degradation of the cooling effect, over time, and allow ambient air into the system.

At 72F and sea level, atmospheric pressure is about 14.7 psi. This would explain why you had about 15psi on your low side, while only ambient air was in the system. 14.7psi = 1 BAR

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