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84 Westy AC Retrofit - possible?
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LaVarBurtonLivz
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 6:36 pm    Post subject: 84 Westy AC Retrofit - possible? Reply with quote

With summer coming up, I'm exploring interior cooling options. My poor 84 2WD full camper sadly has no AC, and I'm wondering what retrofitting options might be possible.

I'm generally referencing this GoWesty article: http://www.gowesty.com/library_article.php?id=311

Looking at this section, a little past halfway down the page:
Quote:
Pop-top Vanagon factory A/C:
1984-1986: On these year models, the air conditioning evaporator was located inside what would normally be the rear cabinet above the rear seat. Instead of the little cabinet door that flips down there was a grill assembly installed. This system did not work very well.


After searching a bit, I can't find anyone who has swapped this style of AC into a non-AC equipped 84. Since the cooling capabilities are apparently sub-par anyway, would it be worth trying? Has the later-style AC been swapped in by anyone, and is it recommended? Finally, could the stock waterboxer handle any such additions?

It seems to me that swapping in AC may be more trouble than it's worth. What are some other non-AC options for staying cool? It kinda takes some of the fun out of the drive when you can't talk to passengers or hear the music because the windows are down.
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JPrato
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went this route in our 84 Westy.

http://sites.google.com/site/blakeheinlein2/vanagon-airconditioning
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LaVarBurtonLivz
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked

Woah, that's quite a project. Are you happy with the results? Was it worth it?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LaVarBurtonLivz wrote:
Shocked

Woah, that's quite a project. Are you happy with the results? Was it worth it?


I'm not 100% yet. But it was worth it. There is no tint on the windows so it can get warm in back with the sun out, that will be remedied for this summer. There is one or two technical bugs I need to address, but it was definitely better last summer with it in, than without. I would say this is not a simple modification but it can be done. What is your skill level? The link I posted was not mine but I used it as guide for our 84 Westy installation. This was done at the same time we installed the 2.5 L Subaru engine.

Besides taking everything apart, this job requires you provide a good 30 amp circuit to operate correctly, modifying the low speed fan circuit circuit and resultant wire changes to work with the AC unit and running electric and refrigerant lines front to back. Radio fitment can be an issue but our Kenwood AM/FM/cassette unit fit back in the stock location. This is definitely major surgery but I like projects like this.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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LaVarBurtonLivz
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, I didn't realize you weren't the OP. It looks like your application might be a little closer to what mine would be, since my westy is also a manual (although maybe that doesn't make a huge difference under the dash).

I would say my skill level is... meh. I'm not afraid to get in there and work on stuff, but it generally takes me forever. I'm still less than a year old on the vanagon scene, so that kind of compounds things. For me, it's more a matter of time and a place to do it. We just moved into a condo, so I'm not really sure what kind of work the HOA would allow in the parking lot. I get the feeling a project of this magnitude would be frowned upon.

Anyway, I've never pulled the dash before, though I've heard it's kind of a pain. I'm not super confident with wiring or pressurized refrigerant lines, but I think I could handle everything else.

Did you end up going with the same kit as the OP? And were your final costs on par with his?

Oh, and do you have any pics of the completed project? I'd love to see the radio fitment Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I went with Vintage Air and used the OP invoice to quote my job. It actually was few dollars lower. I don't know if I'd tackle this in a parking lot all though you working mostly inside the van....... Taking your time is key, I think I worked on an off for over a month. Work a bit after dinner, think things through, work some more. The lines are not too bad. You can get them crimped at a local shop after you run them and figure out the lengths.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 8:34 am    Post subject: Re: 84 Westy AC Retrofit - possible? Reply with quote

LaVarBurtonLivz wrote:
...What are some other non-AC options for staying cool?...


2-70 air conditioning (2 windows down, 70 mph).

Opening the top vent and inch or so helps the interior air move better.

Leave early in the morning, be at altitude before midday.

Stay at altitude as you travel -- you're not going to get cooling (from the in-car unit) once you stop so you'll need to deal with local temps anyway.

12V fans to move some air (e.g. aimed at your face).

Mister bottles help you stay cool if it is not humid. Have seen everything from a simple hand operated spray bottle to an electric mister system with a 12V pump using ice water (on a motorcycle!).

Cooling jackets are available that pump ice water thru tubes that surround your torso. Know an USAF pilot who drives his Jag with one of those on.

There is a cooler available the uses ice and possibly a cooling element to blow cold air out of vents on the top.

Window mounted evaporative coolers (aka swamp coolers) are still available but possibly more for the novelty than the effectiveness.

Dairy Queen sells Ice Tea in the 44 oz size (anything bigger gets warm before you can finish it).
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

we have a behr aftermarket. it was installed when we bought the van, so we have no idea of expense or effort it took to get it installed. we have had a few issues involving radiator fan that I suspect came from the installation of the ac. But it works, and blows cold air in the front of the van. I don't know how well it cools the back, as no one sits back there. I've had two vanagons with factory ac, and this one works better than those did.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JPrato wrote:
LaVarBurtonLivz wrote:
Shocked

Woah, that's quite a project. Are you happy with the results? Was it worth it?


I'm not 100% yet. But it was worth it. There is no tint on the windows so it can get warm in back with the sun out, that will be remedied for this summer. There is one or two technical bugs I need to address, but it was definitely better last summer with it in, than without. I would say this is not a simple modification but it can be done. What is your skill level? The link I posted was not mine but I used it as guide for our 84 Westy installation. This was done at the same time we installed the 2.5 L Subaru engine.

Besides taking everything apart, this job requires you provide a good 30 amp circuit to operate correctly, modifying the low speed fan circuit circuit and resultant wire changes to work with the AC unit and running electric and refrigerant lines front to back. Radio fitment can be an issue but our Kenwood AM/FM/cassette unit fit back in the stock location. This is definitely major surgery but I like projects like this.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Did you adapt the Sanden Compressor to your Subaru motor? I'm looking at doing the same thing with my 2.2 powered 85.

Thanks,
Brian
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vanis13
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW, I installed (taken form a donor) a stock Vanagon Westy system into my non-AC 83.5 watercooled Westy. installed a parallel flow condenser and charged with regular 134a refrigerant and its quite cold even in NM 100+ degree days.

I have pics of the takeout/install somewhere if you like.

BTW, you will find that the stock ac system cools quite well, its getting the cold air to the driver seats that is the issue in a Westy.

We're happy with the results.

pm me if you have any questions about doing this type of install.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the input. While the Vintage Air setup is indeed an intriguing option, it looks like it will probably be too ambitious for me to tackle for now. Since asking, I've been able to dig up a lot more information. Searches for "behr", "vintage air", "swamp cooler", etc. have been fruitful; sometimes it just helps to know what to search for!

I'm definitely interesting in learning more about the in-dash Behr systems, but I'm guessing it's pretty hard (and expensive) to source a donor since they're so rare.

I seems like swapping in a factory Westy AC unit (rear overhead) - a la vanis13 (PM sent, btw) - would be easier and less expensive. Although my main concern is cooling the front seats since we rarely have passengers, it's gotta be better than nothing, right?

In the mean time, it might be fun to rig up a homemade evaporative cooler setup that there's been some buzz about. An automatic mister/fan setup would be awesome, too! I'll have to get bigger cupholders if I'm going to start hauling around 44 oz. beverages, however!
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

scubabrian wrote:


Did you adapt the Sanden Compressor to your Subaru motor? I'm looking at doing the same thing with my 2.2 powered 85.

Thanks,
Brian


No I used the Subaru compressor. It was already there and mounted. Ran the VA supplied lines back the engine bay and crimped them to the Subaru ends to the compressor. I didn't consider using anything else, did I miss something?
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87 Syncro Tin Top project
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46 Cessna 140
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JPrato wrote:
The link I posted was not mine but I used it as guide for our 84 Westy installation.


Do you have a picture of the completed installation? I would like to see how you handled the controls. Also, how can you fit a radio in the stock location? It looks like it is all sorts of filled up back there behind the dash. I guess i'm just surprised there is enough room.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am also installing the vintage air solution into my Vanagon. I am doing it in stages. To date, I have the interior finished. I fabricated a panel to hold the centervents and the 4 knob controls. I intend to post a few pictures at some point. Blake's documentation is excellent. I spent a lot of time insulating the entire front of the van and the underside of the dashboard. I am not expecting it to turn our van into a meat locker, but it should be able to blow some cool air on us when traveling in the south. It has been more of a project than I expected, but doable.

I mounted the compressor last Saturday and figured out the proper serpentine belt to work with my setup. Last will be the condensor and lines, but I need to upgrade to the newer radiator. The 82 diesel radiator most likely won't work with the later fan shroud an fan setup I have from a 90 vanagon. Mine is an manual transmission and I was able to fit the dash back in with minor clearancing. I spent a lot of time making adapters for the defrost vents.

The plus to this job is you get all new parts that are available. The downside, is you loose the fresh air system, but I never quite figured out the controls anyhow. The plan is to go with a secret audio remote stereo at some point.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LaVar - I don't know if this would interest you, but I have a stock overhead a/c system I had gotten for a project that I have since abandoned. It is the one that mounts just behind your head in the driver/passenger seats and extends up to the visor area. I've got all the goodies.

I have no idea what it is worth but if you think you can make good use of it, let me know. You can always check it out since we are both SLC locals.

Like this one:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=454832
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wbx wrote:
JPrato wrote:
The link I posted was not mine but I used it as guide for our 84 Westy installation.


Do you have a picture of the completed installation? I would like to see how you handled the controls. Also, how can you fit a radio in the stock location? It looks like it is all sorts of filled up back there behind the dash. I guess i'm just surprised there is enough room.


I don't have any completed pictures and I've torn the dash apart this winter working on my Audi A4 gauge cluster project. I can snap some of the controls. They are in the same location as the original brain buster sliders. Feel free to PM me with any specific question, I'd be glad to help.

Updated with pics:

I attached a piece of aluminum painted black to remount the temp/fan controls
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


You can see it is little cozy behind the radio, there is about 6 1/4" or so of clearance from the edge of the dash to the VA unit. This picture shows the radio mostly inserted as in the first picture.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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87 Syncro Tin Top project
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46 Cessna 140


Last edited by JPrato on Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rsxsr wrote:

The plus to this job is you get all new parts that are available. The downside, is you loose the fresh air system, but I never quite figured out the controls anyhow. The plan is to go with a secret audio remote stereo at some point.


rsxsr, I added in some fresh air on my installation. After removing the original heater unit I made an aluminum plate to block off the fresh air ports from the grill area, then using the red flex hose shown in my picture (aircraft scat hose) ran it from holes in the plate to the fan box shown. I put a aluminum plate over 3/4 of the top of VA fan box to restrict recirculated air. Vintage Air advises against fresh air but in upstate NY there are many days where you don't need AC but could use a little fresh air without having the windows open. If I was really on the ball I'd install some kind of valve to shut the fresh air off if wanted, maybe in the future. You probably have everything all put together at this point but wanted to share a fresh air possibility for the Vintage Air set up.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I noticed the hoses in the picture. I was thinking you might have done something like that. Do they connect to vents? In Florida, our daily drivers have the AC set on Recirculate or "max" ac all the time. Since the Vanagon is quite large and this was the only unit, I figured the fresh air would not be required.

I utilized the factory vents in the dash for AC and Heat. I was looking for as much a stock look as possible. I used an aluminum plate to block off the factory fresh air system. Now that you have me thinking, with a little more work I could have come up with a slider and had a couple loose hoses buried up behind the dash for fresh air. Could have used a simple cable and knob to open and close it. Oh well, next time I am in there. Good thinking on your part. mark
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been contemplating using a vintage air setup, but instead replacing the rear heater core with one. There's more room to work with and the noise will be on the floor as opposed to in the dash (or in the rear passengers ears as the stock one would be) . I'll keep the front stock setup, which I recently rebuilt.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey EvilDNA,

That's one style of AC I've been interested in looking into, but will it work with the pop top? I think I read somewhere that it's been done, with some modification to the pop top latch, but I couldn't dig up any documentation/pics of that.

I've been sort of following that thread you linked to, and it seems really interesting. I think having the cold air right up front like that would be awesome!

Maybe we could work out a deal if I decide to go that route Wink
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