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replacing non-working AC? UPDATE - couple more questions
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blemon
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:41 am    Post subject: replacing non-working AC? UPDATE - couple more questions Reply with quote

Our 1991 came with AC but it does not work. It never worked for the previous owner but he didn't do anything about it because flushing the lines didn't help.

We are looking to replace it with a newer system if that is possible.

I've searched the threads and can only find one.

Since we have no idea what's wrong with it and the original owner couldn't fix it, we figured we'd try to replace it before trying to fix it.

We are really just looking to have it on while driving. We don't need anything for while we're camping.

Thanks. (and newbie apologies again).


Last edited by blemon on Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Phishman068
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Take it to an AC shop.
They'll have to vaccuum the system and make new lines (if it truly needs new lines) as well as replace the other necessary parts.
It requires special tooling and knowledge.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:47 am    Post subject: Re: replacing non-working AC? Reply with quote

blemon wrote:


We are looking to replace it with a newer system if that is possible.


Do you really want to replace it with a newer system or replace all the old parts with new parts that are the same as the original system? The original system worked fine when it was in good shape. Usually by now the lines and fittings leak so many folks replace the lines, O rings, and flush out the system, replacing expansion valves etc as warranted. The result is a refurbished system, but not new. BTW, it is expensive to have this done by a shop.
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Ahwahnee
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was in a similar situation a few years ago with the 84. I had a shop do this work:

Condenser -- replaced with larger modern unit from Nostalgia Air

Hoses -- all replaced with new 'barrier' hoses

Evap & Compressor -- checked out fine, not replaced

Radiator -- replaced since it was the original (cheap insurance)

Fan & shroud -- replaced with good used later model 3-speed set-up (will not be needed in your case)

Dryer & usual misc parts replaced

Charge -- I stayed with R12 for maximum cooling the Southwest desert and for ease of service should I ever need to take it back to a shop (most, if not all, would not touch RedTek and other substitute refrigerants, reducing the choice to R12 or R134a).

No, not cheap -- but a reliable system that has worked fine since and gets the inside really chilled on the hottest days.

Also got some quality 'ceramic' window tint to help the AC work its best.

This was not done by just any old AC shop -- it was a shop specializing in VW and other German autos and the shop owner himself drives a Westy.

I felt that combination of specialized knowledge and thorough work gave me the best chance of a quality result first time around.
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JudoJeff
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read this thread and you'll have a good idea on costs and how to DIY:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=583818&highlight=system+installation

It's not super difficult, maybe a PITA, but you'll save money and understand how it all works when you're done.

Your decision, but you'll get both sides now for comparison.

Good luck!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All new parts run about $1,000 (everything except evaporator which is likely OK). Labor to install would be at least $1,000 but likely closer to $2,000. I did my own install and it was fairly easy. You could save money by not replacing the condenser or compressor but that adds risk of problems.

Having someone charge it would add another $300+ depending on what you charge it with. If you have access to a vacuum pump and gauges you could charge it yourself for around $100.

Lots of side jobs to do if your going down this route, primarily replacing the radiator since your there anyway.


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Ahwahnee
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cellerdoor wrote:
All new parts run about $1,000... Labor to install would be at least $1,000 but likely closer to $2,000 ...Having someone charge it would add another $300+...


That looks pretty accurate to me. A budget of $3000 is about right.

I looked into doing it myself (even went so far as to get the ASE609 certification) but I have 3 old cars that I would prefer to spend my time working on & driving -- so I left this job to a competent shop.
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blemon
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks. This is super helpful.

And that is the one thread that I found.

We will see if there is anyone reliable around here and get an estimate. We also have a list of every single thing that has ever been done to the van so we may able to see what went wrong in the first place.
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bluebus86
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mine no longer works either, wont hold Freon any more, all it needs is new hoses as the old hoses become permeable to the Freon after they have aged.

I know the hoses form VW are expensive, but by doing a search on the samba I have found that many folks replace the long expensive hoses with hoses made by local heavy equipment supply houses, ones that deal with construction equipment hydrolic hoses.

I have read this is a very much less expensive alternative to VW hoses. You take the old hoses to the place and they re-use your end fittings and make up a new hose. then you install it, maybe replace a few seals and then pump the air out and see if she is leak tight, if so recharge with Freon and your good for another 20 years.

I just haven't gotten around to it yet, I like to drive with my windows open and am not a big AC lover.

PS my 1991 Ford truck has same issue, Freon leaks out, it too needs new hoses and seals. after about 20+ years these things degrade.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Blemon:

Are you a DIY person? If so, you can fix your AC system yourself quite inexpensively. I won't go into the details at this point, but if you are a DIYer, it can be done for far less than the $2,000 to $3,000. There are definitely some do's and don'ts. Part of the reason it can be cheap for you is the fact your system is a late model.

I'll chime in with details if you are a DIY'er. Here's one very important teaser hint: Do not buy any parts from the VW dealer.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our 82 was not sold with AC. I added and aftermarket DIY dash unit. I followed Blake Heinlein's vintage air install. You can Google that.

I recently acquired a 90 camper with Factory Air. I intend to refurbish the factory air as needed and might even add a secondary dash air.

If you have a factory air unit, I would agree with those that suggest overhauling it. It is a lot of work to fit an aftermarket unit, but can be done with minimal tools and lots of time. Not for the meek.
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blemon
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

These are really helpful. Thanks so much.

We're going to try to determine what went wrong initially based on the receipts we have from the previous owners (we are #3!).

We'll go from there and decide. There is a limit to the time we have for the DIY but Mr. Lemon seems to be able to fix just about anything so I know he can do it.

Will get back to those of you who offered!
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would add, AC is a commitment. You need to see it through. In other words, it may require multiple trips to the shop with some expensive parts, but eventually will be reliable.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rsxsr wrote:
...it may require multiple trips to the shop with some expensive parts, but eventually will be reliable.


That was my biggest concern when I chose to farm out the work. In the end it was just the one 'visit'... a long visit.

I did not rush them (and they took quite awhile) to give them plenty of time (and expected them) to thoroughly test for leaks both before and after charging over the course of several days.

I also opted not to do just parts of the system (e.g. 'this hose looks okay') as I knew many potential failures would be hard to get at later and cheaper to replace now.

I did choose to keep the compressor (newish compared to the van) and evap (original) as they checked out fine -- so far that seems to be okay.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Air didn't work on any of 4 that i owned when bought, most needed was compressor on one was missing. None needed all the stuff that makes up the air sys.All driven at least 3 yrs and only the current one, owned 10 yrs+ now finally had the evap unit dropped and cleaned, was going to drop anyway as i had to repair broken ends. I do all my own work and will soon be adding air to my westy as it didn't come with one.(bosses orders if she is to ride inside in summer), me not a problem. If doing all that floats your boat, go 4 it. My 2-cts.
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

blemon wrote:
These are really helpful. Thanks so much.

We're going to try to determine what went wrong initially based on the receipts we have from the previous owners (we are #3!).

We'll go from there and decide. There is a limit to the time we have for the DIY but Mr. Lemon seems to be able to fix just about anything so I know he can do it.

Will get back to those of you who offered!


If Mr. Lemon can remove all the AC hoses and bring them to an AC shop, they can rebuild all of them with new, state-of-the-art barrier hose. Shop around a bit and you are sure to find a reasonable price. I made my own hoses, but I was installing a front AC system I built from scratch. ( See here: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535444&highlight=diy+front+air+conditioning )

The factory system can be revived fairly easily, in my opinion - - at least compared to the work of starting from scratch. As you disassemble the system, note whether the oil in the hoses and components appears to have any foreign matter in it. You are looking for signs of aluminum slurry and/or Teflon parts. These are the tell-tale signs of a compressor failure. The pistons in the factory compressor are aluminum but, IIRC, use Teflon piston rings. Overpressure, under-lubrication and overheating cause the Teflon to disintegrate and under-lubricated metal-on-metal contact that creates the aluminum slurry. If there is no sign of either, you may just have a perfectly usable compressor! The Bentley manual specifies a procedure for checking the compressor which involves running the AC at high pressure by blocking the cooling air to the condenser. Obviously, this can only be done after you have done all your re-hab work and installed the refrigerant.

When I first started playing with AC systems on other vehicles years ago, I replaced more than one perfectly-usable compressor due to my ignorance of how the system actually worked. Live and learn . . .

There are a few companies now that sell in-line filters to filter out foreign matter from circulation in your expensive AC system. These are worth your consideration. Here's a link to a write up a BMW guy posted for his inline filter install:

http://www.e46fanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=686807
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blemon
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, did some research.

Here's what we know:

As early as 29k miles in, the first owner was charging the freon and continued to do so every year 1/2 - 2 years until he sold it. It doesn't look like he did anything else.

So any clues why it wasn't cold enough so early on?

But we'll start with the hoses and go from there.

Any reason why the previous poster would remove the cabinet instead of threading them through?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any AC with a leak will get worse in time as the gas gets lo and will totally quit, at some press level the comp won't be allowed to run. U have same sys as my syncro & after dropping and cleaning out the evap unit(about 1/2 stopped up, air flo, it will get as cold as u can stand. Orig unit has plenty of capacity 4 cooling IF u do some maint, bad door seals ? front vent shuts off etc?.Mine has been converted to Red-Tek by the way & add a can of their hose conditioner at the same time, 3 yrs now & no gas added.
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blemon
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

UPDATE:

Took JJ in to the shop today. Really nice guys. Seem to know what they are talking about.

Basically the whole system is shot. We need a new compressor and expansion valve. They filled it and did a dye test with stop leak.

Good news: they have a guy who cuts hoses so we'll save a lot there.

Bad news: something electrical is wrong. The back fans don't work (and they had to jump start the original compressor). Perhaps the ok news about this is that my husband can do electrical work in the house.

Would love some feedback on two things:

1. links to parts to buy. Found a couple on the earlier thread. We can save by buying the parts and bringing them to him.

2. any ideas on the electrical? front fans are working fine.

We will take out the cabinets ourselves and keep them here while it's in the shop. We decided this is one thing we might not DIY the whole thing.
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campism
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's the thread that I find inspiring:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=365626&highlight=rebuild+project

Our '87 Westy had a complete A/C system but it blew hot air when we got the van. Previous owners had made various attempts to get it working reliably but it always crapped out. Soon after purchase I took it to a local A/C place that had installed air in my '85 Nissan pickup years ago and they gave me a $2000 estimate to fix the Westy so I tried a $40 R134a conversion that works acceptably for a season before it leaks down. I need to recharge annually but will eventually rebuild the system with new hoses.
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