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DIY AC recharge or shop?

Discussion in 'Stock 1995 - 2001 Explorers' started by hasoan, May 21, 2013.

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  1. hasoan

    hasoan New Member

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    96 explorer XLT. I emptied my refrigerant to replace my heater core ( which required removing the evaporator.) So now for about a month its been empty, but not "open" for very long. I capped the tubes for the 3 days I had it disconnected, but for about a month the charge has been empty. The AC worked perfectly before all this.

    So, should I have the system properly evacuated and charged at a shop? Should I buy a vaccum pump and guages to do it myself? Should I replace the accumulator drier? What about adding oil, which I understand I will need to do if I replace the drier? Or should I just buy a charge kit and go with that to keep it simple?

    I have seen instructions on how to do all these things, but choosing the right path with minimal risk and reasonable cost are my goals.
     
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  3. kert0307

    kert0307 Well-Known Member

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    If you don't plan on doing it again, just take it to a shop, it will be cheaper. Otherwise a HF vacuum pump will be $100ish, gauges will be another $40ish plus the r134a.
     
  4. hasoan

    hasoan New Member

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    Thanks, I would be willing to "do it again" but honestly that could be a year, 5 years from now for all I know. I updated that post while you were replying adding that I am considering just the cheap auto parts store charge kit with no evacuation. I'm worried that going that way would be bad for the compressor etc that seem to work perfectly already.

    OK so if I have a shop do it, should I ask for a new drier too? I know they'll try to charge me 200 dollars for as 50 dollar part.
     
  5. koda2000

    koda2000 Explorer Addict

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    I'd go the cheap way. if it doesn't work out you can always take it to a shop and spend the $250, or whatever. A couple of cans of R134a can be had for as low as about $20 (9.95 a can at Fred's) plus the cost of a pressure gauge and fill kit, or get the can with the gauge on it. I've recharged A/C systems many times w/out pulling a vacuum first. They've always worked just fine. Just be sure to add a little PAG oil to replace any you may have lost when you disconnected the hoses and lube & change the O-rings.
     
  6. kert0307

    kert0307 Well-Known Member

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    If the system has been opened, do not just add r134a it wont cool for anything if the system is not pulled to a vacuum first...
     
  7. 1992fordgreen

    1992fordgreen Well-Known Member

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    CHeap way isn't always better, but in this case it is. Just be glad you don't have to evacuate the system of freon R12...nasty business.
     
  8. masospaghetti

    masospaghetti Elite Explorer

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    You can rent a vacuum pump from many chain auto parts stores for free. IMO it's well worth the effort to do this job yourself, learn how to do it, I'm sure this isn't the last time you (or someone you are helping) will need A/C service.

    A good manifold gauge set (USA-made) runs $70 or so. You would be wise to replace both the accumulator and the orifice tube if you are going to have the system opened up. Both are cheap parts and the accumulator is almost certainly full of moisture, even if only left opened for a few days.

    You'll want to get some compressor oil and add it to the accumulator before you install it. Usually you add about 4 oz and I believe this compressor uses PAG 46 - can anyone confirm the oil qty and type? You just dump it in the accumulator inlet before you install it. (the accumulator removes moisture from the system but also serves as a reservior for oil, this is why you have to replenish the oil when you replace the accumulator.)
     
  9. Maniak

    Maniak Moderator-Stock 91-94 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    If you want to be able to do A/C work you will need to buy a set of gauges (manifold set) and I would recommend a vacuum pump. You can rent one when you need it but there is nothing worse than needing it and them not having it avail. for rent.

    You can really save lots of money on repairs by doing it yourself.

    Now if you never have the time to do your own work and/or only own a single vehicle so you may only have to do the work once in a blue moon and never work on friends vehicles then save your money and pay someone once in a while to do the work. Expect to pay 3x over what you can do the work yourself but now your not out the tools you will never use. Use the money on tools you will work.

    It is, however, nice to "have" the tools so if you do need to do work that you can do it when you want and not have to schedule an appointment or rent tools.

    Even if you decide doing a/c work isn't for you, I'd still recommend getting a manifold set so you can have an idea of what is going on if/when you have issues with the a/c system. Its a small price to pay for a good diagnostic tool.

    BTW.. evacuation pump will run you $100 to $250 but the $100 from Harbor Freight tools has worked fine for years..

    ~Mark
     
  10. IAmTodd

    IAmTodd 4x Explorer Veteran

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    If you do it yourself don't forget you need to add a certain amount of oil since some came out when you evacuated the system.
     
  11. koda2000

    koda2000 Explorer Addict

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    yes, I already warned him about that. you don't need very much probably an ounce (or even less) would be plenty.
     
  12. hasoan

    hasoan New Member

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    Thanks everyone. Having tools for the future is nice, and I've built up a set capable of most mechanical work already. Renting or borrowing a vaccum pump is a great idea, even if I have to buy the guages. I really enjoy learning and becoming more capable of doing this stuff myself, and as I learn I can offer friends my help (although my friends seem to generally feel better paying 3 to 10 times as much at a shop...) So I'll keep all you said in mind. I'm doing some brake work on it at the moment that I have done in the past on another vehicle, so the AC isn't the highest priority, but its getting warmer out so before the next heat wave I thought I'd get a plan going.
     
  13. deweyville65

    deweyville65 Active Member

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    Just my two cents worth, as there is always an ongoing argument about whether to pull a vacuum or not. My experience has been to go ahead and recharge the system without pulling a vacuum. I have personally installed a new system, changed compressors, converted from R-12 to R134a, and done any number of repairs without any problems. I had an Aerostar van repaired at a shop, nothing but problems. I finally converted it myself, no problems, and very cold air. Installed a new condenser and hoses on an 89 Peterbilt, no vacuum, no problems. JUST RELATING MY EXPERIENCES.
     
  14. koda2000

    koda2000 Explorer Addict

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    And mine as well. JMO, I wouldn't spend that much money on a 1996 A/C system. It's nice to have all the tools, but there's usually a cheaper alternative. That being said, the OP should do whatever he's comfortable with.
     
  15. hasoan

    hasoan New Member

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    Yeah it is getting old but vehicle only has 131k on it. Anyway, I saw the gauges on sale at harbor freight for $60 so I went ahead and bought them. Assuming I get a new accumulator that's another $40 ish plus fluids. I'm probably not saving much over the shop on this one, but the benefit will be the experience and tools for the future.

    Also I replacing the accumulator I'll need oil, which I am assuming is PAG-46. I haven't searched the forum yet, but that's what Google suggests. Sticker says WSH-M1C231-B. I just hope the compressor is stock.
     
  16. Flash

    Flash Well-Known Member

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    If you've got a small air compressor it can be pressed into service as a vacuum pump.
    I've done this to pull bubbles out of a 2 part polyurethane mix as well as 2 part epoxy but not for AC.

    Image placing your little compressor in a tupperware box, you run the pressure line out and seal it and run the power lines in and seal them.

    You then attach a hose with the fitting you need into the side of the box.

    When you turn the pump on the hose you just fitted to the box will pull a vacuum.
     
  17. Maniak

    Maniak Moderator-Stock 91-94 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    You can also pick up a venturi style vacuum pump for $20 or so @ HFT. I used to use that before I got the real vacuum pump.

    For a venturi style to work you need a 1/2 decent air compressor. Our 30 gallong 4cfm @ 90psi is about the bottom of what you can really use with that style pump.

    ~Mark
     
  18. AP9

    AP9 Active Member

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  19. Maniak

    Maniak Moderator-Stock 91-94 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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    The only time those cans can get used is when the system has leaked a "little" over time but is still mostly filled.

    Personally, I don't use those as you can't see the high side pressure and the gauge on that may not be right for your application. For example, if your system has a Variable Orifice tube (VOR) your low pressure side pressure will be different than what that gauge considers normal.

    You can pick up cans of r-134 (assuming your in the US) for $6 to $16 (Amazon was selling them for $6 each when you bought a case of 12). A gauge set is $50 or so and now you have a "new tool".

    Now when things aren't working quite right you can figure out where your issue is. If you spend the $20-$25 on a recharge can (with the hose) and the issue is your compressor is going bad or your orifice tube blew through then you just wasted that $20-$25 anyway.

    I equate those cans with the hose on them to just throwing parts at an issue. You may fix the issue but you may also just waste the money and you can't return the can once used :).

    ~Mark
     
  20. dcdyd

    dcdyd Active Member

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  21. kevinspann

    kevinspann Active Member

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    I had the same dilemma when I needed to recharge mine after an engine swap (knowing what I know now I would have tried harder to leave it all connected).

    Bought the HF vacuum pump and manifold gauges, pulled a vacuum and charged it. Worked great. I did have to add a little r134 once, but again, not a big deal with the gauges and a can tap. Have used the gauges on multiple cars as well, definitely was a good purchase.
     

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