Like old homes, vehicles that have a lot of years and miles on them need some TLC from time to time to keep them safe and comfortable to drive. One item that will eventually fail is the A/C. It can happen for several reasons, but the two most common failure points are the compressor fails or leaks develop in the closed system. The older the vehicle, the greater the odds it’ll happen sooner than later. I know that first-hand: The com- pressor on my early 90’s-era Ford Bronco failed. Fortunately, the A/C system is the same setup as found in the majority of Ford cars, pickups and SUVs found in early 80s through early-2000s. After sweating through this past sum- mer without the luxury of cool air, I decided it was high time to chill out—and get back the defrost when winter set in. I bought a complete A/C repair kit for less than $170 from Amazon.com that included a new compressor, accumulator, orifice tube, O-rings and the special PAG oil used in A/C systems. All were 134A compatible, which is the
ozone-friendly Freon that manufac- turers started using in 1994. In addition, because the stock compressor failed, I bought a new condenser (that thinner radiator-like component that sits in front of the radiator) because the debris from the failed internal parts of the compressor usually find their way into its cooling tubes and hoses of the A/C sys- tem. You can flush the condenser, but it’s not worth taking any chances some debris might still be in the system and kill the new compressor. It took the better part of a Saturday afternoon with a friend to remove out the old A/C compo- nents, flush the lines, and install the new R134A-compatible parts, re-using all the original lines and tubes fitted with new O-rings. Then we installed the special adapters on the A/C system, so we could recharge it with R134A Freon. The repaired A/C worked like new. A temperature gauge we’d stuck in one of the dash vents registered a brisk 40-degrees F on Max A/C; the fog on the wind- shield disappeared in mere sec- onds; and there was a nice frosty coating on the metal tube leading from the evaporator under the dash to the accumulator canister in the engine compartment—a sure sign all was working exactly as it should. Fixing an older vehicle’s failed A/C system is a relatively simple job that doesn’t require much in the way of technical expertise; you’re just disconnecting lines and replacing the component part they
Cool Thinking When the A/C on your older vehicle bites the dust, don’t get hot under the collar: Replace it yourself.
By Bruce W. Smith