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DIY A/C Air Conditioning leak refrigerant repair for $5 or less/15 m


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5 replies to this topic

#1 grossgary

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:53 PM

Want to repair your A/C for $2 and in 15 minutes?
(not including refrigerant costs - another $30).

I thought I would post a thread since I did another one last night and snapped a couple pictures of how easy and cheap it *can* be. I've done this countless times on 80's, 90's, 2000's Subaru's. I realize folks will complain, I would like to avoid those commentaries - the internet is already full of those comments and not what I'm about to show. I'm trying to get information out there that is helpful to DIY folks that want to fix A/C cheap - it is possible on Subaru a/c systems which are robust and easy to work on.

This was on a 2002 OBW H6 but the procedure is nearly identical to Subaru's even going back to the old R12 systems in the 80's.

I repaired this one in 13 minutes, including time for taking pictures. I have a lot of words and some pictures since A/C work is foreign to many people, but it's a simple process that nearly anyone can do. I hardly come across a non-working Subaru a/c system that this doesn't work on. One of my other 2003 OB Sedan H6's doesn't have working A/C and I am going to bet a lot of money that I'll simply do this same process and it'll work fine for the remainder of the life of the vehicle - it's happened like that many times. I've never really seen any failures besides compromised lines/condensors due to past wrecks and compressors - which are also easy and cheap to replace.

I have found that Subaru A/C systems rarely have failures except at leaking orings which are REALLY insanely cheap. So replacing those orings often fixes a high percentage of vehicles. It is uncanny to me how many A/C systems I have fixed for the cost of 2 orings and yet I've never heard of someone having their A/C repaired for anything less than hundreds of dollars at a typical shop.

The two orings most likely to fail are the ones on the compressor. I suppose (speculation) they are subjected to higher temp gradients, pressures, and engine vibration since they're on top the engine. What I know for certain is that when they are removed they are often hard, like plastic instead of pliable rubber oring compound and are often leakage points.

So - you can usually fix most leaks with those two orings on the compressor. They are usually common sizes you fit by matching up with one of those large A/C oring kits at any auto parts stores for a few dollars. I haven't had a problem matching up 80's, 90's, 2000's compressor side orings.

The smaller ones located in other areas are sometimes harder to match - but also less likely to fail.

Edited by grossgary, 24 April 2012 - 04:36 PM.


#2 grossgary

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:54 PM

Generally speaking - pull the caps on the schrader valves first and look for wetness under the caps. If the system has never been worked on before they should be bone dry. If it's wet underneath then you simply need to replace the schrader valve in there. They even make a super-fancy tool (that is mighty slick) for replacing the valve without letting transfer of freon to the atmosphere or the other way around). As usual - mine were bone dry last night on this 2002 OBW H6.

Touch them with a tool and see if there's any pressure - mine was dead last night, nothign. If they're completely dead and there's no pressure then you know the system is largely devoid of freon. If there's not much pressure, then a tiny amount just vents off, not a big deal. (Like I said, I know some folks won't like that idea).

There are two A/C hoses on the compressor - each is attached by one 12 mm bolt. In the picture attached I have a socket going to the one bolt on top of a 2002 OBW H6 air conditioning compressor.

Clean off as much crud/dirt as you can around the bolt and fitting before removing it so that the dirt doesn't fall down into the hole. Compressed air, wire brushes, shop towels, spray, whatever you want/got, can use in there.

Remove that one 12 mm bolt.

Remove that bolt and off the fitting comes. Pull it out of the compressor and you'll see an oring on the end of the fitting in a groove. You will notice it is ROCK HARD and doesn't provide a good seal.

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#3 grossgary

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:55 PM

Now with the fitting out - pry the old oring off. Be careful those fittings are aluminum and scratch very easily. Fine dental style picks/tools are best but small screw drivers work easily as well.

I buy a generic large pack of A/C orings - they're usually green from auto parts stores and match up the old oring to a new one. Pay attention to inner diameter, out diameter, and thickness. get as close as you can - keeping in mind the old oring may be slightly deformed due to age and use. Really bad, hardened ones are often "square-ish" looking like one i pulled last night. they're not supposed to be, that's just age.

Have some appropriate lubricant to coat the new oring with and slide it onto the fitting.

Clean out the port on the a/c side that the hose fitting came out of. Compressed air is best on the ball/valve styles like this 2002 OBW H6 as the dirt can't go "into" the compressor at all - so just blow out any crud that fell down and simply wipe with a clean shop towel.

then simply slide the fitting back into the port and tigthen the 12mm bolt back up.

I did the first one in this picture in 8 minutes last night, including taking the picture.

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#4 grossgary

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:56 PM

This last picture shows the final bolt for the second fitting. The bolt is removed and the fitting is pulled out of the compressor showing the original black oring on the fitting.

This one took me 5 minutes to remove, replace, reinstall - for a total compressor side oring replacement time of 13 minutes and the orings probably cost maybe $1.00.

13 minutes.
2 bolts
$1.00

of course there's refrigerant costs as well - $30 or so for two cans at any auto parts stores.

There is no problem recharging a dead system. If you can pull a vacuum - great, do it. But it is not necessary and the a/c will probably last the life of the vehicle without it. You might have 52 degree A/C instead of 48....the sacrifices we must make!

That fixes most inoperative Subaru A/C systems I come across. I've done dozens and probably have close to %90 success rate doing that...maybe it's a little lower, I don't know but I don't come across too many that need anything other than orings.

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Edited by grossgary, 24 April 2012 - 03:17 PM.


#5 davebugs

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 03:06 PM

Thanks for the how-to.

Doesn't seem difficult at all.

#6 grossgary

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 03:08 PM

Compressor failures: Even in those cases the repair is actually really simple. Replacing the compressor is easy. Remove the two fittings mentioned earlier in this post - then the belt and 4 or so bolts holding the compressor in place and another bracket or two and the compressor comes out. Used is a great fit since they dont' fail often, are cheap, and take minutes to replace.

Replace the orings while you're doing this and charge as normal.

Condensors (in front of the radiator): If a car has ever been wrecked or in a fender bender the condensor up in front of the radiator is a good item to check, it can have holes, be bent, damaged, etc and leaking. Replace with new orings as well - also extremely easy to do.

If it's an older car with the schrader valve style like the older gen vehicles then replacing the valve stems is a good idea too while the system is apart. But as mentioned earlier you can inspect for wetness first - they should be wet if leaking. Though if the system has been inoperative for a long time it might have been in the too distant past to leave traces now.

Hope that helps get you cool again!

Edited by grossgary, 24 April 2012 - 03:18 PM.





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