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99 OBW, AC loosing coolant


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9 replies to this topic

#1 Rooster2

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 01:13 PM

Took my 99 to an independent shop recommended by a friend. My A/C no longer pumps cold air. I had added 134a a couple of time, and knew there was a refrigerant leak in the system. The last time I added refrigerant, it had leaked out by the next day. So, I knew the leak had gone from just a little bit, to really bad.

 

The shop owner pointed out to me, that after doing a dye analysis, that the condenser is leaking at the bottom on the passenger side. Also, that the high pressure "pipe" connecting at the bottom corner of the condenser (very near the condenser leak) was also leaking. I could easily see the dye mark on the side of the condenser meeting where the "pipe" is threaded into the condenser. It looked to me that the "pipe" could still be good, but the shop tech said, no, the pipe is leaking too. Is this a common problem on Subies? Is it more likely that it is only the condenser that is leaking, or do the pipes have a reputation of leaking to? The shop owner quoted me $600+ for parts, but said if I wanted to, I could buy my own parts to save money, and he would install and recharge the system. So, pretty decent of him to do this, as most shops don't allow this.

 

I did some window shopping on line for a replacement condenser, and see prices ranging from $70 to $461.00. The cheapest at $70 was from Auto Part Warehouse for their Kool Vue A/C condenser. Is that going too cheap for a condenser? The pipe I found cost $81.00 at My Subaru Parts.com., but am unsure if I really need a new pipe. Would a pipe really go bad??

 

Thanks for any advise or thoughts.............Rooster2...........Larry


Edited by Rooster2, 18 October 2013 - 02:02 PM.


#2 upnorthguy

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 01:30 PM

Regarding the pipe: I always think about the possible outcomes.  If the condenser is replaced and the system is recharged and the leak is gone...great.  Lowest possible  spent on parts/labor.  If you replace the condenser get a recharge and you still have a leak because of the pipe, now you've wasted the refrigerant recharge and need to buy the pipe plus pay for another recharge.

 

If it was my car, I'd replace the pipe as long as the system is being worked on.  Maybe a salvage pipe (assuming you can get to a yard) would be worth a shot depending on time to get it and the price compared to $81.

 

I've never replaced a condenser so I have no opinion on those.



#3 grossgary

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 02:20 PM

i've repaired a lot of Subaru a/c systems, they are very robust and rarely have failures.

 

i have an article on the orings usually being the culprit. they're always dry and brittle by this age and prone to leak.  $5 and some time and you're done. you can even recharge yourself, not a big deal at all. i do this all the time.  article here:

http://www.subaruout...nutes-less.html

 

what amazes me is i've never heard a story like this:  "My a/c wasn't working and the mechanic fixed it with a 50 cent oring and recharged the system for only $80".  I've never heard that story and yet I've repaired countless Subaru's with 50 cent orings.   the only A/C i've repaired that was NOT an oring problem has been a leaking condensor and when i found the leak it was obviously punctured by something and eventually let loose. and of course i've seen failed A/C compressors, mostly on 80's stuff though, very few even 90's stuff.

 

It's mind boggling how many many-hundred-dollar repairs I see when it's probably a 50 cent oring.

 

i'm not saying yours is the orings - but i'd certainly check it out carefully to make sure it's not something simple like that.  it sounds to me like you're describing a junction - hose to compressor or condensor area - sounds like orings. 

 

usually the ones on the compressor are hard and brittle and the rest are supple and good.  i suppose it's the heat cycling, vibrations, etc of the engine and compressor.

 

if the car has ever been in an accident or lots of engine area work - where the hose has been moved or stuff lying on it much - then it's more likely to have a leak at the hose or condensor.  but it's rare in Subaru's.

 

personally, since I always recharge myself, and have never really seen a hose or condensor failure - i'd just replace with used. 



#4 Rooster2

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 06:57 PM

i've repaired a lot of Subaru a/c systems, they are very robust and rarely have failures.

 

i have an article on the orings usually being the culprit. they're always dry and brittle by this age and prone to leak.  $5 and some time and you're done. you can even recharge yourself, not a big deal at all. i do this all the time.  article here:

http://www.subaruout...nutes-less.html

 

what amazes me is i've never heard a story like this:  "My a/c wasn't working and the mechanic fixed it with a 50 cent oring and recharged the system for only $80".  I've never heard that story and yet I've repaired countless Subaru's with 50 cent orings.   the only A/C i've repaired that was NOT an oring problem has been a leaking condensor and when i found the leak it was obviously punctured by something and eventually let loose. and of course i've seen failed A/C compressors, mostly on 80's stuff though, very few even 90's stuff.

 

It's mind boggling how many many-hundred-dollar repairs I see when it's probably a 50 cent oring.

 

i'm not saying yours is the orings - but i'd certainly check it out carefully to make sure it's not something simple like that.  it sounds to me like you're describing a junction - hose to compressor or condensor area - sounds like orings. 

 

usually the ones on the compressor are hard and brittle and the rest are supple and good.  i suppose it's the heat cycling, vibrations, etc of the engine and compressor.

 

if the car has ever been in an accident or lots of engine area work - where the hose has been moved or stuff lying on it much - then it's more likely to have a leak at the hose or condensor.  but it's rare in Subaru's.

 

personally, since I always recharge myself, and have never really seen a hose or condensor failure - i'd just replace with used. 

Thanks Grossgary for the advise. Yea, shops charge what they can get away with. With a shop paying wages, rent, insurance, utility bills, etc, they have no choice but to charge what they do. Fixing  an A/C unit with a 50 cent O ring is something only a DIY owner can and will do.

 

The reason I took my car to a shop is that I don't have any way to draw a vacuum on the system, or professionally install the 134a refrigerant.

 

Upon further looking at the leaking area, it appears that the leak is at or very near the connection junction of where the "metal pipe" attaches to the bottom corner of the condenser. So there must be an O ring there that is bad. Guess I could replace the O ring, add more dye and 134a to the system to see if that fixes the problem. It is a gamble, if it fixes the leak, then I am happy, if not, then I am out the money for the dye and cans of 134a. Even if I fix the leak, I would need to have the system vacuum evacuated, and then new 134a installed. Doing A/C work is never that easy or cheap. I did take the cap off the "Low" port, and depressed the schrader valve. Doing so produced no Hiiiiiiiiiiiissssss, so I know the system is totally empty of refrigerant.

 

Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated. I would like to get the A/C fixed now, and not wait till Spring.

 

Thanks...............Rooster2  Larry



#5 grossgary

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 08:34 PM

You've got lots of options.  There's no reason to vacuum the system.  Replace the oring and charge with two cans of refrigerant and the car will work great for the next 100,000 miles.  Get another metal line if you have any wonder that it may be the issue - or if it looks like it's been struck/been in an accident previously. 

 

Ollies had cans of refrigerant for $5.60 each around here, I bought a bunch.  So for $11 you're done. 

Or order online at Advance auto parts with a big 20% - 40% off coupon and pick it up in the store.

 

I've done it gobs of times with 100% success.

 

Technically speaking maybe it takes an extra 28 seconds to ramp up to full operating capacity.  Maybe it cools to 53 degrees instead of 51....it's all drops in a bucket.  A/C still runs another 100,000 miles without issue. I have a temp gun - I can take temp readings of mine and compare to others. I have gobs of cars (my own and friends) that I've done this too so I can check them all.

 

Here's the funny thing - I have a vacuum puller and full sets of gauges - and I haven't used them in years.  It's not convenient, set up, or I'm doing the work over a friends house, in my parking lot at my office...when I know it really doesn't matter, Subaru's are so robust and simple it's not worth my time.

 

You can probably rent vacuum pullers too - i feel like the advance auto parts here in town had one recently....check with local stores or tool rental places that rent scaffolding, etc.

 

Or just have the shop pull the vacuum - they shouldn't charge much for that.  You install the oring and you charge it.

 

A recently nonoperating system isn't likely empty -  When it first reaches atmoshperic pressure (no hissing out the valve) - it still has *only* refrigerant in it - no air at all. It is "low", but not empty.  As the a/c leaks down - it will leak until it reaches atmospheric pressure and then it STOPS....still having *only* refrigerant with no air in it the first time it reaches equilibrium.  Of course thermal expansion and contraction and replacing the oring introduces air...but the system has dessicant in it, it doesn't matter either way....

 

That diatribe aside, Subaru A/C systems are so robust that whether you vacuum or not makes not functional difference.

 

American vehicles (and maybe others) have enough other common issues that this approach is not effective...so that's why I qualify it with Subaru systems.  And that's probably why mechanics tend to replace far more than necessary on Subarus.



#6 Rooster2

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 07:00 AM

You've got lots of options.  There's no reason to vacuum the system.  Replace the oring and charge with two cans of refrigerant and the car will work great for the next 100,000 miles.  Get another metal line if you have any wonder that it may be the issue - or if it looks like it's been struck/been in an accident previously. 

 

Ollies had cans of refrigerant for $5.60 each around here, I bought a bunch.  So for $11 you're done. 

Or order online at Advance auto parts with a big 20% - 40% off coupon and pick it up in the store.

 

I've done it gobs of times with 100% success.

 

Technically speaking maybe it takes an extra 28 seconds to ramp up to full operating capacity.  Maybe it cools to 53 degrees instead of 51....it's all drops in a bucket.  A/C still runs another 100,000 miles without issue. I have a temp gun - I can take temp readings of mine and compare to others. I have gobs of cars (my own and friends) that I've done this too so I can check them all.

 

Here's the funny thing - I have a vacuum puller and full sets of gauges - and I haven't used them in years.  It's not convenient, set up, or I'm doing the work over a friends house, in my parking lot at my office...when I know it really doesn't matter, Subaru's are so robust and simple it's not worth my time.

 

You can probably rent vacuum pullers too - i feel like the advance auto parts here in town had one recently....check with local stores or tool rental places that rent scaffolding, etc.

 

Or just have the shop pull the vacuum - they shouldn't charge much for that.  You install the oring and you charge it.

 

A recently nonoperating system isn't likely empty -  When it first reaches atmoshperic pressure (no hissing out the valve) - it still has *only* refrigerant in it - no air at all. It is "low", but not empty.  As the a/c leaks down - it will leak until it reaches atmospheric pressure and then it STOPS....still having *only* refrigerant with no air in it the first time it reaches equilibrium.  Of course thermal expansion and contraction and replacing the oring introduces air...but the system has dessicant in it, it doesn't matter either way....

 

That diatribe aside, Subaru A/C systems are so robust that whether you vacuum or not makes not functional difference.

 

American vehicles (and maybe others) have enough other common issues that this approach is not effective...so that's why I qualify it with Subaru systems.  And that's probably why mechanics tend to replace far more than necessary on Subarus.

Thanks for your advise. I am going to replace the O ring at the pipe junction with the condenser, and the 2  O rings at the compressor, charge with 134a, and see if it holds the refrigerant charge. I have replaced O rings before on Audis, so I am sure it is the same on a Subie. Maybe I will get lucky, and simply replacing O rings, and this will solve the problem.



#7 grossgary

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 07:39 AM

oh good call, i missed that - those compressor orings are usually brittle and in bad shape.

 

use that write up i did as a reference if you have any detailed questions, it's probably covered in there.  it's pretty simple though, clean it up and replace oring.  they're almost all one bolt and that's it.

 

the a/c compressor orings are easy to match up in the kits in the stores.  the smaller orings in the rest of the system are usually a little trickier and you have to use the closest one you can find if you're using those big kits of multiple sizes/selections.

 

there's usually a lot of dirt around the fitting so pre-clean before disassembly to keep it from falling in.

 

my cousin is an HVAC guy for the military and he told me years ago to hold one valve open while charging from the other valve or while one of the pipes are open just before bolting it back on tightly - leave it slightly gapped - that would be a ghetto way to push a lot of gas/air out of the system.  i've done that a couple times but mostly like i said the systems are so robust it's not really worth it.



#8 Rooster2

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:11 AM

Good call from your cousin regarding ghetto approach to purge the system.  I will remember that. That would work better then simply filling the system, then using a small screw driver to push down on the schrader valve on the low pressure side to release atmosphere and 134a. I would then refill with 134a, and call it a day. The EPA and environmentalist would hate watching me do that.

 

Yea, also a good idea to wipe off the crud from around the O ring connections. Cleaner is always better.

 

I have a package of green O rings, but prolly better to pick up a new package. It would be my luck, that my existing package would be missing the replacement size I need.

 

Thanks again grossgary.



#9 1-3-2-4

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 12:03 PM

I still pull a vacuum on my system, then during the fill (going by the service manual here) I invert the can and fill the high side first, it fills the compressor with the R134a and it will turn the compressor a bit.. then charge the rest valve side up on the low side.. and don't fill the high side at all with the car running and the A/C on.

 

it's been almost 3 years now, but I had a mishap late last year.. went to drill a hole for a external temp sensor and the drill slipped and hit my condenser but lucky for me it ended up hitting the fins and not the line, I have a little pressure drop but not from that area but from the o-rings, I haven't replaced those yet since I got the car.



#10 Rooster2

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 02:49 PM

I still pull a vacuum on my system, then during the fill (going by the service manual here) I invert the can and fill the high side first, it fills the compressor with the R134a and it will turn the compressor a bit.. then charge the rest valve side up on the low side.. and don't fill the high side at all with the car running and the A/C on.

 

it's been almost 3 years now, but I had a mishap late last year.. went to drill a hole for a external temp sensor and the drill slipped and hit my condenser but lucky for me it ended up hitting the fins and not the line, I have a little pressure drop but not from that area but from the o-rings, I haven't replaced those yet since I got the car.

I have never heard of charging a system at the high pressure port. Yea, I guess it would work, but sure don't want the system running when doing so.






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