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Old 06-17-2020, 12:09 PM   #1
240Redblock
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Default A/C Restoration and Conversion to r134a in pre-1991 240

Preamble:
**Extreme caution must be used when making modifications to A/C systems, PAG oil and Mineral oil DO NOT MIX and may EXPLODE! Be sure to know what you are doing and I recommend replacing EVERY piece of equipment when making this conversion**

This is for my 1985 245 N/A with M46, mostly stock DD. I had a HUGE leak in my heater core (wet floors, adding quart of distilled water any time I used the heat and windows so fogged it became too dangerous to drive with the heat on, it was a rather chilly winter for me...) and decided that while I was in there it was time to replace my A/C stuff too. While the dash removal and heater core replacement was pretty straightforward, there is much debate over A/C systems on this and other forums so I figured it was time to share my experience. I drive between Flagstaff, AZ and Las Vegas, NV each way 3 times a month so having heating and cooling are two luxuries I recommend we all enjoy and be thankful for! I love these cars stock so when making the decision as to whether to upgrade to 91+ or remain with original cooling I hit the message boards to see what the community was saying...it was overwhelmingly conflicting. I purchased evaporators for both style systems figuring I'd decide later on which one to go with. The decision was grueling, but was made when my local JY scrapped the last 91+ 240 I've seen in over a year. Because of this I was also conflicted about making the conversion to r134a or to use an HC replacement, but figured that legal refrigerants are more accessible and likely to be available for a longer time. I am aware that r134a is flammable and that there is not necessarily a greater explosion risk when using HC replacements, but my greatest concern was ease, availability, and possible complications. I decided on r134a and am very happy with the final result, you will see all the trials and tribulations, but in the end I need to turn the A/C knob to low in temperatures below 100deg F or I will become a popsicle, yes even at idle. So I stuck with my original HVAC box and decided not to modify this or my firewall in favor of my love for (mostly) stock-ness. The following is a write up of my own experience and is meant to be a guide, not gospel.

Body:
I will gloss over the removal of the dash and center console supports as there are numerous and better documented articles available. I will comment that I did refinish (filled all cracks with silcone caulking, smoothed to flush and slightly textured) and repaint all dash plastic with SEM Camel colored spray for the tan interior which was a 90% match and much prettier than my grease-stained cracked and weathered dash was previously. I also replaced the blower motor and resistor at this time, they were functioning fine and not nearly as noisy as I've had, but when you're in there you might as well (not necessary to remove the dash to do this, but I don't recommend skipping the opportunity when it reveals itself)**Shout-out to Rock auto supplied VDO blower motor, it's worth it! I did not replace the blades, but I don't regret that...yet...**, and it did make a noticeable and pleasant improvement. To make sure we're all on the same page, this system has only a low pressure sensor (mine was set around 30psi) on the accumulator as well as a pressure relief valve for over-pressures; this is a Thermal Expansion Valve (TXV) system without an orifice tube and a DKS-15BH compressor. The parts for the a/c system were purchased from Rockauto and were as follows, all parts are designed for r12 and r134a applications:

Evaporator Coil: FOUR SEASONS 54603
Hoses:
From Compressor to Evaporator: FOUR SEASONS 55992
From Accumulator to Condenser: FOUR SEASONS 55998
From Compressor to Condenser: FOUR SEASONS 55594
Accumulator: ÜRO PARTS 1370235*(note this one comes with a pressure relief valve set for 325 psi)* and FOUR SEASONS 33264**(no pressure relief valve, more on these later)**
Thermal Expansion Valve: UAC EX6076C***(many users have commented on adjustment for r134a, I heeded this advice and turned spring inward to seat, then outward 7 complete rotations)***
Mechanical Cooling Fan: Aisin FCV-002****("Tropical" version, turns on at lower temps and runs up to about 3000rpm, I drive "spiritedly" and have no noticed any loss of power or joy from this addition, just an extra whoosh here and there when passing other drivers)****
Electric Cooling Fan: bought a 16in push fan to increase airflow from CL
Condenser: BuyAutoParts 60-61242N

I had contemplated purchasing an aftermarket parallel flow condenser and having lines made, or even making them myself but decided that stock would be easier and cheaper to maintain in the long-run (obviously I must have been huffing refrigerant at that point because we all know that's never the case!). As is always the case, there were some parts that could not be found, notably the muffler (or whatever you want to call it) and the short hose from the condenser to the accumulator. The new compressor to condenser hose was so long that there was no way of placing the muffler were it was, so I simply deleted it and ran the new hose as if it were the whole original series of hoses +muffler, this did not increase the noise from the compressor and reduced the number of places for a leak to develop, so I'll count that as a win. The short hose from condenser to accumulator needed to be replaced so I went to the local All-Hose and had them fabricate one for $30. In hindsight, it would've been a bit more expensive, but ultimately more user-friendly to have done this with all the hoses as many of them were a bit too long, or not angled perfectly to fit as nicely as stock; but it all worked out in the end. So I went with all of the above parts and installed everything but the compressor as I was in the process of rebuilding this (I can do a writeup on this if there is any interest, but the myriad issues with worn pistons and gasket kits that weren't quite perfect lead to lower than desirable high pressures even when properly charged and resulted in me purchasing a new compressor: FOUR SEASONS 58521). The rebuild was simple, if a bit time consuming but resulted in lackluster cooling "forcing" my hand to purchase a new one from my trusted Four Seasons brand. The inconveniently positioned ports on this new compressor notwithstanding, I am thrilled with its output! This new compressor came with a built-in pressure relief valve and suction and discharge ports on the hose housing, as opposed to the original version where these were threaded into the rear body of the compressor.
System Prep:
As per the manufacturer instructions, I drained the shipping oil and filled with 6 oz of PAG46 oil with UV dye. I mounted the push fan to the front of the condenser and it dwarfed the thing! I needed to notch out the shape for the fan motor into the hood latch support bracket and everything was fit into place. I decided to go easy on myself and insert the relay into a system that is always hot when ignition is on figuring I'll disconnect this when winter comes. I drew the system to vacuum of 25 inHg for an 1.2 hours (until no more bubbles present), then closed the gauges and left for an hour with no drop in vacuum.
Charging the System (1):
With the fan on I charged this with just under 3 12oz cans of Dupont Suva to 55 psi low side, and 200 psi high side in 98deg F temp. Judging this to be low I made a note and drove around a few days. After a 108deg F day I was not happy: during rebuilding the compressor I used scotchbrite on the pistons and cylinder bores to remove all of the scratches and pitting, needless to say there was A LOT and I figured this was the cause of these low high-side pressures. I can't say if I made an error with my rebuild, or if the original compressor was too worn, but the performance was...lacking. I had the refrigerant recovered, drained the oil out of the compressor and replaced it with the new one. When I filled this compressor, I added 1 oz more of the oil than what I pulled out, thinking I was being cautious and this would ensure proper lubrication (ahh, the best laid plans..), removed the schrader valve core in the suction port and threaded an r134a low side quick-disconnect (these new ports were angled such that I couldn't fit the connectors onto low side when the belt was taught, so I had to slacken belt every time I needed attach or remove gauges...PITA!). At this time I decided to use the four seasons accumulator because the new compressor came with a pressure relief valve built in and I believe that less is more in these instances, plus I'm not the biggest fan of URO parts even though they are often the only vendor for Volvos. Then I pulled vacuum as before and let sit for 2 hours and noticed no change.
Charging the System (2):
This time I charged with just under 3 cans of the same Dupont refrigerant about 2.1 lbs (2.9 R12 charge * 80% = 2.32 lbs) to 52psi low side and 230 psi high side in 88deg F temperature. It blew ice cold in the garage so I went for a drive and I was happy.
Then:
Two days later I start my drive, turn on the A/C and...nothing. So I turn home, popped the hood and saw the compressor running so I had to turn off, slacken compressor belt, attach gauges, when off both gauges read about 120 psi, when I turned it on I saw vacuum on low side and 300 psi high side!! I figured this was a sticking TXV so I had the refrigerant recovered and opened everything to see a beautifully clean valve, but I went ahead and disassembled the spring seat and removed valve, cleaned it all, then I went ahead and blew air through every hose and found (and heard) a splatter of oil in my passenger footwell (TXV still removed). My theory: The extra bit of oil I had used when replacing the compressor bit my bottom by pooling in the U-bend of the evaporator hard-lines! Mess cleaned, the door to my HVAC box adjusted and TXV reinstalled, I re-vacuumed and refilled as above.

Results:
When on the highway if it's 100 deg F or higher (so far up to 106) when the knob is set to max I am near frozen at speed 4 on the blower, and rather comfortable at speed 2 and air recirculation. When in traffic I usually use the max setting unless it's in the mid-low 90s. The knob is very effective at pulsing compressor when I moved the sensing bulb to the lowest place on the liquid line coming out of the evaporator and insulated well. I am thrilled with the performance and recommend this to anyone who has lived for far too long in the desert summers with 4-60 cooling. It was a headache, it cost a lot more than I had anticipated (a total around $570 with all my mishaps) and took much longer to feel comfortable with reliability than I ever thought would be the case. But I had the time (quarantine) and now I am very pleased with the results and happy that I chose r134a as I required refrigerant recovery 2 times before I was finished. I notice a very slight decrease in low-end power when climbing highway hills using A/C but it's well worth the cost (and will be a moot issue when my 2.1 turbo is fully rebuilt and installed, story to come) and makes me wonder why I didn't do this sooner. Please comment or ask questions and let me know your experiences doing this.

Stay cool out there!

*****These are all of my own personal experiences and do not reflect every situation, I am not sponsored or paid for my writing, nor do I receive any funding from the parts manufacturers and distributors listed above. I am a home mechanic with years of professional experience, but have left that life behind.*****

Last edited by 240Redblock; 06-18-2020 at 11:46 PM.. Reason: Want To Recommend fan replacement.
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Old 06-17-2020, 12:20 PM   #2
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I am mid-stroke in a complete rebuild of my 83 245 AC system, appreciate the writeup!
Glad you got it cold with 134a!
I am planning on Envirosafe in mine.
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Old 06-17-2020, 12:43 PM   #3
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I think if I were to do it all over again I would have kept my '93 parts wagon for a bit longer so I could harvest her firewall and HVAC box, but when the landlord threatened to have it towed at my expense, I wasn't thinking straight.
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Old 06-17-2020, 12:45 PM   #4
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Having largely considered the AC system in my Volvos not worth an attempt to fix, I am now slowly collecting any and all information, hoping to get some sweet sweet conditioned air.

Thank you for the write up!
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Old 06-17-2020, 12:48 PM   #5
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Nice writeup. Having cold AC in an old turd mobile is definitely satisfying.
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Old 06-17-2020, 01:07 PM   #6
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Nice writeup by the OP.

A couple tidbits learned from decades of converting old R12 vehicles to R134a:

1. PAG oil is only for vehicles which were factory R134a; I believe it's POE oil which is recommend for conversion vehicles (that's 99% of the 240s out there, 93 exception)
2. Replace every stinking O-ring with new..... leaking old O-rings will break your heart
3. Learn how to properly install refrigerant; most folks commit sins here and install AIR along with their R134a (or other). Remember, AIR doesn't phase change.... doesn't condense, doesn't change phase. Read up on HOW to install properly and improve your chances.
4. WEIGH your R134a from each can and hit the weight on the charge dead nuts. R134a is fussy.... if you under fill, OVER fill, neither will perform well. When you know the original R12 spec weight, use 85% of that in R134a in grams. Hit the number as close as you can.
5. Clean well / replace your condenser. You have got to get the heat OUT of the system with each pass and that is the job of the condenser. Clean it and make sure your fan works properly in traffic or your high side pressure will climb until the emergency relief lifts and you'll lose the charge you worked so hard to fill to spec!
6. When you VAC down the system and have boiled out all the water that was inside, shutdown the pump and watch the vacuum levels. If the needle moves in 15 minutes, you've still got a system leak. I always check at least 30 minutes, and when the vacuum inches holds rock solid, you are golden.

Good luck folks.
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Last edited by DET17; 06-17-2020 at 01:11 PM.. Reason: more wisdom
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Old 06-17-2020, 01:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DET17 View Post
Nice writeup by the OP.

A couple tidbits learned from decades of converting old R12 vehicles to R134a:

1. PAG oil is only for vehicles which were factory R134a; I believe it's POE oil which is recommend for conversion vehicles (that's 99% of the 240s out there, 93 exception)
2. Replace every stinking O-ring with new..... leaking old O-rings will break your heart
3. Learn how to properly install refrigerant; most folks commit sins here and install AIR along with their R134a (or other). Remember, AIR doesn't phase change.... doesn't condense, doesn't change phase. Read up on HOW to install properly and improve your chances.
4. WEIGH your R134a from each can and hit the weight on the charge dead nuts. R134a is fussy....

-PAG oil will explode when pressurized and mixed with Mineral oil! I used PAG because I had replaced EVERYTHING in the system and I recommend doing this anyway because it's old. -Make sure when evacuating the system that all of the bubbles have stopped.
-Use high and low side gauges, I've used between 70% to 85% of r134a on a conversion and each system is different, especially when removing all these "extra" parts!
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Old 06-17-2020, 02:15 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by 240Redblock View Post
I think if I were to do it all over again I would have kept my '93 parts wagon for a bit longer so I could harvest her firewall and HVAC box, but when the landlord threatened to have it towed at my expense, I wasn't thinking straight.
Early yesterday evening, I achieved a running and cold AC system in my 1975 242. I retrofitted a stock 1993 240 system into the 242. Grabbed the interior parts (HVAC assembly, firewall panel) off a donor car I picked up last year and grabbed the engine bay parts off of a '93 classic which appeared in the San Jose PnP last month. The electric fan still needs to be installed, I wanted to wait until I was sure the AC system was operational and stable and then tackle that aspect.

There was a little bit of "fabrication" to create holes for mounting the condenser and the AC lines and other things, for the most the AC components dropped into place. Planning on a more detailed write up on the experience as my 1975 242 has some unique attributes (1990 B230 & wiring) which made the retrofit a bit easier. Want to run/test it for a couple days to make sure it is all sorted.
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Old 06-18-2020, 07:56 AM   #9
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I'm liking this thread, because I too have been geeking out over old cars with functional OE AC lately.

As mentioned earlier, knowing how to charge the system properly is very important. I charge by weight and use only pure r-134a. I'm sure there are other products out there that work with great results, but a lot of them don't have the specs you need to charge the system. If your using a refrigerant WITH sealant or some additive your weights go out the window. The sealants and crap are a big fail. The biggest mistake I tend to make is forgetting to purge the yellow line before charging. That whole thing is full of air that you don't want in the system, but I've had "good enough" results whether I remember to do this or not. I'm also in the Midwest where our heat is generally mild compared to other areas of the country.

As far as oil goes for conversions, I use ester oil. Mineral does not jive with r-134a and PAG oil does not jive with mineral oil. If you're reusing old hoses and heat exchangers, you should be flushing these out before converting anyway. However, the compressor cannot be flushed and SOME mineral oil will remain. Ester works with r-134a and plays well with the remnants of mineral oil. The '89 245 I just did was converted from Volvo with PAG, but the system was flushed and the compressor does not appear to be stock either.

With that being said, I am not pro. These are just some of the practices I've used, and my success rate is pretty good. I do still have some questions about the Volvo system after recently recharging. Do these older cars even cycle the compressor? Mine runs non-stop until I turn the knob off. The pressures stay very consistent, so I'm not too worried about over pressurizing. I just worry about the compressor's longevity. I'm also wondering about other strange attributes. The system is still cooling, but it took a while to kick on yesterday with the outside temp in the mid 80s with low humidity. I turned the knob to max and the blower motor didn't come on until about five seconds later. With some investigation, I noticed that the compressor clutch wasn't engaging until then either. With no charge at all, the compressor and fan would kick on immediately, but that was with the old pressure switch.

I dunno. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much. It's an old car with working AC. I should just enjoy it.
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Old 06-18-2020, 11:05 AM   #10
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Definitely avoid stop leak if you have a leak, you'll never get great a/c, you'll be losing refrigerant which translates to money, and you'll be inviting all kinds of debris into your system (there is no miracle in a can). The knob allows your clutch to slip, thus reducing internal pressures and wear, similarly the heat sensing bulb for your TXV should be well insulated so as to not flood the evaporator on hot days.

The delay is due to a delay timer that is supposedly built into the system (in the switch I think) this is ensure that the clutch doesn't engage until the cars achieved idle conditions.
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Old 06-18-2020, 11:19 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 240Redblock View Post
Definitely avoid stop leak if you have a leak, you'll never get great a/c, you'll be losing refrigerant which translates to money, and you'll be inviting all kinds of debris into your system (there is no miracle in a can). The knob allows your clutch to slip, thus reducing internal pressures and wear, similarly the heat sensing bulb for your TXV should be well insulated so as to not flood the evaporator on hot days.

The delay is due to a delay timer that is supposedly built into the system (in the switch I think) this is ensure that the clutch doesn't engage until the cars achieved idle conditions.
Delay is achieved by the AC relay
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Old 06-18-2020, 12:56 PM   #12
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I just talked to a buddy who is much more experienced in AC than myself. He says a TXV system is generally supposed to have the clutch on non-stop because the TXV controls the pressure unlike an orifice tube. It's a quieter operation and not as taxing on the clutch or engine which is why a lot of automakers are switching over from the OT. Makes sense to me!

Good to know about the delay too. I never noticed that before.
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Old 06-18-2020, 05:02 PM   #13
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When my AC knob is barely turned on I can feel it getting cold-warm-cold as the AC will stay off longer than on. If yours isn't cycling but it is getting sufficiently cold then there's probably something wrong with the thermostat behind the knob.
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Old 06-18-2020, 06:14 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by volvowagoon View Post
.... It's a quieter operation and not as taxing on the clutch or engine which is why a lot of automakers are switching over from the OT. Makes sense to me!
Ironically, Volvo went to the orifice tube for the late 7/9 vehicles. When I converted my 92, I paid the extra cost to fit a variable OT expansion device. I will say that I've never had cooler temps coming from the vents, by comparison to when the car had the standard fixed orifice tube. I'll definitely use them on any other R12 to R134a conversions that I perform.
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Old 06-18-2020, 10:16 PM   #15
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Ironically, Volvo went to the orifice tube for the late 7/9 vehicles. When I converted my 92, I paid the extra cost to fit a variable OT expansion device. I will say that I've never had cooler temps coming from the vents, by comparison to when the car had the standard fixed orifice tube. I'll definitely use them on any other R12 to R134a conversions that I perform.
Yeah, its funny how that works. I think the orifice tube system was a much better idea for its time. It was simpler, and worked really well. With modern controls and basic components becoming cheaper to manufacture the TXV ought to be making a strong comeback. The idea is great IMO. It just needed better execution on the 240s. lol
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Old 06-18-2020, 10:23 PM   #16
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TXVs are the standard for home a/c, back when these systems were designed it was the only way to get dynamic pressures to achieve ideal cooling while constantly changing rpm. The biggest problem with our setup is the itty bitty series flow condenser when I turn my electric fan on my pressures drop 10 psi, imagine if the surface area were moderately larger... I'm cold just thinking about it...
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Old 06-18-2020, 10:54 PM   #17
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I just finished my 84 v8 swap AC. Bought a crimper to make my own lines and used the parallel condenser from ebay that I used on my 90. Was planning on using the 93 style but it wouldnt fit. Got down to 42.0F coming out of the vent at idle with 95f outside. I went with the GMC style routing with the drier between the compressor and evaporator(low side). Also got the megasquirt to control the fans with AC on but I really want the high speed to come on so I might need to change some programming and wiring a bit.
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Old 06-19-2020, 11:21 AM   #18
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TXV = ?
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Old 06-19-2020, 01:17 PM   #19
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TXV = ?
Thermal eXpansion Valve
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Old 06-22-2020, 03:19 PM   #20
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Thanks for the write-up! I'm new to this and have a few questions. If I'm reading this correctly, this was (basically) a part-for-part upgrade in place of the pre-91 system with aftermarket parts, and not a retrofit to the post-91 setup, correct? Do you have the part numbers for the heater core, VDO blower, and resistor?

Thanks!
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Old 06-22-2020, 07:20 PM   #21
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Wish the 93 system had a high side port. Vent temps on an 80* day are around 48-50*. Suspecting an underfill but that requires recovering and refilling with a big boi machine. Countofnowhere and I only had a gauge set to guesstimate with.
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My knob has a big chunk of steel on it
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Old 06-22-2020, 08:58 PM   #22
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Thanks for the write-up! I'm new to this and have a few questions. If I'm reading this correctly, this was (basically) a part-for-part upgrade in place of the pre-91 system with aftermarket parts, and not a retrofit to the post-91 setup, correct? Do you have the part numbers for the heater core, VDO blower, and resistor?

Thanks!
Yea, it was (nearly) a complete restoration of the pre '91 system. The parts are listed above with many of their respective part numbers, but I'll list them here again from Rock Auto:

VDO PM3512 Blower Motor $ 35.79
WVE 4P1577 Blower Resistor $ 74.79
FOUR SEASONS 54603 A/C Evaporator Core $ 113.99
FOUR SEASONS 55594 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 24.79
FOUR SEASONS 55992 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 34.79
FOUR SEASONS 55998 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 34.79
FOUR SEASONS 33264 A/C Receiver Drier $ 14.50
FOUR SEASONS 38607 A/C Expansion Valve $ 19.94
FOUR SEASONS 58521 A/C Compressor-new $ 278.89
BuyAutoParts 60-61242N A/C Condenser $ 64.41 (Amazon)

Now that I see this, I spent too much, but I also think the prices have gone up since I purchased these (the rush in demand). There was also a short hose I had made locally because it's not available for sale pre-made. I also bought a seal kit from 4-seasons, but all of the hoses came with extra (sometimes 4x). I purchased 4 cans of DuPont Suva from ebay $10 per can so I had extra and 8oz (only 6 needed) of UV dyed PAG46 oil per Sanden spec. I hope this helps!
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Old 06-22-2020, 08:59 PM   #23
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Forgot to add this one:

APDI/PRO 9010190 Heater Core $47.79

The leaky sucker that started it all...
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Old 06-22-2020, 09:05 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harlard View Post
Wish the 93 system had a high side port. Vent temps on an 80* day are around 48-50*. Suspecting an underfill but that requires recovering and refilling with a big boi machine. Countofnowhere and I only had a gauge set to guesstimate with.
Pay someone to braze a fitting to have a high side port. Source another high side line so you won't be without a/c. It's what I did.
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Old 06-22-2020, 09:07 PM   #25
white855T
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Dallas,TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 240Redblock View Post
Yea, it was (nearly) a complete restoration of the pre '91 system. The parts are listed above with many of their respective part numbers, but I'll list them here again from Rock Auto:

VDO PM3512 Blower Motor $ 35.79
WVE 4P1577 Blower Resistor $ 74.79
FOUR SEASONS 54603 A/C Evaporator Core $ 113.99
FOUR SEASONS 55594 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 24.79
FOUR SEASONS 55992 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 34.79
FOUR SEASONS 55998 A/C Refrigerant Hose $ 34.79
FOUR SEASONS 33264 A/C Receiver Drier $ 14.50
FOUR SEASONS 38607 A/C Expansion Valve $ 19.94
FOUR SEASONS 58521 A/C Compressor-new $ 278.89
BuyAutoParts 60-61242N A/C Condenser $ 64.41 (Amazon)

Now that I see this, I spent too much, but I also think the prices have gone up since I purchased these (the rush in demand). There was also a short hose I had made locally because it's not available for sale pre-made. I also bought a seal kit from 4-seasons, but all of the hoses came with extra (sometimes 4x). I purchased 4 cans of DuPont Suva from ebay $10 per can so I had extra and 8oz (only 6 needed) of UV dyed PAG46 oil per Sanden spec. I hope this helps!
Now imagine if you had paid someone else to do the ac restoration. You didn't pay too much, you paid exactly what you needed and you still come out ahead. You could of found the compressor for cheaper but I think you wanted to make as few orders as possible.
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