The condenser on my 95 Pontiac GP is trashed. It's got a pretty
substantial leak in the lower corner. One guy said it looked like it
ate a bird.
If I top it off it will freeze you out of the car, but it will drain to
ineffectiveness overnight. Thing is, it doesn't drain out totally, just
to where it doesn't cool. It still has pressure.
I've been pricing condensers. About$120 or so.
Now, any tricks or tips on doing the job? How about any tips
to evacuate the system before recharging it?
From a do-it-yourselfer...
Most systems do hold a little pressure, even though there is a leak and
the refrigerant has been practically all lost. Sometimes it doesn't amount
to a thimblefull of refrigerant. You are supposed to, of course, pull the
remainder of the refrigerant out and capture it.
Be careful when removing and tightening the fittings. Some of those
things are more delicate than they might appear.
When you take off the hoses, seal the ends (I sometimes use plastic
and tape), to keep moisture and contamination out.
Use new o-rings or metallic seals everywhere you open the system. I use
a lubricant/sealer like Nylog on the seals.
You may want to add 1-2 ounces of lubricant to replace any which will
be trapped in the condenser . Be sure you use the right type for the
After you install the new condenser, you will need to pull a vacuum on
the system for a couple of hours and then you can see if it will hold
vacuum. (We used to pull a vacuum overnight on residual AC units
which we had had to open. I dont think it is really necessary though,
for this sort of application) If it doesnt hold vacuum, you will have
to locate the other leak(s) and fix them. (You could also have a slow
leak that is not easily detectable in this way. GM front compressor
seals are prone to failure, at least on some models.)
When you are convinced that you are as leakfree as possible, then
you can start to charge the unit. Since I only have a sorryass cheapo
charge hose and gauge, I charge both by indicated pressure and weight of
refrigerant. (I do have a pretty decent set of "scales" to weigh the
It is a lot more satisfying if you have the professional equipment which
makes this sort of job easier. But if you dont,and are forced to do it
for yourself, you can normally do a good enough job.
Thanks for the tips!
First off, I know where the big leak is. Pretty obvious, the condenser is
'dented in' and it's all oily and now has a lot of dye as well. One guy
looked at it said it looked like a bird met it's demise there.
I'm aware of the fragility of the connections. I have a set of flare nut
wrenches, and I was expecting to have to use them. On my Pontiac
I can only get at the condenser from the motor side, so that means
take off the air box, then the fans, then the radiator... FINALLY
getting to the condenser.
I was going to actually 'cork' the feeds, but it sounds from what you
said that just protecting them is sufficient? That will be a lot easier to
be able to just put say a sandwich bag and duct tape on the ends.
"Nylog"??? Never heard of it. I can't just use silicon? Or will that
cause other issues? I'll see if I can get Nylog somewhere.
I don't think I have any other leaks. At least, there's no indication
with the dye, so hopefully it will be OK.
I have an old refrigerator compressor and I was going to hook that
up with an old charging hose to suck out the system. I have two
charging hoses. One is 'direct' that has a can tap and a fitting. I
was going to slice that to make my suction hose. The other charging
hose I have also has a can tap, then a pressure gauge, then the
attachment fitting. What's really weird about it is that the attachment
fitting has to be 'pressed' to make it open the valve. It snaps on and
seals, but it reads the 'can' pressure until you press on it. I don't know
if it's defective or what, but it works and works well. I just have to
press on the thing. Last time I charged, I just put a tie-wrap on it to
hold it open to let it charge and didn't have to hold it.
For the oil, I was just going to suck the system out, then add cans
that have oil and freon in them together. But are you implying that
would be too much? My system says it takes 2lbs of R134a in the
owners manual and that's about it. The oil and freon cans say
11oz so that would be 33oz, or pretty darn close to 2lbs.
The Chilton manual really sucks. It says absolutely NOTHING
about the AC other than to refer to a qualified AC technician. I
would never have thought Chilton was so bad until I saw it for
you can probably get your local radiator shop to fix any breach in a
condensor tube for 20 bucks or so. unless you just want a new one.....if
oil and refrigerant come in the same can dont worry about the trace
amounts you may have lost......vac. the syatem for half an hour if you
have a pump and manifold guage set, if not, buy an extra can of refrig.
and put it in. then let it out (refrig. is hydroscopic and will gather
most of the moisture) then fully recharge system...ive had this work
great many o' time in driveway applications...............kjun
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You always wonder how much lubricant you may have lost. Probably not
much, but an ounce or two should make it pretty close to right.
The filter/drier/accumulator used to have silica gel in it to take care of
water. If you pull vacuum long enough, you can return the system to near
dry condition. This is why we pulled so long on residential systems. To be
really sure, you can replace the filter/drier, but it might not be really
especially when viewed in the light that you may not expect to get another
years out of this car.
By the way, Nylog is just one brand name for this type of product. I bought
mine from www.ackits.com .. I think that there are other similar on the
I would not use silicone on these seals. Either get the lubricant made for
or go with nothing at all. (Just my 2 cents.)
OK, one more question...
Turns out a place I found is local (less than 15 miles from me) offers a
lifetime warrantee for non-physical damage, and while not the cheapest
is way under the local discount places.
But, I see there are two types. Tube and fin and serpentine. Most places
charge the same but a couple want a little more for serpentine. Also, the
tube and fin condenser is specified as 'coupe' on a couple of sites on
the web, while the serpentine is specified as coupe/sedan. But then,
the dimensions seem the same.
What really is the difference? At least, from my point of view?
Another thing... Some of the places seem to carry 'generic' radiators.
How much 'custom fit' is there going to be on most of these things if
I don't get an OEM part?
Anyway, the place I found local is an outlet for Radiator Express.
Any feedback on these guys?
Thanks, but when I can get a new condenser for $101, why risk it. For
$125 I can get a new condenser with a lifetime warrantee (except for
impact damage). And I don't think I could get it fixed for $20 around
here. What, about an hour of work? That would be $70 plus parts
Thanks for the evac trick/tip! I may do that anyway unless I know my
pump is pulling down to under maybe 10" of mercury.
Just make sure you get the right one. Had to replace mine in my 94,
got it from autozone, wasn't even CLOSE to being the right part even
though that's what their system said it was. Had to get it right from
the dealer (and it ended up being cheaper to boot, go figure)
said there's 2 different condensers for the car, but the rest just list
one. Evidently one version comes with something different on the
end, but they are the same when it comes to fittings, and either
version will fit in my car. (Hopefully!)
The problem with the one from AZ was that it was WAY physically
SMALLER than the one it was (attempting) to replace. There's no way
it would have fit. Overall the job wasn't that bad, take out the
cooling fans, remove radiator, remove condenser. That's all I really
What I meant by "AZ" was Auto Zone :) And what I mean by smaller is,
lets just say, the condenser is supposed to be 3.5' long by 2.5' wide
(not actual numbers just for this example) ... so then the one that
autozone carries is 2.5' long by 1.5' wide, catch my drift? Does NOT
match up in physical size at all. Like I mentioned, ended up getting
it from the dealer, which was cheaper than autozone was, ironically
I ended up getting mine from Silla. Well, one of the local reps for one of
the internet companies that sells Silla. They had 2 in stock. When I
picked it up, the guy told me they had over 20 in stock 2 weeks ago
and they had a run on that model and the version that fits the Aztec
(they had none of those left).
Anyway, it was $117. I know it was cheaper ($104) other places, but I
didn't have to pay shipping, and I could get it immediately. They have
a 'price match' policy, but then I'd have to have it shipped from the
factory. Still, while not the cheapest, it was in the ballpark, and I could
get it now. They had it waiting at the shipping dock when I pulled up
to the warehouse. Can't beat service like that!
It was a PERFECT match. Well, not perfect. The cooling fins on the
top are square and went right to the edge of the metal bracket. On the
factory the cooling fins are 'tapered' on the top row. As a result, I had
to trim the rubber mount slightly and even still it bent over a few fins
at either end. No big deal. Oh, and it came pressurized to keep out
I didn't try AutoZone locally, but the two chain stores I did try were
I was gonna say but hit send too quick.
I put the condenser in last night. Went right in. Only now I have a bit of
a coolant leak. I thing the lower radiator hose needs to reseat and I
should move the clamp.
But... I went to evacuate the AC and my vacuum pump won't work.
Damn, damn, damn. So I have to run to a shop today to get them
to evacuate and charge the system. Oh well...
I looked at that Arizona web site and they sell a variety of vacuum
pumps. And a nice manifold set. Maybe... If I get this new job...
Only then I may just buy a new car and no more servicing AC! At
least for a while.
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