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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Homer, Often you can spot a refrigerant leak by the oil trail it leaves since some of the oil in the compressor circulates along with the refrigerant. Common leak sources are hoses and connector O-rings. Sometime a crankshaft seal but not as often. Check around the drive pulley to see if any oil trace is there so you can eliminate the shaft seal.

If all else fails, you may consider getting a recharge kit that contains a dye that will allow you to easily spot the leak source. They sell for around $30 the last time I noticed.

You or anyone the least bit handy with common tools can replace the hoses or O-rings if that's the problem. Then you can run it down to a local shop and ask them to evacuate and charge it. That normally is well under $100.

The $2K estimate sound pretty high-ball but I can't comment much on that not knowing all the facts and what hardware was included in the repairs.

ps. Soap and water solution work well for leak detection in areas of easy access.
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Surferdude - Saturns come with the dye already in the system. The local GM dealership told me there is a small leak in the compressor area and quoted me $1600 to replace just the compressor. That was two years ago and they topped off the freon. My local repair shop quoted me $2000 to replace the entire system under the hood as that is how they do it. When I had it done a long time ago in my Explorer, they replaced everything and that was around $1200 about 12-13 years ago.

I was looking at the self charge system and have been digging for the pictures so I put it in the correct place.

This car is my wife's car which doesn't get driven that often. I try to alternate days between hers and mine to keep the packrats out and I only take hers in the morning when it is cool. As my wife hardly drives anymore, we are at the point of trying to decide if we still need both vehicles as they are both Saturn Vues. It also smells like it either has water leak somewhere or the cabin air filter needs to be changed. I am in the process of seeing if it is a true leak or just the fact the sunroof drains are clogged.

Thanks for the inputs.

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The two ports (high side / low side) for R134A systems are very different. A typical recharge kit has a coupler that is only for the low side port (suction.)

Most compressors these days are quasi-rotary with a swash plate driving two or four pistons. The old flatop York compressors went out of favor over 30 years ago. Too big, too heavy; and too difficult to shoehorn into modern engine compartments.

Anytime you open up a system, you have to change the accumulator-dryer assembly.
Older systems used a receiver-dryer on the high pressure side.

Here is California, it has been criminalized to service an AC system without a refrigerant recovery system.
The days are gone when a person would just open up a system and vent the refrigerant to atmosphere.
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If the leak isn't too large, recharging may last a full season. The kits for doing that aren't expensive and are easy to use. Full instruction come with them but aren't vehicle specific. It's worth a gamble and certainly better than dropping $2K on a repair.

Basically all you have to know is the port for charging the system is located somewhere on the low pressure side, which is the larger of the two lines running between the compressor and the firewall. Sometimes it is near or even on the accumulator tank, which is a small aluminum cylinder connected in line with the larger hose. There will be a cap on that port that you need to remove. Not to worry, the pressure won't escape since there is a Shrader valve in there that doesn't open until you connect the charging hose. With the engine not running, connect the hose from the charging kit to the port. Check the reading on the gauge of the kit. If the dial remains on zero, you probably have a pretty large leak and charging it won't make it work for long. However, if there is some indication of pressure on the gauge, you are probably in luck and a charge may last a full season, maybe longer.

Nevertheless, start the engine and turn the air conditioner on full blast at the maximum setting (full fan and max cool). Then open the valve on the charging kit and allow the freon to enter the system. Shut the valve every 20 seconds or so and see what the gauge reads (give it time to equalize by waiting 20 secs.). When it get to the point where it is in the middle of the green zone (with the valve closed) indicated on the dial, stop the charging process and disconnect the hose. Immediately replace the cap on the port to keep moisture from condensing inside.

If all went well, you should be getting air from the vents that is about 10 ° colder (more is better) than the inside temperature of the car.

That's about all there is to it. Good luck, whatever you decide.

ps. Here's a copy of an old table I have given people in the past who had questions about when "to charge and not to charge." If your gauge on the charging unit reads in the range shown for the low side, the system is charged properly. That's measured with the system running at max cool and full fan speed. The engine should be at a fast idle. (1200 rpm +-) Feel free to ignore the high side readings, that's of no value in your case. Ambient is for outside temp (air entering front of radiator/condenser coil), not inside the car. Keep the doors closed for the test and do not judge until the system has been running for approx 20 mins.

[Image: m7ba7m.jpg]
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And, the R134A can should be upright. I "slugged" a compressor once by inducing liquid refrigerant into the low pressure side.

As an aside, I used to quick recharge the old R12 systems by inverting the can and charging into the high side with the engine off. Do not try this.
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(09-30-2015, 12:48 PM)Homerec130 Wrote: It also smells like it either has water leak somewhere or the cabin air filter needs to be changed. I am in the process of seeing if it is a true leak or just the fact the sunroof drains are clogged.

Thanks for the inputs.


When that happens to me, it's usually the heater core leaking. Let's hope you're luckier than I am.


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That's true Mongo. Never charge the high side unless the system has a receiver tank and you have pulled a vacuum on it. That's how they charge system when manufacturing them. There are other times that it's done but I won't go into that, not wanting to set someone up for possible harm.

Even measuring the high side pressure is something rarely done except when some unusual problem is being traced. Besides, it makes an oily mess if you don't have all the hot licks on how to avoid that. Wink

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(09-30-2015, 05:07 PM)surferdude2 Wrote: ...Besides, it makes an oily mess if you don't have all the hot licks on how to avoid that. Wink

My previous car was a '94 tbird. It used R134A -- I think early 90's was the phase out of R12. It developed a slow leak; so, I would annually put about a can of R134A into it. The setup I was using was a simple gauge that had an adapter so that the gauge could be used on the high side. Thing is, there was no Schrader valve in the adapter. I accidentally disconnected the gauge from the high side at the junction where there was no valve. It was raining R134A and oil. I had to shield my face with the hood; and disconnect the adapter while I still had positive pressure in the system.

Traded that car in 2007. Haven't touched an AC system since.
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The MN12... Had a 94 tbird also. I spent more money on that car and broke more transmissions than I care to add up.


Using FlashAir W-03 SD card in machine. Access through wifi with FlashPAP or Sleep Master utilities.

I wanted to learn Binary so I enrolled in Binary 101. I seemed to have missed the first four courses. Big Grinnie

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(10-01-2015, 09:24 AM)AlanE Wrote: The MN12... Had a 94 tbird also. I spent more money on that car and broke more transmissions than I care to add up.


I had the transmission rebuilt at 100k miles. Upgraded parts were used to make up for the the wimpy one way clutch and other parts. I did add a trans cooler. The trans would have lasted longer if my daughter hadn't driven the car with the parking brake on for 15 miles.

The 4.6L modular engine was great. Still strong after 13 years. Only weakness was the plug wires.

My 2005 Merc has essentially the same engine and trans. I miss the tbird. The Merc is too big.

No, not a member of TCCOA; but have used info on their website.
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