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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-28-2014, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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where to start to get AC functioning again?

When I purchased my 1988 Quadrifoglio several months ago, the AC was not functioning. A routine inspection found the belt between the crank pulley and compressor missing. With the ignition off, the compressor pulley spins freely.

If I wanted to try and get the AC functioning again, should I:
(A) Start the car, turn on the AC switch, and then try to turn compressor pulley by hand (to see if compressor clutch is engaging)?
(B) Install belt and turn on AC system and note sounds and actions? *
(C) Take car to AC expert and pay them a few hundred to diagnose and provide estimate?
(D) Forget the whole thing, save my money, and just drive the car with the top down in the summer?

* - Will the hood, radiator and/or cooling system fan need to come out to access crank pulley to install AC belt?

Other questions:
Anyone know what kind of refrigerant was used in these systems in 1988?
Will I need to change over to a different type of refrigerant?

Chairmankaga - I have read all your AC refurb threads to date. I would love to hear your thoughts, in hindsight, about what you would recommend I do.

Edward
'88 Quad - "Claudia"
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-28-2014, 03:16 PM
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Take it to a shop. Seriously. I've spent so much time and effort on wild goose chases that I've lost a good month of prime driving season. A reputable AC shop can probably diagnose the problem in less time and for less money than you could, if you don't have the experience or expertise. I doubt it'll cost you as much as you anticipate, although a few hundred might be reasonable in your neck of the woods.

You COULD try to replicate my method, which was assume everything needs to be junkd and get a new compressor, a new parallel flow condenser, a new receiver/drier, and o-rings, borrow or buy a set of manifold gauges and a vacuum pump, then hope it doesn't leak. Study as many AC tutorials and videos as you can find to learn how to charge the system. Cross fingers. The thing is, if you don't have the experience you end up chasing leaks, redoing your work countless times, and eventually becoming so frustrated you throw in the towel. In the end, it might be that ONE part you had not planned to replace, of if you'd known it was faulty you would have never started the job in the first place (like, for example, a bad evaporator).

I hate to sound like a Negative Nelly, but unless you plan on becoming something of an AC expert, there's probably other work that would be more worth the investment of your time, effort, and money. I wish now I'd thrown down on my spare transaxle and gotten it ready for a swap into the car! At least that wouldn't have necessitated garaging the car for weeks.

So yeah, in summary, If I could do this over again I'd let an expert take a look at it, present me with a diagnosis and a recommended plan of action, and then decide how to proceed.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-29-2014, 03:56 AM
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Since the belt was off it is more than likely that there is something wrong with it. Could be as simple as being out of refrigerant or could be more nefarious.

I agree with chairmankaga, if you don't have much experience with refurbing A/C systems then it would be best to take it to a pro. They will have all the proper equipment to get it working properly. If it is just low on charge then it won't cost that much to address, if one of the components is bad then they can tell you which one and you can decided what to do to fix it at that point. You probably should source the proper A/C belt and bring it with you to make things easier just in case they don't have one for the Spider.

Kevin

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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-07-2014, 08:09 AM
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OP:
You might as well put a belt on it and start the car and engage the A/C. Worst case is a seized compressor which will either snap the belt, burn it up quickly or squeal and smoke loudly--in any of these cases stop the engine and expect to replace the compressor and dryer and expect a full flush of all components [may also have to replace the expansion vlave].
If it does none of the above, make sure the compressor clutch is engaging the compressor. if not, check all wiring and relays. If so, hook up manifold guage set and take hi/low side readings at idle and 2000 rpm. You can also look at the sight class on the dryer and look for refrigerant flow assuming it is the original dryer with sight glass.
They system originally used R-12. If it has been converted, it should have a sticker somewhere under the hood and the fittings on the compressor should have r-134a adaptors. Also some people have been known to charge the systems with [basically butane or propane mixtures]. If that has been done, be very careful if evacuating the system.
If the pressures are really low, have the system evacuated by shop that is EPA certified for recovery, reclamation, and recycling. Afterwards, you can begin the leak diagnosis with nitrogen and/or standing vacuum tests.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-07-2014, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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how difficult to install AC belt?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiderHolly View Post
OP:
You might as well put a belt on it and start the car and engage the A/C. Worst case is a seized compressor which will either snap the belt, burn it up quickly or squeal and smoke loudly--in any of these cases stop the engine and expect to replace the compressor and dryer and expect a full flush of all components [may also have to replace the expansion vlave].
If it does none of the above, make sure the compressor clutch is engaging the compressor. if not, check all wiring and relays. If so, hook up manifold guage set and take hi/low side readings at idle and 2000 rpm. You can also look at the sight class on the dryer and look for refrigerant flow assuming it is the original dryer with sight glass.
They system originally used R-12. If it has been converted, it should have a sticker somewhere under the hood and the fittings on the compressor should have r-134a adaptors. Also some people have been known to charge the systems with [basically butane or propane mixtures]. If that has been done, be very careful if evacuating the system.
If the pressures are really low, have the system evacuated by shop that is EPA certified for recovery, reclamation, and recycling. Afterwards, you can begin the leak diagnosis with nitrogen and/or standing vacuum tests.
Hi SpiderHolly,

Thanks for the great tips. I just bought a new AC belt. How hard is it going to be to remove the 4 bolts from the crank pulley and install the new compressor belt? Will I need to remove the hood, and drain and pull radiator to do it?

Regards,

Edward
'88 Quad - "Claudia"
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-07-2014, 03:05 PM
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Edward: don't waste your time. Pretty much no chance an old A/C system is going to work with just a belt.

If it's been sitting unused there's a 95% chance the compressor seal is bad at this point, and I'm sure the refrigerant is low if there's even any still in there. Not to mention that you don't know what refrigerant is in there, so it's probably going to need a conversion to 134A.

I've been to this rodeo before: take chairmankaga's advice and just take it to a shop. A/C systems require a lot of expertise and tools to get working right.

My guess is you're going to need a rebuilt compressor, a new reciever/drier, and probably some o-rings replaced. A shop can replace the parts, pump it down, find leaks, and then recharge with the correct oil and refrigerant. Figure on $700-1000 if I'm right.

Tom

1963 Giulia Spider (1750 engine)
1974 GTV
1991 Spider
Former: 1987 Milano Gold
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-07-2014, 03:27 PM
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You can buy your own parts for less, but I'd still have a shop do the majority of it. Installing the compressor is something you can do yourself, maybe even the condenser as long as there's not a lot of fabrication involved. Otherwise, I'd leave it to the pros.

as good as a car can be... briefly.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2014, 06:09 PM
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Edward, you can remove the crank pulley with out removing the fan, radiator etc but you will need to contort your hands a lot and leave some skin on things there. There are 4 small bolts then the pulley separates in half...note the shims..that is how you adjust the belt tension. Others are probably correct that the compressor seal is probably bad and the system empty or very low on refrigerant but all you have to lose is the cost of the belt and a little of your time to give it a try.
Personally I would not pay for the labor at a shop to r&r stuff including o-rings, hoses, compressors and dryers as the parts are available and the system is pretty simple as car a/c systems go. Also, the compressor r&r is a pain in the a$$ and a shop will charge the heck out of you for it and probably break other fragile alfa stuff like the cam timing solenoid while they are in there. assuming you don't have refrigerant experience, I would do all the mechanical work then take it to a shop to vacuum down the system and charge it.

If you take it to a shop for the whole thing it will be way more than $1k...probably more like $3k.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2014, 06:44 PM
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Nah, I've had the job done on both the Spider and the Milano. It was about $1K each for the work I described above. Not cheap but far from $3K. Shops know how to do this stuff.

You can't really install the drier yourself. The drier needs to be put under vacuum quickly after install or it'll absorb moisture and go bad.

Tom

1963 Giulia Spider (1750 engine)
1974 GTV
1991 Spider
Former: 1987 Milano Gold
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-11-2014, 05:59 AM
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I've been doing mobile a/c work for 35 years. To do the spider system right, you need at minimum:
new compressor [even chinese knockoff] $300
new dryer $100
new barrier hoses $150
r&r evaporator and condensor [if not leaky] flush completely--labor is huge to remove the evap
test and/or renew txv
leak check with nitrogen and trace amount of refrigerant
vacuum down system
recharge with r-12 [about 22 oz] a shop will upcharge this to at least $100

parts minimum $650.

I don't know any shops that will do this for $350 labor...i sure wouldn't

Now this doesn't include a conversion to 134a if the owner desires.

You are correct that the dryer needs to be installed last just before pulling a deep vacuum. It is also the easiest component to r&r.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-11-2014, 07:50 AM
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Well that's what he charged me on two different cars, so not sure what to tell you.

Again, in both cases this just was for the stuff I said above. Rebuilt compressor, new drier, a few o-rings. Evaporator, condensor, and TXV valve were fine: the systems were still sealed, just very low on pressure (Spider had a leaky compressor shaft, Milano had an internal compressor failure).

This was 5-6 years ago for each and both are still working fine. I'm sure it'll cost more if you need more work, but that's all it cost me.

Tom

1963 Giulia Spider (1750 engine)
1974 GTV
1991 Spider
Former: 1987 Milano Gold
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2014, 06:28 AM
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fair enough; the rebuilt compressor reduced the cost some. my guess is the system was not flushed as one cannot flush the txv and one cannot flush the evap unless it is disconnected from the txv and would require removal from the dash for that. probably operating on original hoses.
my quoted costs really are for returning a unit to like new condition especially after a failed system has been disconnected for unknown amount of time.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2014, 07:22 AM
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Thinking about options I guess I'd suggest some middle ground, which has also been suggested in another post. Here's my exact process, with the only mistake coming toward the end when I was fitting everything and becoming increasingly frustrated, and also lacking in the tools, knowledge and skills to find the leak.

I found a Chinese knockoff Sanden compressor on eBay for about $150 shipped (a place in Dallas, I think). Also got a generic dryer from eBay for $25 as well as a parallel flow condenser for $100 or so. I doubt the quality is top notch, as I had to get my local AC shop to do some work on the condenser flanges, but they all tested OK. Then I got new barrier hoses, fittings & o-rings from the same shop, which were dang expensive but necessary for this retromod. I also flushed the evap core with a bottle I rented from Auto Zone. That took hours before the flush came out clean. Even then I went for another half dozen or so passes just to make sure. Finally, I installed everything myself and even tried to charge it using my neighbor's manifold rig, but had a leak that I couldn't chase down and threw in the towel after a couple months' of weekends in frustration because I couldn't drive in this glorious early fall weather.

I did NOT replace the expansion valve. And now I have to, because I broke the probe lead with all of the on and off and on and off fittings trying to find the leak. I also managed to cross thread a fitting on the condenser and the compressor with all the messing around. The shop had to repair both.

My plan now is to wait until spring then see if the shop can't find the leak and charge it up for me. Maybe flush the entire system again with a pro rig while we're at it. I've already ruined the drier since I hooked it up with a leak in the system, so why not. Once you crack the seal you have about 15 minutes before you need to get it under vacuum. Otherwise it's toast.

Anyway, I still say have a pro shop do the final steps, if nothing else. You can save a bundle sourcing the parts yourself, especially if you don't need concours approved components. Since my car is just a toy, I don't care if it's A++. I just want it to work decently so that I can drive in some degree of comfort during the summer when it's 90+ degrees.

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'82 GTV6
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2014, 10:52 PM
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Before just buying stuff I'd do a quick test first; it'll basically just cost you the price of a belt. I once owned a Spider with a perfectly good, fully charged A/C system and no belt, most likely because someone was in a hurry to replace the alternator belt and just cut the A/C belt to get it out of the way.

- Install belt. Remove radiator or skin from knuckles, your choice.
- Turn on A/C with engine running, see if compressor clutch engages (probably not)
- Jump 12V directly to the compressor wire, see if clutch engages. Do this only as long as necessary.

If the clutch engages when forced you likely have no / not enough refrigerant in the system, and the low pressure switch prevents the A/C from engaging. If it doesn't engage, or if the compressor tries to smoke the belt or makes horrible noises, it's new compressor time.

Assuming the compressor tests out OK I've been known to "accidentally" bump the Schrader valve on the refrigerant port to see if there's any freon at all in the system. If I get a little hiss I'll hook up my A/C gauges (you have a set, right?) and try adding a bit of R12 or something compatible, ideally with a bit of U/V dye so I can see where things are leaking out with a blacklight. Often the leak is so slow that just giving it a hit of Freon will keep things working for quite a while.

If the system is completely empty hook up a vacuum pump (you have one of those too, right?) and see if it will hold a vacuum for a bit. If it won't hold a vacuum you should be able to hear a hiss where the vacuum is leaking. It's usually from a fitting or a pinhole in the condenser, etc.

AFTER you know exactly what's good / bad in the system you can decide what you need to buy, whether or not to re-do hoses, change over to 134a, etc.

Jason Arrington
1989 Spider driver
1974 Spider restoration project
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-14-2014, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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Good advice Jason. Thanks for the thoughtful input. I'll try to get the belt on this winter to test the system.

Edward
'88 Quad - "Claudia"
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