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Discussion Starter #1
While shopping for some other stuff at Walmart (I know....but there's just one auto-shop in my town and it wasn't opened at this hour) I spotted some of those R134a conversion kits for $35.....just wondered if anyone had experience with these? I did some browsing on the boards here and it looks like there's a surprisingly wide selection of A/C alternatives out there, but I didn't see any mention of these kits. $35 to switch from R12 to R134a seems too good to be true, to say the least. I'm thinking of at least trying it on my daily-driver 280ZX since its A/C isn't cold anymore and I'm probably never gonna do much more with that car (certainly not sink $700+ into a full R134a conversion).

I really don't know the condition of the A/C system on my Alfa, other than it appears to be complete and the fans work properly. I know a couple folks right now who still have R12 hoarded away and have offered to let me charge my car with it, so I'll probably try a small charge with R12 first just to make sure everything works and there are no major leaks. I guess if that turns out ok then I might as well keep the system R12. Is there any reason to "upgrade" if I can get a good full R12 charge now and don't have any system damage (like leaky seals)? Also, about how long can a system sit uncharged before the seals dry out and suffer permanent damage?
 

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It's not a good idea to convert an R12 system to R134a. First, you need a larger compressor to get the same amount of cooling that you were getting with the R12. Then, the 134 system has smaller molecules and it operates at a much higher pressure. The hoses of the R12 system were not designed for this. If you convert using one of the cheap kits, you will be sitting on a time bomb. Your A/C system isn't going to disintegrate the instant you fill it up with 134a, but it will fail as early as in a couple of years.

The reason people go with an alternative to R12 is because of the cost. (I now use ES-12.) If cost is not a factor for you, then I would stay with the R12. It works very well! (The '83 and '84 Spiders, with the 4 vents, have excellent A/C systems.) I would also top of the oil in your system. It is actually the oil that creates a seal. When you re-charge and re-start a system that hasn't been used in a long time, R12 will escape until the oil seal forms again. To avoid having the oil dry out, run the system at the very least once a month, including winters. (Weekly is preferable.)

Best regards,
 

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I also suggest just going with ES-12. It's a drop-in replacement. And if the system turns out to have more serious mechanical problems other than just low charge, you're only out a few bucks.

I do not recommend the el cheapo R134 conversions unless you want to take a chance on killing a perhaps serviceable system and have poorer performance.
 

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I converted my BMW E34 R12 system to R134 about two years ago and so far, I've experienced no problems or discernable losses in performance. Saying that, I dont know whether what is used here in Australia is the same as that you guys have in the States. I'm not totally teched-up on it.

I can tell you that the conversion cost less than AU$200 in total to have done, that's labour and all.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the input, looks like I'll be staying R12 or possibly doing the ES-12 thing....I checked out their site and it looks pretty promising. One other question: how can I tell whether or not my system needs more oil, assuming I don't go ES-12 with their little oil checker thing (btw it's just mineral oil for R12, correct)?
 
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