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Old 03-20-2012, 03:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default DIY A/C Air Conditioning leak refrigerant repair for $5 or less/15 minutes or less

Want to repair your A/C for $2 and in 15 minutes?
(not including refrigerant costs - another $30).

I have repaired many Subaru A/C systems from the 80's to the 2000's and thought I would post a thread since I did another one last night and snapped a couple pictures of how easy and cheap it *can* be. I'm not saying this is the perfect solution, I realize folks will complain, I'm trying to get information out there that is helpful to DIY folks that want to fix A/C cheap - it is possible, you don't have to like doing it this way and can continue onto more expensive methods, that's fine.

This was on a 2002 OBW H6 but the procedure is nearly identical to Subaru's even going back to the old R12 systems in the 80's.

I "repaired" this one in 13 minutes, including time for taking pictures.

This isn't a "perfect" repair, some won't like it, and might not be up to NASA standards (I can talk about that too as there are birds flying around now with code i wrote on them), but it's a perfectly acceptable repair and fixes about 75% of the Subaru A/C's I find that don't work. It's a great fit to get working A/C back for the remaining life of the vehicle often times.

I have found that Subaru A/C systems rarely have failures except at leaking orings which are REALLY insanely cheap. So replacing those orings often fixes a high percentage of vehicles.

The two orings most likely to fail are the ones on the compressor. I suppose they are subjected to higher temp gradients, pressures, and engine vibration since they're on top the engine. What I know for certain is that when they are removed they are very, very hard, like plastic instead of pliable rubber oring compound.

So - you can usually fix most leaks with those two orings on the compressor. They are usually common sizes you fit by matching up with one of those large A/C oring kits at any auto parts stores for a few dollars. I haven't had a problem matching up 80's, 90's, 2000's compressor side orings.

The smaller ones located in other areas are sometimes harder to match - but also less likely to fail.
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Old 03-20-2012, 03:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Generally speaking - pull the caps on the schrader valves first and look for wetness under the caps. If the system has never been worked on before they should be bone dry. If it's wet underneath then you simply need to replace the schrader valve in there. They even make a super-fancy tool (that is mighty slick) for replacing the valve without letting transfer of freon to the atmosphere or the other way around). As usual - mine were bone dry last night on this 2002 OBW H6.

Touch them with a tool and see if there's any pressure - mine was dead last night, nothign. If they're completely dead and there's no pressure then you know the system is largely devoid of freon. If there's not much pressure, then a tiny amount just vents off, not a big deal. (Like I said, I know some folks won't like that idea).

There are two A/C hoses on the compressor - each is attached by one 12 mm bolt. In the picture attached I have a socket going to the one bolt on top of a 2002 OBW H6 air conditioning compressor.

Clean off as much crud/dirt as you can around the bolt and fitting before removing it so that the dirt doesn't fall down into the hole. Compressed air, wire brushes, shop towels, spray, whatever you want/got, can use in there.

Remove that one 12 mm bolt.

Remove that bolt and off the fitting comes. Pull it out of the compressor and you'll see an oring on the end of the fitting in a groove. You will notice it is ROCK HARD and doesn't provide a good seal.
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DIY A/C Air Conditioning leak refrigerant repair for  or less/15 minutes or less-photo0906.jpg  
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Old 03-20-2012, 03:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Now with the fitting out - pry the old oring off. Be careful those fittings are aluminum and scratch very easily. Fine dental style picks/tools are best but small screw drivers work easily as well.

I buy a generic large pack of A/C orings - they're usually green from auto parts stores and match up the old oring to a new one. Pay attention to inner diameter, out diameter, and thickness. get as close as you can - keeping in mind the old oring may be slightly deformed due to age and use. Really bad, hardened ones are often "square-ish" looking like one i pulled last night. they're not supposed to be, that's just age.

Have some appropriate lubricant to coat the new oring with and slide it onto the fitting.

Clean out the port on the a/c side that the hose fitting came out of. Compressed air is best on the ball/valve styles like this 2002 OBW H6 as the dirt can't go "into" the compressor at all - so just blow out any crud that fell down and simply wipe with a clean shop towel.

then simply slide the fitting back into the port and tigthen the 12mm bolt back up.

I did the first one in this picture in 8 minutes last night, including taking the picture.
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DIY A/C Air Conditioning leak refrigerant repair for  or less/15 minutes or less-photo0908.jpg  
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This last picture shows the final bolt for the second fitting. The bolt is removed and the fitting is pulled out of the compressor showing the original black oring on the fitting.

This one took me 5 minutes to remove, replace, reinstall - for a total compressor side oring replacement time of 13 minutes and the orings probably cost maybe $1.00.

13 minutes.
2 bolts
$1.00

of course there's refrigerant costs as well - $30 or so for two cans at any auto parts stores.

That fixes most inoperative Subaru A/C systems I come across. I've done dozens and probably have close to %90 success rate doing that...maybe it's a little lower, I don't know but I don't come across too many that need anything other than orings.
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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interesting

what would be an good lubricant?

like, dielectric grease ?
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Recharing: buy a hose or buy the cans that have the hose on them.

You can ask at the store, look for directions online, but recharging isn't that hard.

Attach to port (there are two ports and the hoses will only fit one port to make sure you don't screw it up and try to charge the wrong side). Turn the car on, A/C on high, coldest setting while the cans fill.

Takes a few minutes.

If it's totally deficient of refrigerant they often don't start working, kicking on until the second can is added.

*** There are other orings you can replace but they start getting smaller and not always being as close of a match on the condensers.

The ones on the condenser and elsewhere in the system usually aren't nearly as brittle, hardened, and obviously lacking like the ones on the compressor. So make your call there if the cost of refrigerant is worth it to you to give the two easy ones on the compressor a try - then go for it.

If you're a bit more anal then go for as many as are easily accessible, just follow the refirgerant lines, they'll tell you where the orings are.

I ended up replacing more than just those two last night, but i've done a ton and have lots of orings. Ironically the lower passengers side condensor one was tough to find a good match for - it wasn't perfect but close enough so far. next time I'll get a closer match and i saved the one so i can do just that.

I have another 2003 H6 OBS i have to do - so i'll be doing the exact same job again. And just as this one was repaired, my guess is this other one will be just as easily, quickly, and cheaply repaired as well!

*** Again - there are folks that will have an uproar about this thread - suggesting doing this with a vaccuum puller, gauges, and all.

Truthfully I have A/C gauges and a vacuum puller - and I don't even use them. Just not worth my time. I've repaired so many Subaru a/c's and had them last 50,000 - 100,000 miles it's just not worth my time, actually to my knowledge I haven't had one fail yet after repairing it. Of course I've sold some, haven't followed up, so surely one has probably leaked later....but so far my experience suggests I'm getting the value i need out of my vehicles and I know others can as well.
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:15 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1 Lucky Texan View Post
interesting

what would be an good lubricant?

like, dielectric grease ?
good question.
ideally you use the same oil that's in the refrigerant - you can google it but PAG oil is what is often used for a/c systems these days.

Or just wipe your finger on what leaks out when you pull the fitting, out of compressors you have lying in your garage, and rub it on the oring! LOL
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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is there a sight glass or other DIY way to determine when enough refrig has been added?
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Old 03-20-2012, 04:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1 Lucky Texan View Post
is there a sight glass or other DIY way to determine when enough refrig has been added?
Yes and no...on the older systems there are but i don't believe the newer systems have them.

In a sense - for this thread it doesn't really matter. I am referencing an "empty" system for all practical purposes. And if yours isn't "empty", it's going to be when you pull the first line to replace an oring. On an empty system two cans works perfectly. The labels on the car indicate how many ounces it holds - usually 21-25 ounces and two cans is 24 ounces or 22 ounces. So two cans is perfect for a dead system. Again I'm talking in very simple terms here, I'm not looking for highly technical approaches involving gauges and vaccuums (which i own and you can learn all about the elsewhere, that's not the purpose of this thread).

If a system is low - I would just assume replace those two orings that are always hard/brittle before I charge it up, thereby "making it empty". They fail too often not to on a system that's low. They don't "magically" get low. That's the beauty of Subaru's - this job is so darn easy that's it's worth a shot - TWO BOLTS, you don't really get much easier than this.

If you think a small charge will bring it back - then just ignore everything and try a can with the cheapy plastic gauges on it first and "refill" and "top it off".

**** It is EXTREMELY funny how many Subaru's I've fixed simply by replacing orings that cost pennies - yet i've never heard of someone having their A/C repaired for less than $400 - so very few places are actually fixing the simplest cause of A/C failures - 50 cent orings.

I am zero for one trying to this on non-Subaru's (sister in laws Ford Taurus), but I work almost exclusively on Subaru's.
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Old 03-21-2012, 09:02 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grossgary View Post
Yes and no...on the older systems there are but i don't believe the newer systems have them.

In a sense - for this thread it doesn't really matter. I am referencing an "empty" system for all practical purposes. And if yours isn't "empty", it's going to be when you pull the first line to replace an oring. On an empty system two cans works perfectly. The labels on the car indicate how many ounces it holds - usually 21-25 ounces and two cans is 24 ounces or 22 ounces. So two cans is perfect for a dead system. Again I'm talking in very simple terms here, I'm not looking for highly technical approaches involving gauges and vaccuums (which i own and you can learn all about the elsewhere, that's not the purpose of this thread).

If a system is low - I would just assume replace those two orings that are always hard/brittle before I charge it up, thereby "making it empty". They fail too often not to on a system that's low. They don't "magically" get low. That's the beauty of Subaru's - this job is so darn easy that's it's worth a shot - TWO BOLTS, you don't really get much easier than this.

If you think a small charge will bring it back - then just ignore everything and try a can with the cheapy plastic gauges on it first and "refill" and "top it off".

**** It is EXTREMELY funny how many Subaru's I've fixed simply by replacing orings that cost pennies - yet i've never heard of someone having their A/C repaired for less than $400 - so very few places are actually fixing the simplest cause of A/C failures - 50 cent orings.

I am zero for one trying to this on non-Subaru's (sister in laws Ford Taurus), but I work almost exclusively on Subaru's.
makes sense, thanx
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