how often do you add refrigerant? - Maintenance and Repair Forum

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how often do you add refrigerant?
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:16 AM

So the hotter it gets this year, the more of a crisis I am facing with my weak, not-very-cold ac on my 2001 2.2 5-speed manual Cavalier. I had the original compressor and associated parts replaced after 7.5 years back in September of 2008 and that was the only time anything has ever been done/changed/added, etc...to the whole system. Since it started to get hot - a month or 6 weeks ago - I have been running the AC once a day and it takes a LONG time.....usually at least 15 minutes of inside/recirculated air to get cold and this is only at night after dark. I took my first highway drive 2 days ago and in past years when I did that, after having driven about 30 minutes or more on the interstate with the AC running - the evaporator and/or drier would ice up and I'd have to turn it off for a few minutes otherwise the air flow would drop to nothing. Well this time, I took this drive in the afternoon sun with it about 90 degrees outside and even after 1 hour of running constantly, it really barely ever even got cool. I opened up the hood at the end of this trip and the drier was just cool, not cold and nowhere near having any ice.

Now back over this past winter I noticed a compressor oil leak spot on the driveway. That was the signal of the end of my first compressor so I was afraid that the compressor would be dead when I tried it this year. But like I wrote - I've been using the system for 6 weeks and the compressor is working fine, so is the clutch and no troubling sounds or any signs of a problem - other than the cool (not cold) air. I have been afraid to add r134a because my thinking was that it might blow the apparently small leak (where the oil dripped out the bottom of the compressor) wide open from the higher pressure and then I'd be in a lot worse situation that I cannot afford to have fixed. So I have just been dealing with the situation of having to run the system for a long time to get it cold. But that isn't going to work much longer as temps near 100 over the next month.

Here is my question. Since there has been no refrigerant added to the system since September of 2008 (8.5 years ago) - is it to be expected / normal that I just need to add some now to fix the problem ...... OR.....are my fears of what I described legit - that adding any pressure to a system that has this leak will just blow it open and I'll lose what I have now?

Thanks for your thoughts/advice. Oh, and I can't afford to take it to a shop so save that suggestion for someone who isn't as poor as I am (which is just about everyone).

Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 1:06 PM
It is illegal to add refrigerant to a system that you know is leaking.

The system is filled by weight, not pressure so without the proper equipment you can not be 100% that it is filled correctly if you add some extra refrigerant in. An overfilled system will cause it not to cool properly just like if it was underfilled.

I work on refrigeration systems for a living and do not recommend DYI fixes for the systems. I havery watched people end up cause more damage to their A/C system by trying to fix it themselves instead of taking it to a shop.




Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Thursday, June 15, 2017 9:37 PM
It is not illegal to add refrigerant to a system known to be leaking. If the system did not have UV dye in it, that's the only way to actually find the leak. If that was actually the case, the DIY cans of refrigerant would not be sold. They are.

The system holds 24 oz of refrigerant, which is exactly 2 12oz cans from Walmart. Yes you charge by weight, but this is not rocket science. I am a "DIY-type" and have successfully replaced the compressor, receiver/dryer, and orifice tube on a 1999 Cavalier, as well as flushed the system, pulled a vacuum, and recharged with refrigerant and oil, and it's still working 3 years later. All for less than a shop wanted to do the same job, and I get to keep the tools. I'm really sick of you HVAC-types trying to "protect" your trade by spreading misinformation and telling everyone to take it to a shop.


----------
2000 Cavalier Coupe, 138k miles, 2.2 Auto, Silver (alive)
1999 Cavalier Sedan, 237k miles, 2.2 Auto, White (dead)
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Thursday, June 15, 2017 9:38 PM
And since I can't edit my post, OP, you should never have to add refrigerant to a properly functioning system. If you do, you have a leak that needs to be fixed.


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2000 Cavalier Coupe, 138k miles, 2.2 Auto, Silver (alive)
1999 Cavalier Sedan, 237k miles, 2.2 Auto, White (dead)
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Thursday, June 15, 2017 10:26 PM
Anduril wrote:

And since I can't edit my post, OP, you should never have to add refrigerant to a properly functioning system. If you do, you have a leak that needs to be fixed.

+1, im not sure whether its illegal or not, however it is poisoness. I kno u need to be certified to handel freon at a shop


ReD RaiN
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Friday, June 16, 2017 8:37 PM
Anduril wrote:

It is not illegal to add refrigerant to a system known to be leaking. If the system did not have UV dye in it, that's the only way to actually find the leak. If that was actually the case, the DIY cans of refrigerant would not be sold. They are.


Actually, sniffers are more accurate and easier to use to find leaks. Also there is hefty fines and possible jail time associated to improper handling of refrigerant(as in intentional releases). Sounds illegal to me.

I hate that those cans are for sale. Most people will just grab a can and toss it in because their A/C stopped blowing cold. Then they overcharge the system so it still doesn't blow cold, so hey just keep adding more unit it get cold right? Now they end up taking it to a shop because no matter how much refrigerant they put in it just wont blow colds. Turns out an o-ring dried out and leaked a few ounces out, but they destroyed their compressor because they over charged it. So it ends up being a more expensive job.

Anduril wrote:


The system holds 24 oz of refrigerant, which is exactly 2 12oz cans from Walmart. Yes you charge by weight, but this is not rocket science. I am a "DIY-type" and have successfully replaced the compressor, receiver/dryer, and orifice tube on a 1999 Cavalier, as well as flushed the system, pulled a vacuum, and recharged with refrigerant and oil, and it's still working 3 years later. All for less than a shop wanted to do the same job, and I get to keep the tools.


Yes, but if the system isn't empty then how much do you put in? How do you safely recover the refrigerant? What do you do with the refrigerant after it is recovered? How many people are actually capable of successfully making the repair? A/C repair is above the heads of most DYIers because of hazards and intricacies involved.

Anduril wrote:

I'm really sick of you HVAC-types trying to "protect" your trade by spreading misinformation and telling everyone to take it to a shop.

My trade isn't passenger car A/C systems. So how is telling him to go to the shop "protecting my trade". I know you won't believe it, but telling everyone to take it to the shop is usually the quicker, easier, AND cheaper way to get it fixed. Who knows what so and so's mechanical skill level is? It is one thing to change tires, oil, and brakes, but A/C is a completely different ball game. I see way too many butcher "DYI" repair jobs come through my bay and most of them are from "mechanics" at other shops.




Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Monday, June 19, 2017 11:20 AM

The leak is from the bottom of the compressor - from the plug there, which apparently is the "control valve". Does anyone have any experience with the o-rings on that thing leaking and/or replacing the control valve to fix the problem? Based on my research, that would be the thing to try but I am having a hard time finding anything about the procedure or anyone who's done it.

Thx
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Monday, June 26, 2017 7:37 AM

Let me modify my question.

Has anyone ever replaced the control valve on one of these V5 compressors? Because that is what I think needs to be done. I understand that - once pressure is released from the system, all you have to do it pry off the snap-ring and it is easy to take the old one out and slide the new one in. But I am looking to hear from someone who has done it - or at least tried it for advice. The part is about $40 at the parts stores or about $20 online. I've been reading a lot about this particular component in the V5s failing and it matches my symptoms perfectly AND that is where the only leak that is visible is coming from.
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Tuesday, June 27, 2017 4:21 PM
Anduril wrote:

And since I can't edit my post, OP, you should never have to add refrigerant to a properly functioning system. If you do, you have a leak that needs to be fixed.


All a/c systems leak at the compressor seal. If they did not, the seal would not last. It takes a long time for them to leak enough to be noticeable unless the seal fails.




On the inside my car looks like a fighter jet.
Re: how often do you add refrigerant?
Tuesday, June 27, 2017 4:26 PM
Dean Johnson wrote:

Let me modify my question.

Has anyone ever replaced the control valve on one of these V5 compressors? Because that is what I think needs to be done. I understand that - once pressure is released from the system, all you have to do it pry off the snap-ring and it is easy to take the old one out and slide the new one in. But I am looking to hear from someone who has done it - or at least tried it for advice. The part is about $40 at the parts stores or about $20 online. I've been reading a lot about this particular component in the V5s failing and it matches my symptoms perfectly AND that is where the only leak that is visible is coming from.


If you are going to replace it I would have a shop evacuate the system, record how much oil was extracted, replace the part, then have them recharge it. Then you know it is good.




On the inside my car looks like a fighter jet.
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