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Old 07-27-2010, 08:57 PM   #1
txl146
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Default How to perform DIY AC repair (updated 08/06/10)

Updated: see post #12 for part 2

Symptom: Cold air only lasted 1-2 hours at max so I knew there must be a leak somewhere. Decided to buy the tools needed instead of paying dealer >$1000 for the repair.

Tools/parts needed to perform diagnostic and repair on my WRX.
1. H/F vacuum pump - $90 (need to pull vacuum to remove moisture after cracking lines open)
2. Gauge set - $35
3. O-ring set - $11 (ordered from autozone)
4. Spare AC lines - $60 (bought from the member here)
5. Dye detection kit including UV pen - $20
6. Expansion valve - $25 from autozone
7. eBay condenser + drier - $110 shipped (see post #8 below)

Total cost: <$400 ---> Not bad considering AC shop charges $120 for vacuuming / recharging.

Please note that it is illegal to discharge refrigerant to atmosphere so take your car to AC repair shop to have them recycle the refrigerant if you ever decide to replace AC related parts.

Part 1: Detect the source!

You will need to get a can of UV dye and introduce it to the low pressure port with AC turned on. Once UV dye is fully introduced into the AC system, next step is to search for the leak using a UV pen. Dye glows under UV light.

Leak on my compressor was so massive so I really didn't even have to use a UV pen to locate the leak source.


Notice how badly the o-ring has worn out!


A set of new o-rings from Autozone ($11)


Picture of new eBay condenser with removal drier vs. OEM ($110). It was necessary to replace the condenser since 02 WRX condenser comes with integrated drier (leak was so massive that drier was probably bad).


Now skip to post #12 for 2nd part
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Last edited by txl146; 08-06-2010 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 07-28-2010, 10:26 AM   #2
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thanks for all DIY threads you making!!
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Old 07-28-2010, 10:50 AM   #3
txl146
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Thanks....

Well... figured I would crack the line open again and replace the condenser with removable drier while I am at it as my drier could be bad since leak was pretty major. At any rate, I will post more pictures when I install condenser.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eB...category=33547
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Old 07-28-2010, 02:31 PM   #4
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Don't sell that hose yet. That is where mine leaked but I must have abused the hose and it now leaks under that foam band the alternator wire clips on to. It barely shows under UV light.

Does that condensor come with the receiver dryer?
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Old 07-28-2010, 03:01 PM   #5
txl146
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yes, it comes with a removable drier... I could have gotten a $43 condenser, but didn't want to replace it again after a year or so.
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Old 08-02-2010, 12:52 PM   #6
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Please post back with quality and fitment of that condenser.

Thanks,
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Old 08-02-2010, 04:41 PM   #7
txl146
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Sure, it will be here tomorrow.
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:13 PM   #8
txl146
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You get what you pay for..... paid $100 shipped for the condenser which comes with removable drier.

Mounting brackets are way off.




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Old 08-04-2010, 09:03 AM   #9
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Lame. After seeing the one you received, I went back and looked at the condenser pictures from 4 different sellers on ebay. They all say that it's a picture of the actual product you will receive. The mounting points on all of them seem to be off. I also noticed that all of them list their location as Torrance, CA.

I guess my search for an affordable aftermarket condenser w/removable drier that actually fits continues..dont think I can wait much longer. It's like a sauna here in Florida.

Edit: went ahead and ordered this one

Last edited by stikboy9; 08-04-2010 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 08-04-2010, 10:57 AM   #10
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Please keep me posted if you have better luck with that one. Another option is to get a later model WRX or STI condenser for $100 and just replace the drier with $25 unit from auto zone.
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Old 08-04-2010, 11:21 AM   #11
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I actually have a drier I ordered from rockauto. I had initially ordered one of the $43 "radiatorclassics" ebay condensers a few days before you made this thread. The seller claimed to have more than 10 in stock,(and still does in their listings) sent me a shipping confirmation w/tracking....but they never shipped anything because they didnt really have ANY in stock. I guess it worked out to my advantage.

I'll let you know about fitment when it gets here.
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:50 PM   #12
txl146
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Part 2: Replacing expansion valve, low pressure AC line and condenser. Pull the vacuum to remove moisture and perform leak test.

Removing OEM condenser without removing the radiator is not easy as space is really tight in there (need to push radiator to make room to pull the condenser out). You will notice that 2 bottom brackets will make it even harder - if you manage to remove 2 bottom brackets, removal of condenser will be considerably easier. There are 2x 10mm bolts holding the condenser in place in addition to 2x 10mm bolts that are securing 2 AC lines.

Be careful not to damage the radiator while pulling the condenser out. Notice how I removed 2 bottom brackets on a new eBay condenser to make installation easier.


Installing expansion valve:

You DO NOT have to remove the dash to replace the valve; don't let dealer charge you hundreds of dollars just to replace it! Simply remove a glove box and blower fan unit to gain access to the valve.



You do not need to remove the white plastic surround. You can just wiggle out the valve after removing 2x long bolts and 1x 10mm bolt from the engine bay.


Low pressure AC line has already been removed in the picture. I needed to replace the low pressure line because STI TMIC was rubbing against the line creating thin spots for potential leak (upgraded to TXS TMIC). Remove 1x 10mm bolt in order to disconnect both high pressure liquid return line & low pressure line.



Vacuum pump - used to pull the vacuum to remove moisture from the system.


Low pressure side:


High pressure side:


Time to pull vacuum to remove all the moisture!


Turn off vacuum pump & maintain vacuum for ~45-60 min to see if it can hold 30" Hg. If it passes then it's leak tight!

Finally, get a large can of 18oz refrigerant and add it to low pressure port with AC turned on to MAX. 45-55 psi was pressure reading recommended for 90 degree weather (refer to label on the can as pressure varies depending on ambient temperature). Now enjoy the cold air again!!!

Custom condenser protector. I am using exhaust hanger as bracket for eBay condenser.

Last edited by txl146; 08-08-2010 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 08-05-2010, 08:09 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
Custom condenser protector. I am using exhaust hanger as bracket for eBay condenser.


That's AWESOME! Kudos for ingenuity!
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:40 PM   #14
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thanks... by the way, I love that 3M carbon wrap stuff...
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Old 08-05-2010, 06:46 PM   #15
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Spent 10 min. recharging the AC today... OMG!!! finally I have functioning AC system. It's unbelievable how sluggish car feels with AC on.

Thanks ep3smoker (auto mechanic) for the help you've provided on PM.
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:36 AM   #16
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Why did you replace the expansion valve?
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:56 AM   #17
txl146
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02 WRX is notoriously for having bad expansion valve, so I decided to just overhaul everything while line is disconnected. It's cheap and relatively easy to replace.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:40 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
Spent 10 min. recharging the AC today... OMG!!! finally I have functioning AC system. It's unbelievable how sluggish car feels with AC on.

Thanks ep3smoker (auto mechanic) for the help you've provided on PM.
No problem. Good job.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:03 PM   #19
txl146
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Thanks... having cold AC really helps.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:57 PM   #20
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I replaced my expansion valve a few weeks ago, and the compressor had locked up a few days previously. Finally an eBay compressor showed up at my doorstep this afternoon, and I swapped it and replaced the o-rings. It was too late to charge it up, but I'll do it tomorrow. Can't wait to have AC again in the racecar!!
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:15 PM   #21
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Good luck! keep us posted.
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Old 08-12-2010, 07:10 PM   #22
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I installed the used (eBay) compressor yesterday, had it put on vacuum and recharged today...the shop called and said the compressor was cutting in and out, and it was making a horrible noise. I show up and indeed it was doing that, they wanted $500 for a new compressor + labor. I drove the car home with the AC off, and pulled it into the driveway. Tightened the belt about a turn and a half, and made sure the clutch bolt was snug.

No more noise, AC blows cold, no leaks showing anywhere that I can see from the dye. Sweet baby Jesus I hope this works!!!!
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Old 08-12-2010, 07:53 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
Please keep me posted if you have better luck with that one. Another option is to get a later model WRX or STI condenser for $100 and just replace the drier with $25 unit from auto zone.
Condenser showed up and Ive already swapped it in. Mounting locations were spot on = perfect fit. Sorry, I didnt snap any pictures as I was anxious to get it in. Was lots O' fun swapping with the radiator in place...

.....Tomorrow, compressor swap. Hopefully I'll have cold blowing A/C by the end of the weekend!
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:17 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txl146 View Post
Please keep me posted if you have better luck with that one. Another option is to get a later model WRX or STI condenser for $100 and just replace the drier with $25 unit from auto zone.
So I can purchase the later model condenser and it matches up still?
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:17 PM   #25
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So....the compressor is in, pulled vacuum and it held roughly 29 inHg. Getting ready to recharge and am curious if you followed the service manual or just instructions on the back of the can...?? The service manual has some somewhat confusing instructions on charging the High side first (with the car off, of course) until the low side pressure gauge reaches 14 psi, close valve, check for leaks and then continue charging the High pressure side until the Low/High pressure gauges read almost equal....and then move on to the typical instructions of charging the low pressure side.
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