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Old 06-03-2010, 08:38 AM   #1
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Problem w/ air conditioner

A few months ago, I started hearing a noise when I turned the heater or a/c on. It's more noticeable when the car is in park because it's easier to hear, but as soon as I turn the a/c on, it sounds like something turns on, runs for a few seconds and then turns off for a few seconds. It turns on and off continuously. It's kind of whiny and sounds like it's coming from the hood.

Anyway, the heater works, so I let it go. However, it's starting to warm up now, and I realized that the a/c isn't cooling. I'm not sure if the two things are related.

I was just wondering if anyone has had a similar problem?


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Old 06-03-2010, 09:08 AM   #2
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It sounds like your AC clutch is cycling because your refrigerant is low, or for some other reason. It could also be that the compressor has gone out and is over pressurizing the high pressure side- or a clogged orifice tube could do that.

Lots of people who don't understand AC's will tell you to put a can in- you have a leak. People who understand refrigeration systems know that there should be no leak period, and that adding refrigerant without checking the system could lead to a refrigerant can exploding in your hands- or an expensive rubber AC hose exploding.

The first thing you need is gauges so you can figure out what is going on in the system. Turn the AC on Max, hook up the low pressure hose first. Watch and record the pressures with the clutch engaged, disengaged, and the ambient temperature in F. Disconnect the LP hose, and do the same with the HP line. I can tell you right now that if your LP pressures drop below 20-25 psi when the compressor engages then your problem is low refrigerant. If those pressures do not change, or change very little- say you hook up the LP hose with the engine/AC off, it reads 80 psi, then you turn the AC on, and pressures do not change, or go up- then you have a bad compressor. Now in the case of a clogged orifice tube, which is very likely due to the car's age, you'll see a drop in the LP line which does not go down to 25 psi or lower, but something still cuts the clutch off. On the HP side you'll see pressures start off at 80 psi, then very quickly jump up to 300 or so before the clutch cuts off. FYI- my starting pressures are estimates of 80F ambient temp, and so 80 psi static pressure on both sides of the system. With an inoperable compressor- neither pressure will change much. Typically you should see the LP side drop down to 35-40 psi at idle, and the HP side jump up to 200 or so. If you find any of these conditions (which it will be one of them) then you're going to have to do the same thing to repair it as detailed in the "General AC Troubleshooting and Repair" thread. It's not hard to do, and that's why that thread exists. There's no reason other than fear or lack of double checking that a DIY person can't do their own AC correctly, and save lots of money.

In the event of any of these conditions, the repair is the same. The only reason to hook these gauges up to check the system before tearing it apart is to be sure that the compressor is working properly. That's a $300+ reason, so checking it with gauges should be your first priority. I've seen some cheap gauge sets at parts stores now with non-replacable manifold pieces, unlike my brass manifold and screw in gauges, that are selling for less than $50. That's a great deal for the DIY who might get 3-4 uses out of it. The best part about learning your own AC is that all these systems operate the same with only a couple of parts that do the same job, are in the same position in the system, but do that job different ways, and have different names. Ford and GM systems operate exactly the same with the same parts, but GM uses hex flanges where you use large wrenches to disconnect lines, and Ford's use a quick connect flange. This means if you decide to learn your own AC, you can help your friends and family with their problems which is 1/2 the reason I have my tools.

Once you verify that the compressor is not part of the problem, it's time to go get some O-rings, an orifice tube, cans of refrigerant, and rent a vacuum pump. If you have an air compressor- or can borrow one, then you might also want some mineral spirits and a small spout funnel so you can pour mineral spirits in your condenser, and through your lines, then blow (esp the condenser) the mineral spirits and crud out of it. No need for this procedure on the evap. You should also consider replacing the accumulator which is a $75 part, but that is not really needed unless the system has been completely discharged for like a year, or disassembled for a week. Even then I've been able to re-use accumulators with some success after cleaning it with mineral spirits and dumping the old oil out. If I have the money, or the part is cheaper than expected (old GM accum=$35) then I replace it.

When you figure out what's going on, or what you're going to do (give up and pay someone) let us know, and if needed, I can provide some more advice for the process that might not be fully explained in the Gen AC thread.
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:03 PM   #3
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FYI, should your pressures look pretty good, but your still getting a degradation in cooling over time, one quick verification of any leaking of refrigerant inside the air handling unit (i.e. the a/c system that encloses your evaporator and ductwork under the dash) is to charge your a/c system with leak detection die (Refrigerant w/Die) and use your a/c for a day or two while your driving around. Jack up your Focus (remember all the safety stuff when doing this!) Use a die detection light and look from underneath where the 2 heater hoses go into the firewall you will see a 1/2" black stub of a tube sticking out under the hoses. Any refrigerant that is leaking out of the evaporator while most definitely show up here. I just finished replacing my evaporator which had a very very small leak and even though the pressures were reasonable, after a recharge early in the summer, it would leak out over time!
Just a thought, good luck...
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:27 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info, guys.

I took it in to the dealer to repair and they said the problem is there's a leak in the evaporator. Cost to fix: $1,496 :(

I don't want to attempt to fix it myself. Is that a reasonable price? Do you think I should shop around to other mechanics or a Monro Muffler type place?
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Old 06-07-2010, 10:36 AM   #5
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Hey BBer,
I am pretty mechanically inclined and also used to work for Visteon Climate Systems as an Engineer, and I just took my whole dash apart (Memorial Day Weekend) and removed the air handling unit and took that apart to get to the evaporator and replaced it, Then cleaned out all the green dye and refrigerant oil that managed to get soaked up in some of the internal ductwork and foam gaskets then reassembled the unit and reinstall it back then reassemled the complete dash and center console, etc.
What I am trying to say is this can be as intensive as hoisting your engine out mounting it on a stand just to get to a piston rod!
I can only tell you this:
- There are absolutely no shortcuts in getting to your evaporator! Dont let anyone tell you there is because there isnt!
- Once an a/c system is cracked open for an evaporator replacement, the new aftermarket evaps have different port sizes, and buying new a/c hoses are almost a must. I highly recommend you replace your accumulator(receiver/dryer) as this is a standard thing these days, and both of the mentioned a/c hoses coming out of the evaporator as well. BTW one hose goes to the accumulator and other goes to the condensor. Inside one of the hoses is a very important orifice tube. These get clogged over time and degrade your a/c performance, so its an excellent time for these new parts when installing a new evaporator. If all of this wasnt part of your quote it should be!
- Absolutely make sure you take it to someone who is methodical and conciencious. (i.e. puts screws/fasteners in baggies and tapes to the component they are from. Is aware of components that can be damaged if not handled correctly). You dont want them to rush, so if it takes them 2 days then its probably a good thing! You want everything in working order when put back together, as you wouldnt want any squeaking or rattling under the dash, any refrigerant oil or coolant smell, as well as no scrapes or cuts in your interior or seats from the dissassembly.
- Absolutely make sure they are following a Ford Technical manual or CD. If not you are Greatly increasing the risk of something going wrong during the dis-assembly or re-assembly i.e. broken fastener clips, broken harness or connector, broken HVAC piece or duct, Airbag actuation problem, Instrument panel Gauge issue, Leaking Heater Core (yes that can happen too) or some control not working in your Focus.
- It took me 16 hours to take my car completely apart and back together again. That may be a shorter time with 2 mechanics.
So you know this time included (remember this a list of just the teardown part, remember you have to do this all in reverse order!): disconnecting both pos/neg cables from battery, draining cooling system, complete removal of 2 a/c lines & accumulator (through the wheel well), disconnect 2 heater lines from firewall (from underneath), unloosening rusty bolts from firewall that hold the air handling unit in place under the dash (may have to be torched off), removing center console & arm rest, removing entire steering wheel assembly, removing all in-dash components (i.e. IP gauges, Radio, Climate controls, Glovebox), removing dashboard panel itself (3 hidden fasteners have to be removed), removing the hvac ductwork, removing the A-pillar interior trim, removing the steel support structure everything mounted to (hidden bolt on left side), removing the HVAC air handling unit itself. Taking the whole HVAC air handling unit to a table and taking it 85% apart (splitting it open) removing the Evap and reinstalling the new one AND regasketing it prior. And reassembling all of this stuff mentioned back together remembering where every harness bends and clips back to, and where every clip, nut and bolt goes to! At some point it all gets back together properly! Radiator gets refilled, HVAC system gets refrigerant added battery gets connected and BADABING your back in business.
- Not trying to scare you but there are so many opportunities for messing up some other component in your dash that your car can become very unsafe, or not 100% functional. The worst thing is, all this stuff wasnt designed to be removed in and out. So the more you have to do to fix something like an, "OOPS we forgot to" the more likelyhood that something else will get screwed up trying to fix the OOPS!
Good Luck!! Cost on this should be under $1500 which is reasonable, and includes all the part costs.
Mike
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Old 06-07-2010, 11:57 AM   #6
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Evaporator replacement requires removal of the dash components- should just be removing the center console trim and glove compartment, maybe just the glove compartment. The cost of the part is generally around $150-200. Refrigerant, orifice tube, and oil, liberal estimate: $60. Oh, and I forgot that the accumulator will have to be replaced if the system has been down for more than a few days: $75-100. The rest is labor.

Evaps do leak, however it is the least likely problem from what I've experienced. All evap leaks are due to manufacturing and age. A condenser is more likely to leak because it can come into contact with road debris. Even more common is an O-ring leak or damage to a hose from age. The evaporator is the MOST expensive part to have someone else replace because there's so much labor involved to disassemble the dash.

If I were you, and I was going to pay that amount for a repair. I'd mark the evaporator in some way so that I'd know that it was disassembled. I would not put it past a franchise shop to lie, charge you for an evap job, and then replace an O-ring. First, pull your glove box out. All you have to do is open it, then on each side press the side of the glove in so that the tabs pop past the dash, and let the glove box down. Then it should either fall out completely, or you might have to unhook it from the bottom of the dash. You should see how things are put together down there. Use electrical tape in a few places to tape up where the evaporator housing meets the other parts of the climate plenum. Take pictures of what you've done. The evaporator is in the center section of the climate air plenum- behind the radio- etc. You should be able to see something you can tape through the glove hole though.
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Old 06-07-2010, 12:03 PM   #7
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OK that was a little more thorough than my explanation. Few different terms too: climate air system= air handler. Our engineer friend is just a little more used to industrial and commercial applications instead of cars.

Anyway, yeah evap replacement not recommended for DIY in this vehicle. I certainly wasn't suggesting that.

My best advice says get another, or multiple estimates. I do not think the evaporator is the problem, now if you run across a really honest independent shop, they will show you that the evap is the problem be explaining how their "sniffer" or leak sensor works. What they would do is put some refrigerant in your system, get it circulating, and then use the leak sensor in the car. You should have no refrigerant leaking into the air in the car. That's how they tell if it's an evaporator or the leak is elsewhere in the system - which is most likely. I'm not saying it's impossible to have an evap leak, but it's the most unlikely leak from my experience.
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:34 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the information, guys.

I'll have to look into marking it in some way. Good idea, haha. Thanks for the how-to. I'll attempt that this weekend.

Much appreciated! :)
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Old 07-28-2010, 09:55 AM   #9
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anyone have a diagram for the orifice tube Assembly 2003 ford focus ztw.. also need to know where to find the metering device for the a/c..
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Old 07-28-2010, 02:18 PM   #10
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Located down under the right front wheel well cover there are 2 hose/tube assemblies running from the dryer and compressor up to the evaporator (you will need to peel back the plastic wheel well after you take out the 2 plastic fasteners and 1 screw). The evaporator ports are up at the firewall near the brake fluid reservior (you will see the 2 hoses going into it). Once the wheel well is pulled down you will see both hose assemblies with one of the hoses being smaller than the other with thinner tubing. That thinner tubing is actually in two lengths fastened together. If you trace the tubing back from the dryer midway to the evaporator you will find the fitting which connects the tube. (Assuming you have had your system evacuated of refrigerant) Carefully unscrew the nut and pull apart fitting. Look inside the tube (I forget which tube its in but you will see it in one of the two!) You should see that the orifice tube is simply pushed inside the tube and bottoms out in a kink in the tube so that it cant be pushed in too far. You will need needlenose pliers to pull it out. Replace with new one in proper direction and reassemble the tube. Now If you follow the tube further up towards the evaporator you will come to the pressure sensor fitting on the tube. I dont know if a metering valve exists, but there is an orifice block assembly that is brazed to the hose assemblies that attach to the compressor. As far as I know, that block and the orifice tube is what balances the refrigerant pressures. Hope that helps...
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