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DIY-Invest in tools vs paying repair shop?

Selkirk on Thu June 10, 2010 5:42 PM User is offline

Guys-I have some auto a/c repairs coming up and would like some feedback on buying a/c tools and doing it myself vs having a shop do the repairs. Here some details.

I live in Houston TX and we run the a/c 9-10 months of the year. I have a pretty well equipped home shop of tools and do alot of my auto work myself.

Right now I have four vehicles that need some a/c work.

1. Sons 1994 full-size Ford Bronco-factory R134a system. Seems it sprung a large leak and dumps the freon within a couple of hours. I did find the high pressure port leaking(when I took the cap off) a good bubble stream (soapy water) but don't think this would let it leak out that fast with the cap on. This repair is needed now. Daily driver.

2. My 1975 IH 150 truck has a factory R12 system with a slow leak. Will work for a couple of months but then leaks out. Would like to get this repaired within a year. Weekend driver only. I have a couple of cans of R12 left then a candidate for R134a conversion?

3. Install a Vintage/Arizona air kit into 1975 IH Scout (no air). Would like to do this install within two years. Weekend driver only.

4. Install a Vintage/Arizona air kit into a 1975 IH 200 truck(no air). Time frame four years. Weekend driver only.

My daily drivers (1999 Expedition and 2004 Suburban) are working fine at this point. But I would not bet that they would not need some a/c work it the next couple of years.

It seems that any time I have a a/c repair the cost is always at least $500 if not closer to $1000. So I was thinking that it might be best to invest into some tooling and do basic repairs myself. Looking around it seems the a/c systems are not real hard to work on, but require some in death studying to understand them. It seems that to get the best results you need to take your time and not take any shortcuts. And to never use stop-leak.

So the question is what items are needed to make basic a/c repairs and is it cost effective to go this route? If so what is your favorite place to purchase them and what brand/style would you purchase for a home shop? Tool wise- I have a tendency spend a little more money upfront(if needed) and like to purchase a tool only once.

Thanks for your advice.

Chick on Thu June 10, 2010 7:13 PM User is offlineView users profile

Only one place I recommend for all your tools and DIY starter kits is who sponsors this board..It is wise to learn the different systems and fix them yourself..At least I think so....hope this helps..

Email: Chick


Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose

robs on Thu June 10, 2010 9:45 PM User is offlineView users profile

Click HERE to see the DIY Kits available. Everything will be MasterCool products. Both come with a helpful manual that has a very in-depth description of inter workings of air conditioning and everything you need to know about basic systems and how to trouble shoot. Would recommend the advanced kit if doing more than a couple of jobs a year.

NickD on Fri June 11, 2010 11:01 AM User is offline

Sure not going to buy a hydraulic press to push in an occasional U-Joint when I can bring in my drive shaft and U-joint into my local machine shop and get it done for ten bucks. Besides, the only place I have left for such a press would be in the middle of my living room floor. Another far out example, I work as a non-fed for the FAA, suppose to have my own test equipment but need a piece of $30,000.00 equipment to adjust one pot on an ILS PIR. Not about to lay out that kind of money, so drive over to the nearest FAA office and borrow theirs.

AC is about the cheapest investment you can make to do your own work, payback can be as quick as one job. When I TH-400 went out, sure need a bunch of stuff to overhaul that, but found I guy my age that was doing it for 30 years and he was good, agreed to a flat price and well worth the effort. Several years ago, (before this board or the other one) had a leaking Scharder valve, knew their was a tool to change it without discharging the system. Called a local shop, a couple, gave me a bunch of EPA crap about having to recover the system with a 250 buck charge to change that valve. Just spent the 30 or so bucks and changed it myself, still have the tool.

We probably all have our stories on how we got started on AC, mine is that I started working on cars when I was ten years old and learned how to do just about everything, but didn't buy an AC car until I was 25 and a degreed electronic engineer. Was only two shops in town, was told by friends, one was good the other was bad. Went to the good one, his rates were about seven times higher than I was making as an engineer, didn't really fix my system, but in no time charged me a weeks pay check. Time to look into this, AC was pretty new back then. Read a couple of books, purchased manifold gauges and a vacuum pump, was a bit nervous at first, but soon became old hate. That was back in 1965.

Today practically all cars have AC, and if you do your own work, you couldn't help but notice they are always in the way for doing anything else. It's a lot more complicated today with BCM and PCM links, but mostly since the EPA stepped in with all kinds of regulations. But again, if you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself and in particular pay attention to shop rates as opposed to your own income.

I would say welcome to this dying group of DIYers, besides the basic kit, would spend a couple of hundred bucks extra and get a good electronic leak detector, wouldn't worry about a refrigerant identifier, another mess the EPA is responsible for creating since you are doing your own work. Then you will also be with fine group of people for any verbal assistance you may need.

70monte on Sat June 12, 2010 12:01 PM User is offline

I think it is well worth it to DIY. I have saved thousands of dollars by learning how to do this type of work. Four years ago my 92 Cavalier needed the whole AC system redone. It was going to be around $1,000 for a shop to do it. I decided to try and do it myself. So, with the help of this site and some books, I learned the basics. I bought the gauges, vacuum pump, can tap, and a few other tools and did the job. I converted this car over to R134a and four years later the AC still works great. I have since repaired the system on my other 92 Cavalier and this one I kept R12 and it will freeze you out of there. I did the system on my 98 chevy truck two years ago and am in the middle of repairing the system on my 98 1 ton chevy truck right now. I've done the systems on about three other vehicles for friends of mine.

It is well worth it to learn how to do it and the satisfaction knowing it is done right. This site has been invaluable in helping me out on problems and to learn what I needed to know. I also buy most of my stuff through them. Take care.


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