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2001 Ford FS10 Black Death Risk?

RangerDude on Sun April 24, 2011 8:11 PM User is offline

Year: 2001
Make: Ford
Model: Ranger
Refrigerant Type: R134A
Country of Origin: United States

I have a low mileage (still under 50,000!) 2001 Ford Ranger I've had since new. This is the first season I've noticed the A/C is weak. It's still cooling but barely.

I've looked for oil leaks and there's some oil film on the O'Ring couplings and perhaps a couple of drips onto other parts but I don't see any signs of serious leaks.

My question is if it's been running (mostly in defrost mode and perhaps last summer) low on charge, is there much risk of the dreaded black death Visteon FS10 compressors are apparently famous for? It's 10 years old but low mileage and, living in the northwest, the compressor hasn't seen that much use.

I really don't want to recharge it only to have the compressor die and have to replace nearly everything. Compressors are in the $160 - $250 range plus accumulator, orifice, gasket set, oil, etc. so it would be $300+ and a fair amount of labor for the "insurance".

If the compressor dies, the condensor and evaporator are much bigger jobs to replace. I have a manifold set and vac pump but need to get the quick adapters if I'm going to to use it on the truck.

Should I roll the dice and just throw in some R134A and a few ounces of PAG 46 oil and call it good? Or will I be on borrowed time?

TRB on Mon April 25, 2011 12:43 AM User is offlineView users profile

That a very tough question to answer. I would determine the nature of the leak and cost of repair. Pull the OT and check for debris. Then determine if you want to change parts feeling it will provide you the best longevity or not.


When considering your next auto A/C purchase, please consider the site that supports you:

RangerDude on Mon April 25, 2011 1:28 AM User is offline

EDIT: I'm going to go ahead and replace the compressor/accumulator/orifice. I did some more poking around the forums and found others with similar age factory FS10's with relatively low miles that suddenly failed and gunked up the works with no warning signs at all They apparently can be cooling great, no noise, no leaks, properly charged, and BOOM, black death.

If I'm going to go to the trouble to open the system to inspect it, vac it, recharge it, etc. I decided to hopefully buy some insurance in the process. I don't like the idea of an expensive time bomb ticking away under the hood.

It turns out my 2.3 liter truck has a relatively rare version of the FS10 with a 9 O'Clock clutch connector and a less common mounting configuration. There are only a few sources for compressors that are a direct fit. Given all the horror stories about rebuilt FS10's, and the general dislike of Four Seasons, AFAIK that just leaves Ford Motorcraft.

And just to add my two cents, in all my research a couple things have stood out (probably old news for many of you):

1 - The older compressors with more of a built-in oil reserve are much less prone to failure when run low on a low charge. It seems like we've gone backwards with little benefit besides the manfuactures saving a few bucks. Apparently having more oil stay in the compressor is compatible with R134A.

2 - The older compressors (pre FX15) were generally much less prone to difficult to flush "black death" sorts of problems. Again, I'm not sure why especially Ford wouldn't address this problem when they apparently got hit with a lot of warranty repairs, had to require their dealers get special flushing equipment, etc. At the least couldn't they add filters to protect the rest of the system? But, instead, we're filling landfills with clogged condensers and forcing car owners to spend far more than they should have to for repairs.

3 - The quality of new compressors seems to be rather random as nobody is sure who's making what anymore. Apparently Delco, Delphi, Visteon, Motorcraft, etc. don't mean much as brand names anymore as they often just sub-contract them out to someone like Four Seasons or Compressor Works. I wish there was a Sanden that fit my truck, but apparently there isn't (without modifications at least).

Edited: Mon April 25, 2011 at 4:37 PM by RangerDude

RangerDude on Mon April 25, 2011 4:38 PM User is offline

And one more thing...

I'm probably dreaming here, but there's home HVAC gear now that actually monitors the live system pressures and temps in real time while it's running. In variable speed (inverter driven) systems it's sometimes to used to optimize the compressor speed for max energy efficiency and prevent overloads under especially stressful conditions. But it also serves as an excellent performance monitor. It would probably cost car manufactures literally only a few dollars to replace the limit/cycle switches with actual pressure sensors feeding one of the existing microprocessors. The car could then turn on the Check Engine (or a "Check A/C") light when the system started to get low on charge or otherwise required service. Black Death problem largely solved. But I won't hold my breath on that one.

It's like the difference between a Oil Pressure or "Hot" idiot light driven by a simple switch, versus having a real gauge with a real reading. Car A/C, in some ways, is still stuck in 1960.

Edited: Mon April 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM by RangerDude

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