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Noob starting work on AC problem

IDJAY on Fri August 17, 2012 3:19 PM User is offline

Year: 2001
Make: Ford
Model: Windstar
Engine Size: 3.8L
Refrigerant Type: R134
Ambient Temp: 91
Pressure Low: 50
Pressure High: 450
Country of Origin: United States

Okay here is the deal. My son crashed the front end of the car; busted the radiator. after about a week when I had the parts and was ready to replace the radiator, I checked the low side pressure and it read 100psi. So I figured if I still had pressure I did not have a leak. So I did not replace the condenser despite a dent in it. (I have pictures if anyone cares to see.) The dent does not look too bad and it does not "appear" to restrict much if any interior flow.

Now I have the car running again but AC issues. I know nothing about AC but figured now is a good time to learn as my 19 year old son is paying for repairs we are keeping things as affordable as possible by providing labor (plus it is a bit more painful for him to have to work on the car. Lessons to be learned.) I went out and bought a manifold gauge set and a vacuum pump.

Here is what happens: When car is cold start and AC on it blows cool and starts to get colder. Vent temp gets down to about 72 (ambient 91). Then vent air starts to rise in temp. If I drive the car with AC on it blows cool as long as I am moving but warms at stop light. Low line is cool, hi line is warm. Condenser is very hot.

With car off, static pressure lo: 110psi; hi: 110psi.
Car running AC on Max (just front dash AC) Idle at 1000rpm; Lo:50 Hi: 420
After several minutes the vent air has risen to about 90F

When compressor kicks on hi side drops to ~250 and lo side climbs to 100?
As a side note if I spray water on the condenser the vent air temp drops.

I figure I need to replace the condenser. Or does it sound like other issues? It would have been easier when I replaced the radiator but I was hoping to save a bit as the system pressure was maintained. I hate to open the system if I don't have to. I have read here about how to recover the R134 etc. Any suggestions? Or swap out the condenser and see how things look after that?


mk378 on Fri August 17, 2012 3:31 PM User is offline

Are all the condenser fans working? Is the radiator / condenser put together closely so that all the air to the fans has to pull through the condenser instead of leaking around the sides? This is an airflow issue since it works OK with the car moving when lots of air is being forced through.

Edited: Fri August 17, 2012 at 3:35 PM by mk378

IDJAY on Fri August 17, 2012 4:18 PM User is offline

Thanks for the quick reply. That could be an issue.
1) When I am driving the ac works better but does not get as cold as it should / used to.
2) normally there is about an inch between the radiator and condenser now they touch as the condenser is bent a bit.
3) I have yet to put the front grill etc back on. There are plastic fins force more air through the radiator and prevent it from going around the radiator.
4) I guess I need to check the radiator fans. I replaced the fans with a used set that looked in okay condition, blades spin freely but I did not test them.

Sounds like I need to really look at the airflow issue but as they touch, I should replace the condenser.

Thanks for the suggestions, you have given me a few things to check before I open up the system.


mk378 on Fri August 17, 2012 7:06 PM User is offline

It would seem likely, if the wires were damaged in the crash, that the fan fuse would have blown.

Leggie on Fri August 17, 2012 11:08 PM User is offline

Looks like I wasted my time reiterating what was already said by mk378 because I didn't know he's already addressed it here. I noticed you cross copy and paste posted this on ACSource forum too. You need to be patient or at least have a courtesy to say you cross posted so you're not wasting people's time . If you're unwilling to wait a day or two to get the answer, take it to a shop and get a rental car.

IDJAY on Sat August 18, 2012 6:34 PM User is offline

Thank you all for your help. Turns out it was the fans not operating. Once I fixed that things starting working as they should. A bit low on refrigerant but looking pretty good. Thanks, J

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