Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Dreams of Vanagon AC

At this time of year my thoughts always turn to air conditioning in the Vanagon. Not too long ago we completed a 10,000 mile cross-country road trip in June and July without AC. We crossed badlands and farmlands, mountains and valleys, coasts and plains. We survived. We've traveled in the driest and dustiest of heats, and the most oppressively humid. It has always been part of the adventure and strangely, part of the charm.

I'm certain at one stage in its near-antique existence our late model '90 Multivan had a functioning AC system. We, unfortunately, have never experienced a cool blast of Freon-chilled air from the now dust-filled ceiling vents. Does our AC work? No. Could it work? Maybe. Will I ever try to fix it? Hopefully one day. I don't know exactly what's wrong, but I do know that it is pretty much guaranteed to be a costly fix.

Now that there's a toddler in the picture, our threshold for heat tolerance--both for our sake and his--is much lower. I don't think Jacob would have tolerated the sweaty hauls that we've endured and I wouldn't want to subject him to that misery.

I'm considering this mostly DIY Red Tek approach as detailed on the Samba:

  1. buy a new receiver drier & expansion valve 
  2. buy the R134a kit from van cafe (for the fittings, o-rings, and oil) 
  3. buy brake air line anti-freeze 
  4. buy Red-tek (5 cans) 
  5. buy Red-tek pro seal (1 can) 
  6. have system professionally evac'ed of R12 
  7. clean evaporator by blowing dust off 
  8. remove old receiver drier 
  9. remove mineral oil from compressor and lines (blow through) 
  10. use brake line anit-freeze and blow lines in both directions making sure to blow where receiver drier was connected as well. 
  11. install new receiver drier & expansion valve, and o-rings 
  12. remove old fittings on compressor and replace with new 
  13. evacuate lines (use cheapo harbor freight version) 
  14. add oil (2oz - low pressure side) 
  15. add some red tek (~ 5 oz low pressure side) 
  16. add pro-seal (low pressure side) 
  17. run a/c to get oil and pro-seal throughout the system 
  18. hook up gauge (low side) - the gauge I have fits between the a/c fittings on the compressor and the can of coolant 
  19. add remaining red tek (low pressure side) while compressor is running until the pressure is about 30psi (low side). Float cans of red tek in warm water to help get all the contents out. 
  20. check pressure: At idle - 30psi low side, 200psi high side. At 1500rpms – 25psi low side, 200psi high side.

Or, we could just forget about having AC while on the road and opt for the shore-powered window unit!


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  2. Did you ever get the AC hooked up and running? I have an 87 Westy with factory AC. The previous owner had removed the belts, but the rest of the system is in place. Wondering about just putting a belt back on and seeing if the AC works. Also wondering if you lost engine power with the AC restored. Thanks.

  3. I have not Keith. It's still a dream. Like yours, all the components are there. It's just missing a belt, but I have not checked to see if everything is operational. I've heard a number of times that it does sap [already limited] engine power, but can't comment with experience. If you go through with it, please let me know!

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