Author Topic: My Original Air A/C install  (Read 239 times)

b_hill_86

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My Original Air A/C install
« on: September 08, 2021, 07:39:27 PM »
I will try to get this posted in its entirety as soon as I can but I haven’t had much time recently so if im not able to finish it I will, I promise.

My car is a 77 T/A I’ve had 11 years now. It was always missing all A/C components after the evaporator core which was capped but everything in the interior is intact. A few years ago I got the HVAC blend doors all working properly, resealed (most of) the joints in the ducting and then confirmed the A/C wiring in the engine compartment worked correctly and it did.

After a few years of debating what route to take and whether or not to spend the money on something I never thought I’d want back on the car, I decided on the Original Air “Upgrade” stage 2 kit. OA is part of Classic Auto Air. The kit includes everything from the evaporator core forward but not the evaporator core itself. Stage 3 kit includes that if you want it. I finally decided to pull the trigger back on July 7th.

First issue, when I ordered online there was an error of some sort which made me fear I had been charged twice. Not good considering the kit was around $1100 shipped. I called and spoke to a woman who was able to confirm that no order had been placed but she asked if I wanted to place one over the phone so I said sure. Once all was said and done my tots was $985 shipped. She explained the difference was due to internet orders incorrectly calculating shipping costs. Good for me but not for anyone ordering from the internet. You’d never know you were throwing away over 100 bucks. She explained my card won’t be charged until the kit is built and shipped which can take up to two weeks and to allow 3-6 weeks for delivery but she said all of the parts were in stock. Good I thought. And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Around 5 weeks in, I called to inquire about my order. They provide the name of your salesperson and a direct number so I spoke to the same woman. She proceeded to tell me COVID has caused builders to work from home which is slowing the process and she didn’t have a timeframe for me.

Around 6-6.5 weeks after my order I finally got a charge and shipping notification and to my surprise I had the package in about 4 days. Roughly 7+ weeks after my order. No awful but I wish they would’ve just explained that initially which I would’ve been ok with.

To be continued….
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2021, 07:57:08 PM »
First thing I did was unbox everything. It was packed well and there were no signs of damage so that was good. I was excited to begin the install and finally have cool air to keep the wife happy lol. The instructions are pretty lacking however. I actually don’t have pictures of all  of the sheets they provide but they’re fairly vague. Their website totes this kit as “The average hobbyist can install without difficulty. Charging the system, however, should be performed by a professional. No other specialized tools or knowledge is required for installation of this kit.“

Below is the main set of instructions provided with the kit for installation. Not very detailed and one crappy black and white picture.

First thing I did was install the condenser. One disappointment is that they don’t provide any hardware to mount the condenser and they don’t tell you that anywhere online or when you order. Thankfully I had some hardware I was able to use for the task. Overall the condenser installed pretty easy after I removed the center spoiler under the nose and the vertical support bracket where the horns are attached. There is about an inch gap between the condenser and core support. I’m not sure how the originals were but I plan to make some block-off panels to help increase airflow while not moving.
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2021, 08:00:22 PM »
Next I installed the hoses and lines. The first issue with that I came across is the discharge hose between the compressor and condenser was almost too short. I had to route it through the coolant overflow bracket and even then it is REALLY tight. I also need to keep the coolant tank screw from rubbing somehow.



Next I installed the hard lines. These did not go well. The line from the evaporator core inlet seems too long and the second line from there to the condenser, well that just flat out didn’t line up. I tried several ways to line it up but it appeared almost as if one of the bends was backwards from what it should be. I ended up bending it my hand to make it meet the condenser “outlet” which worked but I wouldn’t have expected to have to do this. Plus I wasn’t sure if this would cause leaks. You can see by my colored lines where I had to bend vs the approximate previous direction. Yellow is where I bent it and red was the previous direction. It was way off. Unfortunately I didn’t take any before pictures.

You can also see in the other picture how the liquid lines bend away from the engine because they’re too long essentially. I had to bend the evaporator core slightly to get them to fit properly. You can also see the discharge hose better in this picture as it runs between the coolant take bracket.


« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 08:09:26 PM by b_hill_86 »
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2021, 08:21:05 PM »
As I just noticed by my pictures I’m posting above I skipped where I installed the compressor and brackets. I am less than impressed with the brackets. They are crudely designed in my opinion, look clunky and they were absolutely filthy when I got them. They were shrink wrapped in a package with their hardware. I plan to remove them at some point, clean up the flash rust that’s already started and paint them.

You’ll also notice that the compressor actually interferes with the valve cover. P.S., don’t judge me on my ugly dirty valve covers. They’re on my list to replace someday lol. Anyway, yes they’re slightly different shape than stockers but not wildly taller. This wouldn’t be a problem except the kit doesn’t specify what size belt to use. I assumed since it’s a stock “upgrade kit” it would use a factory sized belt so that’s what I bought. Between the stock belt size and the valve cover interference I was unable to fit the belt over the pully without loosening the entire bracket to tilt it forward away from the engine and valve cover, then lower the compressor as far as possible via the adjustment, slip the belt on and tighten the bracket back up. I also had to remove that nut near the valve cover and side that bolt forward. At that point the belt doesn’t have a ton of adjustability. I’ll get to that later. Pictures below.

I’m jumping around a little bit I forgot to mention when I installed the condenser there was a screw holding a small (useless) bracket on the condenser inlet line that was pushed up against and gouging my radiator core. Not a huge deal but still annoying. I was able to cut it off but had I not noticed I assume it could’ve worn a hole in the radiator.
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2021, 08:38:30 PM »
The next part was somewhat problematic. I consider myself fairly mechanically inclined but I’m certainly not an expert. Maybe some of you would’ve realized this or figured it out quickly but I didn’t lol.

When it came time to install the accumulator it had its inlet, outlet and two ports. Nothing in the instructions explained anything about the ports but thanks to a picture I’d seen previously from another member I could see one port received the low pressure switch and the other got the low side service port.

When I installed the service port by hand it stopped fairly early. Enough that I knew the o-ring inside wouldn’t seal so I put a small wrench on it. Very little effort caused it to continue threading on so I assumed maybe there was gunk on the threads that hung me up when I put it on by hand. Snugged it down and all was well. Except it wasn’t. When it came time to charge, which I’ll touch on later, I couldn’t get the low side coupler on the service port. Long story short, as I discovered, not only does the low side service port have a schrader valve in it, (yellow arrow) the port on the accumulator does too. (Red arrow) Thankfully when I threaded the LSSP onto the accumulator it didn’t bugger up the valve but it certainly did damage the valve on the LSSP. I felt like a dummy. After some troubleshooting which didn’t work (so I won’t get into it) I decided to call Original Air. PROBLEM. They don’t have a tech number anymore and I SWEAR they used to. Now you have to schedule an appointment online for them to call you at a later date and after you answer a slew of questions. I did so but I wasn’t happy about it. This was on a Sunday by this point I believe and my appointment was scheduled for Wednesday.

In the meantime it hadn’t dawned on me till I spoke to my dad that schrader valves in tire valve stems can be changed so he suggested I try with the low side service port. He had some extra valves which I figured would be too small but they weren’t! I was able to remove the damaged valve and install a brand new one.

Again, thanks to a member here that was nice enough to share some insight into his install of the same kit I recognized the need to remove the valve from the accumulator and rely only on the valve in the low side service port. I had attempted (unsuccessfully) to charge the system prior to this.

This is a good time to mention my attempt at charging. I would not recommend trying that at home using 12oz cans like I did. Lots of resources online suggested that it is easy, possible and a DIY type thing. All of that is true till you realize (which I didn’t initially) how dependent R134a is on how much refrigerant (weight) is in the system more so than the pressures you may read on the manifold gauge set. It’s difficult to do with 12 oz cans for a few reasons I won’t get into because I’m not endorsing doing it yourself. Plus you run the risk of venting the refrigerant into the air which is illegal and harmful to the environment and it was a lot of work to recover it safely.

I did manage to charge the system to the point it seems to cool quite well when moving. I was down to 39° at the vent while cruising at one point which I think is acceptable on an 80°+ day. Idle isn’t as good. Ambient temp was high 70s or so, maybe 80°, and I was at or just below 50°at the vent.  I think I have some fan clutch issues in addition to the condenser spacing which is reducing my cooling effect at idle and getting my engine warmer than it’s ever been. It never got above 190° in the past. In fact it used to have a 160° in it and ran too cool for my liking so I switched to a 180. Without A/C, I was normally at or below 180° in town and would get up near 190° on the way. With A/C now, moving temps are a tad higher but it can start to climb at idle. I was up to 205 one day. Maybe a bit higher.

Overall it works though. I think I can improve cooling at idle. Of course our ambient temps dropped from the 90s with high humidity  as soon as I got this working but the other day it was well into the 80s and I cruised around comfortably. More likely than not, next year I will probably take it to a local A/c shop and have them properly charge it to see if I get an increase in cooling.

This bring up another point. I’ve read R134a is susceptible to performance decreases with only a +/-2oz variance yet the instructions from OA explained to properly charge a system converted from R12 to R134a you should charge to 70-80% of the capacity. I don’t see how that applies to a kit they provided that includes everything new but the evaporator core. I would expect they have a recommendation for charge capacity.

Good question to have asked during my phone appointment you may say? Well that Wednesday came and went with no call. When I double checked the email confirmation I noticed it had actually been scheduled for the first available Wednesday which was TODAY. That part is obviously my oversight but having to schedule a tech call a week and a half out?!? Come on. Oh, what’s better? I got an email confirmation for my appointment today. I found that weird because it was sent a half hour before hand. What if I don’t check my email often or have phone notifications on? Even though I did, I still didn’t see it till ten minutes before my appointment WHICH…….never happened. I never got a phone call.

You make your own decisions about Original Air but I feel like I was let down and I wouldn’t use this company again in the future unfortunately. I was really excited to install their product.

I hadn’t mentioned, lastly, that I’m still struggling with a wicked belt flutter from the A/C belt when the clutch is engaged. It only occurs above 2k rpm. I was able to tame it to a nearly tolerable level by readjusting the compressor (which you probably saw in the picture but I hadn’t mentioned is a sanden compressor) and loosening the tension on the belt but cause of the valve cover interference I’ve run out of adjustment to loosen. Even if there was more, the belt seems way looser than I would’ve expected to be correct. I plan on trying a longer belt at some point but that will likely end up waiting as my A/C season is quickly winding down.

Sorry the pictures were light. This wasn’t meant as a how to but more of a review.

« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 09:41:43 PM by b_hill_86 »
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2021, 08:38:30 PM »

Warren Seale

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2021, 06:46:35 AM »
Ehh,  I had to wait 4 months to get my original GM compressor rebuilt from them.  Then had to return it 4 times until it came back running properly.  I also had to go through 3 charges of R12 ($$$$) due to the return issue.  It has been running for about a year now.   So far no issues except for it slinging oil from the front seal, however, this is kinda normal for those compressors.
79 T/A,WS6,403,A3
96 T/A,WS6(#1344),M6
72 442,W30,A3
96 Vette Grand Sport convertible (#713),F45,LT4,M6
13 427 Vette convertible (#1425),Z30/Z25,M6

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2021, 07:36:50 AM »
Ehh,  I had to wait 4 months to get my original GM compressor rebuilt from them.  Then had to return it 4 times until it came back running properly.  I also had to go through 3 charges of R12 ($$$$) due to the return issue.  It has been running for about a year now.   So far no issues except for it slinging oil from the front seal, however, this is kinda normal for those compressors.

Geeze that’s crazy. Sending it back 4 times to get it right, I’d be livid.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2021, 08:27:28 AM by b_hill_86 »
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

EspriTA350

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2021, 01:08:48 PM »
Apologies for a bit of a thread rez. I came here from a previous thread on aftermarket compressors. I've been interested in one of these kits for awhile, they've been in my "firebird bookmarks" for quite some time. I'm pretty dismayed to hear so many QC concerns.

Ehh,  I had to wait 4 months to get my original GM compressor rebuilt from them.  Then had to return it 4 times until it came back running properly.  I also had to go through 3 charges of R12 ($$$$) due to the return issue.  It has been running for about a year now.   So far no issues except for it slinging oil from the front seal, however, this is kinda normal for those compressors.

Just confirming that you are talking about the Sanden compressor when you mention issues with it slinging oil from the front seal?

b_hill_86

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2021, 02:39:38 PM »
Apologies for a bit of a thread rez. I came here from a previous thread on aftermarket compressors. I've been interested in one of these kits for awhile, they've been in my "firebird bookmarks" for quite some time. I'm pretty dismayed to hear so many QC concerns.

Ehh,  I had to wait 4 months to get my original GM compressor rebuilt from them.  Then had to return it 4 times until it came back running properly.  I also had to go through 3 charges of R12 ($$$$) due to the return issue.  It has been running for about a year now.   So far no issues except for it slinging oil from the front seal, however, this is kinda normal for those compressors.

Just confirming that you are talking about the Sanden compressor when you mention issues with it slinging oil from the front seal?

The original A6 compressors were known for slinging oil as the seals gave out. Sanden are not to my knowledge.
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 speed

Warren Seale

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2021, 07:12:13 AM »
Actually, I've been told by AC experts that the GM A6 compressor slings a small amount oil in normal operation.  If the seal is worn then, of course, more oil will be expelled.  According to the Original Air people, oil will be expelled more so when new then once some break in occurs it will be reduced.
79 T/A,WS6,403,A3
96 T/A,WS6(#1344),M6
72 442,W30,A3
96 Vette Grand Sport convertible (#713),F45,LT4,M6
13 427 Vette convertible (#1425),Z30/Z25,M6

langss

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Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2021, 12:06:18 PM »
I personally have owned 5 vehicles of this vintage and of the 5, 2 I bought new the others were all previously owned, so all I have is the visual history and the miles. The 77 Monza I bought new was an Oil Slinger as was my first 78 Trans Am. Both cars were sold with close to the same miles (over 30+k) so I don't know if they do indeed wear in, but I bought my 76 K5 with 45k and until the Clutch Failed, The Compressor never leaked and would freeze you out of the cab. The other 2, a 78 Z-28 and a wrecked 78 Trans Am were bought with over 100k. The Z needed a recharge and when it was sold, still blew cold and the Compressor Area was clean(relative as the whole engine compartment was filthy). The TA although hit hard on the RT Side still blew cold air and again the Compressor Area was clean(it had a recent engine rebuild, but the whole car was well maintained). I had no reason to think that any of the Compressors had been replaced. 

Re: My Original Air A/C install
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2021, 12:06:18 PM »
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