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October Reader Ride: Ken's 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator 390 4

This car is a father and son project we've been working on for the past five years. It's something we both enjoy doing together. We pulled the motor and transmission and had them professionally rebuilt. We had an AC compressor repaired by Original Air so the car keeps its originality. The car can be driven anywhere and looks great at car shows.

Original Air components are the compressor, expansion valve, and suction valve.

How Important is the Proper Oil Charge?

The oil charge doesn’t have to be quite as accurate as the refrigerant charge in your car’s a/c system. However, it is highly important for system longevity and proper cooling.

NOT ENOUGH OIL – A low oil charge is the most common contributor to a seized or knocking compressor. Replacing a compressor is costly enough. Removing contaminants (such as metal shavings) from the rest of you’re a/c system due to a seized or knocking compressor can drastically increase repair and labor costs to do correctly. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CONTAMINANTS. Besides the new compressor and filter-drier, the latter of which must be changed any time the system is opened to the atmosphere, any other component that is to be reused will require additional labor to clean internally, or often, replace.

TOO MUCH OIL – Many people don’t realize too much oil can have a devastating effect on your car’s air-conditioning system. Using refrigerant cans that contain oil and repeated compressor replacements that contain full oil charges without properly compensating are just two of the many ways this can happen. Too much oil in the system not only prevents your a/c from functioning well, but it can also lead to temporary seizing of the compressor. Too much oil in the cylinders can lead to premature failure and permanent seizing of the compressor, among other things.

HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I HAVE THE PROPER AMOUNT OF OIL IN MY CAR’S AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM? – Unfortunately, there is no magic trick to doing this correctly. But depending upon what part(s) is being serviced, there are some ways to take an educated guess. For example, let’s say your car’s a/c was functioning correctly but was involved in an accident that damaged the condenser. Obviously, the condenser and filter-drier will need to be changed, and these items contain oil within them. Do your best to drain as much of the oil from them, and add that amount of oil back into the system before charging the car. This will help maintain the system’s oil charge integrity, so you don’t have a system oil over or undercharge. In the end, however, there is only one true way to ensure you’ve got an accurate full charge of oil in your car’s a/c system. Drain the compressor and flush each part in the system individually, reinstalling, and started with a full proper charge of refrigerant. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CONTAMINANTS

 

Contaminant – The Dirty Word of Automotive A/C

One of the most common causes of failure and continued failure in your car’s air-conditioning system is an internal contaminant. Once an air-conditioning system is contaminated, it spreads throughout the air-conditioning system via the lubricant that is designed to protect the compressor, contaminating the lubricant and causing premature component failure.

The contaminant can be a combination of old and/or new oil, grease, rust and corrosion that can accumulate in the a/c system, typically due to years of improper servicing. While there are many causes of contamination in an automotive a/c system, the most common source is neglecting to replace the filter-drier (or accumulator) each and every time the system is open to the atmosphere or properly flushing a system after a compressor failure.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T CHANGE MY FILTER-DRIER OR ACCUMULATOR?

The filter-drier has two main functions:

The first is to remove moisture from the inside of the system. Desiccant within the filter-drier (or accumulator) is designed as a one-time moisture removal tool. The system must remain moisture-free, as moisture combined with refrigerant and lubricant will ultimately turn acidic and slowly start eating up the system from the inside. The result of this is a contaminant that blends in with oil and circulates through the system.

Next, the second is to filter out larger contaminants. Like the desiccant bag, the filter is a one-time filter of larger debris within the air-conditioning system. In a properly maintained system, there is little to filter, but components wear over the years, and the filter helps to prevent debris from circulating throughout the system. Filters can ultimately become saturated and clogged with debris, causing a blockage and commonly, compressor failure.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T PROPERLY FLUSH THROUGH MY A/C SYSTEM?

Many people, mechanics included, assume that simply changing a failed component and the filter-drier is all that’s necessary to solve their problem. That could not be further from the truth.

Installing a new filter-drier without cleaning out the rest of the system is like changing your car’s oil filter without changing the oil. Your car’s air-conditioning will be right back where it started, and your newly installed parts will also be contaminated, warranty voided. Dirty oil can still seep through the filter-drier and continue to circulate through the system, coating and recoating the internals of hoses, condensers, evaporators and valves. (Those of you that have worked on old plumbing can get a clear picture.) Next stop, clogged expansion valve and/or filter-drier, seized compressor, etc. Rinse and repeat.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CAR’S A/C IS CONTAMINATED?

If you’ve had a major compressor failure, such as a seized compressor, then you can rest assured that your system is contaminated. Another common assumption of a contaminated system can be made if a system has been consistently “topped off” due to a leak. Outside of that, the first step is to see if you can get anything out of any component that’s being replaced.

For example, if your compressor was leaking and it’s being replaced, drain the oil. If it’s transparent clear or yellow, with nothing floating around in it, there’s a good chance the rest of the system is in about the same condition. The odds are adding back the same amount of oil you removed from the system, changing your filter-drier (or accumulator, if so equipped), evacuating and recharging the system will get you back up and running.

If the oil removed is dark in color or has anything floating in it, you can rest assured the system is going to require a liquid flush. This cannot be done with the system fully assembled. Instead, this should be done with each part individually to ensure that not only the contaminant but the flushing agent is fully flushed out of the system. Once completed, replace any o-rings, add a full charge of oil, replace the filter-drier (or accumulator, if so equipped), evacuate, recharge the system and you should be cool again!

Never Convert R12/124a Systems to 1234yf. Here's Why:

YouTube and other platforms are a great source of information for DIYers. Instead of spending crazy money on a service, in many cases, you can diagnose and fix an array of issues yourself simply by watching a few videos. However, just because it's on the Internet does not mean it’s a good idea. Lately, we have come across some how-to videos on how to convert R12 and 134a systems to take 1234yf, as well as videos of how to convert 1234yf systems to 134a. (The latter mainly due to the astronomically high cost of 1234yf.)

While you might be thinking you’re doing the environment a solid, do not do it. It is illegal to convert an R12 or 134a system to 1234yf.

The industry has no tests or published information to establish cooling performance, reliability, compatibility, or an assessment of chemical damage to a system’s lubricant seals and hoses. And the EPA has approved the new 1234yf refrigerant only for new vehicles with systems designed specifically for its use.

This is because R12 and 134a systems are not designed to use flammable refrigerants, which 1234yf is. In fact, Federal Law mandates that using flammable substitutes is strictly prohibited. Before you work on any system that could contain flammable refrigerant, proceed with caution. Electronic leak detectors can ignite if you use it to find leaks in systems holding flammable refrigerants. Plus, parts of recovery or recycling machines could ignite if the machine is being used to recover refrigerant. Even connecting and disconnecting service equipment, a small amount of refrigerant at the service ports might leak. This could also result in a fire if the leak ignites. In any of these situations, both could result in fires or even explosions.

In short, if your car was originally designed to use the old R12 or newer 134a, stick with one of them until a reliable time-tested product is offered as a substitute.

Reader Ride: Vernon's 1970 Ford Mustang 351

I've owned it since the late '70s but got serious about restoration in the summer of 2016. It has a new 351 Cleveland with 500 HP, C4 Auto transmission, new interior, new wheels and was in the body show for about six months. It was repainted in January of 2019. I also just charged the AC with R12 last week.

Original Air components on the car are the condenser, hoses, drier, accumulator, expansion valve, and suction valve.

Classic Car Tips For the Summer Season

If you’ve shielded your beauty from the sleet, snow, wind, rain and whatever else the winter and spring seasons have to offer, congratulations. It’s June, which means summer is finally here. You cannot wait to get your car back on the road; those stares you get driving it around never get old.

Unfortunately, what does get old is your classic. It’s called that for a reason and before taking it back on the road, always remember to take maintenance into consideration, especially if you haven’t started it in a year or more.

We typically start with the fluids, including brakes, transmission, windshield, washer, and coolant. Kudos to you if you remember the last time you changed the oil. But water and other fluids can seep into the crankcase anyway, so go ahead and get it replaced. Look under the car for any pools of liquid because drops here and there are normal, but larger puddles are not. 

Next, check under the hood and try and find anything that may be out of place. Animals like raccoons, cats, and small rodents can crawl into your car, chew wires, and even leave a few surprises. We’ve seen it before. Be sure everything is intact by gently pulling on wires like the spark plugs. Also, check the ignition, distributor cap, and rotor. You might need to change out the air and gas filters as well.

Now check the fuel. If it smells like harmful gas, you are going to have a tough time starting. If the car has been sitting for over a year, drain out any fuel that was left and add some fresh stuff. 

Check your wheels for both air pressure and the state of the rubber. Flat spots can develop in as little as a month. To avoid this happening in the future, roll the car forward and back a couple feet. Do this every two or three weeks, or just put the car up on jack stands if not driven very often. 

Before looking at the battery, be sure the charging system is in order (alternator has clean feeds and grounds). Next, clean the battery’s posts and terminals, and add distilled water to the cells. If needed, use a 2-10 amp charger to charge the battery after a voltage test.

After finishing the initial inspection, take it on a quick test drive and do a double-check. If everything is still in order, you should be good to go. Even though it can take an afternoon or two to fully examine a classic that’s been sitting, both you and your car will appreciate it.

Check Out Steve's Classic 66 Ford T-Bird 390 Reader Ride

In April 2004, I purchased a 1966 Ford Thunderbird. The good news: I got her for a good price. The bad news: I got her for a good price. She was a #6 rustbucket and required a total restoration. Here’s what I’ve done or had done to the car since I’ve owned her:

  • Front/rear suspension rebuild
  • Transmission rebuild, to include new transmission lines
  • Carburetor rebuild (x3)
  • Disk brake rebuild, to include new brake lines
  • Power steering linkage rebuild
  • Total interior rebuild (floorboard repair, new carpets, seat covers & foam padding).
  • Repaint of exterior
  • Installed new rear window (old one was broken out)
  • Replaced driver’s side view mirror and new mechanics and added passenger side view mirror
  • Rebuilt power windows (gears, pulleys – the electric window motors still work though)
  • Replaced the original fender skirts with stainless steel trim around the rear fenders
  • Replaced gas tank, fuel pump, and associated lines in-between
  • Installed new exhaust system
  • Replaced heater core and all vacuum lines
  • Replaced the A/C evaporator and condenser, and associated hoses
  • Rebuilt the original compressor
  • Re-wired & replaced numerous electrical components
  • Detailed the entire engine compartment
  • Detailed trunk to include new trunk liner and added an optional trunk release/open mechanism
  • Bead-blasted all the wheels, repainted them semi-gloss black and mounted new, period-correct tires on the wheels

Furthermore, in the process of building the interior, I added some rare options like power seats and a reclining passenger seat. Those didn’t originally come on this car as an option, but they were an available option for that year…so I found those on eBay and went with them. I also replaced both door panels with some used ones in good shape.

When replacing the original fender skirts with stainless steel trim, I was able to get a set of the optional ’66 hubcaps in decent shape, so the lack of fender skirts complements them nicely.

Plus, the car was originally a “Town Landau” (a white vinyl top with a Landau ‘S’ bar on the side pillars). Since the vinyl and chrome trim was long gone, I decided to repaint the exterior with the period-correct “Town Hardtop” option, which was the painted roof with a Thunderbird emblem in place of the Landau “S”. I kept the body the original color (Brittany Blue Metallic), but the roof and side pillars are now painted Wimbledon White. I had to replace both the outer & inner fenders prior to painting, as the ones that were originally on the car had deteriorated into swiss-cheese rust. In addition, I had new weather-stripping installed throughout the car. 

I nicknamed this car “Liz."  Short for Elizabeth Taylor because in order for her to have all the nice lines and right curves, it cost a lot of money. I parodied Admiral ‘Bull’ Halsey’s response (when he was asked by the Saturday Evening Post so many years ago), why a U.S. warship is referred to as “she."  He replied, “A ship is referred to as ‘she’ because it takes so much time, money and effort to make her look pretty." 

Original Air components on car: 

  • Condenser
  • Hoses
Nova Conversion Project Part 2

Earlier this year, we helped Joe P with the A/C portion of his 1970 Nova small-block to big-block conversion. As many of you know, parts for these cars can be hard to come by, especially for a second-generation big-block Nova!

What many people don't realize is that with little to no modification, some first-generation F-body (1967-69 Camaro and Firebird) parts can be interchanged with little or no modifications whatsoever (more details on this coming soon!). Joe P did and was able to get his hands on a 1969 Firebird evaporator unit, which he sent to us for restoration.

Upon receipt, we were able to see right away that it had suffered a fair amount of damage in transit. Since we do this kind of repair regularly, and the unit was already going to require some fiberglass modification to convert it for his 1970 Nova, this wasn't a problem. 

As you can see below, this unit has leaves and other debris on the inlet side of the evaporator. This kind of external contamination is a very common source of reduced air volume and system efficiency for evaporators of all makes and models. It essentially renders the blocked portion of the evaporator useless.

Since all Pontiac engines are nearly the same external size as big-block Chevy engines, 1967-69 Firebirds all use the same housing as 1967-69 Camaros with a big-block engine. There is one key difference between the 1969 Firebird unit sent to us and the 1969 Nova that was to be installed: a different resistor mounted in a different location of the inboard (engine side) case half.

In this case, we had to close the rectangular opening used by the 1969 Firebird blower resistor (see figure 1) and open a circular one for the 1970 Nova blower resistor. Fortunately, there is a mold impression we can use (see figure 2) to cut our new resistor opening.

Next, we refilled the rectangular opening and refinished it. Due to the fiberglass repairs and modifications, Joe opted to paint the unit black to give it a cleaner look. 

Additionally, we had to repair the shipping damage to the outboard (fender side) case half. 

 

Based on Joe's needs, here's a breakdown of what went into this unit:

  • Fiberglass repairs and modifications to the evaporator case housing including painting the housing black and zinc plating, and painting and detailing the various brackets and clamps. 
  • Rebuild, calibration to 134a refrigerant, and installation of the POA valve. 
  • Recondition, testing, and installation of the expansion valve including new cork/refrigerant tape to insulate the sensing bulb on the evaporator.
  • Recondition and installation of the original ambient sensor switch.
  • Installation of a new evaporator. 
  • Installation of a new blower motor.
  • Installation of a new drain tube.
  • Installation of a new 1970 Nova blower resistor.
  • Installation of a new heater core tube seal.

If you have questions about what Original Air can do for your car, give us a call, send us an email, or leave a comment below!

Behind the Scenes with Alien Enclosures

That's a wrap! Yesterday, we finished up filming an unboxing video for Alien Enclosures' trunk panel kits. The video features us explaining what's included in our kits piece by piece. All of the kits are designed with the "do-it-yourselfer" in mind. So with a little patience, the average car guy can have these completed in a weekend! 

However, if you're still a little hesitant, stay tuned for our video! In the meantime, check out our behind the scenes photos below.

 

Check Out Herb's Classic 66 Chevelle Malibu Reader Ride

I bought my 1966 Chevelle Malibu 5.3L in 1977 when I was a graduate at UCLA. I bought it from the original owner. It has the original 283 Powerglide console, and its factory A/C remains intact. However, it's gone through many changes over the years. Apart from the A/C repairs, it has its original sheet metal but it was painted so long ago its Patina now. The Original Air components on the car are its hoses, drier, and expansion valve.