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R-12 AC Recharge


Guest merrillcrosbie
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Guest merrillcrosbie

I have a 1983 Buick Riviera. I still have R-12 refrigerant in my AC. I need to get it recharged but R-12 is hard to find and also very expensive. I converted another vintage auto to R-134a several years ago with dismal results so I don't want to do it again (and R-134A is being fazed out now too). Does anyone have any good suggestions on recharging a R-12 system? This car is all original, so I don't want to change anything if possible. I was hoping for a drop in refrigerant that won't ruin my AC, or explode and burn my car to cinders. Ideas?

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R-12 is not that hard to find and not that expensive any more. The demand has dropped way off since people have converted so many older cars over to the R-134a, so the price has fallen. I have been able to purchase it for about $8 for a 14 oz. can on eBay. Shops don't want to mess with it because they do not want to risk cross contamination of their R-134a systems with R-12. So they quote you a big price per pound for R-12 to discourage you. If you do the R-12 yourself, it is not that bad. Or find a shop that still messes with it.

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Unless you have all the proper equipment, like a vacuum pump that can fully evacuate your system, I would find a shop that specializies in A/C repair and call them to make sure they have someone that knows what they are doing. I'm not talking about Goodyear, Firestone or one of the national chains. The shop will also have a leak detector. What you end up paying will be well worth it to have it done correctly by a certified shop. Nothing beats a fully functioning R-12 system. Like you said, "you converted a R-12 to R-134A with dismal results".

Bob Bonto ROA # 277

Technical Advisor 71-73 :)

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Guest wildcat465

Just 2 cents here.

I am not impressed with R134a in experiments on 60's and early 70's cars.

But, dayum, my 84 pumped out seriously cold air down to Branson and back. It is running R134a in it and works well.

Can't tell you why, maybe more efficient condenser on the newer cars?

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Guest TwoDoorBuickMan

Try this web site. I have played with mid 80s cars for several years and used several cases of this refrigerant. It is easy to use, inexpensive and seems to cool every bit as well as Freon as long as you don't overcharge the system. It has worked well for me as a complete replacement when I have had to change compressors, or as a conversion from Freon.

Enviro-Safe Refrigerants

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Try this web site. I have played with mid 80s cars for several years and used several cases of this refrigerant. It is easy to use, inexpensive and seems to cool every bit as well as Freon as long as you don't overcharge the system. It has worked well for me as a complete replacement when I have had to change compressors, or as a conversion from Freon.

Enviro-Safe Refrigerants

True, it will work.

Be advised that hydrocarbon refrigerants are outlawed in most states now.

I won't argue the pros and cons.

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Guest merrillcrosbie

Thank you all for these great suggestions. Now more questions. I have been reading up on what was suggested and it is illegal to mix anything in with my current R-12. I know that there is still freon in my system because it still blows cool, but not cold, and the compressor does come on but it cycles frequently which it wouldn't if fully charged.

The information I am finding suggests that I need to evacuate my system of R-12 and reclassify it as a 134a system before I put in any of these replacements. So, I am guessing I have to go to a shop to do this because I don't want to let my remaining R-12 escape. That puts me full circle. If I have to go to a AC shop, should I just get them to recharge it with R-12...if I can find a shop with R-12? I wonder if I can find some myself on eBay or Craigslist as was suggested if they will install it for me? I know this question is best asked of the AC shop, but I haven't done the research to find a quality shop nearby. I live in Salt Lake City. Anybody know of a good AC guy in Utah? (One with a stash of cheap R-12...)

I do dearly love this old Riv convertible. I have kept it original and well maintained for almost 30 years so I really want to do this right, but it is also old enough that I need to be cost effective. Even though it is rare, the car just isn't worth much, so spending a boatload of change on the AC isn't smart.

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If I have to go to a AC shop, should I just get them to recharge it with R-12...if I can find a shop with R-12? I wonder if I can find some myself on eBay or Craigslist as was suggested if they will install it for me?

I was hitting CL recently for R-12 sales. What I found is people typically selling the small cans ( 8 / 10 / 12 / 14oz ) for about $2.00 / oz. I was able to find a few cheaper than that and many that were more expensive than that - up to $3.50 / oz or more.

But, you can also find people selling the big canisters of 30lb+ of R-12 and the price there varied from $1.50 / lb to $10.00 / lb. And the people selling the large ones sometimes mentioned that you needed to show an EPA Certification before they would sell it to you.

I emailed a guy selling some rather cheap and he never replied.

-BEPNewt

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Do yourself a BIG favor and stay with R-12. To do a proper R-12 -> R-134a conversion, you need to flush all system components in order to purge the mineral oil. This oil is incompatible with R-134a. Since the molecules are smaller, R-134a will leak through the original non-barrier hose assembly which connects the compressor to the accumulator & condenser. The accumulator also needs to be replaced since it's internal dryer filter material will be contaminated with mineral oil.

Sure you can do a half-a**ed 'conversion' and it may be OK (for awhile) or it may cool poorly (especially at idle) from day one. System pressures are higher which puts more load on the compressor. The GM R-4 compressor in your car is not known for stellar reliability. The condensers in systems designed for R-12 are not efficient enough for R-134a. They can't transfer enough heat which results in even higher pressures & poor cooling.

That being said, some R-12 cars cool very well with R-134a while others don't.

As has been stated, virgin R-12 is still available & priced 'reasonably'.

When the original compressor on the Toronado failed after 22 years, my ace mechanic clearly said: 'If it was designed for R-12, stay with R-12'. He had many poor outcomes with R-12 -> R-134a conversions...

If you stay with R-12, make sure there is enough oil in the system. If not, the compressor will eventually fail. The refrigerant carries the oil through the system to lubricate the compressor and seals. If you see oil spray & grime on the hood pad directly above the compressor, an oil leak exists. Those R-4 compressors are notorious for oil leaks and a new shaft seal usually only makes the problem worse. How I long for the bullet proof GM A-6 axial compressor...!

Paul

Edited by pfloro (see edit history)
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