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1963 Skylark Factory Air Conditioning (AC) Issue


1963skylark
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Afternoon everyone,

 

I introduced myself over in the Me and My Buick area, so I'll get to the issue. I've attached images of my factory installed AC. Many of you will notice all the cracks and "repairs" a PO has done. I've had two shops attempt to get it working. The second shop (which I trust with this vehicle) says they have sourced all the parts needed to fit it, but are concerned that once they attempt to get the Evaporator Assembly (see picture attached) un-done, we run the chance of it breaking into pieces. The estimate is a bit steep, and the risks of destroying the assembly means I'm out a lot of money with perhaps an assembly in pieces.

 

I'm open to ideas everyone. I've attempted to source an entire NOS to no avail. I've looked at trying to find a donor car that has AC, yup, no luck. I'd be okay with just finding the Evaporator Assembly, but I can't find that either. My wife suggested 3-D printing, but while there are non-factory parts on it, I want the AC to stay factory.

 

Does anyone, has anyone come across a resource for NOS or nicely used factory AC parts for the 1961-1963 Skylark? Anyone seen a used 61-63 Skylark donor with stock AC?

 

Thank you everyone. I search this and other sections of this site to make sure someone else hasn't already answered this specific request.

 

Andrew

1963skylark

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If it's already broken, you may as well take it apart and assess the damage. I do not recommend 3d printing parts, 3d printing materials are extremely brittle and only good for small demonstrations or areas with little stress (think getting kicked by accident here). Depending on how thick the part is, it will get really pricey depending on how much extra support material is needed. Looks like that car belonged to someone with children who like to kick the back of seats.

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What has been done to diagnose a faulty evaporator?  In other words, why do you have to take it apart? What has already been done to try and get the system running?

And has the system sat in a disassembled state for any length of time,ie, no compressor, or broken missing AC lines?

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There will be no NOS complete unit, as GM didn't sell that or have a part number for it.  They sold pieces to build the complete unit as pictured).  The complete unit might have existed ONLY in "off-line assembly" at the assembly plant, where it was built prior to going into the vehicle on the line that needed it.  Not in a GM parts warehouse or on a dealer's shelf.  There might have been a GM Accessory a/c unit for "add-on" at the dealership, but finding one of this would be extremely unlikely as most dealers might have already scrapped it or used parts from it to fix other vehicles, by even the early 1970s.

 

Breakage of plastic items is always a possibility with vintage plastic, which has probably shrunk a little as it's aged, but it usually is substantial enough to support some sort of "putting it back together" activity.  Care in disassembly is important!

 

What items are needing replacement?  Just curious.

 

NTX5467

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You could try CTC Auto Ranch in Sanger, Texas, but be prepared to pay a LOT for anything they have. I bought one of these housings there about 15 years ago. Most of them are cracked, though, or will be cracked during reassembly. It's an impossible part to deal with. The housing is so thin, so large , and holds such heavy components, and has to be moved and jiggled to remove and install it properly, that it is going to get cracked.Sad to say it, but learn to live without air conditioning in one of these cars.  Every one I have ever worked on has been cracked or gotten cracked worse. A friend I know uses plastic tubes from a shop vac to replace the ducts on either side of the center unit.

By the way, the 1961-63 Olds F-85 and Cutlass use the same A/C housing.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

Leonard, Texas

Edited by Pete Phillips (see edit history)
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Thank you Beemon for your note. The fear in taking it apart is due to the cracked external evaporator assembly housing. If I could source a new one (new to me) without cracks I'd drop it in a second.

 

JohnD1956 - hoses are there, lines are good, in my ownership no teardown or disassembly. As mentioned above, if I had the housing I'd dive right in. The biggest issue my shop tells me is the fear of housing just falling apart, and not being able to source a new one. Yes, it is not working, but it is original, and yes, I could rip the whole thing out and "not" have AC, if I can source the parts I want at some point in the future... Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

 

NTX5467 - Wow, thank you VERY much for the information. That is very helpful to know. As stated above, I want the plastic cover so when MY plastic cover disintegrates, I have a replacement.

 

Thanks Pete. Very helpful. I'm coming to learn that my AC is simply putting the top down. I'll look up CTC.

 

And sorry about the delay on my part, I posted then had to be out of town for the week. Much appreciated all.

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According to the shop, everything holds and a leak detection has been done, and they believe it "has" to be a vacuum issue which requires a tear down. I'm headed back there to drop off again due to a number of issues that have come up post-fix which weren't there prior (and unrelated to AC). End of the day, the estimate was $$$ with the contingent of "we are not responsible if the housing breaks apart once we try to put it back together..." which is fair, and I like EmTee's idea of fiberglass and Beemon's mold suggestion over 3D... when I re-built a 66 912 Stoddard had EVERY part available if I screwed something up. I wish, as stated earlier, that there was an off-the-shelf option of NOS but thanks to NTX5467 I believe i'm limited.

 

Seriously team, the person MOST upset about non-functioning AC is my wife... her analogy is "so what they're telling us is, they've charged us a significant amount of money to tell us 'well, we know what the problem is, and we can charge you MORE money, but we can't guarantee it will ever work in the condition it is in...' that's like a plumber (I come from a family of plumbers) saying, we KNOW what the problem is, and we're charging you to tell you we know what the problem is, but at the end of the day, you still can't flush your toilet..."

 

Hence my we are married :)

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  • 3 years later...

I spent 4-5 seasons wrestling with a 63 zRiviera AC. Putting the evaporator box in was hard real.I rebuilt all the hoses and replaced every component I could new. The STV And vacuum actuators 3 and 4 are no longer made or professionally rebuilt. A work around has been provided for 3 and 4 vacuum actuators. The STV has been solved with a by pass kit. Many hours of frustrating work went in to the AC plus tool purchases. I read the service manual over and over again. Knowing how the thing works is peachy. Yesterday was the second time the AC has put out cold air in 4-5 years. Now I worked on the AC every season. Please let me give it to you straight. Your local guy doesn’t want the job. None of the shops in my area would touch my AC. It takes too long and they don’t want to guarantee work on a 60 year old car. There is one specialty shop on Long Island NY said they could fix my AC, but Ihad to get in a waiting list.

Had I to do over I would have found a specialty shop that could install a custom AC without changing the dash appearance. I’d write a deposit check and tell him to call me when he has cold air.

Turbinator

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3 hours ago, Bill Stoneberg said:

I agree with Turbinator. I have now replaced 2 non functional Factory AC systems with Vintage Air. If done properly, you can’t tell.

Bill, we’re the stock ACsystems dead when you got the car(s)? Did you just go ahead and replace the stock AC systems in the beginning? I’m trying to find your motivation to go to Vintage. In the case my stock AC system fails yet again I’m inclined to switch to Vintage air. Did you can the vacuum controls? I’m supposing you got rid of the vacuum actuators and vacuum switches? So what is left is compressor, condenser, evaporator and box, hoses, vent system and controls. I’d really like to keep the stock appearance in the cabin.

thank you for your input

Turbinator

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Turbinator, Neither AC were working as well as expected when I got the cars.  On the 64 Riviera it has sat for 30 + years.  I had the STV valve rebuilt, put in a new A6 compressor, replaced the lines and flushed and finally replaced the condenser.  NOTHING mad it work well.  I live in hot and humid Texas so AC is a must if I am going to drive it.  I spent 3 + years trying to get it to work and finally just put in a vintage Air Mark II system.  With some tweaking the AC is as good as a brand new modern car. That cleaned up the engine compartment and inside the car, you cant tell except the control panel looks different. I used all the factory vents and factory mounts under the hood.  Here is the story on installing it.   

 

 

The 60 Electra that I am working on now had AC that was off and on, more off then on.  I had the A5 compressor resealed and all the vacuum control tested and fixed.  We found issues where the fan was only getting 8 volts to the fan on high so we rewired that. we locked all the Vacuum doors to AC but still was getting hot air coming it. Started investigating and found that the 60 year old plastic housing around the AC and ductwork was cracked and broken. This allowed hot air from under the hood to get into the system. We had been chasing this for 5 years on this car.

 

On the Electra, considering the size of the passenger compartment and the massive amount of glass we went with the Mark IV from Vintage Air.  This will allow us to use the factory controls and vents.  Still in progress as we have also rebuilt engine and Dynaflow, but getting close now.

 

The link above give part numbers and shows how it is installed.  Don, who started the thread is on the forums and will help with questions if I cant answer them.  It was not a hard job and from inside, you cant tell. Plus its cool and comfortable, even in the weather we have here.  I just talked to the owner of my Riviera and he was out driving the car this morning with windows up and AC on.  Cant ask for much more.....

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Thanks Bill for keeping my old post circulating, I've been happy over the years that it was able to help a number of people do VA conversions. The 60 LeSabre I just got does not have A/C and while I love the car it is a real pain to drive it this time of year. I will probably be looking at adding A/C and am following your 60 posts to learn.

 

Andrew, I would be glad to help you if I can. Good luck.

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