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'97 T-bird compressor changeout

theterminator93 on Fri January 30, 2009 1:31 PM User is offlineView users profile

Year: 1997
Make: Ford
Model: Thunderbird
Engine Size: 4.6L
Refrigerant Type: R134a
Country of Origin: United States

Hello all,

As I'm sure you've noticed by now I'm brand new to the forums here. I was referred from TCCoA because I was asking them about my A/C issues.

First things first, here's a link to the thread I started on TCCoA, which should provide enough background for those of you who would like to know:

For those of you who just want the quick low-down on my problem, here goes. Ever since I've had the car, the A/C was intermittent; probably worked 20% of the time it was engaged. Ambient temps were usually in the mid 80s, sometimes as high as the low to mid 90s. Several months ago, I was taking a trip home that usually takes me two hours and is mostly high speed freeway driving (60-70 MPH). That evening's weather required that I have the defroster engaged for the entire trip, which on my car engages the compressor for the a/c. About halfway home (after an hour of driving, this is at night in the rain, by the way) I saw sparks flying from underneath my car, so I slowed down and the sparks stopped. When I got home I heard a nasty grinding sound from the engine compartment and also made out a faint burnt smell.

Turns out that the problem was that the compressor had seized up (partially or completely, I am not sure) which had my clutch smoking and sparking. I didn't know that the compressor was at fault at the time, so I went and replaced the clutch. When I tested the system with the new clutch, the air conditioning seemed fine. Several of the lines under the hood were frosted over and the air coming into the passenger compartment was nice and cool. After about ten minutes of running, however, I heard squealing coming from the engine compartment and shut off the A/C. Squealing stopped. I checked under the hood and sure enough, the compressor was locked up solid as a rock. I unhooked the clutch coil pack so I would be able to use the defrost etc. without frying my clutch/serpentine belt, and it has remained that way since.

Now that summer will be coming here again eventually and I'm making regular 2+ hour trips, I've decided it's worth my time to get the A/C system repaired properly. My first impression was that I needed to replace the compressor unit, which I believe is the FS-10. From what I've already learned from the other forum, I need to replace the compressor, the orifice tube and the accumulator and all associated O-rings. Also I hear it's good to use "nylog" on the O-rings to have a good seal. My current plan for replacement is this:

1) have system discharged, probably done by an A/C shop or auto repair place
2) pull out the compressor, orifice tube line and accumulator
3) replace the orifice tube, compressor and accumulator
4) have system properly evacuated and recharged by a shop.

Of course, as I mentioned, I'll replace all the o-rings for seals I break, using nylog. However, I'm still a bit uncertain as to several of the intermediary steps.

I did a couple searches here and I realize I should NOT buy the cheap-o "four seasons" compressors. I'll likely get "Spectra Premium", any input on that brand? I also understand that the accumulator should be the last thing replaced to try to minimize the exposure to the atmosphere, and again, the system should be properly evacuated and charged as soon as possible after its installation.

Here are the things I'm not sure about.

1) System discharge. The system has not been serviced as far as I know of, and I am certain is has a good charge. Being that the refrigerant is the new R134a, would I be able to simply release the refrigerant without breaking any laws etc. or should I have it discharged by a shop?
2) Things I need to add or do to the system as I'm replacing the parts. What things do I need to do to the parts I'm replacing, other than simply making sure there's a good seal on the connections and bolting them on? I've heard something about adding oil...?
3) Any other things I should know or be aware of before I have the system charged?
4) This isn't as important as the first three questions, but any ideas as to why my first compressor died in the way it did?

Thanks in advance to anyone who can give me any tips or answer my questions.


Edited: Fri January 30, 2009 at 1:43 PM by theterminator93

bohica2xo on Fri January 30, 2009 2:13 PM User is offline

What you need is a firewall foreward replacement at this point.

Legally, you need to have the refrigerant recovered - if there is any left in the system.

Your compressor is scrap. So is the condensor - all of the trash from that compressor is now clogging the passages in the condensor.

If your line set has any mufflers, it will need to be replaced as well.

The evaporator can be flushed, because the orifice tube usually stops the big chunks.

You need to do a through flush on the evaporator, clean to bare metal. With a new compressor, condensor, accumulator and clean lines you are ready to put it back together. Add the proper oil charge as it is assembled, then evacuate the system. If it holds vacuum, you are ready to charge. I would suggest adding dye when assembling the system for future leak diagnosis.


"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi, An Autobiography, M. K. Gandhi, page 446.

theterminator93 on Fri January 30, 2009 3:22 PM User is offlineView users profile

Hm, I see what you mean. Would I need to replace all the interconnecting lines as well or can those be flushed?

As far as flushing out the evaporator is concerned, how should I go about doing that? What should I pump through it, just plain air or is there a special solution I should use? And which direction - should I backflush it?

About adding oil and such, should it all go into the compressor or should I add part to the compressor and part to the accumulator?

TRB on Fri January 30, 2009 3:33 PM User is offlineView users profile

Flushing by Hecat.


When considering your next auto A/C purchase, please consider the site that supports you:

theterminator93 on Fri January 30, 2009 4:42 PM User is offlineView users profile

Certainly looks like a big job, at least for someone like me who hasn't done anything like this before. I might just end up having to replace the evaporator as well.

My final question, now that I know all that this repair job would entail. Would it be possible to replace parts one at a time, work at it slowly so that my car isn't out of commission for any length of time? I was thinking I could remove the lines first on one day, replace the condenser on another day, flush/replace the evaporator yet another time, relplace the orifice tube and line next, then replace the compressor and accumulator last. Would there be anything that prevents me from taking that course of action? Like I said, doing bits and pieces of the job here and there prevents me from having to spend a ton of money all at once while keeping the car's down time to one day at a time.

Again, I would like to thank all of you for your input.

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