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Thread: A/C performance problems -- not compressor/freon/evaporator related

  1. #1
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    I've had this problem since I got the van 3 yrs ago: The engine won't idle with the A/C on. Not such a big deal, but quite annoying nonetheless. I have an '85 Westy with manual transmission. The A/C is a retrofit done by a company in California 9 yrs ago (previous owner). Can't seem to find anything in Bentley's to help. Does anyone know whether the idle bump is supposed to be accomplished mechanically or electronically? I'm guessing the system installed would be similar to a factory instl.
    Thanks!
    Tim Wilson

    [ 06-28-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

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  3. #2
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    Obviously without the wiring diagram for an aftermarket A/C, anything here would be a guess.

    Did you do any preliminary checking of other sources such as the idle transfer switch adjustment?

    If you look at the wiring diagram for an OE A/C on page 97.138 in the Bentley, you will see an Idle Speed Stabilizer Valve connected to the A/C compressor cut-out relay and in parallel to the A/C compressor clutch. It's purpose is to ground (activiate the cut-out relay) when the idle is not stable, thus cutting out the A/C compressor clutch (& compressor). Thus the A/C is not operating when the engine is having idle problems.

    You would have to trace this aftermarket rig wiring to find out how it handles that problem.

    To answer your question, according to the OE wiring diagram, the symbol for the switch indicates it is electrically operated (Bentley guide page 97.5).

  4. #3
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    I own an '85 Westy with A/C, and how my system works for idle increase has to do with a vacuum switch. When the A/C is turned on, the vacuum switch opens and allows more vacuum air after the Air Flow Meter, which increases the amount of air flowing thru it - which then makes the sensor plate open slightly more and ups the fuel for increase in idle. Its works like a step modulator - look and see if you have a vacuum pot - a square looking thing with two vacuum hose on it, one on each end, with two wires going to it. It maybe that your switch is bad and not opening up with A/C on. Hope this helps and good luck. CGOTTS

  5. #4
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    Thanks to both of you for the hints. I haven't yet looked more closely at the system--the weather's starting to get nastier here and my van lives outdoors... I need a good weekend to do some maintenance.

    I'll report my findings here when I get around to further investigation.

  6. #5
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    Transferred from other posts to consolidate similar topics.

    AC inadequately cools '85 Westie

    bailey711 Junior Member # 34 posted 05-23-2000 06:25 PM

    Last summer I noticed my rear-mounted AC in the '85 Westie had difficulty cooling me - in the front seat. NC had a brutally hot summer last year, and I was warmer than I wanted to be most of the time!

    I've just gotten more freon and the dye the mechanic used should pinpoint any leaks, but I'm still worried about driving in the Southwestern desert this summer. Are there any tricks for getting the cool air to the front of the van?

    I know one of the problems is that the cool air has a lot of hot air to replace in a large van. Would it help to plug up any gaps between the pop top and the roof with towels? Is it legal to drive with the side curtains closed?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank you very much.

    Dru

    Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 05-23-2000 07:23 PM

    The A/C on the Westy has several obstacles to overcome, size and insulation are just part of it. The roof opening and air leaks are not the biggest problems. Assuming your system is working fully, the battle is not the amount of cool, but the circulation.

    Start by closing off the two downward facing vents -- they syphon off from the front. Back seat passengers will get plenty of cool w/o them. Second, read the post on the TIPS board about the Vanagon heat & ventilation controls. It's possible you are not getting all outside air shut off. (Top 2 levers left; bottom 2 right; both front dash vents closed!) This leaves the remaining A/C aimed at the front cabin. Be sure you have no hanging obstruction like towels and stuff from the pop-top roof rack; it's a tempting place to hang things, but blocks air to the front. Finally, consider putting in a couple of fans on the front dash. You will find the A/C tries to circulate BEHIND the front seats -- path of least resistance -- since it is being drawn back in above the rear cargo area. Getting 'over the wall' of the front seats is the problem. I've got 2 Hella rotary fans, "Model Rotor 12v w/ switch P/N 87170". Size is 5.75” L x 2” D x 4” W. These have variable speed switches and can be rotated to almost any position. Mine are left & right near the windshield. There is a picture posted on my pic-post site (access from Home Page) under Westy Accessories, "Front Cabin Accessories." By angling them slightly sideways, you create a circular movement in the front cabin which allows the A/C to penetrate.

    bailey711 Junior Member # 34 posted 05-24-2000 04:38 PM

    Captain Mike,

    Thank you so much for your suggestions. I have printed your advice, including the info. in the "tips" section, and will implement all your ideas.

    I'm unclear on just one point. You said, "Start by closing off the two downward facing vents - they syphon off from the front." Are you referring to the middle AC vents in the back, or some other vents I don't know about? It seems to me the AC has only two round portals on either side of the slatted middle vents. Closing the middle vents would, I would think, prevent the cool air from getting out. But, then, I'll do whatever you say - as long as I know what it is!!

    Thanks again,

    Dru

    Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 05-26-2000 12:35 PM

    The A/C evaporator (cooling coil & blower) on the Vanagon Westy is all in the overhead cabinet over the rear seats. There should be 4 slotted vents that face directly forward towards the front cabin, and two more that face downward directly over the rear seat passengers. Close off these two vents as best possible which will force more air out out the front-facing units toward the front seats.

    Addendum 6-7-00: Some older Westies have only forward facing vents, mixed rectangular & round. Although closing off any vents increases air flow out of the remaining ones, too much restriction would put strain on the blower. Therefore I would not attempt to close off the forward facing vents.

    Non-Westy Vanagons have a roof channel that carries air to the front cabin but the Westy roof opening kills that option.

    Again, do read the Vanagon heat & air control topic on the TIPS archives to be sure you're not confusing any fresh air vents with A/C air. There is NO A/C coming out the front dash vents or the vents in the channel over the sliding door. That's why it's critical those vents also be closed off.

    There are two speaker ports (round) in the lower section of the A/C cabinet for the factory 4-speaker kit if so equipped but they are not part of the A/C.

    tonynbarb Member # 681 posted 03-25-2001 11:43 PM

    I dont think the air conditioner in our 87 Westy has ever worked adequately. I can't imagine owning one someplace hot like Las Vegas. When we went to Las Vegas probably around 1995 was the last time we used it. Prior to the trip the VW shop charged the system and it cost us about $120. It barely worked adequately enough to keep us alive. After the trip we didn't bother with any more as it didnt seem like it was worth the trouble to try and cool the van with it. Luckily we live in San Diego and can get by without it.

    Several years later when I was changing out the fan belts I decided to leave out the belt for the air conditioner as I figured we don't use it anyways. I couple of years after that a strange problem occured. When I came to a stop the engine would start racing big time. You could smell the clutch burning as it was racing that high. I went to several shops, but they were too busy at the time. I stopped at this one place and the mechanic wanted to look inside the engine compartment. As soon as he looked in he knew what the problem was. Apparently the air conditioner switch on the dash had been accidently turned on and giving the engine extra power to operate the compressor. And since there was no belt the engine was racing. Any ways the problem was solved by turning the switch off.

    Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 03-26-2001 08:02 PM

    That's an interesting observations and one few would give thought to. The FI system DOES have an A/C sensor to compensate the idle when the A/C is on.

    I'm sorry you're having trouble with the A/C and I do hope you'll at least determine if it's your system or your expectations.

    The A/C in a Westy is badly handicapped by the fact it doesn't have ductwork to the front passengers. Elsewhere on the site you'll see some various tips for improving circulation, but I'll be the first to admit it's less than ideal. However, first measure your temperature output. The A/C is quite capable, if operating properly, of putting out 55°F air. This will usually freeze the rear seat passengers, even if the front is hot. This is because the cold air naturally sinks to the floor and is drawn back to the A/C intake in the cargo area overhead. The air moves in a beautiful, efficient circle -- that never gets past the front seatbacks!

    So do check you system output, pressures and temperatures. If working properly, you'll still get much use out of it.

  7. #6
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    1988 Westy: Problem - Debris from the A/C Vents (I'm not sure if this should be a "New Topic" or "Reply" -- but you can set me straight on that, also.)

    Just had the A/C system recharged, switching to R-134a, after a year of non-use, easy to do in Seattle. By the the time I got home, using A/C all the way, the car was littered with fragments of a black, rubbery, sponge-like material of very low density. I removed the plastic vents (8 of them) and vacuumed out as much material as possible. But, I've run it again two or three time and the supply is NOT exhausted, whatever the source (at least the air remains cold!). I've talked to 3 mechanics; one thinks it could be dried out padding material used to prevent excessive component movement. (Naturally, all this happens just before a long planned trip.)

    Any other suggestions, as to where the material is located, and can it be replaced or removed (especially by a non-specialist)? My Bentley seem quite vague when it come to removing the evaporator housing in the Westfalia. Thanks for any suggestions.

  8. #7
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    The evaporator section of the A/C has insulation inside that has deteriorated and is coming apart. Sorry there is no cure except to keep vacuuming -- and maybe add some small hose to reach deeper in (but not damaging the squirrel cage blower as that is expensive). If you blow through with compressed air, do keep pressure very low <30 psi) so you don't damage anything.

    The long term repair is to pull the evaporator and reinsulate. I'd try to hold off until a system failure has the system open anyway. The main purpose of the inslulation is to prevent condensation so watch your roof panel for any sign of wetness or stain in case it doesn't drop into the drip pan.

  9. #8
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    I solved this (circulation) problem in my 85 Westy by purchasing a clip-on 12 volt fan at Wal Mart that plugs into the lighter socket. It swivels and has two speeds for optimum airflow. I clip it on ceiling behind the passenger seat. It does a wonderful job of helping the cold air reach the cabin.

    [ 03-07-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

  10. #9
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    hamilton, ontario
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    I have a 90 Westy with dead air conditiong.

    I've gone through the Bentley wiring diagrams to try to diagnose why my A/C has died. When I turn the A/C switch nothing happens except the rad fan starts up.

    No blower fans spring to life, no comressor action. Nothing. I've checked every fuse in the system, even the big 50amp. I have given the A/C relay a tap to see if its sticky. Nothing.

    Any suggestions out there?

    Laurence Smith
    Laurence Smith

  11. #10
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    Laurence, You might check to see if the freon level is ok. If the freon is low the compressor will not turn on. Just a thought.

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