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Thread: Alternatives to factory A/C -- underway

  1. #1
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    I'm a former VW owner (a Squareback and a Karman Ghia) poised on the brink of buying my first Westy, a 1979 ... and I live in Southern Oregon where the summers are very HOT (often upwards of 100 degrees Feahrenheit). The Westy I'm hoping to buy doesn't have A/C, but I saw, in a photo of someone else's camper, a cool item: a small FAN which appears to mount directly on the dash, between the two front seats ... which presumably can be angled ...

    Does anyone know anything about such a product? Can they be found and bought? Do they work? What's the power source?

    And, as long as I'm on the subject .... if the preceding fan does exist, then, on the theory that more than one might not be a bad idea, is there a way to put one in the rear of the camper?

    Thanks!

    --Miguel

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

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  3. #2
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    Transferred from other posts to consolidate similar topics.

    Adding AC to a Westy

    kosho Junior Member # 255 posted 08-07-2000 05:06 PM

    I would like to add Air Conditioning to my 89 Westy. I have been advised to find a parts car and transfer the components, replacing certain core elements that are difficult to access. I don't care if I get one of the older AC units that sits entirely in the rear overhead cabinet and doesn't have the forward ducts. Does anyone have any experience doing this? I would especially like to know if VW installed any of the wiring required for the AC in the non-AC models. Thanks!

    Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 08-08-2000 09:29 AM

    No, VW did not install any of the A/C wiring in non-A/C models. If you decide to go ahead with the project, be sure and convert to 134a; no sense if fighting the old Freon 12 problems and you'll have everything out to replace the seals and stuff anyway.

    Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 08-08-2000 12:37 PM

    This is a generic reply because I got the same question on an both air & water-cooled Vanagons.

    Obviously the easiest thing to do would be find another similar Vanagon w/ A/C and ask to look at it. Most VW, especially Westy owners are more than glad to talk VW's until your ears fall off.

    The compressor mounts LR. The pulley has it's own belt, so the crank pulley also has to have the extra groove. It's a 12.5mm belt, so the groove size is important. It's a relatively generic compressor, rotary Sankyo I think. But the mount gets a little exotic, using a through bolt in an engine casting, then a complex set of stamped metal adjustment brackets. I seem to remember some sheet metal work around the engine on air-cooleds, as well. The compressor works quite well, though and even has a nice adjustment bolt instead of all the levering you have to do with the alternator. If you install a new system; go ahead and convert to R134a since you have everything out to change the seals. The difference in freon cost alone justifies it.

    The condenser goes up underneath the chassis in the frame area and has it's own fans on air-cooled models. It goes up next to the radiator on water-cooled, similar to regular cars. Air-cooled, this will probably be the hardest to come up with aftermarket or in salvage yards. I would suspect it can be duplicated from generic parts, but because it has no vehicle motion flow like it would if in the radiator opening, it has to be much larger. Type II's Westies had dual condensers because of the LP tank space problems.

    The receiver-drier goes in the LR wheel well. They have to be changed anytime the system is open, so be sure and install a new one with your system. Also be sure you get one with a sight gauge and install it so you can see it!

    The VW has never been overpowered, and you will see a difference in performance and fuel economy, but it can handle it OK. The extra load does add to oil temperatures, so I recommend oil temp & pressure gauges as an added measure. ('Course I consider tach, and voltmeter as well as "necessity" in addition to the 2 oil gauges.) On my last air-cooled, a '79, the A/C would sometimes make oil temps climb above 250°F on long hot climbs, which was my 'shut-off the A/C' limit, though oil can safely go to 300°F for brief periods nowadays. Even today with my 2.1 liter water-cooled Vanagon, the A/C can really be felt on steep hills and acceleration. The drop in fuel mileage is about 1-2 mpg. I still average well over 19 on trips.

    The A/C fan & thermostat controls go in the dash between radio & glove-box. The main power supply and relays go inside the closet in that vertical column, which is also where the hoses to the evaporator in the roof cabinet run.

    tanshin, Junior Member, on 06-15-2000 04:12

    It gets pretty hot during the summer in my 74 and I was wondering if it was possible to roof mount an A/C. This will add about 90lbs to my roof and I'm not sure if I should do that or not. It would have to go on the rack in the front of the pop up. Any ideas?

    Capt. Mike, Moderator, 06-16-2000 03:45 PM

    NO!!!

    tanshin, Junior Member, 06-16-2000 08:04 PM

    Now that's not encouraging at all. Oh well. If there is nothing I can do I will just live with it. I figured the roof mounted A/C would make it too top heavy any way. Thanks.

    [ 03-01-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

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    Transferred from another post to consolidate similar topics.

    Wiring the A/C switch w/o a compressor.

    obx1 Junior Member # 1011 posted 07-26-2001 02:09 PM

    Maybe someone can help us! We have 81 Westy that we bought just recently, with the A/C fan and duct mounted in the overhead rear in what I assume is usually a storage area. The compressor has been taken off this vehicle. The wires to the fan have been disonnected and we cannot figure out the wiring sequence. The unit has 4 terminal marked appropriately and three wires coming from the switch 1 yellow, 1 orange and a red wire thaat has another red wire piggy-backed to it. the piggy-backed portion disappears into the unit. Does anyone have a similar configeration and could tell us which wire goes on which terminal (1, 2, 3, 4)? We consulted Bentley but found no help for this one.

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    I'm assuming, since you didn't mention any attempt to replace the compressor, that you just want the fan for air circulation.

    The wiring diagram 97.138, although for an '84, is the same basic layout you should have. The fan works through series resistor that taps 3 different places. The early models often had a 2nd switch to switch ranges, i.e. low 1-2-3 and high 1-2-3. That called for the main wire to piggyback as you descirbe.

    However, the system was designed so that the evaporator fan only worked when the A/C was on, i.e. through the A/C thermostat and associated relays. To bypass all of that system, you'll have to have the power feeding the switch come direct -- and it's going to take at least a 25a circuit that must be fused -- to continue through the switch on out to the fan motor.

    Your colors might not be the same, but you should be able to trace them with a volt-ohmmeter. Early switches used letter designators, but the comon designators for later models was #4 wass the controling source (from the old thermostate &/or relay), while #1, 2 & 3 were for low, medium & high respectively. Low went through the full resistor, medium though the 1st tap, and high through the end tap (no resisance). If you have a + terminal, that would be your main power in.

    [ 07-26-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

  6. #5
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    Installing A/C from Parts car

    I just finished installing A/C from a parts car on my '83 Westy. Luckily it was from the same year (by the way I found the parts bus on the web page and I only had to drive 4 hrs to get them. THANKS Capn' Mike!) The whole used system only cost me $100.

    Removal of the parts took me about 5 hours. I took a bunch of digital pictures (about 10 meg) so if anyone wants to see them I can burn them on a CD for you, contact me at vanis13@yahoo.com.

    Install took about 8 hours. I had to cut some holes in the body and modify my storage cabinet to accept the evaporator. I was surprised how independant the wiring was from the rest of the system. The only hot connects were one directly to the battery, one to the fuse panel, and a tie into the radiator fan so it went on when the A/C clutch was engaged.

    I got it put together and the blower fan and the clutch worked well so I took it the the AC shop to have it charged. When they put pressure to it, it turned out that the compressor was shot and the expansion valve clogged. The recomended fix was a flush of the system and new parts. I didn't feel like taking it all apart again so I had them do the work. They replaced the expansion valve, dryer, and installed a better compressor (7 cylinders I think). About $600 in parts and $200 labor. I had it charged with 134a.

    It works great! even in the New Mexico 100+ degeee heat. The last residual quirk is the idle speed when the unit is engaged. At first, engaging the A/C shut the motor down. Then I raised the idle using my ear as the set guage. That worked well but it still was sluggish off the line. I also had to rev the engine so it wouldn't stall off the line. I just finished setting the idle to Bently specs using a Tach meter so we'll see how it goes tommorow. (Maybe somone has a hint on this idle with A/C on thing.)

    Over all I spent about 20 enjoyable hours and $1,000 and I have something that works extremely well. My '83 westy has less than 80K miles so I thought it was very worth it although next time I would buy a Westy with the A/C already installed.

    If any one has further questions about this issue, post here and let me know I need to read or if it's OK the Capn' contact me directly at the e-mail above.
    Andrew Vanis
    Albq. NM
    (505) 304-5306 mobile
    [email]vanis13@yahoo.com[/email]

  7. #6
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    Moved this from an independent thread that had received no comments in several weeks. Since the main function of running the A/C blower without the A/C on would be for underway ventilation, it is appropriate to this existing thread.

    Running the A/C fan without the A/C...

    jamescooper Member # 590 posted 07-25-2001 05:20 PM

    With all due respect, I am reposting this message in this forum. Cap't Mike moved my last post to "inside the evaporator." I can see why he did this, but I think it has more to do with AC alternatives than anything actually in the evaporator itself. I feel I am more likely to find an answer here.

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Has anyone considered running the A/C fan without running the pump? Seems like it would help with air recirculation while saving fuel and causing less stress on the system.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Thanks,
    James

    Reply appropriate to above copied from a separate thread.

    Andrew Vanis Junior Member # 1552 posted 08-19-2001 12:47 AM

    You may want to run this by the Capn' but I would think just putting a switch inline in the one wire that activates the clutch should work. (you can most easily see it at teh compressor) There's even a quick disconnect here so you woul'd have to cut anything to try it. With the line interupted I'd figure the system would think its going but the clutch would't engage.

    That's what I'd try if I were to do it on my '83 westy. But I wouldn't do it because the fan is so loud that it would drive me nuts listening to it and knowing that I am not even getting conditioned air for my suffering. I'd rather open the windows.

    [ 09-02-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

  8. #7
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    Follow up on previous post about idle issues after installing a complete a/c system on my 83' westy from a diffrent westy.

    After setitng to Bently specs using a tach the westly runs great. I am very glad that it automatically compensates for the additional load posed by the compressor.

    My idle problem was that the original idle was too low (not to specs but ok w/o a compressor) Then I added the compressor and the low idle did not handle it so I se it by ear. Turns out I set it too high so the governor? switch was overriding the throttle control and causing a feeling of lack of power even though I was depressing the accelerator. Once to Bently specs it has been running better than ever.
    Andrew Vanis
    Albq. NM
    (505) 304-5306 mobile
    [email]vanis13@yahoo.com[/email]

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    Re: Dashboard fan.
    I have one on my non-AC New-Mexico Westy. Sure is helpful, but a bit pricy for what you get. Out here in the dry heat of the desert I carry a mister with water and spray in the flow of the fan to also get a little evaporative cooling.

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    Alternative to A/C, period. In the dry Southwest, my friends are using swamp coolers. I'm buying one this summer, to dodge the A/C racket. They are the size of a small filing cabinet or bankers' cardboard box. About $250 range if you shop around. Run off the cigarette lighter. Won't keep you in the tundra but they take the edge off for less hassle and way less money than A/C. Plus, they use low power, so you can use them when parked, camping.

    Tim

  11. #10
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    I suggest you carefully research both your needs and the pros & many cons of these evaporative coolers. Size, weight & cost are just a few. Also consider that you are pumping 'wet' air into the vehicle which may contribute to mold or damage over the long run. They must be used in an exchange, not recirculating mode, thus continuous intake of new air. Power consumption, though not great, is sufficient you need to 'do the math' and consider your battery use, available power and recharge capability. Finally, tvp indicates use in the dry SW -- it is not effective and may actually defeat the purpose in more humid areas, thus not useable over much of the country. Do some serious Intenet searches -- try "12 volt swamp coolers" to weed out the 120v AC units. Swampy Net is a starter but bear in mind they are in the business of selling them.

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