Advice on A/C rebuild cost?

Discussion in 'The Big Chill' started by yosuthnmasa, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Since I dont know a whole lot about A/C's, I decided to breakdown and take my 73 Centurion to the local A/C shop on the recommendation of a friend that has had quite a bit of work done there. Had them check it out and came back with a bill of $880. Was told that the compressor and VIR valve leaks R12. This quote included the conversion to R134a. I asked what the price would be excluding the conversion and was told $800. Does this seem like a reasonable price? Parts would all be new, not remanufactured, with a 12 month warranty on the system. See the thread below entitled "Compressor Thermal Limiter" for some pictures of the AC system along with some problems that occured when running it. I'm not able to post links yet.

    Is this a fair price for the work being done? Do I have any other options than replacement of these parts? Can you have a compressor reworked? I would like to keep everything original if possible. I read a thread here that talked about replacing the compressor shaft seal on the A6. Could this leak be the leak that the shop is talking about? If so, I might could get away with a seal replacement rather than a $400 compressor. How bout the VIR valve? Where is it located in my A/C system?

    Sorry for all the questions. I'm kind of lost when it comes to air conditioners, but would be willing to learn. I can't afford to fork out this kind of money now.
  2. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Forgot to ask, where might I find a factory service manual for my car? I've already got a Haynes, but would like the real deal. Thanks in advance.
  3. RG67BEAST

    RG67BEAST Platinum Level Contributor

    I would wait for "nailheadina67" to reply. He'll tell you the scoop on what is needed. He'll tell you straight up what to do.
  4. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Thanks Ray. Hoping someone can give me some good advice here.
  5. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    $880 for a compressor, VIR, and service is pretty good. On newer vehicles, compressor replacement alone is that much.
    By far, the most common leak point on an A6 is the shaft seal. If the shaft is not pitted it can be successfully resealed with a modern double lip neoprene seal instead of the old style mechanical seal. It's possible that a case seal is leaking, but not very likely. The shaft seal "can" be done DIY if you can locate the tools. If not, have a shop do the seal.
    (On newer vehicles, shaft seal leakage usually relegates the compressor to the core pile because seal replacement often doesn't last. Not so on the A6, but your shop may not be familiar with them).

    A new VIR can be pricy, if you can find one.($115 here:, You can have it rebuilt by someone who can do it. (Most shops don't, many of their employees have never seen a VIR). I don't recommend it DIY. Not much price difference either way.
    If you want to tackle the job yourself you'll need some AC tools that you can often rent. Manifold gauges, vacuum pump, and a can tap should do it.

    If you can have the shaft seal done and the VIR rebuilt (or buy the reman), and rent the tools locally, we can help you do the rest.
    Check the 'shaft seal" post for the seal kit part number and procedure. Many shops don't know about using this particular seal in an A6.
  6. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Thanks for the advice. I think the big savings for me will be in the cost of the new compressor if I can avoid this through the replacement of the shaft seal.

    A/C's are one area I've really shied away from in the past. I think I'm going to try and take this project on myself.

    So for starters, I've got a few questions that you guys can probably answer.

    1)where is my VIR valve & drier? I'm assuming since I have the thermal limiter fuse, I don't have an accumulator.

    2)while I'm in replacing the main shaft seal on the compressor and VIR valve, should I replace the drier? I've read that this is highly recommended and not too expensive.

    3)where do you guys recommend buying parts like a VIR, drier, etc? If I go with a rebuilt VIR, do you recommend a certain company to do it? Are the new VIR valves you mentioned NOS? What kind of a price difference between a new VIR and having mine rebuilt?

    4)where can I rent the tools to vacuum down my system, and replace the shaft seal?

    5)Us there any way to utilize my old school R12 gauges if I convert my system over to R134a?

    Thanks in advance for the replies.
  7. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    I checked out the link to the Accumulator/Drier. That is where I can see visible refrigerant leakage, but possibly just around a seal. If I knew what everything was on the Accum/Drier, I could explain where its leaking from. Where exactly is the VIR valve? Is it part of the drier system?
  8. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    Good Luck.
  9. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Thanks so much for the response. I'm going to get started ordering parts and try to get moving on this project. Some more questions for the AC experts:

    1)What is the purpose of the VIR valve?

    2)I read that systems with driers should have an expansion valve. Does mine have an expansion valve or does the VIR take its place?

    3)Should I replace the lines in my system? I read that technically you should be able to still use them. Thoughts? If so, are there places that will rent the crimping tools to you?

    4)If I decided to swap to R134a, are there any other parts that I should have swapped out or adjusted to make my system run better?

    5)Does GM sell factory service manuals for their cars? I wouldn't mind having a copy of one.

    Thanks in advance.
  10. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    You're very welcome.
  11. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Thanks again for all the great help.

    1)Should I replace the expansion valve while I'm in there?

    2)Has anyone that owns a set of crimpers ever thought about renting them out to members with a full deposit? Could charge a small fee and either make a little money or provide a free service for active contributing board members?

    3)Personally, if you had access to R12 would you convert to 134a or stick with 12?

    I was thinking of maybe charging my system with 134a until I'm sure I've got everything right and working, and then flush the system and add my R12. This way, I wont end up waisting a bunch of 12 while I'm trying to fix my AC.

    Thanks in advance for the comments. You guys have been a lot of help!
  12. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    If you err on the side of caution and replace the parts that "could" be bad, you should be able to add the R12 the first time around and be done with it for many years. Once again, It's a judgment call what to replace and what to keep.
    Some people can get away with just installing a "Death Kit" and it works for years. Others have done a total system replacement and had a new part fail in days. There's just no foolproof way to judge.:Do No: I wish I could be more help in that respect.
  13. copperheadgs1

    copperheadgs1 copperheadgs1

    Grab a copy of Hemmings Motor News as there are tons of used car literature dealers. Also try google. Should be real easy to find a nice used manual for a 73 Buick. Expect to pay 50-75 bucks.
  14. yosuthnmasa

    yosuthnmasa 1973 Centurion, 4dr, hdtp

    Would the Chassis Service manual be the right thing? I'd like to get the manual that covers everything not just the chassis. Is this what I'm looking for?

    Attached Files:

  15. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    This appears to be the same manual. Looks like it covers everything:
  16. IDOXLR8

    IDOXLR8 Senior Member

    PM sent, AL.
  17. nailheadina67

    nailheadina67 Official Nailheader

    Well, I learned a little something from this thread. I never attempted to repair a VIR system, but I have evacuated and recharged one or two in the past. That was back in the day when Freon cost about $2 a pound, and a/c service at Firestone only cost about 50 bucks. No wonder those were only around for a few years........making the drier part of the valving unit is just poor engineering IMHO. What was GM thinking when they came up with that stroke of genius? :Dou:
  18. IDOXLR8

    IDOXLR8 Senior Member

    You got some excellent advice and I would make one recommendation, do not convert your system to 134a. Your system is not set up for 134a, this is a higher pressure refridgerant that uses a different base oil and your system would need a larger condensor and the VIR settings for the different pressures and it goes on and on.....the bottom line is there is plenty of R-12 around and the demand has dropped and the price as well. Case in point, Marco converted his over to 134a and noticed a big loss in performance and for good reason, 134a was not manufactured as a drop in or replacement and was manufactured as a system for newer systems because of greenhouse conserns. BTW 134a as been slated to be replaced because of related conserns. First I would recommend getting a service book on your car and the repairs to your system are pretty straight forward and much $$$$ can be saved by doing the service your self. I have PM my contact number if you need more information, these members on this board are the best!!!! :beers2: AL.
  19. nailheadina67

    nailheadina67 Official Nailheader

    Hark! Another person has seen the light! :TU:
  20. lsrx101

    lsrx101 Well-Known Member

    Actually, it was a good system. The drier desiccant bag was servicable and the valve was rebuildable. It worked the same as the POA system.
    IIRC, if the evaporator iced for some reason, it would self-defrost. I can't swear to that part though.

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