Some time before last summer, that is way back in 2014 the air conditioner on my 2004 Impala went out. And, I put in a can of dye to see where the leak was at. No luck, I could hear the leak, but I didn’t see anything… After toasting for most of last summer and roasting on a 4 hour 92F drive to my sisters house, I finally purchased a new condenser. Actually, I wasn’t completely sure that I had found the leak. You can hear and see the gas coming out, but I wasn’t able to figure out where… The hoses all looked ok, the compressor, filter, dryer, and such all seemed ok. So, I was assuming the leak was on the back side of the condenser.
In your car, your air conditioner contains 6 major parts. There is a compressor (usually belt driven, unless you have a Prius) that squeezes the gas (normally Freon 134a) into the condenser. The condenser is up front before the radiator and is air cooled with fans and by driving. It is here that the higher pressure freon vapor is being forced into a smaller space and tries to give up extra energy as heat as it becomes a liquid. Basically, you are making the gas into a liquid, the free energy that kept the molecules flying about needs to go somewhere – which is why iti air cooled. Then, the liquid goes through a filter-dryer to screen out solids and catch any impurities. Then it is pushed through a small restriction to make a sudden pressure drop into the inlet of the evaporator. This makes an adiabatic expansion, where the liquid is being forced into a vapor state with out any heat being applied. The compressor is sucking on the evaporator to make the pressure lower. The lower pressure causes the liquid to try and go into the gas state (forced boiling). This needs energy to keep the molecules moving about as a vapor, and so, the evaporator gets cold. A fan then blows air over your evaporator to cool your car, and give heat to the cold freon. You get air conditioning!
To replace the condenser… it is simple. I am assuming you have a good leak, and all the freon is out of your car. If it is not, you need to have a technician reclaim it for you. Technically, R143a is used as a canned dusters… so, releasing it is not that bad. Still, try to save the ozone layer.
New Condenser: Almost OEM style…
New Seal Kit and Plastic Clamp
Step 1: Locate the parts. The condenser is typically in the front of the car, in front of the radiator. As shown in the photo, they are actually under the front frame of the car. We will need to remove all the parts that are in the way.
Step 2: Start by removing the engine mounting supports. These are held in with 4 bolts on the front and a single longer bolt on the engine. You might be able to swing them up on top of the engine and out of the way.
Step 3: Remove the two diagonal support rods on the right and left. These have two bolts at the front and one at the rear. These are for crash stability to deflect force outward to the sides of the car.
Step 4: Remove the air intake. A large rubber hose connects from the right of the engine top (throttle body assembly) to the filter box. The rubber hose as a temperature sensor wire that needs to be removed first. Then pull of the hose with a twisting motion. The other side of the hose is connected to the filter box. There is a large hose clamp that can be removed to help free up mobility.
Step 5: Remove the air filter cover and take out the filter.
Step 6: There are two screws on the top of the air filter box (shown by the computer label in In the photo below). Loosen these and open up the filter box. One of the control computers is hidden in this box. You will need to take out the computer (set is up on the engine – don’t damage the wires) and remove the plastic housing to get to the A/C lines.
Step 7: On the left side of the car, remove the battery. You will also need to loosen up the fuse box to help get the battery out of its little cubby.
Step 8: Now unbolt the radiator assembly. There are two bolts (top right and left).
Step 9: Unbolt the fan assembly. There are three bolts (middle right and left, and top middle).
Step 10: Unclip the power wires that go to the fan.
Step 11: Unclip the transmission lines at the bottom of the fan assembly.
Step 12: Unclip the 3-4 wire harness holders that are attached to the fan assembly.
Step 13: Lift out the fan assembly. You might need to loosen up and remove the right radiator hose to help make space.
Step 14: Unbolt the A/C lies from the condenser. These are on the right side, in the middle. There are two. One is held together with a screw/bolt thing. The other has a plastic snap clip (you will likely need to break the plastic clip to get it off). The photo below is before the fan was removed.
Step 15: Unbolt the condenser lines mounting bracket from the radiator. Save this bracket! You will install it on the new condenser.
Step 16: Pull the assembly forward and lift out the condenser. That is the front exchanger. The back exchanger is the radiator and is attached. The photo below show the condenser removed. The condenser sits in 4 small clips that hold it in place. You need to either pry them open or just pull up and it will come out.
Step 17: Install the new condenser. Slide the new one into the front of the radiator. Make certain the new one sits into the 4 clips.
Step 18: Replace the o-ring on the lines. I only replaced the one, you may need to replace both on the other line as well.
Step 19: Install the fan assembly. Bolt into place. Clip in the transmission lines. Reconnect the power to the fans. Secure the wires into their clips.
Step 20: Install the condenser lines bracket.
Step 21: Connect the A/C lies. One uses the bolt, the other has the plastic clip.
Step 22: Move the assembly forward and re-bolt to the front of the car frame. Shown below where the screw clip is at.
Step 23: Bolt the assembly to the frame on the left side too…
Step 24: Reinstall the battery.
Step 25: Reinstall the engine mounting brackets.
Step 25: Reinstall the air intake box, filter, and hose. Be careful not to damage the wires on the PCM Computer.
Step 26: Reinstall the diagonal support rods.
Step 27: Connect a vacuum pump to the low pressure line and pull the air out of the A/C system. It should hold a vacuum. (Note: the photo below doesn’t have the diagonal support rods installed yet.)
Step 28: Add freon. The sticker shown in the photo above (front of the car frame) indicates the amount of freon to add.
Step 29: (Optional) If you removed your radiator hose, refill the coolant.
Step 30: (Optional) If you removed the engine cover, replace it.