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  • The Hack Mechanic

    Rob Siegel has been writing the column The Hack Mechanic for BMW CCA Roundel magazine for 35 years and is the author of eight automotive books, five of which are centered on vintage BMWs. During the past 40 years, he has owned nearly 70 BMWs, nearly 40 of which have been 2002s. He lives near Boston with his incredibly tolerant wife Maire Anne and as many cars and guitars as he can get away with. Rob says "I REALLY AM just a 2002 nut like you, except I never shut up."
    • thehackmechanic
      Front Strut Replacement
      Okay. It's time to replace your front struts. Maybe you're doing it as part of a shocks-and-struts job. Maybe you're updating the entire suspension—shocks and struts, springs, and sway bars. Maybe you're doing a full front end refresh including ball joints, tie rods, center track link, and idler bushings. Maybe you're doing an undercarriage refresh and are sandblasting and repainting the subframe and strut housings at the same time.
      Whatever the reason, if you've never done this before, there are a few things to know. Rear shocks are trivial—jack up the back of the car, pull the wheels off, undo the 19mm nut at the bottom, bang the shock off the slanted stud with a rubber mallet, undo the two 14mm nuts at the top, drop out the old shock, pop in the new shock, done—but front struts aren't. If no other related parts are bad, you can easily get both struts done in an afternoon. But the strut directly or indirectly touches many other components, so it's easy to slide down the slippery slope. If you want to, that's fine. And sometimes, when you get partway into it and find that other parts are bad, you have no choice. But you also can stay on task, get 'er done, and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
      New strut cartridges New strut tower bushings ("hats") if they're bad New upper and lower perch rubber if they're bad  
      Spring compressor Two big pipe wrenches 13mm socket and wrench  14mm socket and wrench 19mm socket Rubber mallet, hammer, and chisel Wire cutters and needle-nose Vise Grips Possibly a MAPP gas torch  
      The Big Picture
      When we say "front struts," we're talking about the replaceable front strut cartridge that threads into the tube that's part of the strut assembly. But the larger context is that this is a Macpherson strut assembly, which is a type of front suspension where the springs and shock absorbers are mounted along the steering axes. That is, when you turn the steering wheel, it actually rotates the springs and shock absorbers (struts), which in turn moves the front wheels and tires tire. Note that the other major sportscar front suspension is a double-wishbone or double-A-arm, where the springs and shocks are not attached to the wheels and have no role whatsoever in the steering.
      The left front strut assembly. You can see how it not only suspends the car and absorbs shock, but also turns the wheel. It's helpful to understand that BMW used two primary MacPherson strut designs. On the 2002 and up through, I believe, the E30, the design had the strut housing (the tube) and the spindle (the stub axle that the wheel bearing, hub, and rotor spin on) as a single lifetime-of-the-car unit. The strut cartridge was the replaceable part that threaded into the top of the tube. The steering knuckle to which the ball joint is attached bolts to the bottom of the strut assembly. In contrast, beginning I believe with the E36, this changed to a different design—the strut cartridge and the housing became a single replaceable unit, and instead of the spindle being a permanent part of the housing, the spindle was integrated into steering knuckle, and this lifetime-of-the-car component bolted to the bottom of the housing. None of this changes anything with regard to doing the struts on a 2002, but it will help you if you're daily driver is, say, an E46, you order front struts for it, they arrive, you open up the box and think "what the hell am I looking at?"
      The strut cartridge being slid out of the tube in the strut assembly. This is actually off my 635CSi, but the configuration on a 2002 is similar.  
      Stock photo of a set of Bilstein front struts for an E46, showing how the replaceable part is no longer a "cartridge" but is instead a structural housing as well.  
      Back to the 2002 struts. The lower spring perch is an integral part of the top of the strut assembly. The spring sits on top of it. On top of the spring is the upper perch, which is a plate with a hole in the middle. A piece of perch rubber sits between the spring at the perch at both the top and bottom. The strut cartridge has a piston that extends upward through the hole in the middle of the upper spring perch. On top of the upper perch is a small spacer (really, a washer), and the strut tower bushing/bearing (sometimes called "the hat") sits on top of that, with the threaded tip of the strut cartridge's piston sticking up through the bearing in the center. A washer, a cylindrical spacer, and another washer slide over the top of the piston, and a Nyloc nut threads into the tip, holding it all in place. I'll get lazy for a moment and just pilfer one of c.d.iesel's illustrations that can be found here on the FAQ, as all of the components are plainly visible in it.
      c.d.iesel, we miss you..  .  
      To be clear, when I refer to the "strut housing" or the "strut tube," I'm referring to the major life-of-the-car component consisting of the tube, the lower perch, and the spindle. When I refer to the "strut assembly," I'm referring to the entire assembled unit with the strut cartridge, spring, hat, hub, and rotor all installed.
      This is what I'm referring to as the strut assembly.  
      But here's the thing: The spring is under compression. It's being squeezed by the "hat" that's held on by the Nyloc nut that's threaded onto the piston extending from the strut cartridge through the middle of the hat. So if you undo that nut, as soon as its threads no longer engage those on the tip of the piston, the compressed spring will un-compress and launch the hat and the spacers, possibly right into your face. This is extremely dangerous. Because of this, you never, ever, under any circumstances should undo that nut without first compressing the spring. Got it? Good.
      (Having said that, I should also walk it back just slightly. If the car has lowering springs and gas shocks, once the strut assembly is removed from the car, the combination of there no longer being weight on the spring from the car, and the gas shock extending and thus pushing the hat up as far as it'll go, can make it so there's not any tension on the spring. But with stock springs, this is never the case.)
      So, to replace front strut cartridges, the big picture is that you have to first:
      Remove the strut assembly from the car and lay it on the floor. Use a spring compressor to compress the spring to take the tension off the hat. Remove the hat. Remove the spring.  
      Then and only then you can remove the cartridge from the tube of the strut housing.
      Now, it is sometimes possible to do this without completely removing the strut assembly from the car—and I'll get to that—but it risks damage to the paint on the fender lap, and it doesn't always work.
      The Spring Compressor
      You'll read two extremes online regarding using a spring compressor. One extreme is that some people are too cheap to buy or rent a real spring compressor and instead will use hose clamps or even zip ties. I, in my persona as The Hack Mechanic, will certainly scrounge my way around not having every special tool, but this is absolute idiocy. Any AutoZone, O'Reilly's, or Advance Auto Parts will rent you a spring compressor at zero cost (buy it and return it for a full refund). The simplest "claw"-style compressor is less than twenty bucks on Amazon. Why anyone would go to all the extra work, much less accept the inherent safety risk, of something like hose clamps and zip ties when using something purpose-built is either free or costs less than a pizza is beyond me. (Note that, for the springs on my Lotus Europa, I did have to build my own spring compressor with hooks and turnbuckles because there is no commercially-available compressor for springs that small and whose coils are that tightly stacked—not even a motorcycle spring compressor would work—and when I asked a Lotus parts supplier what they used, he described something home-built and virtually identical to mine. But I digress.)
      But the other extreme is where people caterwaul that using a spring compressor is an inherently dangerous activity where one false move will kill you, and thus you're crazy to even attempt replacing front struts yourself and are better off leaving strut replacement to a professional. This is a massive overreaction. Use the spring compressor as it's intended, don't use a $20 compressor meant for a little itty bitty spring on a Toyota Yaris to compress massive springs on an F350, pay attention every step of the way, and as an added safeguard, just in case something happens, don't ever aim the compressed spring at your head. That's really about it.
      If you look on Amazon or eBay, you'll see four main types of spring compressors:
      1) The Claw: The simplest and cheapest. These are a pair of threaded rods, each of which has two opposite-facing two-pronged claws. One claw is fixed at the end of the rod. The other moves up and down as you tighten or loosen its nut. You put the pair of them at 6:00 and 12:00 on the spring and tighten their nuts round-robin to compress the spring. The main advantages of The Claw are low price and light weight. The main disadvantage is that it doesn't compress the spring evenly. At best, you need to alternate tightening one, then the other, to keep the both sides of the spring evenly compressed. At worst, it's possible for one of them to "walk" along the spring until it slides down next to the other one, creating a huge bulge-out on one side of the spring. Some but not all claw compressors have safety dowel pins to prevent the spring from accidentally slipping out from under the claw.
      Your typical eBay $20 claw-style compressor. This one has no safety dowel pins. A $32 eBay claw compressor with safety dowel pins. 2) The Clamshell: This design looks a bit like Pac-Man or like an A-frame house on its side. It uses a threaded rod to pull together two assemblies that are hinged at one end.  Hooks and metal pins are used to secure the spring. I believe that the original tool is from the respected tool house OTC, and is not cheap; Amazon sells them for almost $350. As is often the case, Chinese-made knockoffs appeared a few years back. A quick look shows that those appear to be largely gone from eBay. I can't say that I've ever used the clamshell, as it never appeared to be terribly substantial to me or to have a great amount of range.
      OTC clamshell compressor.  
      3) Plate or Fork-Style Compressors: In 1984, I bought the spring compressor that BMW CCA co-founder Michel Potheau at the legendary Circle Tire Corporation (CTC) sold in the centerfold ad he had for years in Roundel magazine. I still have it. It looks like a 2002 tire jack onto which someone has welded a pair of angled or slightly twisted plates that slide between the coils of a spring. You then turn the crank, and a threaded rod in the backbone of the "jack" raises the lower plate, thus compressing the spring.
      My ancient battle axe of a compressor, purchased from the hand of Michel Potheau himself. You can see the angled twist in the plates to allow them to slide between the angled coils of the spring. The little tabs on the end help ensure that the spring won't slide out. This is an example of what I call a plate compressor, but apparently they're referred to commercially as fork compressors. A variety of them, mostly Chinese-made, are now available on eBay and Amazon for $120 and under. But instead of having a hand-turned crank, they have the head of a bolt at the bottom of the backbone that can be turned with a wrench or a socket (or, if you want to shorten its life, an impact wrench). And they generally come with two or three different-sized plates to accommodate springs of different diameters. The huge advantage of these is that, unlike the claw or the clamshell that only contacts the spring at two points, the plate makes contact with the spring essentially all the way around, virtually eliminating the chance of slippage. There's another advantage that I'll get to when I discuss the alternate removal method. The disadvantages are cost and weight. I give a strong recommendation to this style of compressors.
      My recently-purchased plate-style compressor comes with three different sized plates. The assembled plate compressor. 4) Upright compressors: Commercial shops have long used heavy duty upright spring compressors. Some bolt to a wall. Others are free-standing. Some simply have a long lever arm that you pull to compress the spring. Others have a drill-press-like three-armed spindle wheel and gearing for mechanical advantage. A third type has an integrated bottle jack, letting a rising hydraulic cylinder do the work for you. As with so many tools, what was once only available to pros has been copied and stamped out. The main advantage is that they hold the strut assembly securely and compress the spring quickly. The main disadvantage is size and cost. I've never used one.
      Of the above four types, I strongly recommend the plate or fork-style compressor. But, again, even a rented set of claws or one purchased on eBay for $17 is going to be so much better and safer than hose clamps. Don't go there.
      The 2002 Strut Cartridge
      Grossly speaking, 2002 strut cartridges fall into three categories:
      Oil-filled. I don't know if all 2002s originally had oil-filled strut cartridges, but I believe all the round tail light cars did. These are "wet" cartridges. The cartridge is not the full diameter of the strut tube. When you remove the cartridges, oil streams out the bottom. And when you tip the strut assembly upside down, more oil runs out. An original oil-filled strut cartridge. Note how much smaller it is than the diameter of the strut housing. Hydraulic. These are oil-filled as well, but they're "dry" cartridges. They're the diameter of the strut tube. If they're leaking oil, they're bad. Gas-filled. Oil-filled struts and shocks don't really have a preferred direction. When they're out of the car, it takes about equal effort to compress or to expand them. In contrast, the natural resting state of gas-filled or gas-pressurized struts and shocks is fully extended. When they're out of the car, if you compress them, they'll immediately expand back to their extended state. The pressurization and internal valving is or should be tuned to a car's weight so that, once weight is on them, they're more or less neutral with regard to up or down motion, but all other factors being equal, a car with gas shocks such as Bilsteins may sit a little higher at rest than a car with fluid-filled shocks. A Bilstein strut cartridge whose diameter essentially fills the strut tube. In terms of removal and replacement, it doesn't really matter which type you have. They're all held in place in the tube with a collar nut that may have required a special tool back in the day, but after decades, it usually takes a pipe wrench to get it off. Just be aware that, when you undo the collar nut and start to lift the old strut cartridge out, if it's narrow instead of filling up the entire tube, it's a "wet" cartridge and it's going to dump oil all over your garage floor if you're not careful.
      The Standard Procedure
      Now that you understand what a Macpherson strut is, what portion of it in a 2002 is the standard replaceable part, and what the spring compressor does, here are the steps for the standard procedure to remove the strut assembly and replace the strut cartridge. There are a total of 11 nuts/bolts on each side—14 if you count the lug nuts.
      Removing The Strut Assembly
      Jack up the nose of the car and set it securely on stands. Work on one side at a time. Remove the wheel (so, unless you have an impact wrench, crack the lug nuts before you jack up the car). Use a 13mm socket and wrench to undo the bolt and nut holding the brake lines to the retaining plate on the strut assembly.  Use a 19mm socket to undo both of the bolts holding the caliper to the strut assembly. They're usually pretty tight. A pipe on the end of a breaker bar makes short work out of them. Pull the caliper off the rotor and out of the way. I usually just set it on the control arm. The caliper removed and set on the control arm. Use a 13 or 14mm socket and wrench, depending which size the car has, to remove the two nuts at the bottom of the sway bar link, and then remove the retaining plate and the rubber bushing. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it allows the control arm to dip lower, which helps you get the strut out. The sway bar end link locking nuts. Look at the very bottom of the strut assembly where the steering knuckle is attached and identify the three 14mm bolts with little holes in their protruding heads. The one that's above the center of the control arm is easy to see, but will be hard to remove. The other two are practically against the brake backing plate. The bolts with their safety wire holding the steering knuckle to the bottom of the strut housing. Originally there was safety wire running through the holes. It may or may not still be there, as some folks rely on Loctite instead. If the safety wire is there, use wire cutters to cut it between all three bolts, and pliers or needle nose Vise Grips to pull it out. If it's rusted in place in the holes, penetrating oil such as Silikroil may help free it. Position the steering wheel so the wheels are facing straight ahead, and remove the key so the steering locks in this position. Use a good six-pointed 14mm socket and a short extension (or a long socket) to remove the two bolts that are against the backing plate. You really, really don't want to break or round the corners off these bolts, so make sure the socket is square with the bolt. If it doesn't break free, don't force it by putting a pipe on the end of a breaker bar. Instead, use a scratch awl and some brake cleaner to clean off the top of the bolt hole (the bolt threads all the way through the knuckle), then spray penetrating oil like SiliKroil on it, wait a bit, and try again. If you have a MAPP gas torch, heat up the part of the steering knuckle the bolt goes through. Safety wire removed, one bolt partially out. For the third bolt, the one that's over the control arm, there's not enough space to get a socket on it, so instead you need to use a 14mm box-end wrench. There's not even enough space for that, so what you have to do is take a small floor jack, put it under the end of the control arm, and jack it up until you've created enough clearance to access it. Be careful that, in jacking up the control arm, you don't lift the car off the jack stand on that side. Due to the fact that a wrench is generally shorter than a ratchet handle, you may have trouble getting sufficient leverage to loosen this bolt, but again, be very careful not to round the corners off the bolt head. Jacking up the end of the control arm to increase access to the middle bolt. Reaching that middle bolt with a box-end wrench. If you do strip one of the bolt heads, particularly the middle one above the control arm, I've gotten out of it by disconnecting the tie rod from the steering knuckle and unbolting the lower control arm with the tension strut attached, and removing the strut assembly from the car with the knuckle and lower control arm attached. Then, with it on the ground, you can rotate the lower control arm on the ball joint and get better access to the head of the middle bolt. But it's a pain. This is why you really don't want to round off the corners on those bolt heads. With all three of the steering knuckle bolts removed, separate the knuckle from the bottom of the strut housing. It's held in place with a notch and a slot. Banging on the extended portion of the knuckle—the part the tie rod attaches to—with a rubber mallet usually frees it. If that doesn't work, tap gently anywhere on the seam between the two components using a hammer and a chisel. The steering knuckle freed from the bottom of the strut assembly, showing the notch as well as the castellated nut for the ball joint  . Once the knuckle is free from the bottom, the only thing holding the strut in place is the "hat" at the top, where the three studs protrude through the underside of the strut tower. Undo the three nuts on the three studs and take off their thin wavy washers so you don't lose them. If the bottom of  the strut assembly is still sitting on top of, though no longer fastened to, the steering knuckle, it should gently settle down on it, forcing it and the control arm lower, but just to be sure (you don't want the strut assembly crashing to the ground), have a hand on the strut assembly while you remove the last nut. Just three nuts between the strut assembly and freedom. The whole assembly, with the brake rotor on it, weights about 30 pounds. It's not that difficult to maneuver around. With everything disconnected, pull the bottom of it off the steering knuckle and toward you, then guide the top of it out from under the fender, taking care that the studs on the hat don't scratch the fender lips. Lay the strut assembly on the ground. Pat yourself on the back. Yeah baby.  
      Evaluate The Strut Tower Bushings
      I call them "strut tower bushings," and many in the community refer to them as "hats," but realoem.com calls them "guide supports," and many vendors label them as "strut mounts." Whatever you call them, the part number is 31-33-1-110-195. Since you're about to remove the hats, now is a good time to evaluate them. If the rubber is cracked anywhere, replace them. They should spin freely without noise or binding. There should be little to no play in the bearing. And remember what it feels like when you spin it, because if you're reusing it, when you put the strut back together, it should feel about the same, maybe a little tighter but not binding.
      If there's nothing obviously wrong with them, I don't have any qualms about reusing them, but some folks prefer prophylactic replacement.  Genuine BMW OE hats are about $140 each. There's a large range of aftermarket parts down to about $35 each; look here on the FAQ for recommendations. If you do reuse them, you might want to pick the old caked grease out with a fine pick and repack them.
      The rubber for the "hats" is oven cracked. If it is, replace them, but if it's not and the bearing spins free and smooth, it's not a sin to reuse them. The Headlight Spacer
      If your car still has the original aluminum spacers between the hats and the underside of the shock tower, remove them. Their sole purpose was to satisfy U.S. federal headlight height requirements. With them gone, it'll settle down the front suspension so the car doesn't show as much wheel well above the front tires. And despite the note on c.d.'s illustration, do NOT relocate it to the top of the shock tower under the hood. They look stupid there. Seriously.
      Removing The Spring
      Okay. Onto the business end of the business.
      Lay the strut assembly on the floor. Insert your spring compressor between the coils, with the upper plate or claw as close to the upper perch as possible, and the lower plate or claw as close to the lower perch as possible. Preparing to compress. Compress the spring until you can see and feel the tension taken off the hat. If you're using something other than a plate compressor, be mindful that you're compressing the spring as evenly as possible. When you're certain there's no spring tension on the hat, it's now need to loosen the 19mm Nyloc nut at the top of the strut piston. The problem is that if you simply crank down on it with a wrench or a socket, the whole piston will turn. This is a job that's made for an impact wrench, as it'll whacketa-whacketa-WHEEEEE that nut right off. If you don't have an impact wrench, you need to hold the top of the piston still. The original struts have a little square boss at the top of the piston that you can get a little wrench on. Bilsteins have a hole for an Allen key. Note that to use either of these, you can't block the top of the piston, so you can't use a socket and ratchet handle; you need to use a wrench instead. Really, go buy yourself an electric impact wrench or an air compressor and an air impact wrench. I'm serious. Don't take the nut completely off until you've made absolutely certain that there's no tension on the hat. You can tell because should be able to move the hat freely.  If you're certain, undo the nut, withdraw the three spacers from the top of the piston and take a photo of them in the proper order, then slide the hat off the top of the piston, and collect the bearing dust cap from underneath, and the spacer on the top of the upper spring perch. It's a good idea to then arrange all of these in the correct order on a paper towel and photograph them. All the spacers and washers as they came off Hampton, my 49,000-mile 2002. I don't think they'd ever been apart. Slide the upper spring perch up and over the piston. The upper perch rubber will probably come off with it. The upper spring perch just slides off. If you're going to be reassembly the strut with a new cartridge almost immediately, you can just slide the compressor and spring as a unit (with the compressor still compressing the spring) off the lower perch and set it aside somewhere safe. If doing this gives you the willies, or if you're going to use the compressor on the other side and then, say, sandblast and paint both strut housings, you can release the tension on the spring before removing it. It really doesn't matter. But I wouldn't recommend that you leave the spring compressed for days or weeks. Ready to remove the strut cartridge. Another pat on the back is appropriate.  
      Removing The Strut Cartridge
      The strut cartridge is held in the tube by a collar nut (also referred to as a gland nut) at the top. If the struts still have the original oil-filled cartridges in them, there'll be what looks like a big hex nut at the top, but it's just a false cover. Pry it off and it'll reveal the circular collar nut.
      The false cover on the original collar nut. The original collar nuts have two holes in them intended for a special tool with two pins. The Bilstein collar nuts have two notches in them enabling use of the Bilstein 30mm ring tool, part # E4-MS09/7, with two tabs in it.
      The Bilstein gland nut with the notches in it. In either case, the common method of removing the collar nut is to use two big pipe wrenches, the ones with the thumb ring adjusters and the serrated jaws that bite into the material. Why two ? One to twist the nut, and the other to hold the body of the strut assembly still. Make no mistake, this will dig into and mar the outside of the strut tube. I don't really care about a few serrated gouge marks in places I won't ever see. If you do care, instead of using a second wrench, you can take a long piece of angle iron, drill two holes in it the same spacing as the holes on the tab on the strut housing that holes the brake lines, bolt it on, and secure it that way. Me, I put the second wrench between the collar nut and the spring perch, as the gouge marks aren't plainly visible there. You need to flip the second wrench in the opposite direction of the first so it bites into the tube, presses against the ground, and prevents the thing from turning while you use the other wrench on the collar nut.
      Lay the strut assembly, which no longer has the spring and hat on it but still has the brake rotor, on the ground. Get yerself two big-assed pipe wrenches. Position one on the collar nut, the other on the body of the tube below the nut, both facing to the right, flipped in opposite directions, so the second wrench braces the tube against the ground and prevents it from turning. The two-monkey-wrench method of collar nut removal. Lean on the first wrench with all your weight. If the collar nut doesn't come off, heat it with a MAPP gas torch and try it again. I've never had one not come off, but some of them have been astonishingly recalcitrant. This collar nut on my 635CSi required multiple applications of heat and torque before it gave it up. If the struts are the original oil-filled ones (which you'll know instantly because, when you start to withdraw them, they're narrow instead of filling up the entire tube), grab a tray or basin to catch the oil that is going to drip/gush from it when you withdraw it. You'll also want to tip the tube upside down to drain the oil out, then run a pole or wand with a wad of paper towels wire-tied to the end to give the bottom of the tube a cursory cleaning. You may engage yourself in the third self-back-pat.  
      Inspect the strut tower bushings and perch rubber. If you have reason to replace them, do it. Also take this opportunity to inspect the ball joint and its rubber boot. If you need to replace the ball joint, you have to go through this same procedure to undo the steering knuckle from the bottom of the strut assembly, so if there's anything wrong with it, now's the time to deal with it.
      Other Slippery Slope Stuff
      Hey, if you want to use this as an opportunity to remove the hub, replace the brake rotor and wheel bearings, and sandblast and repaint the strut housing, go for it. But that's not my jam. The undersides of my cars are never going to look like anything other than the heavily-used cars that they are.
      I could act like a repair manual and say that "assembly is the reverse of disassembly," but it never quite is.
      Strut Cartridge
      Thread the new strut cartridge into the tube and tighten it down. The torque spec I see here on the FAQ is 87 ft-lbs. That is tight. In comparison, the wheel lug nut torque is 59-64. And, unless you have Bilsteins and the tabbed ring tool, you're doing it with a pipe wrench, not a torque wrench . So... tight. Lean on it with a good portion of your body weight. You'll feel when it stops turning. I've never stripped one. Note that these collar nuts can loosen up, and they make one hell of a sharp banging over bumps when they do.
      Spring And Hat Installation
      Slide the lower perch rubber back into the lower perch, taking care to seat the recess in the rubber properly in the perch. Slide the still-compressed spring and compressor back onto the lower perch, taking care to seat the lower tail of the spring properly in the recess in the perch and the rubber. Slide the upper perch and its properly-placed rubber over the strut piston, taking care to seat the upper tail of the spring properly in the recess in the perch and the rubber. (By the way, this is where a plate-style compressor really shines. Because the plates compress the spring squarely, getting the spring to seat properly requires zero work. With claw-style compressors, the spring is distorted, and this step is non-trivial.) Verifying that the top of the spring is correctly seated in the perch and its rubber. Slide the spacer onto the strut piston. Slide the hat onto the strut piston, first making sure that the dust cap that protects the bearing underside is in place. Slide the three spacers (large, then tube, then small) over the strut piston and into the center recess of the hat. Thread on the new Nyloc nut. When you tighten it, you'll have the same problem as removing it, which is that the piston will want to spin. Either use an impact wrench (on its lowest setting) to spin it on, or hold the top of the strut still with the appropriate wrench or Allen key. The torque spec I see here on the FAQ is 52 ft-lb. For comparison, that's less than a lug nut, so it doesn't have to be tightened with a pipe and a dying strain or anything. Double-check that the spring tails are in their proper recesses in the perch. Undo the spring compressor. Spin the hat to make sure that it turns freely. It may be more difficult to spin than it was initially simply because the dust cap on the bottom is in a new position, but it shouldn't grind or bind. Pat on your own back #4 is now in order.  
      Strut Assembly Reinstallation
      As I said, the strut assembly doesn't really weigh that much. It's not that difficult to just grab it, rotate the hat so the studs are correctly oriented (the two closer-spaced ones facing to the outside of the car), guide it into position under the fender, put the studs through the holes, and reach up and slide on a washer and thread a nut on one of the studs. Then you can let go and thread on the other washers and nuts. The FAQ lists the torque for the nuts as 18 ft-lbs. Guide the bottom of the strut onto the steering knuckle so the slot and notch are aligned.  There is some debate about using Loctite Blue (medium strength) on the 14mm bolts. Some folks use safety wire but no Loctite. Others, Loctite but no safety wire. Some folks use both. Personally, I use a dab of Loctite Blue on the threads of the bolts. Thread the outer two bolts—the ones next to the brake shield—first, as they're the easiest to reach. Tighten them enough that they pull the steering knuckle and the notch square with the underside of the stud. Then you need to center the steering wheel (if it's moved) and do the trick with the little floor jack under the end of the control arm to raise it enough to be able to, with your two index fingers, position the 3rd bolt in the recess of the control arm, guide it into the hole, and finger-tighten it. Then snug all three bolts down. The torque on these 14mm bolts is only 18 ft-lbs. You can easily put a torque wrench on the two next to the brake shield, but the one above the control arm you need to tighten with a box-end wrench, so you have to do it by feel. The safety wire and the tool to twist it to make it look pretty are available on Amazon and any number of other places. Clean off the brake rotor with some brake cleaner, and reinstall the caliper. The FAQ lists the torque for the two 19mm bolts as 58 ft-lbs, fairly close to the lug nut torque. Put the bolt, nut, and washer back on the plate holding the brake hoses to the strut housing. Reinstall the sway bar end link bushing, retaining plate, and the two lock nuts. Put the wheel back on and take the car down off the stands.  
      That's it. You may self-administer the 5th self-back-pat.
      Alternate Method
      Above, I teased that it is possible to replace the strut cartridges without removing the strut assembly from the car—specifically, without unbolting the bottom of the strut housing from the steering knuckle. It is possible. I've done it. I wrote about it in detail here. You can leave the steering knuckle attached, but you still need to remove the caliper and unbolt the sway bar end link. The key is that the kind of plate-style compressor I've been using enables the possibility of doing this because the tightening mechanism is at the bottom. You can't do this with either my crank-style compressor or with the claws because, in both cases, the tightening mechanism is at the top. If you turn the claws over so the tightening bolt is at the bottom, the extending length of the threaded rod hits the underside of the shock tower.
      Compressor on spring on still-installed strut. Strut assembly swung out from under fender while still being attached to steering knuckle. The problem with this is two-fold. First, it is challenging to compress the spring, strut cartridge, and the hat so much that the studs on the hat clear the underside of the fender lip without scratching them. If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see that I've repositioned the compressor so that the lower plate isn't on the spring—it's actually below the lower perch. This was necessary to squeeze the spring down as much as possible to clear the fender lip.
      The other problem is that, once you swing the strut assembly out, you still need to undo the collar nut, and that is more challenging with the assembly hanging out in space than it is with it laying securely on the garage floor. In the above photos, I did it in my '72 tii. I was willing to try because, well, it's kind of a ratty car, so if I scratched the fender lips (which I didn't), I wouldn't have really minded. I was successful, but when I had to do the strut replacement in Hampton, my 49,000-mile 2002 (which is where the rest of the photos are from), I didn't want to take the chance, so I just removed the strut assemblies.
      If you do other wrenching, it's not really a big jump to replacing front struts. It's nothing to be afraid of. Borrow or buy a spring compressor, follow the directions, use common sense, and you're highly unlikely to hurt yourself.
      Now go forth and strut your stuff.

    • thehackmechanic
      Okay, with the compressor and bracket, condenser and fan, evaporator assembly, receiver-drier, hoses, and wiring installed, it was time to fire it up, then button it up. Similarly, with the project itself complete, it's time to button up this series of articles. As such, this is a long piece that touches on a number of topics.
      Leak detection
      There's a whole chapter in my a/c book devoted to leak detection, and specifically to the use of nitrogen or other dry inert gas to pressure-test. My philosophy of a/c rejuvenation in vintage cars is that if you flush out the evaporator, use new components for everything else, build new hoses, fill the compressor with the correct amount of oil, put it all together, and leak-test it, you know you're starting off with a clean, leak-free system, and it'll simply come up running.
      That little blue adapter between the pressure regulator and the yellow service hose in the photo below is a ¼" NPT to ¼" 7/16-20 SAE adapter. You can find it on Amazon. Connect the manifold gauge set to the charging fittings of your car, the yellow hose to the nitrogen bottle, open up both valves on the service port fittings, open up both the blue and red knobs on the gauge set to allow nitrogen to flow into both the high and low sides of the system, slowly raise the pressure to 100 psi (or 120, which is the limit on most low-side gauges), then close both knobs on the gauge set and on the nitrogen bottle and let it sit overnight. If it drops by more than one psi overnight, you're deluding yourself if you don't think there's a leak. But if it doesn't budge, it's tight. Consult the book for reams of detail. 
      Nitrogen bottle and manifold gauge set for pressure-testing  
      I had a nice example of the utility of pressure-testing with Louie. I hooked up the nitrogen bottle to the manifold gauge set and slowly increased the pressure. When it was at about 80 psi, I heard a loud hissing from the larger of the two brand-new just-installed bulkhead connectors. I grabbed the wrench, checked it, and found that I'd forgotten to tighten it. D'oh! I took a moment and checked the connector on every fitting on the a/c. Nope, it was just that one that I'd forgotten. I pressure-tested it again and found that it still leaked. I pulled it apart and found that, when it leaked the first time, it had blown out and misshapen its o-ring. Another o-ring, a fresh coating of Nylog Blue sealant (which I use on all o-rings and threads), and it was tight. I pressurized it to 100 psi and let it sit overnight. I the morning it hadn't moved one iota. That's pressure-testing. That's how you know you've got a tight system.
      That's what you want to see.  
      Once you've got a tight system, you need to pull a vacuum for at least 90 minutes on it with a good vacuum pump. This serves two purposes. First, it removes ambient air so that, when you begin to charge the system, air isn't displacing the refrigerant. Second, by lowering the pressure, it makes sure that any moisture in the system is boiled off and sucked out. This is particularly important with R134a because moisture is absorbed by both PAG and ester oil and reacts with R134a to produce hydrofluoric acid, which can corrode the innards of your beautiful new a/c system. 
      As with pressure-testing, connect the manifold gauge set to the charging fittings of your car and the yellow hose to the vacuum pump, open up both valves on the service port fittings, start the pump, then open up both the blue and red knobs on the gauge set to allow suction to pull a vacuum from both the high and low sides of the system. After 90 minutes, close both knobs on the gauge set, then shut off the pump. Some people use the vacuum as a leak test, but really it makes far more sense to pressurize, as when it's under pressure, you can find leaks by hunting for the sound, and, if necessary, spray soap solution and look for bubbles. You can't do either of those things when it's under vacuum.
      Vacuum pump connected to manifold gauge set  
      Not to sound like a broken record, but, as with pressure-testing and evacuation, there's a whole chapter in my book devoted to charging, but I'm not a certified a/c technician. I use a combination of:
      Watching the gauges to see the high-side pressure rise Watching the discharge line from the evaporator to see the metal fitting begin to sweat Watching the vent temperature thermometer placed in the evaporator blower vent to see when it drops to a reasonable setting Driving the car  
      This time, with Louie, there was an additional variable: I'd bought a case of cans of R134a on Amazon ($68, less than six bucks a can) without knowing what that meant for them to be "self-sealing cans." These cans are compliant with a recent California mandate that small cans of refrigerant must be self-sealing. R134a is not an ozone-depleting agent like R12, but it is certainly a greenhouse gas, and the self-sealing feature makes it so that the cans aren't single-use like they used to be and just leak out the refrigerant after they're punctured. This is actually a good thing for both the environment and for you the user, as previously, there wasn't an easy way to use just a portion of a can. But it does take a little getting used to.
      I spent the $14.99 and bought the proper Johnsen's California-compliant R134a dispensing valve that screws onto the top of the self-sealing cans. You need to read the instructions that come with the valve. First, the spigot is reverse-threaded, so you turn it left (counter-clockwise) to open it, which on the one hand makes sense because it's like opening a faucet, but on the other hand it's unlike every other dispensing valve where you turn it clockwise to extend the pin that punctures the top. Rather than puncturing metal, though, the California-compliant valve moves a flap in the self-sealing can that, once the pin is withdrawn, swings back into position and seals the can. Again, this is a good thing, but the can takes much longer to empty than it used to, which makes the charging process longer.
      I followed the instructions for the dispensing valve for the self-sealing cans to the letter, and it worked perfectly  
      As I said way back in the introduction, part of the reason I bought this Clardy system is that I resurrected the one on Jose Rosario's car, and was very impressed with how, after shooting just one can of R134a into it, it blew cold. That was pretty much the case with mine. After just one can, I was seeing 200 psi head pressures, saw the connector to the bulkhead fitting start to sweat, and read 40-degree vent temperatures on the gauge I had sticking out of the evaporator vent. That was enough to make me drive the car (there's only so much you can tell in the garage with the car at idle). Under load around town, in 90-degree heat and high humidity, I continued to see 40-degree vent temps, and on the highway at constant throttle, it dropped to 36. It might well go lower with a little more R134a (ideally you want the evaporator core to get to freezing and the temperature probe/switch cycle the compressor on and off), but I've let it be for now.
      As the president said at the end of Independence Day, "Not bad. Not bad at all."  
      Drilling drain holes
      The Behr system I'm used to requires a single drain hole in the center of the transmission hump under the evaporator assembly. In contrast, the Clardy box has two drains, one at each side corner, requiring the drain holes to be cut pretty conspicuously closer to the sides of the hump. They're hidden by the console's side panels, but I wanted to be certain the system was working, and that it actually needed both of the holes before I cut them. I temporarily ran each rubber drain hose into a seltzer can and ran the car in the garage for ten minutes, making the system look like a frat boy wearing one of those hats that hosts two cans of beer. The amount of water in both cans was substantial (it was very humid). Okay, two drain holes it is. My 5/8-inch hole saw made nice clean cuts through both the original carpet and the floor. If you have a replacement carpet kit, I wouldn't recommend this, as I've had strands of wool pull out of cheap carpet kits like the drawstring on a big bag of dog food.
      One hole... ...and its attendant drain hose.  
      Wrapping the sweating fittings and expansion valve
      Of course, in addition to the bulkhead fittings sweating in the engine compartment, they also sweated inside the car, so, as I said in that installment, it was crucially important that I wrap them with that tarry cork tape that prevents humid air from coming in contact with them. Which leads me to the following story.
      Getting the metal fittings on the suction line wrapped was a pain.  
      In 1983, when we were living in Austin, just after I'd gotten my first 2002 running well and looking good, I happened into a second one that had a/c. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't blowing cold. In my first book, there's a chapter titled "Redneck Wind Chimes" in which I describe how Tom, a friend of mine from work and a first-rate shade tree mechanic, diagnosed it for me as a bad expansion valve. I removed the evaporator assembly, opened it up, and replaced the valve. Some of the components and copper tubes inside of and coming out of in the evaporator assembly are wrapped in sticky tarry cork tape whose purpose is to adhere to the metal to prevent humidity in the air from condensing on them and dripping on the rug. I remember going to an a/c specialty shop to buy the tape, and finding that the roll was a little pricey. The proprietor said "Yeah, but if you're not a pro and don't do a lot of cars, it'll last you forever."

      Fast-forward to Louie. In wrapping the fittings, I used up the last of the roll of cork tape.
      I can't recall another consumable that took me 38 years to consume.
      I ordered another roll. Using the last one as a benchmark, the new one should take me to 2059. I'll be 101. Like sand in the big cosmic hourglass, when that roll is done, I'll know that my time on this plane is through.
      This roll served me well. We shall not see its likes again.  
      I obviously still needed to wrap the fitting on the other end of the suction line, the one that comes out of the expansion valve. But I wondered if I needed to wrap the expansion valve itself. I didn't see any cork tape on the old valve when I took it off. I took the car for a short drive in hot humid weather, then checked the valve. Condensed water was streaming off it onto the rug to the right of the accelerator pedal.
      No doubt of what was needed here.  
      It's a wrap, wrap-wise.  
      Hose rubbing
      While running the hoses behind the zero-clearance-room area behind the evaporator assembly, I found that the little metal plate on the right side of the heater box was digging right into the suction hose. Without giving it a second thought, I drilled out the rivets (or the tops of them anyway) holding the plate to the heater box to remove the little plate. Plate gone! Problem gone!
      This could not remain.  
      One problem solved, but another one was created.  
      But when I went to button the system back up and reinstalled the glove box, I discovered a problem. I hated the way that the hoses and fittings looked, emerging through the center of the footwell like they did. Then I remembered: There was a thin trim piece that lived under the glove box. I test-fit it, and found that its left side screws into that metal plate I'd removed. D'oh!
      Even once I reinstalled the glovebox, those hoses and fittings were still visible beneath it.  
      I drilled the rivets that previously held the metal plate completely out, and after verifying that I wasn't about to screw into the heater core, was able to screw the trim piece directly to one of the holes on the side of the heater box and hide the hoses.
      Rivets gone  
      Oh god that's much better.  
      Buttoning up the console
      Spinning vents: The vents in my faceplate had no resistance to them, spinning freely without holding a specified aiming angle, so before I installed the faceplate, I did a little surgery. Risking shattering the 45-year-old plastic, I carefully pried the little dowel out of where one end of each of the vents went into the faceplate, inserted a little rubber grommet over the dowel, and put it back together. One at one end of each vent was sufficient to hold them in place when aimed.
      I was proud of this bit of hack engineering.  
      Bracket and ashtray: I said earlier that buying the full-up Clardy system also bought me the part I didn't know I needed—the bracket that screws to the underside of the dash and hosts the faceplate. I installed the bracket early in the process, not understanding its interaction with the original assembly that holds the ashtray, the hazard switch, and the rectangular surrounding faceplate. This assembly must first be screwed to the bracket, then the pair attached to the underside of the dash. 
      Bracket attached to ashtray assembly. The plastic tabs that would normally host slide-on nuts shown at the top were broken, but the intact captured nuts for the machine screws shown at the bottom held it on fine.  
      Ashtray assembly and bracket test-fit into console faceplate.  
      Revisiting the anatomy of the Clardy "console": I talked about this in one of the other installments, but it bears repeating. Both the original 2002 non-a/c console and the Behr console are hard-sided pieces of rigid particle board-like structure, the two sides of which are attached to each other with a metal bracket which is then screwed to the transmission tunnel. This rigid structure then supports the ashtray assembly, the radio, and in the case of the a/c console, the faceplate.
      But the Clardy system simply isn't like that. There's not a rigid structural console like the Behr system. Instead, the faceplate itself is the closest thing to a rigid structural member. The two side pieces that hide the evaporator assembly are flimsy plastic that simply screw to the sides of the faceplate and each have a single retaining screw preventing them from literally flapping back and forth. And, unless I'm missing something, the shift surround isn't attached to the "console" in any way.
      Faceplate and shift surround without driver's side piece...  
      ...and with side piece. Without the screw in the bottom, it flaps into the accelerator pedal. It's really pretty flimsy.    
      The retaining screw for the right side panel literally screws into the housing of the blower motor. Don't use a screw that's too long. I'm totally not kidding.  
      If this is beauty, it's less than skin-deep.  
      I raise this because it's necessary to understand it in order to understand...
      Installation of the shift surround: When I threw the "console" into the car, I mounted the faceplate in the bracket. It's basically held there by its curved bottom resting on the transmission hump, the rectangular area for the vents sliding into in the rectangular evaporator outlet, and the fan and temperature controls going through the holes in the bracket and, when tightened, squeezing the two together. But I didn't understand the attachment of the shift surround. It was the last piece that I installed.
      The Clardy console reuses the original shift surround (the trapezoidal piece that the rubber boot attaches to) just as the Behr console does. But unlike the Behr console where the side pieces go all the way to the back of the shift surround, the Clardy console uses two short pieces that screw to the sides of the surround. But there's absolutely no attachment between the console and the shift surround and its side pieces. This is visible in the photos above and below. So when I first drove the car, the shift surround moved all over the place, and the back of it lifted up when I shifted into 1st and 3rd.
      I don't have the pages from the Clardy manual describing the installation of the surround, but I assume that the slot in the front of the surround is supposed to be screwed to the transmission tunnel just like it is with the non-a/c console, The problem is that that the 10mm-head screw that holds the front of it down is underneath the part of the part of the faceplate that juts out. So in terms of assembly order, really, the shift surround should be installed first and screwed down in front, and then the faceplate should be installed and slid on top of it. As I'd just gotten the faceplate installed and everything, including the radio, wired up, I didn't want to backtrack, so I tightened the front shift surround screw down partway, then slid the surround forward in its slot. That worked well enough.
      This was a bit of a surprise.  
      But the back of the surround still lifted up when shifting. Without having the Clardy installation instructions, I cobbled something together. I took the bracket off the original non-a/c console and screwed it to the transmission hump using its original hole location.
      If this looked like it was meant to be there, it's because it was and it had been.  
      Now, on the original non-a/c console and the Behr a/c console, remember that the console side pieces are rigid, they screw to this bracket or one like this, and the shift surround in turn screws to the rigid side pieces, but the Clardy "console" just doesn't have that structure. I test-fit the shift surround over the bracket I'd screwed to the hump, saw that its slots and slide-on nuts were directly above the ends of the bracket, and fabricated some short intermediate bracket pieces out of a leftover universal condenser bracket. I nut-and-bolted them at the bottom to the bracket, and used the same screw holes that the short Clardy surround side pieces use at the top. This did a perfect job of holding the back of the shift surround down.
      I was quite proud of this as well.  
      If someone can tell me how this is done on a dealer-installed Clardy system, or on the ICE AC system, or on the KoggleWerks console, I'd love to know.
      Patina: My goal in this was to have the end product look like it's always been there—to have its patina match that of the car—and I think I succeeded in that goal. It's done, it's installed, and I think it looks pretty good. If I had a beautiful car in which I was doing an a/c install, I might be swayed by the newer-looking KoogleWerks console, but in Louie, it'd look too new. I still think the sweeping curved lines of the Behr console are more in harmony with the lines of the dash, and that the Clardy looks a bit oddly angular and blocky, but at least it looks aged-in.
      I am pleased.  
      Post-Installation Issues
      Low vents: The vents on the Clardy evap assembly aren't at the top like they are on the Behr system. They're in the middle. As such, it really doesn't aim at your face; it more hits you in the chest. It's manageable. Someone commented on an earlier post about installing a triangular wedge to force the air up. If I have to pull the system apart, I might try that.
      Spitting: Because of the close proximity of the evaporator core to the vents, this Clardy system spits a fair amount of humidity. I don't find it problematic—hell, it's almost even refreshing—but it is unusual. No other vintage a/c system I've ever had has done this. If I drove around wearing expensive linen suits, I might be concerned about staining. A piece of screen installed on the inside of the vent would probably solve the problem.
      Alternator: I haven't directly measured the draw of the Spal 30101505 condenser fan, as I still haven't found my old VDO ammeter, but its published spec is 13 amps, so it doesn't surprise me that, with the a/c on and the engine idling, the alternator is totally dragged down by the load, getting as low as 11.6 volts according to my el-cheapo cigarette lighter voltmeter. At highway speeds, though, it seems to keep up okay, with voltage in the low thirteens. The alternators on tiis are a pain to replace, as the injection pump is mounted where the alternator usually is, so the alternator is mounted low, requiring you to either disconnect the sway bar or remove the battery tray to get it out. I have a higher-amperage rebuilt tii alternator. Prior to the next long trip, I'll probably bite the bullet and install it.
      Waaaaaaay too low at idle, but it came up to fairly normal levels with the engine RPM up.  
      The money
      Projects like this always cost more than you think they will. Even if you get the major components inexpensively (as I did with the $250 full-up Clardy system, and re-using an old Seltec compressor), in order to get it installed and working, it needs what it needs, and it adds up. Just for fun, here's the total. The bill for hose and fittings is higher than was required because I bought 10 feet of #10, #8, and #6 hoses, and I bought extra fittings in case I ruined some, and so far I've only used one can of R134a from the case of 12. So maybe you could say the total is closer to a thousand bucks. And, if you don't have to deal with retrofitting a/c into a tii and absolutely needing that tii-specific a/c crankshaft hub pulley (if you can find one), that was a quarter of it right there.
      used Clardy system $250 tii a/c hub $250 ester oil $16 flush $18 expansion valve $10 spal 30101505 fan $84 misc hardware $7 condenser and brackets $79 plastic sheet to fix faceplate $9 derale mounting $8 another mounting $8 hose and fittings $145 grommets $14 drier $19 case of R134a $70 California can tap $14 bulkhead fittings $34 #10 short drop fitting $12 more fittings $37 nylog $11 radiator port reconfig $65 cork tape $19     total $1,180  
      To Coldly Blow...
      So that's it. Louie is chill. I can jump into the car and either go for a stress-busting drive, or run out to pick up take out or a quart of milk, and not come back feeling like I've just done 20 minutes on the elliptical machine. And that was the whole idea. If you enjoy your simple, non-air-conditioned 2002, more power to you. But to me, having working a/c in these vintage cars substantially extends my use of them during the summer, which in turn dramatically increases my enjoyment of the cars.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      With all the major components installed and the hoses made, the next task was wiring the system up. This will be a short one (that's not an electrical joke :^), as in a car like this, the wiring is trivial.
      Wiring diagram
      Someone (Conserv, probably) had posted a copy of the Clardy wiring diagram. It is below.

      More general, and probably more useful, is the diagram I have in my a/c book:
      Generic wiring diagram from Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning. All rights reserved.  
      The main things to note here are that:
      The wiring between the fan speed switch, fan speed resistor, and blower fan are part of whatever system you're using, and are not generic. The blower fan switch gets power though the fuse box.  It then sends power to the temperature switch as well as to the compressor (well, to the pressure switch on the drier, which then sends it to the compressor). The big fan on the condenser, however, is controlled by a relay so the non-trivial current from the big fan (typically 10 amps and more) are not running through the console.  
      Alert readers will note that, if you believe the Clardy wiring diagram, there's a difference in the way it is wired as compared with what's shown in my generic diagram. In my diagram, the condenser fan relay is sent the "turn on" signal by the blower switch regardless of whether the temperature control is telling the compressor to turn on or not. In the Clardy diagram, the compressor and the condenser fan are turned on together by the temperature switch. If the evaporator core never gets cold enough that the temperature switch shuts it off to prevent it from freezing, then there's no difference. But if it does—if the temperature switch cycles the compressor off—it'll also cycle the condenser fan off, which, if you're in traffic, will prevent the condenser from dumping the residual heat from the refrigerant that's in it. For now, I wired mine the Clardy way. If I don't like it, I'll change it.
      Connection of blower to fuse box
      You can do this a number of ways, such as wiring it to the ignition switch or to the auxiliary pigtail on the hazard switch, but I like wiring anything with an electric motor directly to the fuse box. I used fuse #10, which is the rear window defroster, because a) it's a 16 amp circuit, and b) I assume I'll never need both of them on at the same time. I used a 12-gauge wire, which is overkill, but it's what I had. I snaked it through the grommet for the main part of the wiring harness near the steering column, and up and under the fuse box.
      Running the wire up under the fuse box... ...and connecting it. Make sure to verify which tab is actually on the fused side of the fuse as opposed to the input side (that is, the blower shouldn't work with the fuse removed).  
      For the battery connection, normally I would've made a new one, but the Clardy system I purchased came with its original ring terminal and in-line fuse, and there's a certain emotional appeal in reusing things like this.
      It's not how I would've made it, but it did come with the system.  
      For the relay, virtually any single pole single throw relay will work, but I found this old Hella one I had kicking around the garage, so having it up on the inner fender wall next to the original Hella horn relay is how it would've looked in the 1980s if you'd installed driving lights on the car's bumper.  (I actually have the original relay that came with the Clardy system, but owing to Clardy being an American company, it's a big American relay without the German DIN 30-87-86-85 numbers on the terminals. I thought the Hella relay was more in keeping with the DNA of the car :^)
      If I photographed the bottom of the relay, you'd see that:
      The blue wire coming through the firewall from the fan speed switch goes to 86. It is also connected via a piggyback spade connector to the other blue wire, which goes to the compressor, following the Clardy wiring diagram of having the same wire turn on both the compressor and the condenser fan. The thin black wire connected to the ground screw goes to 85. (It looks like it's connected to the piggyback spade. It's not. It's just the angle of the photo.) The thick black wire from the fuse holder connected to the battery goes to 30. The thick red wire connected to the condenser fan's positive terminal goes to 87. The condenser fan's ground wire is grounded in the nose.  
      The Hella relay looks right at home. At least it does to me. So, as with any other relay, terminal 87 is the12V signal to switch on the relay. Terminal 86 is ground. When 87 (supplied by the clutch wire) is hot, it powers the electromagnet in the relay, which pulls contacts 30 and 87 closed. 30 is connected directly to the battery via the external fuse and 87 is connected to the condenser fan. Whoosh!
      I'm not using a pressure switch on the receiver-drier. I've gotten away from using them in recent years. They're supposed to cut off the compressor if the pressure is too high, as it can be if there's a clogged expansion valve, but I've had too many of them leak.
      That's it. Pretty simple.
      (Next installment: I button it all up, and it gets cold :^)
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      The tool you need
      Way back in the introduction, I told the story of Ed Ellis ("Ellis The Rim Man" to you Bostonians) making the hoses for my E9 3.0CSi 22 years ago by the curb on Comm Ave. I watched as he crimped on one end, cut the hose longer than it needed to be, put it through whatever holes in the body it needed to pass through, threaded the other fitting onto whatever component it needed to attach to, test-fit the hose into the fitting, trimmed it to length, "clocked" the fitting at the desired angle, marked the orientation of the hose and fitting, then crimped the fitting on right then and there in the car with a hand-held Mastercool 71500 Hydra-Krimp. I asked him "How does anyone ever get this right if they don't have the car in front of them?" He deadpanned "They don't." 
      At some point in the 2000s, I bought a used Mastercool 71500 Hydra-Krimp on eBay. These list for nearly $700 new. I forget what I paid for the used one; maybe half that. And now, due to the wonders of Chinese manufacturing, you can buy a tool that looks exactly like it and even has the gall to brand itself as a "Hydra-Krimp 71500," for under $200 on eBay or Amazon. You can also buy the Mastercool 71550, which is just the jaws that you set in a hydraulic vise, for about $150, but that doesn't let you do the easy one-handed "crimp it where it sits in the car" thing. 
      My beloved Mastercool Hydra-Krimp 71500, with some of the rubber holders for the unused crimping dies crumbling in the lower part of the case.  
      If you think you're going to do a/c work on more than one car, the Hydra-Krimp is a tool well worth having. The alternative is to find a local custom a/c shop, as I did with my E9 22 years ago, or try to have the hoses made via mail order. Coldhose.com has a very nice page for custom hoses, allowing you to specify the hose fittings and clocking angle, for about $65 per hose, and that'll work adequately for long hoses with bends that can take up slack, but for short hoses, the odds of getting it wrong are high. The ability to do this in place—to pass the hose through the body and grommet, rotate the hose so its natural bend from being stored on a roll is oriented to your advantage, crimp on one end, thread it on, test-fit the other fitting, cut the hose to length, clock and mark the fitting, and crimp it on right there—simply never gets old.
      Fitting crimped onto discharge hose from compressor when other end is already attached to condenser.  
      One note about the Hydra-Krimp. Over the years, I did have multiple instances of just-crimped fittings leaking. Whether it's just my tool or a characteristic of the 71500, I don't know, but I found that the tool tends to put preferential pressure on the top and bottom surfaces (12 and 6 o'clock), creating gaps in the crimp at 3 and 9 o'clock. I now crimp every fitting twice. I do it once normally, then rotate the fitting by 90 degrees and squash the raised parts that form at 3 and 9 o'clock back down. I've never had one leak since. Again, I don't know whether this is just me or a widespread issue.
      Fitting sizes and angles
      As I said in the last installment, there's an entire chapter in my a/c book about fittings, and another one about making hoses. I'm going to copy two very important tables for you. Here's the first:
      Hose Size
      Commonly Used For
      Hose I.D.
      Hose O.D.
      Fitting (Tube) Size
      Thread Size
      Collar Nut Size
      Condenser to drier; drier to evaporator
      Compressor (discharge) to condenser
      Evaporator to compressor (suction)
      Fortunately, unless you're doing something weird like drilling holes for bulkhead connectors, you rarely need to know exact dimensions; all you need to know is component port fitting sizes, and that nearly all the time, you need female o-ring fittings where the fitting size and the hose size are the same (that is, not "step up" or "step down" fittings). These are listed in the second table below.
      Fittings on Most Standard A/C Components
      From there, you can build yourself a little table of the four hoses you need to build to connect these four components, and the fittings and their angles needed on each end of each hose. Here's an example of such a table. Note that the angles I list are merely examples as well and are not to be taken as canon. 
      compressor discharge
      condenser out (bottom)
      drier out
      evaporator out
      condenser in (top)
      drier in
      evaporator in
      compressor suction
      hose size
      #8 o-ring charging
      #6 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #10 o-ring
      #8 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #10 o-ring charging
      On Louie, because I had the bulkhead connectors, there were actually six hoses. And because of the Clardy's block expansion valve, the connections on it were male o-rings, not female. I do these tables in Excel to keep them straight:
      compressor discharge
      condensor out
      drier out
      bulkhead out
      evaporator out
      bulkhead out
      condensor in
      drier in
      bulkhead in
      evaporator in
      bulkhead in
      compressor suction
      #8 o-ring (discharge)
      #6 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #10 male o-ring
      #10 o-ring
      90 w/charging
      straight, slightly bent
      #8 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #6 o-ring
      #6 male o-ring
      #10 o-ring
      #10 o-ring (suction)
      90 w/charging
      Note that, as I said last week, because the Clardy evaporator comes with o-ring fittings, every fitting listed in this table is an o-ring fitting. This is the first and only time I've ever had this happen. Every other from-scratch installation or rejuvenation I've done on a vintage BMW has had some residual flare fittings, generally on the evaporator.
      Fittings come in a choice of straight, 45 degrees, or 90 degrees. With some fittings, it's completely obvious which angle you should use on a given component. For example, the upper condenser port is crying for a straight fitting.
      No question about this one.  
      With others, particularly the compressor fittings, it's often a judgment call whether you use a 45 or a 90. The joy of making the hoses yourself is that even if you get it wrong, you're rarely out more than $20 in hose and fittings.
      Charging fittings
      I talked a little about this in the introductory piece. You need to have charging fittings somewhere to hook up the manifold gauge set, pressure-test, evacuate, and recharge. If your compressor has little Schraeder valve-like fittings on the back, you can use those as charging fittings (provided you have a gauge set that threads onto them), but it's really not a great idea, as there's a lot of discharge of refrigerant when you unthread the hoses.
      The charging fittings on the back of the compressor (if it has them) are neat and tidy, but the refrigerant discharge when you unscrew the gauge hoses is anything but.  
      In contrast, the modern push-on R134a fittings really are a joy to work with, as the gauge set hose fittings snap onto and off them with zero refrigerant discharge. Unfortunately, you can't thread adapters onto the back of the compressor. Well, you can, but there's not room for the manifold gauge hoses on them. They're too close together. Many people elect to use in-line splicers with charging fittings on them on the two compressor hoses, as they're easy to reach. I've done it, but the look is kind of inelegant.
      In-line charging fittings spliced into Kugel's compressor hoses. Looks a little busy, doesn't it?  
      For Louie, I used charging fittings that are integrated into the two compressor fittings. This makes for a very tidy-looking installation. I recall trying this once before and not having enough clearance between the innermost one (the suction fitting) and the block. The difference here may be that I'm using an old Seltec compressor whose ports are vertical rather than at a slight V angle like on the Sanden and its clones. It also may be that I'm remembering doing this on an M30 engine on one of the bigger 6-cylinder cars. I'm not certain, and I apologize for not knowing. But I love the result. If you're going to try this, install the compressor, and make sure you can thread both fittings onto it before crimping them onto hoses.
      Pretty nice, eh?  
      Locating the receiver-drier
      It really doesn't matter where you put the receiver-drier. In cars I've owned with dealer installations of the Behr system, it's usually in the nose, and the drier itself was a very specific unit with the inlet port facing down, a bracket welded to the side of the drier, and studs integrated into the bracket. In fact, the Behr installation template for cutting holes in the hose shows where to drill the holes for the studs. If you look at the photo below, you'll see that the bracket held the drier with the outlet fitting at 90 degrees to the hole in the nose, meaning that you want a 90-degree fitting on the outlet hose, and the fitting itself hangs through the hole. Driers of this design are still available, but the only ones I've found have flare fittings like they did 45 years ago, and that's the last thing you want in a new installation.
      The original Behr drier with the integrated bracket and downward-facing inlet port.  
      These days, you generally use whatever compact o-ring drier you like, and some sort of a universal ring clamp. I typically use the Four Seasons 33260 "shorty" drier, as it's small (2 1/2" x 6 1/2"). Whether you put it in the nose or against the right inner fender wall is up to you. There's more room against the fender wall, and that location is more forgiving of slack in hoses, but you don't really need to interact with the drier, so having it tucked in the nose makes some sense, and does clean up the engine compartment.
      For Louie, I repeated what I've done several times before. Used a 45-degree fitting at the bottom of the condenser and a 90-degree fitting on the drier inlet. I carefully cut the short zero-slack hose, connecting it to the outlet port from the condenser and orienting the drier so that the drier's outlet points straight out the hole in the nose. I used a straight fitting on the outlet port, slid the clamp onto the drier, marked the hole for it, clocked and marked the hose fittings, checked and re-checked that the drier's outlet port was still pointing straight back, crimped the input hose, then tightened the clamp and built the output hose and screwed it on. It worked really well in Louie.
      I have to say that I was particularly proud of this one.  
      Bulkhead hoses
      With all the work I did putting those damned bulkhead fittings in, I didn't like how far a straight #10 fitting jutted out, and there wasn't enough room to use a 45-degree fitting, so I tried something new. I took a 45-degree fitting, heated it with the torch, and relaxed the bend.
      Bending a 45-degree fitting to more like 20 degrees  
      Not a bad fit.  
      Yeah, the plug wires are a mess, but without charging fittings spliced into the hoses, and with the receiver-drier tucked away in the nose, this looks pretty clean.  
      I think I beat the bulkhead connector issue in the last installment, but just to repeat: I had to use what are known as "short-drop fittings" to reduce the amount of standoff from the firewall. Usually I've used short-drops on the condenser fittings on cars like the Bavaria, E9, and E24 due to lack of clearance in the nose. This was the first time I'd ever used them for a standoff issue.
      A short-drop fitting used at the top of the condenser of my 3.0CSi due to tight side-to-side clearance.  
      Short-drop fittings used in the footwell of Louie in order to reduce standoff. I hated the way everything looked, but when I buttoned things up, I hid them. (Next: The wiring.)
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      Punching holes in the nose
      Before we make the hoses, we need to punch holes in a few places.
      The easiest ones are in the nose where the condenser lives. Hoses need to run there from the compressor and to the receiver-drier, so holes need to be cut. That immediately leads to two questions: Where and how big?
      There's a very useful table in my a/c book. You should buy the book anyway (seriously, you really should buy the book anyway), but I'll reproduce it below:
      Hose Size
      Commonly Used For
      Hose I.D.
      Hose O.D.
      Fitting (Tube) Size
      Thread Size
      Collar Nut Size
      Condenser to drier; drier to evaporator
      Compressor (discharge) to condenser
      Evaporator to compressor (suction)
      For the "where," there's a nose template on page 20 of the Behr installation manual, but you can basically put them anywhere you want, though it makes sense to put the hole for the inlet hose from the compressor at about the same level as the top condenser port, and the hole for the outlet port for the drier at about the same level as where the drier will go. Of course, that means you have to decide where the drier will go, and we'll get to that. 
      I marked the hole locations using the Behr template and drilled pilot holes, and didn't like them. I decided to use the Behr-located lower hole as the top hole, and put the lower hole directly beneath the top hole, as photographs showed it that way on my other '72 2002tii (since sold).
      The nose hole locations from the Behr template. I didn't like them.  
      But before you drill the holes, you need to know how big they need to be. Which leads us to...
      The grommets
      Whatever the thick hooded rubber grommets were that were used with the Behr and other dealer-installed systems seems to be lost information. The Behr manual linked to above does list a part number, but googling it yields nothing. Astonishingly, I have yet to find a source for hooded grommets (ones with an overhang that faces forward) for a/c hoses. Companies like Nostalgic Air, Vintage air, Cold hose, etc sell generic universal a/c hose grommets that work for #6, #8, and #10 hoses, but a) they're not hooded so they're okay for the nose where you just want the hose not to get cut by the metal edge of the hole but not for the firewall where you want actual weather insulation, and b) the one-size-fits-all means they're a little loose for the #6 hose. Here's the link to them on Nostalgic a/c's site. I did buy them to use for the nose.
      The hole size for these grommets is 1 1/4". I have a hole saw that size (I used to have a Greenlee punch set which makes much cleaner holes, but I sold it in a round of garage cleaning this spring. D'oh!), so I had at it.
      The holes cut with the 1 1/4" hole saw. Yes I de-burred and primed them.  
      ...and grommeted. Punching holes in the firewall
      Having punched the holes in the nose, the logical next step was the more harrowing one—punching the holes in the firewall. At one level, it's no different than the nose (it's the same sheet metal), but it's worse because:
      Unlike the holes in the nose, the firewall holes DO have to be weathertight. The clearance is tighter (you don't want to cut through a brake line). There's insulation on both sides you have to peel back or cut through.  
      Seeing the 1 1/4" holes for the grommets I'd just cut in the nose, I had a visceral reaction—e.g., man, those are BIG-assed holes to cut in the firewall. Although I'd done, I believe, five other 2002 a/c rejuvenations, I'd never cut holes in an 02's firewall before. I had, however, cut holes in my E9 and my E24. I looked at the photos of the E24 installation, and realized that both the E9 and the E24 don't run hoses through the firewall at all. Instead, they both use copper pipes. They have to, as they run above the back of the glovebox, and hoses would never fit there. The copper pipes are much thinner than the rubber hoses, and thus the grommets and the holes that host them are smaller. That's why I didn't remember having the same reaction that "damn those are big holes."
      We now get into two closely-related topics. The first is exactly where to put the holes. The second is whether it's worth using bulkhead connectors instead of hoses.
      Exactly where to put the holes
      Every dealer-installed 2002 a/c I've ever seen has the hoses go through the firewall above the back of the exhaust manifold, then curve to the right to lean against the right inner fender wall or rest on the top of the right frame rail. The awful photo below is the only one of my cars I can seem to find, but you get the general picture—above the brake lines, and sort of above the exhaust manifold as opposed to tucked in the corner.
      The near-installed engine compartment hose location on Kugel's Behr system (after rejuvenation)  
      When looked at from inside the car, they emerge near the lower left corner of the glovebox, This makes sense, as it's not far from where they go into the evaporator assembly.
      The near-installed hose under-dash location on Kugel's Behr system (after rejuvenation)  
      Now, there is a template for cutting these holes in the Behr manual (see link above), but the illustration simply says "contact line at heater case" and "upper contact line," neither of which are unique locations. The main thing is understanding where the holes need to come out in the engine compartment, because the brake lines are on the other side.
      If you look in the above photo, you see a bunch of wires coming through the firewall below the hoses. They're going through a hole that is present, I believe, on every 2002. If you pull back the insulation panel at the footwell, you'll see that, below the gas/vapor line, there's a metal plug covered with sealant.
      The mysterious 2002 firewall hole plug  
      If you pop the metal plug off, what you see is the back side of the firewall foam (and, in my case, some corrosion having formed under the sealant).
      Firewall foam In my a/c book, I think that I erroneously state that this can be used for one of the a/c hoses. That's wrong. It can't be. The reason why is that it emerges directly behind the brake lines. If you take a thin screwdriver or a coat hanger and push it through the center of this hole, you can see in the engine compartment where it emerges:
      Even though you can't use this hole for an a/c hose, it's still handy to see this, because in order to properly drill the holes, it's absolutely essential to understand how what you see from the engine compartment side corresponds with what you see from the inside.
      In the above image, there's something important in the upper left corner. It looks like a rusty lump, but it's the clip that holds the upper corner of the firewall insulation in place. It's important because, from the inside of the car, you can see where the back of this firewall insulation clip is spot-welded in place. That provides a very useful reference point between the inside and outside views.
      Below, I've provided something of a road map to the inner firewall. I've drawn a black rectangle that highlights the approximate location for the dealer-installed a/c hoses. To the right of that is the firewall insulation clip. Next are two black circles split around the clip that holds up the gas and vent lines. The #2 circle on the right represents the hole you can drill if you want a hose to emerge in the very right rear corner of the firewall, behind the ignition coil. To the right of the #2 black circle, you can see a bulge in the firewall. That's the inner fender wall. You can't drill there. If you drill to the right of that, the hole will come out in the wheel well, behind the right front tire. That's probably not what you want (although I know someone who intentionally ran his a/c hoses through there). 
      The from-the-inside firewall road map you didn't know you needed. The rust has been wire-brushed off the "mystery hole." It was later re-plugged and re-sealed.  
      Two questions immediately emerge: 1) Do you WANT to try to drill holes for hoses where those black circles are in order to tuck the hoses more neatly into the corner of the engine compartment? And 2) Is it even possible to drill the 1 1/4" holes  that you need for the commercially-available grommets in those locations? Good questions. I lost sleep over both of them.
      Eyeballing it with both the grommet and a 1 1/4" hole saw, there's not really enough room for a 1 1/4" hole at #2. But if you go back up to the table above, you see that one hole is for a #6 hose (3/4" outer diameter, fitting has 5/8" threads), the other a #10 (1" outer diameter, 7/8" threads).
      And so, if you're me, you think "a-HA! If I use bulkhead connectors instead of hoses, I only need to drill the holes large enough for the connector thread size, not for a grommet to surround the holes. I bet I could squeeze the hoses into that corner instead of having them emerge directly over the exhaust manifold. It'd be cooler and cleaner.
      And thus we look at...
      Bulkhead connectors
      Typical polished a/c bulkhead connectors on a plate  
      Let me say that, although some people tout bulkhead connectors because they provide a means of sealing up the firewall holes without grommets, I had already thought about and rejected them. In the first place, you usually see two (or four) of them on a shared polished plate, making them look way too modern, too hot-rod for me. I thought they'd look completely out of place in the engine compartment of a survivor 2002 like Louie. Second, because they're on a shared plate, you lose the ability to individually place them. And third, they create FOUR additional connections that can leak.
      However, I was swayed by two factors. The first was that I found individual #6 and #10 bulkhead connectors that weren't together on a plate. Coldhose has them. They even have grooves in them for rubber sealing washers behind the collar nuts for added bulkhead weather-tightness. This enabled the possibility of individual accurate placement, with the small #6 connector requiring only a 5/8" hole. I thought that could easily fit in the #2 black circle drawn above. (Instead of bulkhead fittings, you also can use male o-ring insert fittings that crimp directly onto the end of the hoses on one side of the bulkhead.)
      The second was that because the Clardy evaporator has the expansion valve on the left, it makes for long hoses. The idea of ever having to replace either the evap-to-compressor hose or the evap-to-drier hose was daunting, and not academic, as my friend Jose Rosario had asked me to relocate his fender-wall-mounted drier in order to fit a set of headers.
      So I went ahead and ordered the individual bulkhead connectors, and drilled holes for them in the 1 and 2 black circle locations of the firewall.
      The individual bulkhead connectors. Man those collar nuts are big. You can barely make out the rubber washer in the big one.  
      As you can see from the photo above, the holes for the threads may be much smaller than the holes needed for the rubber grommets for the hoses, but those collar nuts are big. I successfully fit the smaller #6 bulkhead fitting in the #2 spot, and the bigger #10 in the #1 spot, but in order to fit the collar nut on the #10, I had to use a Dremel tool to buy some clearance on the firewall insulation clip.
      Holes for the bulkhead connectors from the inside...  
      ...and from the outside. Yes I de-burred and primed them.  
      Bulkhead connectors installed. You can see where I Dremel'd clearance (Clarence :^) around the foam firewall clip for the collar nut.  
      Having done this, let me say that I don't think I'd recommend this, and I don't think I'd do it again.
      Wait. What? Why not, oh wise and all-knowing Rob?
      Well, four reasons (yes, I enumerate everything like this):
      First, there's something of a misnomer about the ability of bulkhead connectors to enable tight right-angle turns. Yes, they DO make right-angle turns, but it's at the cost of standoff. That is, you have the physical height of both the bulkhead connector itself and the fitting that screws into it. Even if that's a right-angle fitting, it has stand-off. On the inside, I initially test-fit standard inexpensive 90-degree connectors as shown in the photo below, and had nearly three inches of standoff. I eventually went with more expensive "short drop" fittings to get them closer to the firewall as shown in the following photo.
      The standard 90-degree fittings stood way off from the inside of the firewall.  
      The short-drop fittings were closer in.  
      Second, although the configuration does create a nicely tucked-in look in the corner engine compartment, as shown in the photo below, it makes the hoses come out in the middle of the passenger footwell (as shown in the photo above) instead of having them drop in in the corner close to the evaporator to which they need to connect. So that's a trade-off.
      Yes, the engine compartment side does look pretty clean.  
      Third, the #10 suction line back to the compressor (the one that gets cold) sweats, and thus any metal fittings on it must be wrapped with cork tape so that it doesn't drip inside the car. If it's just a hose through the firewall, it only means wrapping the fitting that goes into the expansion valve. No big deal. But—and I didn't foresee this one at all—with bulkhead fittings, it means that that any metal on that fitting on the inside of the car has to be wrapped to keep it from coming in contact with humid air. That turned out to be challenging, and is the kind of thing that I hesitate to do until everything is installed and tested to be leak-free. It got done, but it all adds to the conclusion that I'd be unlikely to recommend this or to do this again myself.
      Fourth, although I said that, without bulkhead fittings, I was concerned about the length of the evap-to-compressor and evap-to-drier hoses, if those are unbroken hoses, they have the advantage that any slack in the interior hoses (there is zero space behind the evap assembly for hose slack) can simply be fed through the grommets, and the hoses can simply sag down onto the frame rail to accommodate the slack. With the bulkhead connectors, the evap-to-bulkhead hoses need to be cut to the absolute zero-room-for-error length before crimping them. I suspect, but do not know for sure, that this means that if, for example, I needed to pull the evap assembly to pull the heater box to replace the blower motor, I'd be less likely to be able to simply swing it way out of the way as I could if there were simply hoses through grommets. I suppose we'll see over the next 30 years :^)
      So, no, don't interpret this lengthy tome as an endorsement of the bulkhead connector approach.
      I was going to have this installment include the actual fittings and hose fabrication, but I think I'll stop now and cover that next time. Sort of like having the bulkhead connectors break up the long hoses :^)
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      The Bigger Picture of the Evaporator Assembly and Console
      This whole thing started because a) I did some work on the bone-stock Clardy system in my friend Jose Rosario's 2002 and was very impressed with how cold it blew after shooting just one can of R134a into it, and after that b) I happened into a full-up Clardy system at The Vintage in 2017 for a price I couldn't pass up. As I say in my a/c book, whether you're doing an installation of a system like the one I bought, or a rejuvenation of an already installed but long-dead system, the smart path is to:
      Re-use the original evaporator assembly (but first disassemble it, flush it out, then replace the expansion valve) and its original console. Throw nearly everything else away.  
      In other words, you're going to use a new Sanden 508 compressor or clone thereof and a bracket to mount it to the block, you're going to use a modern parallel-flow condenser whose size is limited to about 10x18 unless you cut some metal in the nose, you're going to use as big a fan that fits between the hood supports (12"), you're going to use some generic inexpensive receiver-drier, and you're going to make all new hoses. All those things are moderately-priced components that are easily sourced. Commodities really. So the only thing that really matters is that evaporator assembly and console.
      I've said in my book and here on the FAQ that, although you can try to fit an evap assembly from another car (there were persistent unsubstantiated rumors here on the FAQ that an evap box from something weird and small and Japanese like a Moparbishi Colt/Champ would fit), or a generic universal evaporator assembly, or a generic climate control box (an evaporator and heater core in one box that creates a blended temperature-controlled output), I think that most people will be happy using the evap assembly and console from one of the original three dealer-installed systems (Behr, Frigiking, Clardy), as that way they'll have something that looks like it's been engineered to fit as opposed to, well, hacked. I'll freely admit that that view was influenced by trying, 20 years ago, to retrofit a/c into my E9 coupe, starting off with a generic evaporator assembly, and realizing that, even if it fit under the dash, there was no way in hell it was ever going to sit inside a console and look well-integrated. I'll come back to this in a moment.
      In the first installment of this series, I included photographs of the evaporator assemblies and surrounding consoles of all three dealer-installed a/c systems (I've read here on the FAQ about a fourth that was mounted on the parcel shelf, but I'm not familiar with it). Personally, I think that the Behr system is by far the best looking of the three. It's got a real console with hard sides that wrap completely around both the evap assembly and the shifter, looks very similar to to the non-a/c console, and gives a family resemblance to the Behr a/c systems in the E3 Bavaria and E9 3.0CS coupe. I always thought that the Clardy console was just plain weird-looking, too angular in a 2002 interior and dashboard that's otherwise bereft of hard lines and hard angles. I never would've given it a second thought if Jose's hadn't worked so well after I fixed it.
      Having bought this old Clardy system and installed the evap assembly, I've learned a bit more. 
      Physical configuration: As I showed in the first installment, the Behr evap assembly has everything (evaporator core, expansion valve, blower motor) inside a hard plastic case that's kind of a pain to crack open and disassemble. In contrast, the Clardy has the blower motor hanging out to the right and the expansion valve behind on the left. Further, the Clardy doesn't really even have a "case" like the Behr; it's more two thin halves of plastic shrouding that are screwed together. In comparison with the Behr, it's light to the point of being flimsy, and way the the blower is screwed to the side almost looks like a kluge. However, it does make it so the expansion valve and blower motor can be replaced without tearing the thing apart.
      Clardy evaporator assembly. Photo courtesy Earl Meyers.  
      Evaporator core size comparison: I was curious if the mystique of the performance of the Clardy system was because it has a larger evaporator core than the Behr. It doesn't. The Behr evaporator core is about 8.25 x 7.75 x 3.375 inches (about 216 cubic inches). The Clardy core is about 10.25 x 3.75 x 3.625 inches (about 139 cubic inches). So it's about 35% smaller than the Behr evaporator core. Most surprising.
      Expansion valve and o-ring fittings: As I said in Part I, both the Behr and Frigiking have old-school externally-regulated expansion valves, but the Clardy system has a modern block-style internally-regulated expansion valve. What I didn't realize until I took mine apart to replace the valve is that both the external hose connections to the expansion valve and the connections between the expansion valve and the core itself are o-ring connections. This is great because it means that it's possible to put an a/c system in a 2002 that has only o-ring fittings and no flare fittings. This dramatically increases the chance that, when you put the system together and tighten the fittings down, it'll be leak-free. It's also surprising because I believe that the original Clardy system's other components are not o-ring fittings; they're flares.
      Preparing to remove the original block-style expansion valve on my Clardy evaporator assembly.   And beneath it, o-rings!  
      Let me expand on that flare/o-ring observation. In most vintage a/c systems including the original Behr system, every component—compressor, evaporator assembly, condenser, drier—had flare fittings. When you rejuvenate a system, you almost always need to make new hoses anyway, so you'd be silly not to replace the compressor, condenser, and drier with components with modern o-ring fittings. However, there's no getting around the fact that the fittings on the Behr evaporator assembly have flares. You can use flare-to-o-ring adapters (and I usually do), but it doesn't solve the fundamental issue of those fittings, as well as the expansion valve fittings inside the assembly, having leak-prone flares. Flare fittings use a metal-on-metal sealing face. You have to crank them down really tight to get them to seal. It's possible to tighten them so much that you actually crack the flare. I've done it. Believe me, few things are a frustrating as installing an evaporator assembly, hooking up all the plumbing, charging it, and finding that you have a leak inside the evaporator assembly and have to pull it out and take it apart again. With the Clardy's evaporator assembly having o-ring fittings on the block expansion valve, it means that, once you update the other components, there are no flares in the system. Zero. This alone is a HUGE advantage of the Clardy evap assembly.
      Form factor and how it affects installation: You've seen the photos that show how the Clardy evap assembly has that big blower motor on the right side, hanging into the passenger compartment. What you probably haven't seen is what the consequence of that is in terms of mounting.
      The Behr evaporator assembly basically sits on the transmission hump. There's a metal stand for it that's a pain and probably a bit over-engineered—the stand screws to the hump, attaches to the bottom of the assembly, and there are 10mm bolts on sliding slots that you try to reach in and tighten, but even without the stand, it still basically sits on the hump. And it's fully surrounded by a hard-sided console that wraps completely around the shift lever. It's got a trapezoidal faceplate that's held in place to the console by screws through the sides. 
      In contrast, the Clardy assembly does NOT sit on the hump at all. Instead it has two little metal tabs that you need to screw into the corners of the heater box, and it hangs from those. Yeesh! And the Clardy console isn't really a console at all, at least not as compared with the hard-sided Behr console. Instead, the faceplate is the business end, and two flappy thin plastic side pieces screw to it, rather than the other way around. Two other pieces extend around the shifter to make it look like it wraps around it, which it really doesn't, at least not in the way that the Behr console wraps around the shifter. I'll photograph all this in a later installment when it's all buttoned up.
      But the point is that the whole Clardy setup is a little weird and kind of flimsy as compared with the Behr system. 
      Faceplate bracket: In the photos below, you'll see that there's a metal bracket above the evaporator assembly. I'd already screwed it to the underside of the dash as part of the test fit. If you're going to retrofit a Clardy system, you need this bracket, as it holds the faceplate. The installation of the faceplate and ashtray will be a pain without it. (This is an example of why it's always handy to buy a full-up removed a/c system even though you know you'll throw out the compressor, condenser, fan, receiver-drier, and hoses. You never know when there's a piece like this without which your installation life will be difficult.)
      Evaporator assembly maintenance
      Okay. So you've bought a used evaporator assembly. You do NOT just throw it in the car. First, with the old expansion valve removed, you flush out the evaporator core. This removes dirt, traces of old refrigerant oil, and other contaminants. Why anyone would install a used a/c evap assembly without disassembling and flushing it is beyond me.
      Are you feeling... flushed?  
      Next, if you're smart, you replace the expansion valve. Some enterprising soul here on the FAQ had already figured out that the two fittings on the front of the expansion valve are like they are on most evaporator assemblies (#6  input) and #10 output), but on the back of the expansion valve where it mates to the actual evaporator fittings, it's two #10s, and that a Four Seasons 38881 expansion valve fits. I got really lucky and found one on Amazon for $10.31 :^). Because it's new, I assume it's a valve meant for R134a.
      A word on this. You've probably read that the expansion valve should match the refrigerant—that you should use an R12 expansion valve for R12, and an R134a valve for R134a—but I haven't always followed that advice. Sometimes, when rejuvenating a Behr system, I've reused the original R12 expansion valve. Sometimes I've combed eBay to purchase a new old stock Egelhof expansion valve and used them with R134a. Sometimes I've bought a new and presumably R134a-compliant expansion valve. I can't say that I've ever found the valve to the the sole and obvious determining factor of either a system that blows so cold that it shatters the enamel on my teeth, or performs so poorly that it feels like something's wrong.
      New o-rings wetted-up with Nylog Blue sealer   Newly-installed expansion valve   Lastly, I connected the blower fan directly to a battery to verify that it worked (it did) and that it didn't rub (it did; requiring a little jiggering of the fan motor inside its housing). The fan motor was then turned on and rechecked at several times during the evap assembly installation. You don't want to button everything up to find that the fan scrapes.

      Evaporator assembly installation
      Okay. Let's get on with it.
      For the actual evap installation, I combed the FAQ for a set of Clardy installation instructions, found references to them, saw wiring diagrams and charging instructions, but never found a complete set of installation instructions. I pulsed some FAQers and they sent what they had, but I never got my hands on the part that describes what I was looking for, which is how exactly to install the evap box. Fortunately I did find this photo, unmistakably showing the little tabs on the evap box screwed to the corners of the heater box.
      Photo courtesy of Conserv (Steve)  
      There was also the question of the position of that faceplate bracket. It's pretty clear from the above photo, but I also found this pic from the Clardy installation manual on the FAQ. It was unclear to me whether the two outer screws were supposed to replace already existing under-dash screws that are very close to those locations, but the ones in my car that those locations were solidly rusted in place, so I drilled new holes near them.
      Clardy faceplate bracket placement. I forget who posted it on the FAQ, but thanks.  
      Looking at the photos, I first mounted the bracket under the dash, then test-fit the faceplate to it and verified that the faceplate's curved base sat correctly on the transmission hump.
      Test-fitting the Clardy faceplate and bracket.  
      Once I was convinced that the faceplate sat about right, I took it off, supported the evap assembly on a block of wood on the hump, put the faceplate back on, slid the back of the vent openings into the opening in the front of the evap assembly, and verified that, basically, if you lifted the evap box as high up as it would go, the tab locations looked about like they did in the two photos above without making the vent ridge on the faceplate pop out of the evap box. I marked and drilled the holes in the heater box for #8 Phillips screws, but first looked at an old heater box I had kicking around to reassure myself I wasn't about to accidentally drill holes in the heater core.
      A fair amount of time and stress over two very small holes. With this done, I could finally hang my prize.
      I'll do a big wrap-up at the end of this series, but since I'm concentrating here on the evap assembly and I just talked about it in a fair amount of detail, here's a small wrap-up:
      When I published my a/c book three years ago, I said that I thought most people would be happy building a system around one of the original three dealer-installed evaporator assemblies. Since installing this Clardy box, I know a little more than I did then. The 2002 a/c system that Bob Poggi at ICE AC sells reportedly uses an evaporator assembly that's very similar to the Clardy box. I've written to Bob Poggi to try and get some details on what the evaporator assembly actually is and how it differs from the original Clardy box (their website is horrible). The only detail he's provided me is "I can assure you it has no ties to the Clardy system aside from the offset blower assembly." From the occasional photos of the ICE evaporator assembly I've found here on the FAQ, the ICE box looks extremely similar to the Clardy box, right down to the little mounting tabs that look like they need to be screwed to the heater box the same way. The fact that the KoogleWerks faceplate is advertised as working for both the Clardy as well as the ICE system certainly indicate that, at least as far as mounting and form factor, the two systems are extremely similar.
      The point is that, if I was doing a build on a car, and was looking for a new evaporator assembly and faceplate/console that worked better than a 45-year-old one but also looked like it wasn't a hastily-built one-off, I'd look at the ICE evaporator assembly, as it is, I believe, the only new commercially-available option that fits that bill. Yes, there is the Vintage Air mini-system (and the DTech system that I believe is built around it), but that's not just an evaporator assembly; it's a climate control system with layers of additional complication with which I have zero experience.
      Next installment: The bulkhead connectors.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      As I and many other folks have said, part of the recipe for upgrading performance of any vintage a/c system in any car is to replace the old-school serpentine-flow condenser and fan with the largest modern parallel-flow condenser you can fit in the nose, and the largest fan you can fit on the condenser ("big enough to suck a schnauzer off the sidewalk" is the way I've often put it). In this series of articles, I've been light on theory, as you can read about how an air conditioning system works in my book and many other places, but the condenser is basically the a/c's radiator, the place where it dumps the heat that's extracted from the passenger compartment. The more heat it can dump, the better. The old serpentine-flow condenser had one thick bent tube that snaked through it (hence the name), whereas a modern parallel-flow condenser has many small tubes, allowing more refrigerant to come in contact with more metal and thus dump the heat to the air.
      Original Behr serpentine condenser and modern parallel-flow condenser   This is now the sixth 2002 I've done a/c rejuvenation or retrofit in. In each one, I've handled the condenser and fan differently, but consistent across them is the question of size and mounting.
      Condenser Size
      I and others have posted here on the FAQ about the question of the largest parallel-flow condenser that can be fit in the nose. It's been pretty well documented that a 10x18 condenser will fit between the horn brackets without needing to cut any sheet metal (though you may need to trim the bracket on one side of the condenser. I fit an 11x20 (mistakenly listed as 11x21 in my a/c book) by cutting both horn supports.
      But in nearly all those posts, folks were looking at it from the standpoint of mounting the condenser vertically to the nose wall directly in front of the radiator. In this recent post, I revisited the issue by asking if there's larger size that can be fit if you instead angle the compressor behind the hood supports. By taking a piece of particle board and cutting it down until it fits, and taking into account the fact that the stated width measurement of a condenser is the outer tube-to-tube width, not the bracket-to-bracket width or the bracket-to fitting-edge width (you need to add on about 1.5 inches to the spec width), I determined that when you increase the width, you rapidly become unable to make the turn when you try to put the condenser through the radiator hole, but a 10x20 condenser would probably fit behind the hood supports. Unfortunately, neither that size nor 10x19 appear to be click-and-buy available, so I fell back to the well-vetted 10x18. I purchased mine on coldhose.com.
      10x21.5 piece of wood simulating a 10x20 condenser fitting between the horn brackets and the hood supports   However, there was still the question of whether to mount the condenser vertically to the nose wall as I had every other one I'd installed, or try something new and mount it behind the hood supports. As with many other things like this, I wrote up the pros and cons in a spreadsheet (because, yup, I'm that much of an ex-engineer):
      In front of radiator pros:
      Simple straight shot mounting with standoffs or rubber vibration isolators through nose wall In front of radiator cons:
      It's close to radiator in terms of heat from one affecting the other Need to be careful about radiator mounting screws puncturing condenser (been there, punctured that) Access to top hose fitting partially occluded by horn bracket  
      Behind hood support pros
      Something new to try Physically separated from radiator both in terms of air flow and puncture from bolts Free access to hose fittings Can mount a Spal fan on the front of the hood supports where it fits perfectly Behind hood support cons
      Less clear how to mount it; probably need to make some sort of bracket Air flow at speed may not be quite as good due to lower part of condenser being below kidneys  
      I thought I'd try the hood support mounting just to do things a different way. What stopped me was nothing in the above list—it was the fact that, as part of all this digging about in Louie's nose, I discovered that there's a lot more rust there than I thought. The bottom of the left hood support is rotted clean through to the point where it's detached.
      Most surprising. And disheartening.   The detachment didn't make me afraid that weight of the condenser and fan on it would cause problems, but it did make me concerned that it might bang around, or vibrate when the fan was on. So I fell back to a conventional vertical mount in front of the radiator nose wall.
      As I've said, I've done this with 1"-long nylon spacers, as well as using the rubber vibration isolators that are used on 2002 air cleaner housings and tii injection pumps. I prefer the rubber isolators as they eliminate the possibility of fan vibration coupling through to the body of the car, and for a while, I seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of them, but this time, when I checked, the only ones I had were old and cracked, and I had nylon spacers left over from a prior installation, so I just used them.
      You do want to space the condenser off the nose wall, both to get it away from the heat of the radiator (and vice versa) as well as to help assure that the radiator bolts won't puncture it (I've done this; see below), but the downside is that the further you move it away, the sooner the bottom of the condenser will run into the angled hood support, giving you less leeway with how far down you can mount the condenser.

      Totally not kidding about having punctured a condenser with a radiator bolt. Why do you care about having the bottom of the condenser further down? Don't you want the whole thing slid upward to help with air flow through the kidneys? Well, yes, but the other factor here is the fan. I'll get back to the fan itself in more detail, but as far as how it factors in with the condenser mounting, on a 2002 I usually use a 12"-diameter fan, as that maximizes the use of space between the hood supports. The condenser is only 10" tall, though, so the fan overhangs at the top and bottom, and it's by more than 1 inch because the overall housing of the fan is bigger than 12 inches. You can plan to center the fan exactly on the condenser and mount the pair against the nose wall, but when using standoffs, you may find that the bottom of the condenser won't go down far enough, and you wind up having to reposition the fan so it hangs further off at the bottom. It's not really a big deal, just be prepared.
      As far as the actual mounting, you're likely going to have to drill holes in the nose wall. I've seen photos here on the FAQ of people who've hung the condenser from the horn brackets, and I suppose that another advantage of mounting it to the hood supports is that you could fabricate brackets that mount it to the 13mm bolts or the hinges and not have to drill holes, but most folks just mount it to the nose wall and drill holes. I usually slide the condenser as far to the right (driver's side) as it'll go and try to get the mounting points off the little shoulder around the radiator cut-out. 
      You can futz with it for hours, but at some point, you just hold the condenser up so that the top hose fitting is about in the middle of the space made by the horn bracket, so there's clearance for the hose connector, mark the mounting points on the right as best you can with a Sharpie, center-punch them, drill them, and bolt them. I use M8 bolts with 10mm heads so the hardware feels in harmony with the other hardware on the car (and gives me the opportunity to lose another 10mm socket :^). This means having to drill out the holes in the condenser bracket to enlarge them slightly, but it feels right to me.
      Upper hose fitting about in the middle of the space behind the horn bracket   Upper right hole drilled and test-fit. Note from the black Sharpie mark above it that I was off by one, as I couldn't get the bottom of the condenser as low as I thought due to it hitting the hood supports when stand-offs were used.   You're probably going to need an extra-long drill bit to reach in and drill from the front, as there's really no way I'm aware of to mark them and drill them accurately from the back. And the drill bits really tend to wander. My latest technique is to mark them, center-punch them, then use a Dremel tool with a pointy grinder bit on it to grind a little pilot hole for the drill bit. Do it first with the upper right mounting hole (as viewed from the front), put the bolt and nut through it, get it as level at the top as you can, make sure that the upper left hose fitting has clearance in the horn bracket, then mark and drill the bottom right.
      On the left side, it's a little more complicated, as making the right side flush with the horn bracket pulls the left condenser bracket over the edge of the nose wall, so you almost certainly need some sort of side-mounting bracket to extend it over. One of the really frustrating thing about condensers is that their hole spacing doesn't appear to be standardized and is very rarely listed in the specs. The same is true with the rectangular multi-hole universal brackets that a/c companies sell. I bought both the condenser and the side-mounting brackets from coldhose.com, figuring that that way the hole spacing would match, and incredibly, they didn't.
      Be aware that, on the left (passenger) side, your bracket and the holes you drill for it have to clear the radiator mounting ears. Here, I didn't, and had to redo it by adding an extra bracket to space it over further. Idiot!
      This looked great from inside the nose, but...   ...when viewed from the engine compartment, the head of the bolt was right where the passenger-side radiator mounting ear has to sit flush. D'oh!   Second attempt with another bracket to space it over.   Jim Gerock commented on Facebook that this looked like the condenser is supported in two places on the right side but only supported in one place on the left side. Well, sort of. I know Jim to be thorough, meticulous, and a first-rate mechanic, so I take his observations seriously. The condenser bracket itself on the left is shorter than the one on the right because the hose fittings are on the left. And it's difficult to drill at the very top and very bottom because of drill access. Plus, as you can see, I had to trim the left bracket slightly to get clearance around the horn bracket, so it's not like I could drill the hole several inches higher even if I had access to. The brackets themselves are pretty rigid and bolted together in two places. The whole mounting structure probably isn't as rigid as it would be if the mounting points were fully extended to all four corners, but it is mounted at four points, and it doesn't weigh very much.
      The Fan
      I use only Spal-brand fans. You can find cheaper ones that make all sorts of claims about cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air flow, but only with a manufacturer like Spal or Mishimoto would I actually believe them.
      Spal's 12-inch pusher fans are in a table below. The costs are from Amazon. As with everything, there's a lot more about fans in my book.
        profile blades cfm amps depth weight cost 30100384 low straight 856 7.5 2.05 2.5 $71 30101505 medium straight 1009 13 2.44 4 $85 30102025 high paddle 1687 20 3.75 4 $135 30102030 high curved 1381 14.5 3.45 5.25 $136  
      The go-to 2002 fan for me is the 30101505. Despite my saying that I want a schnauzer-sucking fan, most of the time when I want a/c in a vintage car, it's because I'm road-tripping as opposed to caught in traffic, and the 30101505 has seemed like a good trade-off of profile, weight, CFM, amperage, and cost. Keep in mind that, on a vintage car like a 2002 with an anemic original alternator, you may need to upgrade the alternator if the fan is actually pulling 20 amps. I want to measure the actual draw of the fan, but the fuse on my trusty old Fluke multimeter is only rated to 10 amps. I have an old VDO ammeter kicking around the garage somewhere. When I find it, I'll measure and edit this article here.
      As with the condenser, I've mounted the fans in a variety of ways. If you use the little Spal plastic brackets that slide right into the fan housing, you can bolt the 16-inch fan directly to the hood supports. If you use those brackets and the linear metal brackets Spal sells, you can attach them to the 
      condenser brackets at the sides or top. But you can also use the zip-tie-like Deraile (or other) fan mounting kit and just snock it directly to the condenser. This used to give me the heebie geebies, but it's so easy to do that, as long as the fan is relatively lightweight and the car isn't driven offroad or on really rough pavement to throw the fan around, it seems to work out well. That's what I did here.
      I did have two unanticipated issues. The first was that, because I wasn't using the little Spal right angle brackets (I thought I had four, but didn't), I instead zip-tied directly to the holes in the fan frame, and there's not enough room there for the round Deraile slide-on connectors. I trimmed them with wire cutters.
      The trimmed connectors   The second issue was that, having mounted the fan on the condenser, I found that I couldn't pass the pair of them through the nose together. I had no recollection of ever having this problem before. I cut the connectors, bought another set, put the fan through, then the condenser, then mounted them.
      But, finally, it was done.
      Yes I trimmed those zip ties.   The view from the back with the pads for the backs of the Deraile zip ties.   Next installment: The Clardy evaporator assembly.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      In the previous piece, I installed the tii-specific a/c crankshaft hub that has a compressor pulley behind the cogged gear that runs the injection pump, and explained that what that means is that the next steps are to:
      Install the compressor, bracket and belt, and correct any belt alignment or tension issues. Modify the notches for the belt in the plastic lower timing belt cover if they already exist, and create them if they don't. Then put the injection belt back on and button things up.  
      It was now time to do those things.
      The go-to compressor for a retrofit or rejuvenation is the Sanden 508 or one of its infinite Chinese-made clones. I've generally bought whatever's available cheaply (as low as $80) on eBay from vendors with high feedback numbers. After installing perhaps ten of these, have yet to have a failure, but if you want to buy something with more provenance and less risk, you can buy on Amazon where you can look at actual reviews, or buy from one of the online a/c specialty shops like Vintage Air, Old Air Products, Nostalgic Air, Restomod Air, etc, or online race/hotrod shops like Summit or Jegs.
      There are, however, a few things you need to know before you click and buy.
      First, be aware that, even though many people call these "rotary compressors," they're not. They're piston compressors in a paint can-style compact form factor. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I try to call them "rotary-style" just to be consistent and accurate. In the photo below, you can see the five pistons (the "5" in the "508").
      The pistons inside a "rotary-style" Sanden 508 compressor.  
      Second, the 508 and its clones come with either a grooved serpentine belt pulley or two V-belt pulleys. Unless you have some modern Honda engine in your 2002 with serpentine belt accessories on it, you want V-belt pulleys.
      Third, as I say in my a/c book, retrofit or rejuvenation is an opportunity to do away with as many of the old leak-prone flare fittings as possible in favor of modern o-ring fittings. The old York compressors had, I believe, two #10 flares, but almost any modern compressor you'll buy has a #10 and a #8 o-ring fitting, and that's a good thing. The point is that you don't want to accidentally buy a compressor with flare fittings on it. Note, however, that the round flat plate on the back of the compressor (referred to as the "back head") that has the hose fittings on it can be easily replaced, so if you have an old working Sanden 508 with flare fittings, you can simply buy a Sanden head with o-ring fittings on it. I did this a few years back when I resurrected Bertha, the 2002 I owned nearly 30 years ago whose compressor I'd already updated.
      Bertha's Sanden compressor with the new o-ring head on it.  
      Fourth, you need to be aware of where you're going to locate the charging fittings to hook the manifold gauges to. Some back heads have Schraeder-style thread-on charging fittings directly on them right below the hose fittings (in the photo above, you can see the holes for those fittings). Some don't. Although these are R12-style charging fittings, you can still use them with R134a, and it makes for a cleaner installation, but a) they're difficult to reach, and b) they always blow a surprising amount of refrigerant when you're disconnecting the manifold gauge hoses; the snap-fit R134a fittings work much better, and that's what I recommend using.
      So, procure a compressor with the Sanden 508 form factor, a V-belt pulley, o-ring fittings, and charging fitting configuration you're aware of (that is, if you're relying on the screw-on compressor charging fittings as being the only charging fittings on the car, make sure it has them).
      For this a/c retrofit into Louie, I actually had two used compressors I could take advantage of. The first was the original Sanden 508 that was part of the used full-up Clardy system I bought at The Vintage. Yes, the compressor had flare fittings on the back head, but I could replace it with an o-ring head for thirty bucks. The freewheeling bearing on the pulley (the one it runs on until the compressor clutch engages) was noisy, but that's a $13 part, easily changed (see this piece I recently wrote for Hagerty). I liked the idea of reusing the original Clardy Sanden compressor. Unfortunately, when I test-fit it to the bracket, there was a lot of play. Upon examination, it turned out that one of the pivot bolt holes had worn itself into an oval. I elected not to use it.
      The elongated bolt hole in the original Sanden 508 that came with the Clardy system.  
      The other option was that I still had the Japanese-made Seltec compressor I'd originally installed in my 1973 E9 3.0CSi in 1999. I'd replaced it a few years ago as part of a full refresh. It's a long story, but I believed the compressor to be fine. I thought "Why do I still have this thing kicking around my basement if I'm not going to reuse it now?" So I did.
      The original Sanden 508 (left) and the Seltec that was in my E9 (right).  
      You'll notice that, in the image above, the original Sanden 508 and the Seltec have two important differences. The first is that the ports on the Seltec are upright, whereas the ones on the Sanden are more V-oriented. The second is that the clutch on the front of the Seltec sticks out further. Both of things will come into play in subsequent installments.
      As I said in the first installment, of the three dealer-installed 2002 a/c systems, the Clardy system was the only one that had a Sanden rotary-style compressor. It also came with a Sanden-specific bracket to mount the compressor to the block. I assume that Clardy bought the bracket from someone else, but I don't know. The bracket was nice in that it got away from the big messy York bracket, but its downside was that it used rubber vibration isolation bushings with metal dowels through their center. As the rubber bushings aged, they degraded, causing the entire bracket to cock and throwing the compressor pulley out of alignment with the crank pulley. 
      When I put a Sanden compressor in Bertha, my '75 2002, in the mid-1980s, I used this same bracket and its rubber bushings, as it was what was available in the aftermarket. When I bought Bertha back and resurrected the car a few years ago, for both money-saving and originality reasons, I wanted to re-use the same compressor and bracket. I had two full sets of rubber bushings (the ones that were originally on the bracket and the ones that came with the full-up Clardy system), and from them I selected the best five pairs, but it was only a matter of days before the bracket and compressor cocked so badly that the compressor pulley began hitting the sway bar. I pulled the bracket out and replaced it with a "hobiedave bracket," the one Dave Donohoe sells here on the FAQ. Dave says that his bracket is a near-copy of the Clardy bracket except that instead of the big holes for the rubber bushings, he uses small holes through which the bolts directly go. In the photo below, the original Clardy bracket with some of its rubber bushings is shown on the right, the hobiedave bracket on the left.
      Hobiedave bracket (left) and original Clardy Sanden bracket (right)  
      For many years, if you wanted to bolt a Sanden 508-style compressor to a 2002 M10 block, the hobiedave bracket was the only game in town. I've used it in about half a dozen cars and have had no problems with it. Now, however, there are several other options. Blunttech's (Steve Peterson's) bracket is click-and-buy here. I've never used it, but it looks like, as the Brits say, a nice piece of kit. I believe that the other two main vendors of 2002-specific a/c systems, ICE AC and DTech, also have compressor brackets, but I'm not certain they're click-and-buy.
      If you still have a York compressor on your car and are trying to save money, you can buy a bracket adapter (a bracket that mounts to the original York bracket), but they're generally to be avoided, as they add weight and opportunities for misalignment and vibration. Besides, as I said, the original York bracket wrapped around the front of the water pump, requiring you to remove it if the water pump has to be changed. You really want it the f*ck out of your car.
      Original York bracket with arrows showing how the bracket appropriates the two lower water pump bolts for support.  
      For the a/c installation into Louie, I was trying to save money wherever I could, so I wondered if there was an off-the-shelf metal insert that I could use to fill the holes in the original Clardy bracket. I took the bracket to my local Ace Hardware store, and lo and behold, found that 3/8-inch I.D. x 3/4-inch O.D. x 1/4-inch long metal inserts fit so perfectly that, although I planned to epoxy them in place, I never did, as simply using big washers on the bolts appeared to hold the bracket completely rigid. The same size inserts are available on eBay here.  I did have to drill out one, the one at the lower left where the big bolt with the 17mm head goes through the engine mount.
      Original Clardy Sanden bracket with 3/8 x 3/4 x 1/4 metal inserts eliminating the rubber bushings  
      The insert is missing in the center because there's a round boss in the block at that spot, and apparently, on Louie's block, it wasn't drilled and tapped. This was interesting, as Louie originally had the non-a/c front sway bar on it that didn't jut out far enough to ever have cleared a compressor (see this post). So apparently some of these cars were less a/c-ready than others. Maybe none of the blocks have this boss tapped. It looks like this location isn't used by the hobiedave bracket anyway.
      The untapped boss on my engine block.  
      I had no confidence that I could drill and tap into the block accurately enough for the holes to line up, so I just left it alone. I did run a tap through the threads on the other holes in the block to clean them up, as they were pretty rusty.
      Running a tap to clean the threads  
      Then I mounted the bracket and inserts using big flat washers to capture the inserts in place.
      The Clardy Sanden bracket and its inserts all mounted up.  
      Then on went the Seltec compressor with the usual assortment of fasteners. There were no alignment issues. Sorry for the fuzzy photo.
      Seltec compressor in place  
      Then the injection belt went back on. Sorry I forgot to take a photo, but you can see what it looks like, and how it "captures" the compressor belt, in the photo above with the arrows pointing to the York bracket using the two lower water pump bolts.
      Slotting the Timing Belt Cover
      With the compressor and belt mounted, the next step was to see how the plastic lower timing belt cover needed to be slotted in order to let the compressor belt pass through it. The Behr 2002 a/c installation manual has this template in it for where to cut the cover:
      Template for cutting the lower plastic timing belt cover from the Behr installation manual  
      To my surprise, though, when I actually looked at the plastic lower timing belt cover, I saw that it was easier than that.
      The mating face of the plastic lower timing belt cover has two slightly raised tabs that slide into notched indentations in the engine's aluminum lower timing chain cover. Forgive me for not having taken more photos of this on Louie. Here's a photo of a spare lower timing chain cover kicking around in my parts closet with arrows pointing to the notches.
      Lower timing chain cover with arrows showing the stock notches  
      Here is one of the tabs on the plastic cover, with Wite-Out to highlight the edges. 
      Stock plastic tabs on the plastic lower injection belt cover.  
      It's actually kind of odd that these tabs and notches are there. Yes they help align the plastic and aluminum covers, but there are four bolts that do that, so the tabs and notches seem superfluous. But if you lay the Behr template on either the plastic lower cover or the aluminum one, either by choice or by chance, the "cut out this section" sections align almost perfectly with the tabs and slots. At least the one on the top did; the one on the bottom was much larger in the template. But with my compressor belt already installed, it sure looked to me like all I needed to do was turn the tabs in the plastic cover into slots and the belt would pass through them.
      And I did. And it did.
      The lower plastic injection belt cover notched to receive the compressor belt And installed  
      When I did this nearly ten years ago with Kugel, I had to significantly elongate the notches in both the plastic and metal covers. I don't know what's different about the belt angle on this Seltec compressor as opposed to the Sanden 508 clone I used ten years ago. It's a bit of a mystery to me. But I'm grateful for it, as it made the installation easier than I expected.
      One other quick note: Before I mounted the compressor, I filled it with a little over 4 ounces of ester oil. There's a long discussion on refrigerant oil in my book. R12 systems originally used mineral oil, but it's not compatible with R134a. Nearly all R134a systems use polyalklyne glycol (PAG) oil. However, ester oil is compatible with both R12 and R134a, and as such is sometimes recommended for retrofit applications. I sometimes use it if I think there's a chance the R134a conversion might not get the car cold enough and I might need to go back to R12. This was the case with my E9 3.0CSi. As such, the Seltec compressor originally had ester oil in it. I stayed with ester oil largely for that reason.
      That was a lot!
      Next installment: The condenser and fan.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      In last week's introduction, I talked about how a/c helps extend my enjoyment of my vintage cars through the hot summer months, how I bought a used full-up Clardy system and a tii-specific crankshaft hub with a compressor pulley on it, and how I realized that, with summer on us, there was no reason to NOT start stuffing this stuff into Louie my '72 survivor-ish tii. So in I dove.
      In my a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning, I say that one of the nice things about a/c retrofit is that, even though it seems like a huge project, it breaks itself up nicely into the following tasks:
      Compressor and bracket Condenser and fan Evaporator assembly Receiver-drier Hose fabrication and installation Wiring Pressure-testing Evacuation and recharge Buttoning up  
      Further, for the most part, the car can remain drivable once each of these phases is completed. The radiator does need to come out to install the condenser and fan inside the nose, but after that, you can usually drop it back in, refill the cooling system, and keep driving the car.
      On a tii, though, there's the added complication that the compressor belt runs in a groove on the crankshaft pulley behind the injection belt. This means that even to simply replace an existing compressor belt due to breakage or it being stretched past the point of adjustment, the engine has to be set to top dead center, the fan belt has to be removed, the lower pulley has to be unbolted and gently pulled off the front of the crankshaft, the upper and lower plastic timing belt covers have to be removed, and the injection belt has to be carefully slid off (and replaced if it shows signs of age). 
      Not quite ten years ago, I'd updated the a/c in Kugel, my other '72 tii. When I bought Kugel, it still had its original York compressor and massive bracket that wrapped around the front of the water pump. As part of the update, I bought a hobiedave bracket (from Dave Donohoe here on the FAQ) and a Sanden 508 clone compressor. Any tii with dealer-installed a/c has had two slots cut into the plastic lower timing belt cover to allow the compressor belt to pass through. The Behr installation manual has a template for where to cut the slots. When I updated Kugel, I found that I not only needed to extend the slots by quite a bit, but I also needed to rout out the slots in the lower timing cover on the front of the engine itself. I'll cover these issues in the next installment. However, at least Kugel had dealer-installed air, so it already had the a/c front hub that's unique to the tii with the compressor pulley sitting behind the cogged gear for the injection belt, and slots cut for the compressor belt. Louie didn't have any of that. I'd bought the tii-specific a/c hub on eBay years back. Now I needed to install it. So, for this a/c retrofit, this was task #0 added to the above list.
      The hen's-teeth-rate tii-specific a/c crankshaft hub  
      The first step was to remove the old crankshaft hub, because if I couldn't, it was game over for a/c retrofit. For that, I needed access to the hub, so the radiator had to come out and the front sway bar end links needed to be disconnected so I could tip the bar forward and out of the way.
      I first set the engine to TDC using the marks on the front pulley and timing belt cover, then undid the four 10mm bolts holding on the front pulley and gently pulled it off. I then put a 36mm socket on a breaker bar and, with the car in gear and the handbrake on, tried to break the nut on the crank hub.
      Trying to remove the crankshaft nut with a breaker bar. And failing.  
      Of course, this didn't work—it moved the car before moving the nut—but it DID succeed in moving the engine away from TDC by an amount I couldn't tell because the TDC mark was on the pulley I'd just removed. D'oh! So I temporarily put the pulley back on, lined the engine back up to TDC, made sure I could see the TDC mark through the bell housing window since the one on the front pulley was about to go away, and painted the flywheel TDC mark with Wite-Out.
      Temporarily replacing the front pulley to read the TDC mark  
      I then thought to look at the index marks on the Kugelfisher pump. The one on the gear should line up with one on the pump body. To my surprise, they were off from each other by a few teeth. This was how I'd been driving the car for four years. I photographed it just in case the car ran like crap when I put it all back together with the marks lined up.
      The indexing marks on the Kugelfischer injection pump and its toothed gear  
      I then did what I should've done the first time and used my impact wrench on the crankshaft nut. It spun right off.
      Air tools to the rescue  
      Next, I put a puller on the crankshaft hub. Like nearly any crank and hub, there's a keyway in both and a little Woodruff key keeping them in line, so if the hub hasn't been off the car in nearly 50 years, things can sometimes be pretty stuck, but it pulled off without a lot of effort.
      Extracting the old hub with a puller  
      I used a Scotch Brite pad to clean off the surface of the a/c hub that runs inside the front main seal, as it had oxidized from sitting. I later also cleaned up the grooved pulley surface as well. I then compared hubs just to make sure nothing looked amiss.
      Original tii crankshaft hub (right) and tii-specific a/c hub (left)  
      Then on went the a/c hub. Unlike trying to take it off, I was able to torque it down to the required 140 ft-lbs by simply having the car in gear and the handbrake on.
      And... installed  
      On a non-tii, you obviously wouldn't have to futz with the hub at all to retrofit or update a/c, and you'd go straight to installing the compressor and bracket. Or, if your tii wasn't air conditioned, you could simply put the injection belt back on and button up the car. But on an air conditioned tii, the steps are intertwined. That is, you have to:
      Install the compressor, bracket and belt, and correct any belt alignment or tension issues. Modify the slots in the plastic lower timing belt cover if they already exist, and cut them if they don't. THEN put the injection belt back on and button things up.  
      But I think I'll leave that for the next installment.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

    • thehackmechanic
      As many of you folks know, I'm kind of a nut about air conditioning in my vintage cars. I realize that many find that funny since I live not in Phoenix or Yuma or Miami but in relatively temperate Boston MA, but it DOES get hot and sticky up here in the summer, it does so more than the three or for days a year people sometimes assume, and we already have a shortened driving season due to winter.
      As I say in the introduction to my book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning, this all started when Maire Anne and I were living in Austin 1982 through mid-1984. I'd bought my first 2002, but then found another one that had a/c (the Behr system). Unfortunately, it didn't work. A guy I worked with in my engineering job was a first-rate shade-tree mechanic whose expertise included a/c. He hooked up his gauges and diagnosed my 2002's a/c problem as a clogged expansion valve, so I tore the Behr evaporator assembly out, opened it up, and replaced the expansion valve. My friend then evacuated and recharged the system for me. Over the years, I applied that same paradigm to several of my daily drivers, paying a shop to diagnose a/c issues, replacing the parts myself, then taking the car back and paying them for evacuation and recharge.
      In 1999, I took the big plunge and retrofitted a/c into my 1973 E9 3.0CSi. I worked with Bob Poggi at ICE AC (yes, the same guy who now sells a 2002 a/c package, including an evaporator assembly that's patterned after the Clardy unit). Bob sent me a Seltec rotary-style compressor, a bracket to mount it to the M30 engine, a new serpentine-flow condenser, a fan, and a generic evaporator assembly. It didn't fit inside the original non-a/c center console, so, concerned that it was going to look like poorly-integrated crap, I sent it back. I then procured an original E9 Behr evaporator assembly out of a rotted car, and had Bob work with a tube-and-fin shop to custom-build a four-row evaporator core that was dimensionally identical to the original 3-row core in the original Behr system. Whether it improved cooling any was questionable.
      The very stock-looking retrofitted a/c evaporator assembly and console in my 1973 E9 3.0CS  
      But I installed it all, then took the car to a hose fabrication shop in Boston to have the hoses made. For those of you who knew Boston 20 years ago, the shop was "Ellis the Rim Man" on Comm Ave, and Ed Ellis himself fabricated the hoses by the curb on Comm Ave. But more to the point, I was transfixed by his crimping on one end, cutting the hose longer than it needed to be, putting it through whatever holes it needed to pass through, threading the other fitting onto whatever component it needed to attach to, test-fitting the hose into the fitting, trimming it to length, "clocking" the fitting at the desired angle, marking the orientation of the hose and fitting, then crimping the fitting on right then and there in the car with a hand-held Mastercool 71500 Hydra-Krimp. I remember asking him "How does anyone ever get this right if they don't have the car in front of them?" He deadpanned "They don't."
      There were some teething issues with the E9's a/c system, but over time, I got it better and colder, and it transformed my relationship with the car. It became comfortable to go out to dinner with my wife in, or to take on long trips in hot weather. Many folks say that instead of R12 or R134a, they use R75/2 ("75 mph, two windows rolled down"). In the a/c book, I tell the story of how I was heading home from The Vintage in the E9, crossing Pennsylvania in 90-degree temperatures and 90% humidity, windows up, cool, living the dream, and passed two guys I know from VT driving a tii, both windows down, and rivers of sweat running off them that were so thick that their perspiration was literally spitting out of the car. I'm not a bad person, but I literally thought "How's that R75/2 workin' for you folks now?"
      As the a/c installation in the E9 required maintenance and rework over the years, I gradually amassed the manifold gauge set, vacuum pump, adapters, and the hose-crimping tool I needed to do it all myself. Since then, I've done several other from-scratch retrofits including my '79 Euro 635CSi, considerably more complicated as the a/c shares ductwork and electronic controls with the heat. And I modernized several 2002 a/c systems. But, surprisingly, I had never done a from-scratch retrofit into a 2002.
      Until Louie.
      First, let me take a quick tour of 2002 a/c systems. As I and others have written, and as you probably already know, no 2002 had factory air, but many had dealer-installed packages. There were three different ones that I'm aware of: Behr, Frigiking, and Clardy. Since Behr did the a/c in the Bavaria and the E9 coupe, it's no surprise that the Behr system in the 2002 is generally regarded as having the most factory look. In this piece I wrote for Hagerty last month, I detailed the major differences between the systems. In addition to the system's appearances, the main things you need to know are these:
      --The Behr system uses an evaporator assembly that contains the evaporator core, blower motor, and an old-school externally-equalized expansion valve. In order to replace any of these components, the evaporator assembly must be removed from under the dashboard and opened up. It came with a large, heavy upright York compressor that looks like a lawnmower engine and has a giant bracket to support it that actually wraps around the water pump and is secured by two of the pump's bolts into the block, requiring the compressor and bracket to be disconnected to replace the water pump, at which point many owners left it off the car.
      Behr 2002 console and faceplate  
      Behr 2002 evaporator assembly  
      Behr 2002 evaporator core and old school externally regulated expansion valve  
      --The Frigiking system, like the Behr system, uses an externally-equalized expansion valve, but it is located OUTSIDE the evap assembly, so, at least in theory, it can be replaced without removing and opening up the box (well, maybe the latter). I believe the Frigiking system used the same upright York compressor and boat anchor of a bracket as the Behr. (pics courtesy Chris Roberts)
      Frigiking faceplate  
      Frigiking evaporator assembly with externally-mounted externally-regulated expansion valve  
      --The Clardy system is different in several ways. In terms of the expansion valve, it's is the only one of the three that uses a modern block-style internally-regulated expansion valve. Like the Frigiking, the expansion valve is mounted outside the evaporator assembly, meaning it can be replaced without needing to open the assembly. Further, it's the only system where the blower fan is outside the plastic assembly. The way it does this is a little strange; the fan hangs into the passenger-side footwell. It's also the only system that, when new, came with a modern rotary-style Sanden 508 compressor and a compact bracket to mount it to the engine block. (pics courtesy Earle Meyers)
      Clardy console and faceplate showing bulge on passenger side for fan  
      CapClardy evaporator assembly with fan on right sidetion  
      Clardy evaporator assembly showing externally-mounted internally-regulated expansion valve on left side  
      Back to Louie. As many of you know, I bought Louie, the decade-dead '72 2002tii, sight-unseen in the winter of 2017. I then went down to Louisville KY in a rented SUV loaded with tools and parts, spent nearly a week with Jake and Liz Metz who I'd met once for 15 minutes at The Vintage, resurrected Louie in Jake's pole barn, road-tripped the car home, and wrote the book Ran When Parked about the experience.
      A few months later, while I was prepping Louie to run down to The Vintage, I helped my friend Jose Rosario sort out the a/c in his car. While I generally don't work on other people's cars, Jose's car has a Clardy a/c system in it, I never had seen one in the flesh, and I was curious about it. I fixed a few issues, shot one can of R134a into it (it had already been converted from R12), and was VERY impressed with how cold it got and how much air it moved. I resolved that if I ever found a Clardy system, or at least the evaporator assembly and console, I'd buy it. But they're far less common than the Behr or Frigiking systems.
      I then drove Louie down to The Vintage in Asheville. While I was where, I stumbled into a fellow selling a full Clardy system he'd removed from his car. We talked, haggled, and for $250, it all was mine. I loaded it into Louie's back seat and drove it home with me. (I was just cleaning up after the installation, and found this taped to one of the boxes. I think it'll live in Louie's glove compartment forever :^)
      The note on the box that kicked the whole thing into motion four years ago.  
      I later saw that the fellow I bought it from had it advertised here on the FAQ:
      I can't cover absolutely every detail I go into in my a/c book, but one of the things I say is that, whether you're doing a from-scratch install or a resurrection of a long-dead system, you'll use re-use the evaporator assembly and console but, if you're smart, you'll throw the rest away. This is because you'll update the compressor to a newer rotary-style unit, replace the obsolete serpentine-flow condenser and small fan with the biggest parallel-flow condenser and fan you can fit in the nose (especially important when converting from R12 to R134a), will replace every hose with custom hoses because a) the original hoses will be ancient dirty leaky garbage and b) they won't fit your new components anyway, and replace the receiver-drier because you have to every time the system is opened up for any length of time.
      HOWEVER, if you have the opportunity to buy a full-up system at a good price, it's generally worth doing so because there may be pieces you need you're not aware of. On the E9 retrofit, this turned out to be the rare and fragile "intermediate piece" that couples the output of the evaporator assembly to the car's vents, and the two hard pipes that pass through the firewall and behind the glovebox (no room back there for hoses). In the Clardy system, the piece you don't know you need is the bracket that mounts the a/c console faceplate to the dash and holds the ashtray from the original console. It wasn't until four years later, when I opened up the boxes that contained the Clardy system, I saw the bracket, wondered what it was, and had no idea how lucky I was to have it. I'll get back to this in a later installment.
      The other thing about a/c in Louie is that, since it's a tii, you need the uber-rare tii-specific crankshaft pulley with the cogged gear to run the injection belt AND the pulley for the a/c compressor. I believe that all regular 2002s except the earliest cars already have the otherwise-unused compressor pulley, but not tiis. At some point, it may have even been before I bought Louie, I saw a tii a/c crankshaft pulley on eBay. At $250, it wasn't cheap, but they only show up rarely, so I clicked and bought.
      The hallowed tii-specific a/c front hub  
      Fast-forward to about a month ago. 90-degree temperatures moved into Boston. Having a 2002 (Bertha), a Bavaria, a 3.0CSi, and other more modern BMWs with a/c, what happens in hot weather is that the non-a/c cars just sit until fall. I had an epiphany: Why did I buy this full-up Clardy system and the tii a/c pulley if I'm not going to install them in the tii that I own that doesn't have a/c in it?
      And so, operation Chillin' Louie was go. In these installments, I'll detail the choices I made and why, all pursuant to the goal of getting the car cold while attempting to satisfy the goals of a) doing so in a cost-effective fashion, and b) coming out of it with a system that, both inside the car and under the hood, doesn't look totally out of place in a survivor car like Louie.
      (My a/c book Just Needs a Recharge: The Hack Mechanic Guide to Vintage Air Conditioning can be purchased here on Amazon, or personally-inscribed copies of it and my other books can be purchased directly from me here.)

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