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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Folks,

I have a “new to me” 02 that has a nicer functioning A/C but just started to feel like the cold levels are not as robust as in the past month. How often do P38s generally need a recharge?

The maintenance records indicate the last HVAC work (which was extensive, new compressor, dryer etc.) was 5 years ago/15K miles, same time as the last system fill. No visible leaks I can see, when in use the water drains correctly etc.

What are folks experience in needing to recharge? I live on the east coast and the summers can be very humid and hot for 3+ months. I’m taking it to a garage to have it properly checked and recharged if necessary (don’t want to mess with Freon) but others’ experience in frequency/need to recharge or tips would be appreciated.
 

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1995-2002 Range Rover P38A
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If the system is in good condition, then a service every two years is the norm here, although people usually leave it until it no longer works and then wonder why it becomes a big job.
 

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A system in perfect shape with all good seals should never need topping up. In practice as things age, small leaks develop and the need to recharge increases. I've found most by now are too far gone to justify putting any money in the A/C system, I usually just rip it out. But then we don't often get real hot weather over here and I don't like A/C anyway.
 

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I read once that compressors always leak a little bit at the shaft seal and this gets worse as they wear. Providing you don't have any holes caused by corrosion I would think this would be the only source of leaks and be moderately slow. Note that if the air temp is 35 or higher you will not get that much cooling from the system especially if humidity is high (according to service manual).
 

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I install domestic AC systems and they should never need topping up but the difference is that they use solid copper pipes with minimal joints. A car AC system has multiple joints using O rings and flexible pipes between the compressor on the engine and the rest of the car so a far greater number of potential leak points and that's before we even get into the pinhole leak that always develops on the top corner of the condenser. In good condition, a car system is likely to need an evacuation and refill about every 5 years. AC works on the heat pump principle so it extracts heat from inside the car and expels it outside so ambient temperature will make a difference. But I've driven my car with an ambient of 42C and the AC was still keeping me nice and cool.
 

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1995-2002 Range Rover P38A
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I have mine professionally ‘treated’ every five years rather then just topping up. The system gets evacuated, tested for leaks, dried out and then re-gassed with dye. Seems to work quite efficiently and since taping and re-foaming that infamous top corner of the condenser it has lasted far longer than any of the previous ones.
 

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You should NEVER just top up as you have no idea of the exact quantity that is already in there. Not enough means it won't work efficiently, too much means the pressures will run higher than they should so leaks are far more likely. The only way to do it is to recover any remaining refrigerant, pressurise with Oxygen Free Nitrogen and check for any leaks (leave for 30 minutes to see if the pressure drops), let the Nitrogen out, vacuum down to less than 500 Microns, leave again to see if the vacuum holds, then, and only then, refill with the correct amount of refrigerant. Dye isn't a must but a good idea if you do develop a leak as it means you can see where from. Even the automated machines go through this full process once programmed with the car make and model so they put the correct amount of refrigerant in.
 

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Can You guys tell me which is the corner / vulnerable part of the condenser? Any pics would be very useful and highly appreciated!
 

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Top left as you look at the front of the car. You need to take the grille and slam panel off to see it.
 
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Thanks Richard! Again ;-)
 

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On the professional re-gassing we mustn’t also forget that the correct amount of oil is also introduced into the system. It has always irked me a bit that the re-gassing involves recovering your own gas, cleaning it and then selling it back to you plus a bit more if necessary. However, I suppose the preventative maintenance nature of having it done regularly (cleaning, testing, drying and oiling) makes it worth while.
 

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They shouldn't be putting the same gas back in, that should go into a recovery cylinder and your system filled with virgin gas from another cylinder. The contents of the recovery cylinder then gets returned to be cleaned and recycled.
 

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It’s the same principle though and the recycled gas being pumped back in is probably not ‘virgin’, just once used or perhaps twice or perhaps . . . . . .

BTW I also had my (much) more modern daily driver re-gassed with the new fandangular (more) environmentally friendly version of freon - three times as expensive and we’ll probably all have to start using that soon!! Let’s hope the price comes down with more use.
 

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Ahh, yes, R1234YF, wonderful stuff, more environmentally friendly but flammable. Mercedes started using it in 2015 but then went back to R134a for a time due to safety concerns.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Folks,

A quick follow-up -- I had my system checked, evacuated, and refilled. After 5 years the tech said it had about 1/2 of the freon remaining based on the evacuation. The tech's opinion was that's reasonable, particularly in an older system.

He filled the system with new freon (including dye) and then tested everything and checked for leaks with a UV and didn't find anything immediate/glaring. Blowing nice and cold. He suggested coming back in about a month for a quick check to see if anything small becomes apparent as I'm using it daily during a hot and humid spell. Total cost was $150.

Thanks for all the replies and guidence.
 
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