DIY Air Conditioning redo?

I had never really considered fixing the AC on my old 1997 Ford F250 Light Duty. I figured the truck is getting near the end of its life but I recently helped someone with a DIY mini split install and they gave me the vacuum pump and gauges for helping them out. So I have a used once pump and everything else needed to do this job.

It was my own stupidity that caused the AC to quit. A friend gave me an AC recharge kit and insisted I use it. The AC was working just fine and had no issues but they insisted. Of course I did and then I blew the seal out on the compressor and there was no more AC. I have added a can on long trips on hot days but it all leaks out quite quickly. Several mechanics have told me these recharge kits are basically job security for them and that they shouldn’t be used unless they are needed and you know what you are doing.

The system has been like this for years now so air, moisture, etc. has likely contaminated everything. I found several lifetime warranty compressor kits that include everything but the two lines. They are barely more than just the compressor which only comes with a 2 year warranty. This comes to about $280. One of the lines is about $40 and the other $60. I have been told not to bother replacing those unless they are obviously bad. My concern would be old oxidized oil and such in the lines. I know that keeping the refrigeration circuit very clean during install and maintenance is key to long life.

It is worth spending $300 to me even if I only have the truck another year but of course I don’t want to do a crappy job if I do this and would rather get the lines as well if that is the best way to go.

Any opinions on this?

Everything? Condenser, evaporator, receiver-dryer, expansion valve, etc.?

I forgot about the evaporator and condenser. It is everything but those and the lines. I would assume crud and oxidized oil would be almost impossible to get out so those would also need to go. How hard is it to get the evaporator out from under the dash? I am starting to think this might not be worth it unless there is a way to flush crud out of the system.

The kit I referenced says “A/C Compressor Kit. With FS10 compressor. With factory air. With red orifice tube. Includes: 58152 new compressor, 83013 accumulator, 38635 orifice tube, compressor oil, necessary O-rings and gaskets.”

You’re going to need this,

Since the system isn’t contaminated with black death, and after you replace the components, all you need to do is pull a vacuum on the system for an hour to remove any air/moisture, and recharge the system.

It’s the recharging part that people get wrong.


Sounds like that kit has what you need, if it matches @Tester 's kit. But maybe have an A/C shop do the recharge?

How would you know if the evap and condenser are contaminated or not? I am surprised you only need to pull a vacuum if it has been sitting this long in a compromised state. I figured the engine heat, moisture, etc. would have given it plenty of time to really crud up in there. The kit I found has all the parts pictured in the RockAuto one.

Not easy for crud to get in. I’m thinking the evap and condenser get replaced when some system component fails, spreading lots of junk throughout the system. Not what happened to you.

The compressor didn’t destroy itself internally. So there’s no debris in the condenser/evaporator/hoses.

That’s what black death is.

Instead, you over-charged the system to where it blew out a compressor seal.


Remember that everything else on the truck is now 26 years old, or thereabouts.

This may become a bottomless pit of small things, or “just a few dollars more”. Personally, I’d leave good enough alone.

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A lot depends on the climate where you live. Is A/C pretty much necessary there in the summer? Or is a truck w/no AC still useable in your location? If the latter, and since you don’t seem to be intending to keep this truck for long, and you won’t be using it very often, suggest to let the next owner make the call, and you just live w/no AC.

I may let it ride until next spring and see how the truck is doing by then. I have kept up on the small things so far and just got kinda motivated to do this now that I got a free vacuum pump and gauges to do the work. I definitely won’t need it until next summer so might see how it is going. This is the one that apparently is losing piston ring tension or compression as well so you are both right about not dumping lots of money into the thing. I plan to run it until something catastrophic lets go at this point as it probably isn’t worth a whole lot. Actually, I have been told it is probably worth more than I would guess but it is so rough and I hate dealing with the types who would consider buying something like this. I know what is good and bad so think it is best to just hang onto it for now. Dealing with selling used stuff, especially things in rough or non-working condition can be a real nightmare as well. I tried to move a couple old generators that didn’t run for cheap as well as a couple ATVs. Dealing with the people was more maddening than anything and it will all be hauled off as scrap in this old truck when I get a tad more time.

Eventually if it quits, I can decide to fix it or have it hauled off/limp it to the salvage yard and get a few hundred dollars. That being said, there are some not so common parts on this thing that could be worth money to the right person but that would be a huge pain as well. I would rather just have it gone when it gets to that point.

The way I see it right now is that it could run another month or 5 years. Maybe it is best to hold off on the AC repair at this point.

My opinion depends on where you are. Where I live there’s no way I’d spend even $50 on fixing the A/C on a work truck. I have an old Silverado that may sit for 2 months at a time until I need a pickup for something. A/C on that quit about 12 years ago and I never once considered fixing it.

The average August high temp is 78 degrees. Rolling the window down works just fine.

IDK. Like @George_San_Jose1 I’m wondering about the climate you’re in. Obviously people went for a long time without A/C in autos. I actually have a '97 Ranger that was never fitted with an A/C system at all (though it was originally sold up north, like in Minnesota or something, judging by the old license plate I found under a jump seat). A/C is not an essential item for the thing to go out and about.

Except…it can matter. I live in Central VA. Once we’re in the thick of the summer months (July/August into Sept - mid to upper 90s and high humidity), the discomfort level becomes a thing. But the frequent thunderstorms are the real issue. I’ll drive around all day in the humid 90s with the windows down, but that’s not workable in the nearly daily thunderstorms. A lack of A/C can actually become a safety issue as you have no way to drive and see at the same time - as in, you can’t really defrost.

If you have the equipment, and if you’re in a frequently hot/humid/wet area, it seems like $300 and half day of labor are not such a big deal. (The defrost will also work better year-round).

If you do decide to do it including the DIY refill, the real key is to fill by weight, not by pressures. That’s the problem with those OTC A/C refill kits - you only have low side pressure and that’s not even the right way to fill a system anyway. (Tho’ I’ve used them successfully on systems with small leaks). There’s a label under your hood that tells you exactly by the ounce how much to put in. A cheap kitchen scale or whatever and you’re good to go.

I miss the days when we would simply fill by looking at the sight glass. When the bubbles stopped, the system was full.


Here in TN, I have seen people not repair all kinds of safety stuff, but let that A/C stop working in the summer and they will drop $2K in a heartbeat to have working A/C… lol
But we have normally high 90’s to over 100 plus our humidity will put the heat index over 105-115 at times… You can walk out side and it will take your breath it is so flipping hot…

So I guess it all depends on the temp… I’d drive my hotrod with no heat in 30 degree temps before I would in 95+ (+humidity) with no A/C, it doesn’t have either btw…

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I spent $1400 a few years ago to fix the AC in my then 15 year old truck. It had the black death so it was an extensive replacement. But I live in Florida, the truck is black and those 95 degree days can last 5 months so AC isn’t optional.

I have worked on nearly every part of my cars except automatic transmissions and AC. I’ll leave those to the pros with the proper tools.

It can get quite hot here in the summer. The weather we have is an average of what you get in Tulsa and St. Louis so 95+ degree days with high humidity are common. Yes, it is basically a work truck but I take it to the river, camping, etc. a lot of the time as well. The one nice thing is that it is white so the color is in my favor for the heat.

AC is definitely not required now or for the next several months though so I think I will hang tight and see how it is doing by next spring. Again, it is an old beatup truck with lots and lots of miles so anything is possible by then.

The system probably also has lots of extra oil in it because of those stupid recharge kits I have added. I assume much of that will have leaked out or is contained in the accumulator so shouldn’t be a problem as it will not remain during a service.

Heat getting to ya?? Drive a truck?? No problem, here at Bubba’s Auto Recycler’s, Repair, Body Shop and Mini Mart, we have you covered with all your hunger and automotive needs… The special this week: A/C on a budget…

Problem solved…

We also offer under dash units…


For my purposes something like this would work. Of course you end up butchering the truck even more. I actually do have an extra generator and window AC just sitting around. This summer I was considering using the portable AC I have (one with the dryer vent hose), sitting it in the passenger seat, and running a generator in the bed of the truck. My other truck needed new front brakes and that was my motivation for fixing them before a long trip. It was either fix the brakes or drive the other truck without AC.

They also make small mini splits for campers and stuff that run on 12V but they are expensive. Again, this is an old truck and I have no idea how much longer it will keep going so wouldn’t want to spend that. Also, just fixing the standard AC would be cheaper as well.

Don’t you have two other trucks to drive during summer months? A farm truck doesn’t need air conditioning. Who goes camping in 95 degree weather?