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RE: X 1/9 Air Conditioning

"Daniel J. Roach"<Daniel.Roach@domain.elided>

>My 1987 X has non-functioning air conditioning.   It hasn't worked since I
>bought the car, and I don't know how long it has been non-functioning.
>Before I spend the $$ to get it diagnosed, much less repaired, I'd like to
>ask the group it's opinion.
>How well does the AC in an X work, even when repaired?   I drive the car
>daily in the summer, in a suit, in and around Boston.
>What's the opinion out there, is it worth getting diagnosed?   How well
>does it cool when fixed?   Can the rest of the cooling
>system stand the strain of running a compressor?

I'm probably setting myself up for flames on this one but here's my two cents.

If I were guessing I'd say the reason your A/C doesn't work is because the
refrigerant has leaked out. There is a low pressure switch located below the
air cleaner canister on the firewall. This switch will not close and
complete the circuit to allow the compressor clutch to engage unless there
is a sufficient amount of refrigerant in the system. It's there to prevent
burning the compressor up if there is no refrigerant in the system. 

When I bought my X 1/9, the A/C (among other things) didn't work either. A
friend and I charged the system and the A/C started working immiedietly.
Turned out the leak was from a faulty schrader valve that didn't have a cap
on it. We capped it and it's been holding pressure for a year and a half.

Although the system produced nice cool air, there was one drawback. This
incredible stench started coming from the vents. It's not the usual moldy
smell caused by a fungus that grows on the evaporator coil but something worse. 

To give you an idea of what it smells like, take a wad of hair, then take on
old shirt that Ted Kaz... <the unibomber> had been wearing before he got
arrested and place the wad of hair inside of the shirt and set it on fire.
That's what it smells like. It's so bad I almost hurled.

I first thought a relay or something was overheating but we later determined
that the stench was caused by a dirty evaporator. At first there is no smell
but when the evaporator starts it's defrost cycle or starts to sweat, that's
when it starts stinking. I have been able to drive the car for about 5 miles
with no smell then all of a sudden I start to gag.

I checked to see if the drain hose was plugged and it's not.

I was hoping by now the smell would have gone away but it has not. Another
friend gave me a gallon of industrial coil cleaner. He told me my car
suffers from "the stinky sock syndrome". He said that York sent out a
service bulletin on this. He said it was caused by people who did not keep
their homes clean. He never heard of this happening on a car but it was very

However I have no idea how to get to the evaporator without taking the
entire dash apart. The factory shop manual is very vauge. Fiat doesn't make
things easy and the A/C is not one of them. As if servicing the engine was
bad enough. It appears that in order to get to the evaporator, I am going to
have to remove the heater coil and all. Bascially I am lazy. I mean, the car
will run fine without an A/C so I have it at the bottam of my list of things
to repair. I'm more concerned about why my fuel injected X 1/9 vapor locks
in the summertime.

I am assuming the smell is the result of the system not working for so many
years (maybe 5 or more). I'm surprised it still works. Also the car has seen
many previous owners which smoked so I figure the tar which has accumluated
on the evaporator is what I am smelling. I smoke myself so I am not going to
flame anyone on that.

Wheather it's worth fixing or not, Here's my opinion. 

You asked if the cooling system was up to it. The cooling system will handle
it with no problems, it's the motor that can't handle it. Fiat never should
have installed an A/C on a 1.5 liter engine. This was an option to satisfy
us weak Americans. 

It draggs the engines down so badly, you have to cut it off going up hills
or you'll be traveling at a snail's pace.

It feels like the A/C pulls the engine down from 75HP to 45HP. I can imagine
what effect an A/C would have on a 1.3 liter engine.

Also there is a switch which is supposed to boost the idle up a bit when the
A/C is on. Mine doesn't work. Before I tried sourcing one down, I bypassed
it with some tubing and found if it did work, it doesn't bring the idle up
enough to keep the engine from dieing when you disengage the clutch. So to
combat that I would simply turn the A/C on and crank the idle up to about
1000. This would result at around 1300 when the A/C was not on.

If your system is complete, I'd first hook a pressure guage on the
compressor and see if it has any refrigerant in it. If not, you could try
charging the system and see if it does anything.

I got my hands on an R-134a "kit". It contains two tubes of oil with 134a
valves. You first evacuate the system, pull a vacuum,  and remove as much
R-12 oil/ R-12 as possible. Then after screwing the tubes onto the R-12
fittings, the vacuum sucks the new oil into the system and then you remove
the tubes leaving the new valves connected to the old R-12 valves. Then pump
the system with 134a. 

There was some talk on the newsgroups about a year ago concerning this. It
was said, "In the beginning" that you must install new oil rings, etc, etc
before converting an R-12 system to an R-134a system but some A/C experts I
have talked to say 134 A is not good on R-12 O-rings but it won't do any
more damage than age has caused to the seals.

To sum all of this up, the A/C on my car worked great when first charged
except I can't use it from the smell it creates. Also some of the R-12 has
leaked out so it doesn't work as good as it did when first charged.

One of these days I am going to clean the evaporator an install the R-134a
kit and just add a can every now again. Like people did in the old days
before scientists said R-12 was the cause of ozone depletion.

I've heard that volcanos and methane gas emitted from sheep and cattle cause
more ozone damage than all of the R-12 combined that has been released.

Please let's don't start a separate thread on that one.

I thought about removing the A/C system in order to make the engine easier
to service but since the system works, I am going to keep it.

I sure hope that your A/C system doesn't stink like mine because it looks
like a #$@#! to get to the evaporator coil. In fact I am thinking about
paying someone to do it for me but I know I will feel like a weenie since I
just swapped transmissions a few months ago.

By the way, are A/C parts still available for Fiats? Someone please answer
this. I'm curious to know.



James Seabolt -----> mailto:jseabolt@domain.elided

United States

1980 FIAT 2000 Spider (injected)
1981 FIAT X 1/9 (Injected)
1994 JEEP Wrangler (2.5l )
1976 Chevrolet Pickup (454 Big Block)

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