Yesterday Hubby asked me to recharge the a/c in our Ford 15 passenger van, and I didn’t even flinch. I figured if WalMart sells the stuff to anybody over 18, then anybody over 18 should be able to read the instructions on the back of the can and get the job done. That sounds logical, right?
So I waited til the hottest part of the day, my traditional time to tackle outdoor projects, and headed out to the van carrying a 20 oz. can of R134-a, or something cryptic like that.
I popped the hood and leaned into the shade it provided, reading the back of the can.
Fast & Easy, it promised. The first words on the back of the can. There were only 3 steps.
Step 1. Find port and remove cap. Um, find it. Just like that. As in, find it yourself. That’s your problem, not ours. Just for those of us who are a little slow on the uptake, they helpfully add that the low-side port is located on the larger diameter aluminum tubing between the compressor and the evaporator. I’m pretty sure I know the general vicinity of the compressor/evaporator thing(s), but I still have no clue what a low-side port looks like.
I look for stuff that looks like it might attach to the thingummy on the end of the refrigerant can, because the label assures me that the high-side port won’t fit. At least I can’t mess this up. If something fits, I found it.
Nothing fits. I pull off rubber boots, gently tug at promising tubes and pipes, peer around in the darkness. No clues are forthcoming, except a sticker in the van that says it holds 4 lbs. of refrigerant. My 20 oz. can might not go far, assuming I can even find an orifice in which to cram it. Oops. I read ahead, and Step 2 said not to force it.
I do what any sensible person with a question does in the 21st century. I go back in the house and google it. I also look for our Ford Van repair manual, but I can’t find it. Google, it is.
I learn that most Ford vans have the low side port hidden way back behind the air filter. Some people recommend taking off the cowling inside to get at it from the passenger compartment. Others insist that you simply must remove the air filter. I learn that the low side port looks rather like a big tire valve with a cap on it that may or may not be color-coded blue. Or black.
So I go out and feel around behind the air filter. Uncharacteristically, I decide to skip right to the easy way rather than taking short cuts, so I crawl inside the van and unlock the buckles on the cowling. As I tug, I realize we’ve never taken the cowling off this van. It’s really, really stuck. It’s not coming off for me. I guess I have to do it the hard way.
I take off the air filter, which entails removing 5 very rusty bolts and several hose clamps. I have to crawl up onto the engine compartment to do it, though I find I can move it out of the way after 5 bolts and just one hose is released. Maybe it’s actually the intake manifold, or something like that. That term comes back to me from years helping my dad work on his van. Considering the reliability issues with my memory, these mental popups tend to be surprisingly accurate. At any rate, I am removing the whole contraption that holds the air filter.
Now. I look, and see nothing. Except – what’s that to the left? In plain sight, up on top, right against the side of the van? Nowhere near the air filter? It was staring at me all along. A big black plastic screw cap, between what I think might be the compressor/evaporator thing(s) and a smallish black cylinder. It looks just like the cap on a bicycle tire, only much bigger. I take it off and attach my can of refrigerant. It fits. This is easy, just like the label promised. Anyone can do this. I bolt down the air filter-holder-thing, carefully replacing everything just as I found it. The crack was already there, I promise.
Step 2: Measure. This is easy. The built-in gauge on the can tells me it’s low.
Step 3: Charge. Shake, and press the button. Keep an eye on the gauge, etc. My finger is sore by the time it’s done, but it’s easy and the van blows colder.
Now I just need one or two more cans. I have a feeling they will go faster.