I learn to recharge the a/c in my van

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.


  1. Tom,
    When she gets done will you send her over to install one on our van? I’ll gladly recharge your a/c in return.

  2. Great job! You’ve inspired me. I am going to ask my lovely wife to install a class III trailer hitch, complete with wiring, to my Ford Van.

  3. mrs darling:
    I am indeed very proud of my uber capable wife. She never ceases to amaze me.

  4. Now you need to open up your own shop! LOL Good job. I dont think I could have done it! Your husband must be so proud of you!

  5. Harry Goldsmith says:

    This accomplishment verifies that you are truly my Grand daughter, I always am a do- it- myself person. Hope you don’t have real leak somewhere as they can be hard to find.

    WAY TO GO.

  6. lol sounds logical to me! : P

  7. Baseball Mom says:

    Hats off to you for getting the job done. I don’t know if I could have done it myself, but fortunately my DH would never ask me to do a job like that!

  8. ….and you knew what a cowling was? Wow!

  9. Mom of 7 says:

    You are AWESOME! Learning how to do that myself, it’s saved a ton of money, but I have to admit I’m a bit jealous cause my can of R134 didn’t have a built in gauge and I had to buy this hosey apparatus. Attach one end of hose to can (although it does have a valve to close it so you don’t waste what you don’t need), attach the other end to the port on the van, open said value and whoosh watch the gauge!

  10. lol Been there, done that very recently. Only mine was the ejector pump in the basement that didn’t need to be taken out to get rid of the plug further down the pipe. (Which of course I didn’t know until I had everything apart, ripped out the sheet rock in the bathroom & was soaked in sewer water. YUCK!) I wasn’t so lucky as to be able to Google it. I needed three trips to HomeDepot, a gallon of o de’Clorox to mop up the mess and a pound of Lindt caramels (Unwrapped bulk seconds by the pound, of course.) after a long hot shower. : p

    You my dear are not a dumb cluck. hehe Good job.

  11. You are so lucky to have your ac back. Our 15 passenger van lost the ac after only 2 years AND we bought it new. So we paid to have it repaired and replaced all the hoses (like 500 bucks) and it worked for 2 months and died again. Soooooooo, we bought the stuff to recharge it again hoping it wasn’t cracked or that there was a leak and apparently there was a leak and that was that. Now, we hall our family around in a mini and a car during summer. Bummer.

  12. I am so impressed . . . but I hope you don’t mind if I neglect to draw my husband’s attention to this post.

  13. Nice Job Kim!! Way to go, that is awesome that you tackled it, I am impressed

  14. That is a great story and usually the way things go! So funny!

  15. Man now I know why Perry wanted you to do it LOL!! Good job Kim you rock! I truley beieve there is nothing you can’t do with a few exceptions!!

  16. LOL! I can just picture this scene! Great job getting it done!

  17. What CRACK!?!?!?!

  18. LOL and good job. I usually defer such projects to my DH, but find if I “have” to do it, it usually isn’t impossible. 🙂

  19. You are awesome!

  20. Jennifer says:

    You go girl!!!

  21. You are most certainly a woman worth far more than rubies! My DH would never dare entrust me with such a project. I (and he) would be afraid of me damaging the car beyond repair. You go girl!

  22. Hahahahaha! I love it, and sadly, I can relate to those type of situations! 🙂

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