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DIY A/C (air conditioning) replacement on MKIII Jetta GLX/VR6 w/ pictures

I couldn't find a writeup on here so I decided to do one for the benefit of those like me who never replaced a/c in general or on a MKIII VW VR6. Also I did this to give a little back to the place that has helped me in fixing my car.

***** I take no responsibility for your actions repairing your car. This is what I did and it worked for me however if you are in doubt please seek professional advice ***** I am not liable for you screwing up your car!!!!
My a/c has been gone for 3 years, finally decided to fix it. Shops wanted $1000-$1200 to do it. Damn that is a lot of money. You can buy an aftermarket kit on ebay for $215 or so shipped + around $50 in consumables outside of recharging so it’s not a lot in parts. If you want to go OEM you can get the compressors for around $400-$500 at MJM.
If you have a vacuum pump or an autozone that has it you can do this for under $300 total! So I tried doing it myself. There was nothing technical about this repair, the hardest part was flushing the system and ensuring you have o-rings on every connection before connecting back again.

I took photos on my trial run and the one where I replaced it. I would recommend jacking the car up and placing it on a jack stand and taking the passengers side front wheel off. Some pictures have been taken with it on ramps but I did it the next day on jack stands and it was a lot easier to access the lower compressor bolt.
Make sure you go to a shop and have them vacuum the system out for you. It will cost around $40 most likely. Or you could just vent it to the atmosphere but technically that is illegal.
Things you need:
Parts
• Compressor Kit
I ordered an ebay kit, came with generic aftermarket compressor, expansion valve, and a drier for $215 shipped from air_parts. I think you can also buy them from http://www.airpartstore.com. They sent the wrong drier (I believe the one for the 2.0L) so I had to buy another drier. I could’ve written them back and had him ship me the correct one but it had been a month since I ordered so I just said “f” it and bought it. YOU NEED THE DRIER, it filters out all the crap that is in the system and if your compressor has failed chances are there are metal shavings in the drier as well. If they get into the new compressor BYE BYE new compressor. They’ve been on ebay for around 5 years and offer a 1 year warranty on their compressors, and reading their feedback I didn’t see all but 1 warranty claim so I felt comfortable using them. According to the contact there they haven’t had any of these particular compressors come back for defect so that is also good.
• O-Ring kit
This comes either in the compressor kit (depending on the one you get) or you can buy or from Car Quest. It’s $30 from Car Quest and comes with more o-rings than you will ever need. If you don’t have a CQ nearby the kit comes from Ohio, my local VW place also had the same thing.
• Pag 46 compressor oil
My Compressor kit didn’t include oil. You will a single 8oz bottle of Pag 46 double capped oil available from Car Quest or Autozone, really any place. You will only need 4 oz of it. Around $7.
Some of the more expensive compressor kits come with the o-ring kit and oil, so just check what came in your kit.
Tools
• Various sockets, etc. Nothing special, except a hex socket set but if you are doing this you probably already have that. I bought it from Harbor Freight for $7. Also an M8x1x50mm bolt from Home Depot, around $0.60 to take the accessory belt tension off. I read somewhere you can actually use one of the bolts holding the tensioner on, check on that.
• Air
You will need access to an air compressor, even a cheap one will do, to clean and flush the system (I explain how below). Due to the $$ savings of this repair you can even go buy one from Harbor Freight for $70-$100, a small 8 gallon one will be fine (mine is a 25 gallon Sears but I run an impact gun and air tools off of it too). You need a tire chuck to fill up the a/c flush can (see below) and a blow gun (standard one with rubber tip, in every “starter” air kit) to blow air thru the system.
• Flush kit:
A/C flush kit, $40 from autozone, a rental tool, so you get your money back. If you don’t have an autozone you can buy it. You will also need to buy the flush liquid, it’s around $12-$15 and says “a/c clean & flush” or something similar.
• Vacuum pump & gauges:
Optional, if your Autozone has it (mine didn’t) you can vacuum down your system for free. This DIY doesn’t include how to do that because I wasn’t able to. I took it to my mechanic who vacuumed it down and added 134a to the system. Cost $110 (varies).
Step 1) Buy the above stuff.
Step 2) Jack the car up. Remove the front passenger side wheel. Now remove the trim inside it, some small bolts hold the plastic trim in the wheel well. You don’t need to remove all of it just the front portion to allow access to the front of the car. There is a vertical plastic trim piece that you just pull down on that will allow access to the lower a/c compressor bolt.
Step 3) Now disconnect the battery (per the Bentley).
Step 4) Now to take the front clip off start by removing the 4 13mm bolts (2 each side) behind the fake lights next to the turn signals/fog lights.
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Step 5) Remove all the wiring that is hooked to the front clip. Unplug what lights you can. For me that would be the headlights, the drivers side fog light, turn signal, and running light.
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Step 6) Now take off the hood latch. Two 10 mm bolts allow you to get the latch itself. Then take off the line from the latch by pressing out on the rubberized material that fits into the grove.
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Step 7) Now take off the 6 bolts (3 each side) behind and above the headlights. Two 10mm and 1 8mm I believe.
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Step 8) Unlatch the air dam/plastic guard on the bottom passenger side, two Phillips screws.
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Step 9) Now you need to go to the drivers side near the running light, and there is a 10mm nut that is the last thing that holds that side on. The passengers side is a little tougher to get at.
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Step 10) Last but not least is the two 13mm radiator support bolts on the front grill, one on the left, one on the right.
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Step 11) Now pry the front clip off remembering to disconnect the lights on the passenger side.
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Step 12) Next I removed the airbox. Fairly straight forward, disconnect the hose connections, undo the clips on the front and back to take the top off. Now on the right hand side down next to the belt tensioner there are two rubber bands that hold it to the car.
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Step 13) Now to remove the a/c hose bracket from the radiator, it’s a big screw I had to use locking pliers (vice grips) to get it off.
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Step 14) Next you need to remove the lower left radiator mounting bolt only. Just the left one. 10mm I believe.
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Step 15) Now take the 4 condenser bolts off, 2 each side. 10mm as well.
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Step 16) Disconnect the wiring from the back of the radiator fan.
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Step 17) Undo these bolts holding the drier on, and the electrical harness connected to it. Also remove the bolt connecting the mounting bracket to the bumper mount. This will allow you to bend that metal bracket piece and slide the hoses and the drier up and out and on top of it.
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Step 18) Now swing the radiator off the sub frame and pivot it on the drivers side radiator mounting bolt. You might have to loosen it a turn or two (the drivers side bolt). I swung it out enough and used a spare jack stand on the passenger side end to hold it up without putting pressure on it. Careful not to swing it out too far or you will crinkle the radiator hoses. This is so I didn’t have to disconnect the coolant lines and drain the system out.
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Step 19) Now you could disconnect the a/c hoses from the compressor/condenser now which would allow better access or do what I did and put the condenser on top of the engine. You have to finagle the lines around in order to do it but it was worth it IMO. I wanted to make sure my new compressor would fit before taking any of the hoses apart. You might have to bend the drier mounting bracket up to allow for the hoses to fit underneath to go up and over the bumper mount, also unclick the lines from the brackets holding them to the inside of the car (under where the air box was, where the lines run from the expansion valve). This opens up the front part of the engine compartment. You can see the compressor under the alternator on the left side.
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Step 20) Next I removed the tensioner. First you have to take the tension off the accessory belt (perfect time to replace as well). Then remove the 3 bolts holding it on. Easy enough.
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Step 21) Next remove the bracket holding the low pressure line to the frame by removing the two large screws. You can see I just removed the bracket on the car, I couldn’t get a grip on the one holding the line itself. The screw was rusted out. No biggie.
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Step 22) Now remove the alternator mounting bolts. Two bolts hold it to the frame. It gets involved, and is harder than it needs to be because it is tough to get off the frame. I had to whack it with a hammer and 6” extension to get it loose. If you must do this careful to hit the casing not the bearings. Apparently when you screw it in it has a flange that tightens at the rear where the bolt threads go. It wasn’t corroded at all, just on m-f-ing tight!!
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Step 23) Also I removed this plastic tubing, whatever it is, to gain access. The metal clips were rusted. Yuck. You might need to get new ones, luckily I had some Harbor Freight specials. You also have to disconnect a hex bolt on the intake manifold as it has a bracket there. Self explanatory.
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Step 24) The alternator has several nuts holding the wires to it, and a wiring harness. Disconnect them all. I found it was easier to drop the alternator off the frame and disconnect the big nut at the back like this.
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Step 25) Once that is out of the way, you see what we have been working all this time for. The compressor is now accessible. Two 16mm (I think) bolts hold it on. They aren’t on very tight, I thought they would be (see cheater pipe?). I did the top one from the front of the car and the bottom one from the passenger side wheel well.
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Step 26) You see here you can’t pull the top bolt all the way out. I read someone cut it off. Why???? It slides most of the way out and then you have to hit the compressor just like the alternator to get it to come out.
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Test fitting the new compressor. To disconnect the compressor high and low pressure lines at this point, use an 8 mm hex at the back of the compressor and both lines will come free.
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Step 27) The expansion valve has 3 hex bolts. The First one is a bigger 6mm I believe. That holds the two lines coming from outside the car to the valve. The smaller ones (4mm ?) hold the valve to the evaporator lines inside the car with a bracket on the firewall side. Careful not to lose the bracket once you take off the hex bolts. Mine had no debris in it but I replaced it anyway, I got it in the kit so why not? Don’t put the new one on yet, you have to flush the evaporator first.
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Step 28) Next you basically take off all the lines and condenser and disconnect all the lines from each other. Also make sure to disconnect the drier and lines from it as well, and toss it. Then flush each line and condenser. To get the line off the condenser I had to hold the condenser with a large vice grip (on the square part) and use an adjustable wrench to disconnect the line. It required a lot of force. Careful not to damage the condenser, I left the small line connected. In retrospect I probably should have left them both connected to the condenser, the lines are pretty short and probably won’t effect flushing it effectively. If I did it again that’s how I would do it.
You will also need to flush the evaporator (item inside of the car where the expansion valve sat). A LOT of oil came out of mine. I did several flushes just to get all the old crap out, most with just the air. You put a little bit of this solvent in the flush kit (I put enough to cover the bottom outflow hole), fill it with compressed air, and squeeze. I let it sit there a few moments and then blew air threw it until no more liquid was coming out the other end of the item being flushed. Then I repeated in the opposite direction.
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When you release the air with the flush gun make sure the unit is sitting up above where you are flushing. That way the solvent flows out easily and the bottle empties. You have to fill it up with solvent every 2-3 flushes, and of course have to fill it with air on every flush.
Here are my lines and condenser after being flushed!
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I had no metal shavings coming out so I was OK. I’m not sure why the compressor failed but it didn’t grenade and send metal thru the system. If that is the case you pretty much have to replace the evaporator and condenser as well as lines (basically the entire system) or your new compressor will probably fail shortly there after.
How I added oil to the new compressor:
This site:
http://www.peugeotlogic.com/wo...s.htm
Lists the oil capacity of the SD7V16 compressor as 4.5 ounces (135 CC’s).
So first you want to measure out 4.5 oz of the PAG 46 oil, put that in a container. The bottle I bought had 8 oz in it so I poured just over half into a cup.
There are two places I added oil to the compressor. There is a large drain plug (17mm?) flush against the compressor side, take that out and put the drain hole on the bottom over an empty cup. Watch for the o-ring, I replaced it with a new one as well.
You can easily see the plug here:
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Rotate the compressor slowly (using a 14mm socket over the clutch). Whatever oil comes out replace it with new oil from your measured amount (subtracted from the 4.5 oz). I used Car Quest’s PAG46 double capped oil.
Before re-installing the lines to the back side of the compressor put around 1 oz of oil split between the high and low side hole (two holes, one for low side and one for the high side) on the back side of the compressor. Rotate the compressor by turning the (14mm) bolt on the clutch face 10-20 times in the direction of rotation to distribute the oil after you add it (slowly). When putting the lines back together on the back side of the compressor make sure you use new o-rings lubricated with the compressor oil, just match them up with the ones you took off from the kit you bought. My compressor had new o-rings on it but I used new from the package o-rings because once you crush o-rings they tend to get distorted and might not seal again, and that’s an important connection with a lot of pressure on it.
If you are putting in a new drier as well (YES YOU ARE RIGHT?) I would put the about another 1 oz of oil in the drier.
So now you’ve added around 2.5-3.0 oz of oil. The remainder you can put in the condenser and the evaporator. It’s not rocket science, some shops add oil all at once using a can of pressurized oil. The important thing is to get the right amount in and a good amount in the compressor as that is what needs it.
Install everything back again paying careful attention to installing fresh o-rings lightly lubricated with PAG46 oil where they were before and drive to a shop to have it vacuumed out and refilled with 134a. Make sure you let them know that you have put 4.5 oz of PAG46 oil in the system already. Also DO NOT turn on the a/c switch in your car, it might activate the clutch and spin the compressor.
Here’s my temp driving on the highway @ 2200 RPM at an outside temp of 90F:
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Nice!!!


Hope that helps someone out there dying of heat!!!


Modified by wheelsup at 9:18 PM 5-1-2009
 

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This is just what I needed!

I know it has been a few years since you did this but I'm so glad I found it. I bought a MKIII from a buddy in California and had it transported to my home in Arizona. The top condensor hose cracked completely off and I was just about to tackle the job because it is impossible to survive an Arizona summer without AC. Having your guide as a reference gives me a lot more confidence. This weekend I plan to tackle the job.

Thanks again
 

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Help needed

I know I have shreds in my system and thus I'm afraid attempting this job, I did many mechanical stuff on my car but the thing with the AC is that if I forget to clean the smallest piece a tiny shred can break the new compressor.

From what I'm reading I have to replace evap and cond. since I did see shreds in my system, is that for sure? Isn't replacing the valve and filter enough?

Thanks and great write up.

BTW where did you get your new compressor from? Is it renewed or new, german or chineese comp?

thanks alot, great write up.

:thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Yeah you should replace everything, technically. A new evap and condenser can be spendy so you might be able to get away with flushing it if you have a supply of compressed air. Just flush it like I did using the adapter from Autozone. It's free and the solvent is pretty cheap. Do a lot of flushes. Should get the majority of crap out.

I bought my compressor from Ebay, it was around $215 shipped, 3 years later still working well.

You might be able to find a filter that you can install inline to the compressor (on low suction side, bigger hose) to prevent any contaminates from making it to the compressor.
 

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Thanks for the great write-up

After 19 years the AC finally died. Most shops say it is not worth fixing on such an old car, but your post gives me a chance to do it. I am going to give this a shot before summer.
 

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awesome write-up. I'm about to tackle this job with my '93 Corrado and this is the only DIY that I have found anywhere on the internet. it should be very similar on the Corrado so this will be a huge help. I've had my replacement compressor sitting for a year now but after reading this, it looks like I will have to get the drier and expansion valve as well.

for future reference, the site you listed below no longer works but I found their new site:

http://www.discountacparts.com/

they have the AC kits that you have mentioned. they are also on ebay under the name 'discountacparts':

http://stores.ebay.com/Discount-AC-Parts?_trksid=p2047675.l2563

thanks again for putting this together. I have gone over a year without A/C and it's quite brutal since I have black leather interior. looking forward to getting this done! :thumbup::beer::thumbup:
 

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Damn did this help me I know its an old thread but ( the search bar brought this up I read it and completed my a/c system thanks to this write up )

Thank you wheels up :thumbup:
 

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Just a few tips for anyone doing AC repair. Some is common sense, other, not so much.

Any time the system is open for a long amount of time (such as compressor replacement, metering device replacement, etc.), you should replace the receiver/drier. Moisture in the outside air will get into the dessicant and ruin it.

After everything is put together, make sure you pull a vacuum of at least 29 inHg for 30 minutes or more in order to get ALL the moisture out. Moisture+Refrigerant=Hydrochloric acid, which will eat up every aluminum bit in your AC system.

Don't overcharge. If you're using the DIY cans of R-134a, spring for the one with the gauge. These are good if you are putting in a new system.

If you have a set of manifold gauges, or know someone who does, buy them beer and borrow their gauges. These will help you a ton.
 

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For the 2.0 folks who are reading this thread, you can remove the compressor and receiver/dryer without removing more than a few access panels, the right front tire, air cleaner box, and the alternator. I just completed the job with the car in the driveway with standard tools in about 6 hours (first time, so I went slow). Rock Auto has an all-in-one kit with the compressor, expansion valve and receiver/dryer for under $300 delivered. It's a challenge if you have big hands, but it's very do-able by the weekend mechanic. I did take my car to my local shop for removal of the refrigerant before I started, but they replaced it right back into my system when I was done. Doing it myself saved me over $500 in parts and labor, so it was well worth a long morning of my time. I didn't have the time to take pictures and do a DIY writeup, but PM me if you have specific questions.
 

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I just found this thread. good write up :thumbup: it's gonna help me a lot when I rebuild my a/c! :D
 

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As for the condenser, it was replaced about a year ago, so it looks fine and shows no signs of leaking. As for the evaporator, I placed a clean white towel under the car with the Air Conditioner running and soaked the towel with the condensation from the drain. I looked at the towel with a portable uv light and could not see any uv dye on the towel. .....and yes there is uv dye in the system, just to clarify. I guess the next step is to pull the glovebox and blower motor to see if I can detect or see any uv dye on the evaporator itself. I'll keep plugging along and hope to discover something.
 

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I am currently in the middle of replacing the evaporator myself...
... and I am afraid I might not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again! :eek:

 

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Use flare nut wrenches on AC tube connectors or risk crushing the flare nuts

I'm halfway through replacing the compressor, condenser, receiver and expansion valve on my 98 Jetta GT 2.0L. I managed to crush the connections of the compressor to condenser hose (refrigerant discharge line) by using an open-end 22 mm wrench. The previous AC mechanic apparently put some thread lock on the fittings so it was very hard to unscrew. The wrench rounded a corner and deformed both the hose fitting and the condenser fitting that it connects to. So I had to replace both the hose and the condenser. The tight fittings and some deformation also happened with the short hose from condenser to receiver/dryer and the long high pressure hose from receiver to the expansion valve. The last two hoses seem to be reusable

The moral of the story is to use flare nut wrenches or crowfoots on those threaded tubing fittings. Those fittings are all made of aluminum and are too easily crushed if they are tightly on. The flare nut wrench set can be had from Amazon for about $20 for a metric 6 piece set (12 sizes). You especially need the 22mm flare wrench for that big fitting at the top of the condenser. That's the one that was the most damaged by my attempts to get it loose. The fittings to the receiver/dryer are 17mm and 19mm.

The flare nut wrenches are essentially box wrenches with a cutout to allow passing it over the tubing. In a pinch you might make one out of a box wrench by using a grinder, with frequent cooling dips to prevent ruining the wrench's temper. If you use crowfoot wrenches they need to be flare nut type, with six points, not a simple open-end crowfoot.
 
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