Classic Auto AC Retrofit
|UPDATED: December 16, 2017 CONTACT|
|D O M A
I N S
Getting satisfactory AC in an early 240 can be a real challenge. I sincerely believe these cars were not really designed for better than mediocre cooling in warm weather.
Older 240s with AC were just not up to the task.
Over the years I have done a lot of trial and error. Some have responded fairly well, but none have worked like a real modern AC system is supposed to.
In 2010 I made a serious attempt at using PROPANE as a refrigerant after a suggestion by another 240 owner who said he had been successful.
My success with propane was limited to some fairly decent cooling on the highway, usually, but there were always problems during idle, when the cooling would drop off. There were also suspected problems with things freezing up from getting too cold, which caused temporary failures. I did have pretty good success with helping a friend convert a totally stock '84 240 GL to propane AC. That car worked pretty well for many years. I found that some cars responded better than others. My '84 242 Turbo did not respond as I had hoped.
There is an extensive Turbobricks thead here if you want to see more about adventures with propane: http://forums.turbobricks.com/showthread.php?t=202992
I eventually gave up on propane and moved to Duracool R12 replacement. It seemed to be more consistent than propane and freeze ups were eliminated. I tried a number of different thermal expansion valves and a number of different valve settings for my 240, but the cooling never amounted to anything spectacular. And problems at idle remained.
Over the years, whenever I would come across hot rods at shows with custom AC systems from Classic Auto Air or Vintage Air, I became very interested in the results and I would interrogate the owners about how well they worked. I'm a skeptic and I remember JC Whitney catalogs years ago that used to have cheap under-dash AC systems. JC Whitney did not have a reputation for high quality stuff and I never actually tried their AC systems. The answers I got, however, from every hot rod owner about their Classic Auto Air or Vintage Air systems were very positive.
If you have done this or are thinking of doing something like this in a Volvo (any Volvo), please email me. I'd like to hear all about it.
Also, if you have any suggestions to improve the information in this page, please email. Thanks, Dave
MICHAEL YOUNT INSTALLATION<<< In 2016 I learned that 240 owner Michael Yount of North Carolina had fitted a Classic Auto Air system in his LS3 equipped 1982 240.
This is how it started.
His car has been featured in my Favorite 240 Page for years: http://www.240turbo.com/volvo240.html.
Michael reported exceptional results with 36 degree vent temps at idle on a 90 degree highly humid day. His success was enough to inspire me to make future plans for a similar installation. I don't think I would have ever considered such an installation if Michael hadn't done it first.
Here are a few pics Michael sent me showing some details of his installation:
<<< This AC box is the Street Rod Cooler III from Classic Auto Air. In this photo, you can see that Michael has added some of his own metal bracketry for mounting the box under his dash. Also the sheet metal brackets at the very top are the same brackets in your 240 that hold the original air box in the car just under the windshield cowl.
Classic Auto Air has several versions and sizes of AC boxes. This is one of their all electronic boxes. An electronic box like this one eliminates the cable and vacuum controls originally found in a 240. So this means your 240 vents and temp controls are done electronically and all those vacuum buttons and cable controls go away. Nice!
<<< With the old airbox area gutted, here is a view of Michael's car with the new AC box under the dash. The design of this Classic Auto Air box is more compact than the original Volvo box, however it is wider than the Volvo box.
Here's a front view of the new air box mounted in Michael's dash.
<<< There are some compromises with this system. As you can see in these pics, the new AC box is a bit wider than an original 240 box, so part of it can be seen extending into the passenger footwell. This is a small trade-off.
The width of this AC unit is 20.875 inches. Michael reported that his installation did not require any modification of the glove box. Classic Auto Air has one larger AC unit (the "Custom Colder") that is 3.125 inches longer, 0.5 inches taller and 1.6 inches deeper. Michael believed fitting that larger box would likely have required cutting into the glove box.
One other trade-off:
This system will not accomodate the fresh air intake vent below the cowl at the base of the windshield. This means there is no outside air setting for this system. It will only recirculate air inside the cabin. So if you really need fresh air, you'll need to open your lower kick-panel vent or crack a window. You'll also need to close off and seal the fresh air hole under the cowl to keep the weather out of your car.
<<< As you can see here, the old 240 slide controls and vacuum push buttons are gone. In their place is a new electronic contol panel. It has fan speed, vent selection (front vents, upper defrost, and lower heat) and a cold/warm temp knob.
Don't be confused when you look at Classic Auto Air's page. They also show setups using cable controls, but they fail to explain very well why they show both setups. Basically the cable controls they offer are designed for certain classic cars where the owner wants to retain the look of original cable controls.
DAVE'S 240 INSTALLATION 2017
Dynamat Installation Came First
Three different Dynamat products are used below: Dynamat Extreme, Dynapad and Dynaliner.
I began this installation in the summer of 2017. Before working on the AC, I decided this would be a good time to cover the interior with Dynamat. I had been planning this for a while and had bought some dynamat a year earlier. This car is pretty loud inside when driving. You don't really notice it very much until you drive a newer, much more quiet car. It makes conversation difficult and listening to a radio pretty useless. This is my first experience with Dynamat, however I have used cheaper alternatives in years past.
<<< I began with the firewall. There was originally a thick pad on the firewall made of weak open cell foam with an asphalt type lining on one side. It was the same material as that stuff on the transmission hump in this pic. It was in pretty sad condition, torn and falling down. I pulled the old pad off and began by applying Dynamat Extreme.
Dynamat Extreme is a peel and stick material with thick butyl rubber on one side and aluminum on the other.
It's very flexible, easy to cut with scissors and stays stuck, really, really well. I have used some inexpensive alternatives before and found I had trouble getting some of them to stick or stay stuck to vertical surfaces. Dynamat does not have this problem. Also I found some of the cheaper alternatives were not nearly as flexible as Dynamat, so it would not conform to shaped panels as well.
BE CAUTIOUS OF SOME COMPETITOR MATERIALS: I read a LOT of reviews about many other competitor sound deadening materials before I decided to buy Dynamat. I found that a number of competitors are using a different type of rubbery tar material that can get melt and get runny in hot weather. I have seen reviews from very unhappy customers who found puddles of oozing tar running down interior firewalls and out of the bottoms of door panels all over their pristine interiors on hot days.
That is a nightmare I was willing to pay extra to avoid.
<<< Here is a new firewall pad I created using Dynapad. It covers the passenger side and goes from the gas pedal to the right edge of the firewall.
<<< I used the old Volvo firewall pad as a template and cut the new one with scissors. The old firewall pad was falling apart.
<<< Dynapad is a thick, firm foam material (just under 1/2" thick) with a butyl rubber core.
It's fairly heavy, about 1 lb. per square foot. It does not have self-adhesive, so it needs to be held in place somehow if used on a vertical surface. As you can see in the photos, I used the bolts and wide washers that were already there on the firewall to hold this material.
Here's the Dynapad placed on
the driver side firewall behind the
<<< Here I have cut new pads using Dynapad for the front floors and transmission hump. Again, I used the old pads for templates.
If you're really observant, you may have noticed the original lower heater ducts going along the hump and under the seats are missing. Those will not be going back in.
<<< Another view showing the Dynapad on the driver's floor.
|<<< And the shifter hump got a new piece of Dynapad. There was
an original Volvo pad here too.
<<< The outer left and right side kick panels got the Dynamat treatment too.
I began working my way toward the rear seat with Dynamat. You can see here I added a
smaller piece of Dynapad over
the driveshaft hump behind the parking
brake. There was also an original piece of Volvo pad here that I
<<< The sheet metal under the rear side panels got some Dynamat too.
I also covered the inside of the outer sheet metal as far as I could reach inside there.
<<< Then I began putting down Dynaliner on areas I didn't cover with Dynapad. I stopped at the back seat.
Dynaliner is a smooth closed cell foam with adhesive backing. It comes in a few thicknesses (1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 inch). I chose 1/4 inch thick.
Dynaliner is advertised as a thermal barrier. The manufacturer doesn't say much about its sound deadening properties, however after watching the video BELOW of someone putting it inside a Corvette, I was convinced it would be a good addition for noise reduction.
Regarding the doors and roof, I didn't get to that this time, so that will be done later.
So how much did this part of the project cost?<<< Dynamat Extreme: About $150 per box. 36 square feet per box. Everything you see in the above photos was done using TWO boxes of Dynamat Extreme. I bought a third box for the doors and headliner, which have not been done yet.
<<< Dynapad: About $90 per roll. 12 square feet per roll. I used almost all of TWO rolls.
<<< Dynaliner 1/4 inch: About $50 per roll. 12 square feet per roll. I used TWO rolls.
This product is available in 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick.
My overall result was pretty good.
It is not luxury car quiet, but it is noticeably better than before.
Auto Air Installation
Introduction of the Steet Rod Cooler III
<<< Classic Auto Air's webpage and catalog is mainly focused on taylored kits for vintage domestic cars and a some vintage foreign cars. There is a small page on universal AC kits, but I thought it was sadly light on real usable info for someone seriously looking at this as a custom installation. You have to hunt through different places to find useful info. I hope they begin adding more photos, explanations and general info for custom installations.
These units can be found by clicking on their Universal AC Systems link. Aside from the information I got from Mchael Yount, I learned the most by reading the installation instructions (where the illustration at left came from), which is a PDF file found at the bottom of the page for the Street Rod Cooler III.
My purchase: Street Rod Cooler III. PN 1-1091. Price: $685.00.
Dimensions: 20.875 inches wide x 9.5 inches tall x 7.125 inches deep.
<<< The Heater Air Dumps shown in this diagram are removeable and optional. So you may run duct hose from those outlets to your lower heat vents if you like. The dumps simplify things if you decide not to run ducts. With heater dumps the heat will then be pushed out below the dash through whatever openings exist. My installation uses these simple heater dumps instead of long ducts to each side.
<<< You won't find many photos in their site, so I have included some detailed photos.
Included with the above AC unit was an ECU and
harnesses for making this thing work.
<<< I also got this electronic water valve. It was included with the price of the Steet Rod Cooler III. It's controlled by the ECU and the temperature control knob. It's designed to allow metered amounts of water for precise heat mixing. There is an orange label showing which end goes toward the heater core and a green label showing which end goes to the water pump. IGNORE THESE LABELS! They make no sense for a Volvo with a Volvo engine. See the correct orientation further below: CLICK HERE.
<<< The control knobs come in a few different styles and finishes. It is not included in the AC unit price I chose this black anodized set in a horizontal configuration.
PN 16-2136. Price: $175.00.
Classic Auto Air offers complete kits and many individual components in their catalog. You'll need to hunt through their site to find their PDF catalog and separate price list. They offer Sanden rotary compressors also if you need one.
<<< An early 240 like mine originally came with a York compressor like this one. A newer rotary compressor is better (equipped on 240s beginning in 1985).
<<< Luckily, the previous owner of my 240 changed to a later style compressor back in 2002. For this project I purchased a new rotary compressor from FCP Euro: Volvo PN 8251069 (click here).
|<<< I already had an oversize high-efficiency parallel flow condenser that I
installed a number of years ago. You can buy
one from Classic Auto Air if you like. They come in many different
sizes. If you're
wondering what a Parallel Flow
Condenser is, it's
basically a newer and better design than the original condensers our
240s came with. They are reported to be about 30% more efficient.
I also have dual 11 inch pusher fans mounted to my condenser. Yep, serious stuff.
I began fabricating some mounting
braces similar to those made by
Michael Yount. My technique was a little different from
Michael's, so you can
choose your own style. The new AC box comes with some mounting
with U-nuts on the backside. Basically I made it so the box sits
about 2 to
2.5 inches above the transmission hump and roughly 4 inches from the
firewall. It needed to be that far from the firewall
because the heater hoses prevented it from being closer. The kit came
with some clear drain tube for the
condensation drain on the bottom, but it
very flexible and tended to kink in a tight turn. So I used some silicone tubing (that blue hose) I
I used 1/8 inch thick aluminum bar stock I had on hand. It can be found in most hardware stores. I chose aluminum because it's so much easier to work with than steel. I had some clip-on barrel nuts, also known as U-nuts (see pic at far right) from some previous projects. I got them from McMaster-Carr, PN 95210A150. Thread pitch is metric: M6 x 1mm. These are made for a panel thickness of 0.8 to 4 mm. The bolts I used are PN 98093A436, M6 x 1mm, 16mm long with a flange head. These are identical to the typical metric bolts with a 10 mm hex head that you find in your 240.
Here are some more views of the mounting braces.
This is a photo of the underside of the cowl below the
windshield. This is where the
fresh air vent was located. I have closed it off and sealed it,
not because I hate fresh air. It's because the new AC box isn't
designed to accomodate such a fresh air vent.
I cut a rigid piece of plastic to the precise shape of the hole. It helps to make this piece out of cardboard first. Then after you have the size just right, transfer that shape to the plastic (or metal or whatever material you decide to use). Then I applied a generous bead of 3M black Super Weatherstrip Adhesive around the edge and installed it. I further sealed the opening with Dynamat.
<<< Those are the original sheet metal brackets that used to hold the Volvo factory heater/AC box. As Michael did, I used those brackets for the top mounts for the new AC box.
After an endless number of test fittings and adjustments of the AC unit
brackets and the brackets
that were going up
to meet the top cowl brackets, I
finally felt comfortable about the
positioning of the AC unit. I pushed it as far to the left side as
possible and it is actually resting
up against the driver's side right kick panel. I trimmed some of
plastic off the top of the kick panel to clear the actuator motor and
thermostat, which extends a little past and above the kick panel.
It's hard to see, but the brackets I made for to the backside of the AC unit now reach the top cowl sheet metal brackets. I also bolted in a small steel bracket to the transmission hump below the unit for a lower mointing point. It can be seen in a different photo further below. That bolt hole was one of the lower mounting points for the original AC box. At all mounting points I used zipties to secure the new AC unit. It's mounted pretty firmly and all the vent duct outlets seemed to have adequate clearance from obstructions.
<<< This photo is looking down at the transmission hump. The original drain hole was in a difficult position, although it appears from Michael's photos he used it in his installation. I decided to move the drain grommet to the other hole as shown, trading grommet locations.
<<< Here's a look at the top cowl mounting points that I have zip-tied to the new AC box brackets I made. UPDATE: Notice that I made a last minute change and moved the HEATER DUMPS from the outer rear air outlets to the INNER REAR OUTLETS, so now they are right next to each other. This was a suggestion by Michael Yount. I found it helped with some tight clearances for ducts.
If you're confused about me swapping the heater dumps to the center outlets, this would be a good time to tell you this unit does not independently select defrost or heater vents. It sends air through both equally when upper or lower vents are selected, so it really doesn't matter which outlets are used for defrost versus lower heat. You can add this to the trade-offs mentioned earlier. This was a small disappointment when I found out, but I got over it. It's not really a big concern for me, since I bought this unit for the AIR CONDITIONING, not the heating.
<<< If you think you really must have the top and bottom vents controlled independently, there's a larger unit Classic Auto Air offers. It's called the "Custom Colder" unit shown at left. It's their largest unit and it will do these vents independently. As mentioned earlier, it's 24 inches long, 10 inches tall and 8.75 inches deep. That's 3.125 inches wider, 0.5 inches taller and 1.6 inches deeper than the Street Rod Cooler III I chose. This larger unit might fit just fine except it would add another 3 inches of airbox that you could see under the dash in the passenger footwell.
<<< Would another 3 inches of airbox under there be too much??? Hard to say.
Here are some views of the lower
mounting point mentioned
above. You can
also see there is about an inch of
clearance between the AC unit and
the back of the lower storage/radio
enclosure. This is not critical
There seems to be plenty of space so far.
<<< The distribution block you see attached to the lower storage/radio enclosure will be discussed in more detail further below. It will be used as a central location for the dash grounds instead of mounting them to several different bolts in the dash like Volvo did. This is part of a wiring cleanup project that was badly needed.
<<< Close-up of the lower mounting point and small bracket I made and bolted to the bolt hole that used to hold the original AC box.
<<< And a pic showing a view from between the seats. As mentioned above, the AC unit is positioned as far to the left side as possible and is resting against the driver's side kick panel. It cannot be moved more to the left without going past the kick panel and getting really close to your accelerator foot.
Here I've installed the heater water
valve and I have plumbed the
heater hoses. They come into the cabin through the original firewall
location just to the right of the gas pedal. I used high quality
reinforced silicone 5/8 inch
hose. Don't pay attention to
the valve orientation in THIS pic. I changed it later. More
This valve can be placed pretty much anywhere. Classic Auto Air's instructions show it being installed in the engine bay, but I wanted it in the dash instead. The gray foam wrapped around the bottom of the valve is some leftover Dynaliner foam to keep it isolated. Any little thing you can do to eliminate rattles in a 240 is well worth the effort in my opinion.
<<< Regarding the orientation of this water valve, in this pic I have spun it around 180 degrees from my original installation in the previous photo. Classic Auto Air's instructions are confusing because it specifies ports on the valve for the water pump and heater core, but then calls for a specific direction of travel, which turns out to be opposite for a Volvo redblock engine.
<<< Water flow is from LEFT to RIGHT in this photo. This is the correct orientation for such a valve.
I found that regardless of what's labeled on the valve inlets (for "water pump" and "heater core"), the correct direction of water travel must ALWAYS be AS SHOWN in the BELOW illustration.
<<< This image is from Classic Auto Air's instructions. I have my water valve plumbed as shown by the ARROW.
At the firewall, the TOP hose (coming from the cylinder head) goes to the water valve inlet with the ORANGE label, marked "heater core." The GREEN labeled outlet, marked "water pump," then goes to the new AC unit heater core. The other hose from the AC unit heater core then goes out the BOTTOM firewall hose, which goes to the water pump pipe behind the engine.
Regarding the coolant inlet and outlet on the AC unit, Classic Auto Air does not specifiy which should be which. So I chose the inlet and outlet by the best way the hoses seemed to fit.
<<< Here's the ECU for the new AC unit. It's sitting on top of the lower storage/radio enclosure. It also has some Dynaliner foam stuck to the bottom and sides to isolate it.
The duct outlets on this Classic Auto Air unit are designed for 2 inch flexible tubing. They sent me 15 feet of their tubing with my order (like the image to the RIGHT). The tubing fits the oval ducts snugly. I contemplated for a while how to adapt this tubing to the Volvo original front dash and top defrost vents. I didn't need to worry about the lower heater vents, since I was not using any (using heater dumps instead). Also you may have noticed the original Volvo heater ducts going to the rear floor (going under the carpet and under the front seats) were removed when I was applying Dynamat. Those are gone permanently.
<<< Here is an image from Classic Auto Air's catalog. It shows a number of duct adapters.
They sent me a few adapters with my order that they thought would come in handy. Some did.
<<< They sent 4 of these and they came in very handy. Strangely, these are NOT shown in their catalog. They are similar to PN 2-2028-4 in their catalog. The adapters I got were listed on my invoice as PN 0069-4. Cost was $12.50 each. SIZE: I measured them as 5 1/8 x 2 x 2 5/8 inches with an oval tube inlet.
<<< They sent 2 of these. These are defrost vents shown in the catalog image as PN 2-1050. Cost was $17.50 each. SIZE: 6 3/4 x 4 inches. The top defrost outlet is about 5/8 inch wide.
<<< I did not use these.
Michael Yount said he used some DIFFERENT defrost vents supplied by Classic Auto Air: Classic Auto Air PN 2-1053 and 2-1054. These are shown in the catalog pic above. He attached them under the dash using screws through the dash top.
I decided to go a different route using the original 240 defrost vents.
Here is my verson of the defrost duct. I trimmed a bunch of
off each of the original Volvo
and then fitted a PN 0069-4 adapter
using some screws. I added some spare
Dynaliner foam to seal some small gaps. I angled the hose inlet toward the incoming
duct hose, so the hose fit
<<< There's a screw covered by my thumb in this pic. Sorry.
<<< All nicely sealed. These would then be mounted to the dash using the original rubber nubbs.
is one of the original Volvo dash ducts for the right and left end
vents. The square end fits onto the back of the Volvo vent.
<<< The round end is a bit larger than the 2 inch duct hose I was supplied with, so again, Dynaliner foam to the rescue. I stuck some inside the first inch of the Volvo tube.
<<< Look at that! Nice snug fit.
<<< Here is the original Volvo adapter that's found behind the two center dash vents.
<<< The two center outlets on the new unit are going to these front center dash vents. They're close together and the original 240 adapter spreads them far apart. Not the best match.
<<< So I ordered PN 2-2027FA-1 Dual Hose Adapter from Classic Auto Air. Cost: $20.00.
Then I decided NOT to use this one.
Instead I built this. These parts seemed to fit a little better.
<<< I began by removing the staples holding the bellows pieces on. Then I cut open the thin plastic box so the center divider was gone.
And I trimmed and attached the two duct adapters I had left over so they fit well in the box (Classic Auto Air PN 0069-4).
<<< Here's my new dual hose adapter next to the center vent it will mate with.
<<< Here are the ducts going into place.
|<<< Dash is now in. This
view is through the hole for the
gauge cluster. Here's the driver's
side defrost vent. Fits pretty
<<< And looking through the glove box hole, here's the passenger side defrost vent.
<<< And here's the right side dash vent. The left side looks pretty much the same.
Assembling New AC Hoses
Classic Auto Air has a selection of refrigerant hose parts, however their catalog did not have all the fittings I needed. I ordered the below hose parts from coldhose.com. Part numbers listed below are from that company.
C R I M P I N G C R I M P I N G C R I M P I N G
For hose fitting assembly, I already had an AC fitting crimper. It's an expensive hydraulic type I bought years ago when I began doing my own AC work. It can cost over $500.
Since there is now a less expensive option for DIY AC mechanics, I recommend the Mastercool 71550 manual hose crimper. It can be mounted to a vise or a bench and best of all it's only around $150.
Or you can go to a hose shop for your hoses. If you do that you can expect to pay quite a bit, so buying your own tools makes sense to me if you might be doing this more than once in a lifetime.
<<< Here's a new drier I installed on the right fender. It's mounted using a black universal drier bracket, PN DC0002 from ColdHose. $3.00.
The drier is an aftermarket copy of a Volvo 240 drier (1980-89), PN 1370235, made by Uro. About $20.00. You should get a drier that comes with the low-pressure cut-off switch shown on top. This one also has the over-pressure relief valve on top. Some aftermarket driers don't come with that stuff. It's connected using the #6 hose fittings shown in the photo.
<<< The hose coming from the condenser to this drier begins with the 90 degree fitting similar to the one in this photo, except it does not have a discharge port. This 90 degree fitting does have a high-side discharge port for hooking up to your AC gauge manifold high-side hose.
The hose going from this drier to the firewall and then to the new AC unit begins with that straight #6 fitting shown.
All fittings shown are aluminum. Steel fitting are available if you prefer that.
This is the #6 hose coming through the firewall to the
evaporator. The 90 degree
fitting on the right gets crimped to
the #6 hose coming from the drier. I made it this way so I could have a
quick 90 degree bend at the
firewall instead of the typical hose coming
out over the exhaust manifold and then turning.
The 90 degree fitting on the left side connects to the high-side inlet on the new Classic Auto Air unit.
<<< Here's that 90 degree fitting turning and going through the firewall.
<<< And here are the hoses connecting to the AC unit behind the dash. The small hose is the same as the one shown above. It's the high pressure hose coming from the condenser and drier on the right fender.
<<< The large hose returns to the compressor. This hose is shown below.
This is the large #10 hose coming
The 90 degree female fitting on the left side goes to the AC unit.
The 90 degree female fitting on the right side goes through the firewall and then turns left to the #10 hose going to the compressor.
<<< Here is the 90 degree o-ring fitting coming through the firewall. It connects to a Male Insert o-ring fitting before heading toward the compressor. Something to keep in mind with these fittings: A female o-ring fitting always fits a male INSERT o-ring fitting.
<<< Here it's connected. I chose a 45 degree fitting for that male insert fitting. I did that because my original plan to have a straight fitting there made the AC hose a bit too close to the valve cover. That could make removing the valve cover more difficult.
This is a splice fitting that
I have inserted on the #10 hose going
the compressor. It has a low-side
port for charging. This is a
#10 (1/2") Inline Splicer with an R-134a 13mm Suction Port, PN BL6103-3.
<<< And finally here's the fitting that goes to the compressor. It's a #10 Female Straight O-ring Fitting, PN BL1303.
I did NOT discuss the hose from the compressor to the condenser. This is because I used the existing hose I installed back when I installed that new condenser. It's constructed using a #8 Female 90 degree O-ring fitting, PN BL1322 at the compressor. Then a length of #8 barrier hose, PN BH8. Then at the condenser there is another #8 Female 90 degree O-ring fitting, PN BL1322.
<<< Here is an overall view of the #10 hose from the firewall to the compressor.
Hose Parts Inventory
This list covers all AC hoses. All fittings are aluminum. Below items were ordered from coldhose.com.
Up the Wiring
When you pull the dash (and original AC box) out of a 240, the spaghetti mess of wires can be overwhelming. In many of these photos you can see pieces of yellow electrical tape with marker writing wraped around wires. As I began this disassembly I marked every wire or connector with tape and a description of where it went or where it came from. It was time consuming, but well worth the effort. Trying to find all those wire locations later without this info would not be very much fun. Also it's helpful to grab your cell phone and snap some photos of this stuff as you go. They may help out later and you'll have some nice memories to impress your friends with at parties.
<<< One of the things I did to clean things up was to move the location of the dash relays. I don't understand why Volvo engineers thought hiding the relays deep inside the dash was a cool idea. Now these relays are right behind the inner passenger kick panel. Some wires needed to be extended on the relay connectors to reach this location.
<<< I used interlocking relay sockets. There are 6 of them here. Only 5 relays for now, but room for one more if needed. These interlocking relay sockets are available in my page here if needed: http://www.240turbo.com/blackvinyl.html#relayplugs
<<< Another thing I did was add this ground terminal distribution block attached to the side of the center storage/radio enclosure. This allows me to have one central location for all the dash grounds found in that center dash area. There is one fat cable connecting this block to one ring terminal on a convenient dash bolt instead of a bunch of ring terminals connected to several different dash bolts.
Email me if this is something you want to have. I will consider offering these in my page if people want them.
This is the right side, below dash area, behind the right passenger
panel. My engine management system is here. In order to better organize
the wiring, I have added three more distribution blocks for 12 Volt Key 1, 12 Volt Key 2 and Ground.
Key 1 has power when the key is it the first power "ON" position.
Key 2 in the second (or "RUN") position. The covers for the
distribution blocks are not available. I made them custom because I
wanted some protection for the hot leads.
The covers were formed using 1/32 inch gray PVC plastic sheeting from McMaster Carr. They were then painted black. That PVC sheeting may be formed easily with some heat from a hair drier or heat gun. If you try this, make a cover out of cardboard first so you have a template.
<<< Before doing this project, I had a black dash with tan lower parts and a tan center console and kick panels (similar to this random 240 pic). I decided to change everything forward of the seats to ALL BLACK.
<<< No, I didn't paint my tan parts black. I already had some black parts I began collecting a few years back. They were looking a bit old so I cleaned them thoroughly and renewed them with some fresh black paint. I used SEM Color Coat Satin Black. It's a really good finish for dash parts.
<<< Since part of the new AC unit sticks out below the dash into the passenger footwell, I needed to trim this plastic kick panel a little.
<<< Just a little trimming needed. Some sheet metal shears performed very well.
Apparently my setup has the new AC unit a little further from the firewall than Michael's installation. I had some glove box interferrence. The back left corner of the glove box was touching a refrigerant fitting and it was preventing the glove box from going all the way in. I needed to cut a small part off the back left corner of the glovebox and then everything fit again.
Moving the new AC unit closer to the firewall might have cured this glove box problem, but for my installation it was not possible because the heater hoses coming through the driver's side firewall interferred and kept the AC unit from being pushed closer. Michael Yount's installation was different in that his heater hoses came through the firewall on the passenger side (for his Chevy LS motor) and apparently did not interfere with the new AC box. I suppose moving mine closer to the firewall could have been possible by moving the unit more to the right side, away from the heater hoses, but that would have exposed more of the box to the passenger footwell..
<<< Here's the completed result.
Classic Auto Air has some specific instructions for charging a Street Rod Cooler III.
Air conditioning systems don't like air. Air doesn't harm the system, but it's a lousy refrigerant, so you need to get it out of the system. Air conditioning systems don't like moisture either. Moisture attacks metal parts and will eventually cause the compressor valves and rings to fail. That's the main reason systems sometimes get vacuumed for hours and hours. It's not the air so much as the water vapor that needs to be removed.
<<< When I began charging with R134a, I set up a postal scale to accurately measure the charge. I got 11.8 ounces out of the first can. To speed things up, a good trick is to place the can in warm water. Not too hot. If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot. This trick raises the pressure in the can so it flows a little faster. It took about 15 minutes for the first can.
<<< Some of the water in the bowl turned to ice on can #1.
<<< Here's my pressure readings after can #1.
R134a Low: 26 PSI. High: 200 PSI.
Can #2 took about 20 minutes.
Here are the final pressure readings after installing just under 24 ounces.
R134a Low: 27 PSI. High: 270 PSI.
LEAKSThis is something that will ALWAYS be on your mind when putting such a project together. My system developed a leak somewhere that allowed the refrigerant to leak down in 24 hours. That's a pretty fast leak. It makes you doubt the parts you spent a fortune on, your tools and your sanity.
<<< So I bought a can of R134a with UV dye and a UV flashlight on Amazon.
<<< Found it! I could see the UV dye leaking up through the threads on this firewall fitting.
<<< It turned out to be a cut o-ring that was not installed correctly. One must be more careful when coupling these fitting together. Internet sources suggest a bad o-ring causes most leaks in AC systems.
Observations - Results
The air turbine in this new AC unit is smaller than those in original Volvo 240 air boxes. That was easy to see since the new unit is more compact than the Volvo box. So I expected the airflow on HIGH setting would not be as powerfull as the original unit and I was right. I can't offer a more precise quantification, but I'm not disappointed in the flow. If this is a dealbreaker for you, then you should keep your original system.
I've never been a fan of R134a. But I did give it a good try for a number of weeks. More below.
VENT TEMPERATURE PERFORMANCE WITH R134a
I spent a couple weeks testing with R134a.
With R134a I was getting IDLE vent temps of 50 degrees Fahrenheit with an ambient temp of 90 degrees.
Running at highway speeds did bring the vent temps down a few degrees to as low as 46 degrees. This did offer reasonably comfortable driving, but is was not really making me smile. I decided I spent too much money to not get a smile out of this!
DURACOOL VS. R134a
I've been a fan of Duracool for a number of years. http://www.duracool.com/ Read their FAQ section.
Duracool is advertised to be 35% to 40% more efficient than R134a (it's similar to the efficiency of R12).
It produces significantly lower head pressures than R134a.
R134a pressures seen for this installation: 27 PSI low, 270 PSI high.
Duracool pressures: 14 PSI low, 125 PSI high.
LESS DURACOOL IS REQUIRED COMPARED TO R134a
24 ounces of R134a was required for this setup. The Duracool equivalent is 10 ounces. Yes, 10 ounces. There is a chart in the Duracool site showing exact conversions.
Here an information video from Duracool. (3:41 length)
VENT TEMPERATURE PERFORMANCE WITH DURACOOL
At this writing these results are still a bit fluid, so some of this data may change later after more testing.
<<< With Duracool I saw a low vent temperature of 27 degrees Fahrenheit with an ambient temp of 80 degrees (sorry, summer was ending and I would need to wait for a hotter climate). This temp was recorded at idle in my garage with the fan on the lowest setting. As the AC cycled on and off the temperature ranged between 27 and 34 degrees. Increasing the fan speed will bring this vent temperature up some.
So far I will call this project a success, although more testing needs to be done with different ambient temperatures. I'll post more info after that.
If you have done or are thinking of doing something like this in a Volvo (any Volvo), please email me. I'd like to hear all about it.
Also, if you have any suggestions to improve the information in this page, please email. Thanks, Dave
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