2003 A/C Evaporator Freon Leak

Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Thunderbird Year
2003
I bought a freon Sniffer to find my freon leak. $20 on Amazon. The sniffer found the leak was coming from inside the cabin. I thought the leak was from the evaporator. I removed the dash assembly (not a job to be taken by amateurs) to remove the HVAC assembly.
When I disassembled the HVAC I found the hard-line from the evaporator to the expansion valve fitting had an O-ring that deteriorated causing the leak. But since the only way to replace this O-ring was to remove the entire HVAC Assy. and to do all that work I was also going to replace the evaporator and the expansion valve at the same time, not just an O-ring.

The evaporator has been discontinued from the Ford parts inventory, Obsolieded. I had the local A/C repair center find one in GA and I got it in 2 days for $150 w/freight.
This is a Non-OEM part so it is not identical. I had to modify the formed rubber gasket around the evaporator so it would fit inside the HVAC Assy. Due to the modification of the gasket, the gasket would flop to the side and the HVAC Assy. the cover would not go back on. So I place the top of the HVAC Assy. cover upside down on the floor and put the evaporator in the cover controlling the formed rubber gasket. Then place the bottom of the HAVC Assy. on the top and all went together.

Problems along the way.
I used an on-line from the public library Chilton repair manual. It has a step by step procedure with pictures of most the parts. they were numbered to what part to remove first 1 thru 50 plus.
The Chilton manual does not describe and list (ALL) the parts you need to remove, so I do not recommend using it to a novice. I will not revise their instructions but will tell you that:
1. The dash assembly is VERY heavy. It has a steel tube that runs from the left A-pillar to the Right A-pillar. I used two plastic 1" tubes supported on jack stands on the floor to slide the dash Assy. out far enough so that my wife and I could lift it out of the cabin.

2. There are 50 or more bolts and screws to remove and many look the same but are not. Inventor the bolts so you will know where they go back to. I did not and have had some issues. I did separate them by section left, right, center, but that was not enough.

3. Remove: the seats, the Trans. shifter assy., NOTE; when removing the shifter do not bend the cable, remove the plastic clip that connects the cable to the shifter lever. I did not and NOW I have to replace the cable. The E brake handle Assy.,

4. When installing the expansion valve on the evaporator lines the Expan. Valve MUST line up in a line straight up position, not in the slightest angle. When you go to install the underhood A/C lines that are in a block, they are hard lines that can not be bent to align with the expansion valve that was not installed correctly.

5, The glove compartment has a pull cord on the backside attached to the left side stop arm for the door. The cord is held on with a plastic clip to the stop arm. First, remove the two holding screws located on the left side, inside the glove box. This holds a steel plate that the cord runs thru, now you will have enough play in the cord to slide the plastic clip on the glove box door stop arm out of the elongated hole in the arm.

Picture will follow soon.
 
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2004
Quite a undertaking. Now I know why i paid my shop around $1100 for this repair. Mine was replace evaporator valve. White he was doing this job I requested he replace any other parts for the ac so I wouldn't have the expense of labor should another inexpensive part fail.
I'm at the mercy of of mechanics since I don't repair myself. I keep thinking maybe time to sell but then i drive it and say nah. Let's keep it. I'm the original owner of 2004 mint green t-bird.
Good luck with the repair.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2021
Thunderbird Year
2004
Holy macaroni! I'm having the same kind of issue, although my system won't stay pressurized long enough to sniff the leak. I removed the compressor and blanked off the lines and she still leaks 100 psi of nitrogen in about 30 minutes.

I get traces from inside but I really don't trust my sniffer. It'll start going off outside all by itself sometimes.

I think mine is the expansion valve since the pressure refuses to equalize between the liquid and vapor sides.

We have this 2004 PCR with less than 25K on it that we bought new... The amount of work involved suggests that maybe we'll pass the headache on to someone younger and find something less challenging to fix. I'm 70 and near wore down... lol

I'll have to ponder my options... But these birdies are not very mechanic-friendly.

Regards, Pete
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Thunderbird Year
2003
I had to do mine last year and it was a hell of a job. if you do it, I suggest you catalog where all the bolts you take out go. I know I mixed some up some and has 3 left over. I am not as good as I was 40 years ago.
 
Joined
Sep 29, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2002
Hello @The Flash,

This is my first post here but i've been a lurker for a couple years. I picked up a 2002 Thunderbird 2 years ago. The AC hasn't worked since I got it.

I finally started the process to fix and determined there was a leak from the compressor seal. I decided since I was doing the project I would go head and replace everything in the system. I got almost everything off without too many issues. I haven't started on the interior part yet, that is the next step. However, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get to the bolt holding the lines to the TXV manifold. There is a big plastic part that holds a bunch of wires blocking access to it and I see no way to easily remove it without taking off the entire upper intake manifold. Since it looks like you were able to get this bolt off during your project (your picture copied below) is there some trick to getting to the bolt? Or do I need to take everything off the top of the engine to get to it?
11988_f10aa362fa438e15a369aa9c4bc341a1.jpg
 
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Joined
Jul 9, 2019
Thunderbird Year
2003
Dude - total respect. I’ve pulled a lot of dashes out of 60’s. cars and know what it takes and how meticulous and careful you have to be. Impressive work.
Welcome! :D Like he said..... I've done it. Got a 2006 Jeep that needs it, the total A/C replace job. Been putting it off because it is SOOOO much work. Hats off to you! Good luck!
 
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Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Thunderbird Year
2003
I know I did not take off the intake manifold. But I think it would be a good idea.
I don't remember what I used to get the bolt off, maybe a 1/4 drive ratchet to loosen then a wrench.

The dash screws and bolts are plentiful and many look the same but are not. It would be a good idea to catalog where every bolt you take out goes to.
Best of luck.
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Thunderbird Year
2002
Found the post I was looking for, I have to replace my expansion valve, it is stuck open. From your photos it looks like removing the dash
is the only way. I have learned in the past the best way to keep track of bolts and screws is to take a large piece of cardboard and draw
out a diagram of the dash, then stick the bolts and screws in the cardboard so they stay in order.

I can use any hints that you can pass on, I may start this coming week.
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Thunderbird Year
2003
The glove compartment door cable release is a bitch. 5, The glove compartment has a pull cord on the backside attached to the left side stop arm for the door. The cord is held on with a plastic clip to the stop arm. First, remove the two holding screws located on the left side, inside the glove box. This holds a steel plate that the cord runs thru, now you will have enough play in the cord to slide the plastic clip on the glove box door stop arm out of the elongated hole in the arm.
When I refilled the system with R132 I had thought I put the correct amount in, but the A/C only blew cold air on the driver's side. So I thought it was a heater valve issue. BUT NO, there was not enough R132 in the system. when you fill the A/C make sure you use gauge pressure to make sure it is full of R132.
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Thunderbird Year
2002
The glove compartment door cable release is a bitch. 5, The glove compartment has a pull cord on the backside attached to the left side stop arm for the door. The cord is held on with a plastic clip to the stop arm. First, remove the two holding screws located on the left side, inside the glove box. This holds a steel plate that the cord runs thru, now you will have enough play in the cord to slide the plastic clip on the glove box door stop arm out of the elongated hole in the arm.
When I refilled the system with R132 I had thought I put the correct amount in, but the A/C only blew cold air on the driver's side. So I thought it was a heater valve issue. BUT NO, there was not enough R132 in the system. when you fill the A/C make sure you use gauge pressure to make sure it is full of R132.
Great info any other thoughts let me know. When the ac systems are low on 134A only a portion of the evaporator will get cold usually only
the first few rows of tubing which on T Birds supplies only one side of the cooling system. When I work on ac systems is always evacuate
the system, and weigh in the correct amount of refrigerant, this way you get it right the first time
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Thunderbird Year
2002
I began my removal of the dash so I can replace my bad TXV for the ac system. Not hard but a ton of screws.
I think I am going to replace the evaporator, heater core, and the three actuators for the ac blend doors, etc.
while I am in there, everything is 20 years old.

I spent two hours last night getting started, may do more tonight.

Here is a few photos so far.910B3C21-8352-4A15-B9AF-2A2A5F936A6F.jpeg9DD23DBE-6E0F-40EB-B04C-EE818DEC5122.jpeg041322E5-CE7F-46BE-BC96-5E4FBCC1B133.jpeg
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Thunderbird Year
2002
It is a lot of work, you learn a lot about your car when you dig into it like this. What surprized me the most
was when I reconnected the battery after five days everything came back to life perfectly. I even replaced the
windshield reveal moulding, and decided to replace all four struts-shocks.

I am cleaning up the seats, and they go back in in a few days.

DAF819A7-11A1-4D9A-8590-D77AEE882E3F.jpegD821DB26-A1DE-4FCE-9E2E-865A4B9320D6.jpegBB87BD5B-3200-4199-82D6-8BFF9C3A0DFA.jpeg
 
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