2003 A/C Evaporator Freon Leak

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.
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.
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
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.