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  #1  
Old 05-05-2010, 09:46 PM
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delmarco delmarco is offline
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Cool BMW Air Conditioning AC System 3 Minute Troubleshoot and Recharge Pictorial DIY!

Recharge Your AC System In 3 Minutes for less than $20




Okay. So it is officially Summer here in the North East and that means two things: It is also Summer across most of the planet (except South America , South Africa & Australia) and the forums will get inundated with tons of My AC System Is Not Working threads!

Surprisingly there have not been a solid DIY for this yet (at least a DIY that could be found with a search in a the DIY Section) hence the weekly threads about AC blowing hot air on passenger side or hot air all around.

This DIY is for those folks with cars that DO NOT have major AC issues. Last year May on the first hot day of the year I noticed my AC vents were ONLY blowing cold air on the driver's side and hot or warm air out the passenger vents.

It's 80F+ Degrees out...


And your AC is on at full blast setting but...


...no Ice Cold Air is coming thru the vents



PART ONE: 1-3 Minute Troubleshoot


The forum DIY section didn't offer much help and I didn't want to spend my entire Income Tax Return check at the dealership. Luckily for me my friend who lives down south and owns a 2004 325i told me what was up and what I need to do.

On some E46 cars apparently the system can leak a bit of charge over the winter months when the AC system is not used for long stretches of time. You usually won't notice until the first hot day of the following spring/summer season and upon turning on your AC you realized there is cold air (or only cool air) ONLY blowing out at the driver's vents and hot or warm air streaming out the passenger vents.



Your first response is to assume the entire system is broken and something big and really expensive needs to be replaced. If you are a forum member you start one of many threads concerning vents blowing hot air or AC only blowing warm-cool air from the vents.

If your car has similar symptoms, before starting a thread or taking your car to the shop you should try this very quick, easy to do and cheap DIY to see if it will fix your AC ailments.

But even before you try my DIY make sure your center vent dial is set on the blue dots for cold air. I know it seems obvious, but lots of people overlook this simple function on the E46 and other similar BMW cars since the settings are not electronically indicated on the Climate Control Read Out Display.

In fact, you can have your Climate Control set to blow cold air (or even hot air during the winter months), but the setting on this dial takes precedence and the air coming out the vents WILL ALWAYS match what the dial is set on whether it be red dots to blow hot air or blue dots to blow cool air.





Other troubleshoot areas can be the AC Belts. Make sure you have them on your car and they are not shredded or loose. Also the AC Compressor which sits under the engine block may have been susceptible to oil leakage from a bad valve cover gasket, corrosive coolant fluid leaking from a broken hose, and/or washer fluid from a broken washer fluid tank pump (all which sits directly above this expensive to replace compressor).

So check for all these things. Worse case scenario the compressor is bad and you can either pay a ludicrous amount of money ($1,500 to $2,800) to replace it or for less than that you pack your stuff up and relocate to Beaver Creek, Yukon and hang out with my friend Jeb...





PART TWO: Recharge Your BMW AC System


Once that is taken care of and your car is still not expelling ICE COLD air then go down to Auto Zone, Pep Boys, Walmart or any sizable local Gas Station or Auto Store and spend $15 to $30 on a can of R134a freon. If this is your first can you will NEED to get a kit that comes with the indicator gauge. Generally it is cheaper to buy the can that comes with a gauge attached than buying gauge and can separate. Also most likely the gauge will be reusable so next can you buy in the future you will spend less as you will only need the can alone and that costs as little as $9.00 in some places. Also if your friend or neighbor has a gauge already feel free to borrow theirs and just buy the can alone.

Here is my big blue can of 134a + (NOTE: this size lasted me two years or two recharges to my car's system)



I don't understand the difference between the technology in my fancy looking $30 can and the cheaper plain looking $10 cans without the tech jargon littered all over the can.
But I just got the can that boasted the most on the label since this was my first time recharging my AC system I wanted it to be perfect.



My can also came with a gauge that was reusable.



And a nice bright and color coded gauge and a nice clear chart perfect for the someone that never done this before. Like I said, this DIY is already in itself so easy it is hard to mess it up and with a can like this it should be a piece of cake.






Now for the Recharge DIY:
before you begin make sure your car is on, your engine is on and your Climate Control is on full blast set for the AC Cold Air Air Conditioner.



Next Go under your hood and find this small cap between the + battery terminal and Air Filter Box.



On European/Canadian/Asian models that have batteries under the hood it will be the port closest to the windshield.



There is a similar looking cap/port that sits at the front end of the bay between the washer fluid tank and head lamp housing. This is NOT the port you want so leave it alone.
And I will post a picture of it here so no one makes the mistake of touching it.



Now return to your correct port...



And begin unscrewing it. It shouldn't be too tight.



Once the cap is off you will see this. This port will give your gauge a reading of what the current pressure is in the system and will accept a charge to the system when R134a is applied.



Get your Can of R134a ready. My can had a gauge with a safety locking nozzle to prevent any mishaps during the recharge. This locking nozzle is also beneficial because you may have to shake the can whiles squeezing the trigger to apply the freon and you don't want anything to leak out during the process.







Now this is the only tricky part and here is where the gauge is super helpful. Now you do not want to overcharge the system because that would be WORSE than having a low charge. So make sure you read what your current psi is before you begin charging so you get an idea of what amount you may need to apply.

On my color coded gauge my system showed that it was filled and in the blue zone but on the lower end of the blue range. This is IMPORTANT to note because other gauges using only psi numbers may tell you that your system is full leading you to think that the problem is more deeper or elsewhere.
But make sure your system is not just filled to the lower range of full but towards the upper range before you move on.

At low blue my car was blowing cool air on the drivers vent and warm-hot air on the passenger side. At mid to upper blue my car was blowing ICE COLD air on all vents.

This lead me to believe that the AC System in our BMW cars are very sensitive to slight changes in the psi of the charge system and also our cars perhaps requires a tad more refrigerant than other cars need to produce ICE COLD air.



So once your system is fully charged and NOT OVERCHARGED you can un-hook the Can and gauge from your port, close the cap back onto the port opening and return to your cabin. If all is well with your system and there is no deeper inherent problems you will immediately feel the ICE COLD air blowing in some cases even before you get back into the car from under the hood it will be already cold in the cabin.

Sadly, our E46 BMW 3 series does not have the coveted MAX AC button on the Climate Control but once the temp is set to 59 F with the air output on high...



And the Snowflake is lit...




Then you will have MAX AC. ENJOY!
:thumbsup:
__________________


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Last edited by delmarco; 05-08-2010 at 10:30 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-17-2011, 10:49 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 20,360
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by delmarco View Post
Recharge Your AC System In 3 Minutes for less than $20
Today I referenced this thread when folks asked for help:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > My thread died. Trying to revive AC

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigCo540i View Post
How much pressure should the low side read?
Where I re-used these wonderful pictures which seem to be some of the best on the net!

In doing so, I belatedly realized we don't have these pictures archived (and shrunk to 640x480) on Bimmerfest; so I took the liberty (see below) of doing so for the future.

For reference, here is what is in the bestlinks for A/C issues:

- How to learn about (1) and set up your air conditioning (1) (2) & how to replace the activated charcoal cabin air filter (1) (2) (3) & what cabin filter to buy (1) (2) & cn90's inexpensive cabin filter retrofit (1) (2) (3) & cabin air filter implications for stinky gym sock AC odors (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to refill your A/C system for $20 (1) (2) (3) (4) & where to find your low pressure aircon recharge port (1) & what refrigerant PAG oil to use (1) (1) & R134a conversion information (1) (2) how to measure A C temperature (1) & how to diagnose A / C compressor knocking sounds (1) & air conditioner compressor replacement DIYs (1) or compressor rebuilds (1) or ac hose rebuilding services (1) & how to remove the IHKA air conditioning control panel to clean the circuit board (1) (2) (3) (4) with removal of MID, HVAC/IHKA, Business CD player (1), & dashboard trim (1) & how to remove the trim and bracket holding the MID & HVAC/IHKA panels (1) (2) or to replace the IHKA button (1) & how to check the IHKA sampling fan (1) & how to change OBC MID IHKA KTMP temperature from degrees Celcius to Fahrenheit (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & how to diagnose lack of HVAC/IHKA heater core heat with cooling system (auxiliary pump) at idle (1) & what is this thing (HVAC/IHKA solar sensor) in the middle of my dashboard by the windshield (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7).
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Last edited by bluebee; 08-17-2011 at 10:51 AM.
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  #3  
Old 08-30-2011, 03:09 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
For the record, this thread came in handy today when someone asked:
- E39 (1997 - 2003) > AC hose which one is it.
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  #4  
Old 08-11-2012, 07:05 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
For the cross-linked record, this was posted today:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > Incorrect A/C charging instructions

Quote:
Originally Posted by edjack View Post
I have been giving out incorrect information about charging the A/C system. My understanding was to monitor the evaporator outlet temperature via DIS (there's temp sensor there, readable by DIS), and add/subtract refrigerant until the outlet temp was 4 deg C. I must have picked this up from an old copy of the TIS.

My 2007 TIS says to charge by weight. This requires evacuating the system before recharging. The old technique may have ignored psychrometric issues, and been unreliable.

One needs a very precise and accurate scale; the weights for the M52, M62, up to 12/97, for instance, are 1225 +/-25 g. Tolerances for later models are +/-10g.

I apologize for any trouble I've caused. Hopefully, You've ignored my advice!
__________________
Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #5  
Old 03-29-2013, 10:02 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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For the crosslinked record, this thread was updated today:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joelgk View Post
My 2001 530i has been good in the automatic airconditioning dept and faultless all these years. Last week in blistering heat of approx 100 deg F, it decided to stop cooling. All systems working, but no cold air.

On checking I found out that the gas was low and without tearing the car apart, decided to top up R 134A. Having filled it to spec and two weeks hence, the cooling seems alright (not exactly awesome) and I suspect there is a minor leak some place.

Where is the most likely places to check for leaks? I am anyway planning on a complete cooling system overhaul with new radiators et al. Should I also look at replacing the condensor and pusher fan along with?

If I have to replace the evaporator coil, is this a scary job; as in removing the dash components, would any other parts be susceptible to damage?

What are all the parts I need to replace if I have to do the complete A/C overhaul too? Is A/C failure common in E39 ? I havent seen a great many threads on this subject...

Please assist, Thanks in advance..
__________________
Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #6  
Old 04-17-2013, 06:55 PM
bluebee's Avatar
bluebee bluebee is offline
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Location: San Jose, California
 
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Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
For the crosslinked record, this thread has useful information about specs for the AC:
> E39 (1997 - 2003) > BMW E39 A/C Pressure Readings Advice Sought


Quote:
Originally Posted by jetpilot10 View Post
I have noticed recently my A/C system has not been keeping pace with the rising temps in the Dallas area and today was the final straw. I have a Black 540i and my car sat in the sun for about 6 hours and was like an oven for the hour drive home. I stopped into AutoZone and picked up a can of R134a with dye trace to see if I can locate any leak. The system has not been touched or topped off in the last 5 years. It has been running flawless since I had a compressor replaced over 5 years ago. The system still runs as should, i.e. compressor cycling, the Aux fan increasing and decreasing in speed as it should, just been getting warmer air our of vents.

Using quality manifold gauge set initial readings showed approx 170 psi High / 28 psi Low. Air out of center vents was cool at best and not anywhere near as cold as it was a year ago, so I am sure there is a small leak n the system somewhere.

I have the Bentley manuals but they do not publish even any target pressure settings. So I set out on the board searching for pressure settings. I stumbled across some basic reference numbers in a range of 170-320 psi High and 14-32 Low, so off I went.

Current weather in Dallas while adding One (1) - 12 ounce can of R134a Refrigerant with DYE trace: Outside Temp: 93 Degrees / Dew point 69 Degrees / Relative Humidity 47%

Final readings after letting car idle for 15 minutes, adding Freon, and letting idle an additional 15 minutes after can was introduced:

High Pressure side: 275 psi
Low Pressure side: 33 psi

A/C system set to lowest setting, which in the E39 is 60 degree’s, highest fan speed, Three (3) Blue Dots on the center vents. After adding refrigerant I was getting 50-53 Degree’s on the temperature gauge that was placed in the Center vents on high fans speeds and at mid level fan speeds the temp would drop to 40-44 Degrees. I was using a Pyrex Digital Thermometer.

Are there any experienced HVAC guys on the board that can tell me if this is close enough for pressure readings and temps, or should I be looking at getting the system serviced further?
__________________
Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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  #7  
Old 07-27-2013, 11:00 PM
Yaz Yaz is offline
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Hi,

I saw the video and the pics. Very useful. Thank you.

I tried the same thing, after reffiling the freon, the a/c stop throwing the cool air. It was working good reforestation I refilled.
When I went for oil change, guy told me am running low on freon so I bought a new can and refilled it my self ( I have done this many time in past)
But this time it's not working, I was wondering what coused the working a/c to stop working after reffiling? I noticed two things when I was done.
1)fan was making very noise.
2)I spotted lot of water underneath the car

I'm not sure if that will help you to my question.

So the jesting is, why my a/c not working as before after reffiling?

If you can get back to me it will be huge help for me.

Thank you.
-Yaz
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  #8  
Old 07-05-2014, 02:33 AM
bluebee's Avatar
bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 20,360
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aussie528iT View Post
The simplest way to avoid the smell is to always have the A/C on and don't park the car with the nose pointing downhill for extended periods.
If you continually park the car with the nose pointing downhill the condensate water can't drain out of the evaporator as the drains are to the rear.
This is very interesting, and deserves to be tested!

Meanwhile, I came here for a diagram of the air flow, which I couldn't find, so, I'm adding it now, so that we can all find it more easily in the future:
- How to learn about and set up your air conditioning (1) (2)

See also:
- How to learn about (1) and set up your air conditioning (1) (2) & how to replace the activated charcoal cabin air filter (1) (2) (3) & what cabin filter to buy (1) (2) & cn90's inexpensive cabin filter retrofit (1) (2) (3) & cabin air filter implications for stinky gym sock AC odors (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to refill your A/C system for $20 (1) (2) (3) (4) & where to find your low pressure aircon recharge port (1) & what refrigerant PAG oil to use (1) (1) & R134a conversion information (1) (2) how to measure A C temperature (1) & how to diagnose A / C compressor knocking sounds (1) & air conditioner compressor replacement DIYs (1) or compressor rebuilds (1) or ac hose rebuilding services (1) & how to remove the IHKA air conditioning control panel to clean the circuit board (1) (2) (3) (4) with removal of MID, HVAC/IHKA, Business CD player (1), & dashboard trim (1) & how to remove the trim and bracket holding the MID & HVAC/IHKA panels (1) (2) or to replace the IHKA button (1) & how to check the IHKA sampling fan (1) & how to change OBC MID IHKA KTMP temperature from degrees Celcius to Fahrenheit (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & how to diagnose lack of HVAC/IHKA heater core heat with cooling system (auxiliary pump) at idle (1) & what is this thing (HVAC/IHKA solar sensor) in the middle of my dashboard by the windshield (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7).
__________________
Each repair should invariably add to our knowledge base by the process of inexorable incrementalism.
Your job, in return, is to read the suggested threads, where the best people will always add value to those threads, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person with the same problem stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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