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A/C Retrofit Questions on 1985 Cav Wagon


bluebutterfly50
05-31-2017, 03:27 PM
I own a 1985 Chevy Cavalier wagon that I inherited from my dad, been driving it quite a few years. A/C has been out for 5 years and I finally decided to get it fixed. Was told by mechanic it had to be retrofitted/ converted. About 7-8 years ago a friend put in some freon, but it leaked out, so I presume it has a leak. Since that time, it's been driven without a/c. Mechanic said it would require a new compressor for the retrofit among other things. Has anyone done this on their 1985 Cav? I'm not a DIY'er, just trying to make sure I don't get ripped off by a mechanic. Was quoted price of between 1K-1500K to do the work. I love my Cavalier wagon....have been car hunting and looking at the new stuff out there, most of which I hate. This wagon is perfect size for me, perfect amount of cargo space, I don't need to fold down seats or any of that nonsense as I encountered with newer cars, just to load my groceries or a lot of shopping. The car only has 80K miles on it, and I don't drive long distances. Thanks again for any info about a/c retrofitting on this year/model of Cavalier wagon!

Tech II
06-01-2017, 03:39 PM
You are wasting your money, your vehicle not worth even close to $1000.....drive it as is, and be glad it's still running....

bluebutterfly50
06-02-2017, 01:16 PM
You are wasting your money, your vehicle not worth even close to $1000.....drive it as is, and be glad it's still running....

I realize my car isn't worth 1K....that isn't the point. The point is, I do not want to buy a used car for 14K or 10K that I don't like. I've been car shopping and I don't like the new cars out there. I like my Chevy Cavalier. My car only has 80K miles on it, whereas the newer "used" wagons I've seen have over 100K or even 200K miles on them. I don't like them for a number of reasons. This isn't about deciding whether my car is "worth" 1K or not. It's about finding out the details of retrofitting it with a/c. I've been told by one mechanic that it would need a new compressor to retrofit the a/c. So, getting back to basic questions on this, is a new compressor necessary to do the full retrofit or is that just something the mechanic told me to make more money on this conversion? Thanks if anybody out there has done this type of retrofit on a 1985 Cavalier or a car similar to this one. (btw, I've been approached by at least two people wanting to buy my car to restore, so as years go by you might be surprised that some of these older cars do retain more value than you think)

Tech II
06-02-2017, 09:27 PM
Well, then, it probably will need a 134a compressor......also a new receiver/drier......the system has to be flushed....o-rings replaced......and of course the leak has to be found and fixed.....

I still wouldn't do it....you are on borrowed time with this vehicle....

bluebutterfly50
06-03-2017, 03:59 PM
Well, then, it probably will need a 134a compressor......also a new receiver/drier......the system has to be flushed....o-rings replaced......and of course the leak has to be found and fixed.....

I still wouldn't do it....you are on borrowed time with this vehicle....

If I do go forward with this retrofit, is there a way I can save money on doing it by purchasing some of the parts such as compressor, etc, myself rather than charged for them by a mechanic?

As far as the car being on borrowed time, I could say the same thing about the newer "used" cars I looked at that had !50K miles on them and the dealer wanted over 10K for them. I looked at an Subaru Forester that had about 180K miles on it and they wanted about 12K for it. And that was the only wagon type vehicle I looked at that I somewhat liked, but it had less cargo space than my Cavalier! And a lot more miles on it than my Cavalier!

I just took my car into my local mechanic and after doing an oil change and some basic maintenance he told me that my car is still in pretty good condition, so I'm actually not too worried at this point. Another huge factor is that I don't drive much....mainly around town for errands, the rest of the time it's in my garage protected from the weather. It has a classic car vehicle license which exempts it from smog inspection due to the fact that I drive it less than 1K per year. If I put $1200 into the a/c and can comfortably drive it another 5 years,(or more), I consider that to be a win for me. I don't want power doors, power windows, power lift gate and on and on that the new cars have. I don't want dark tint on the rear window so dark I can't even SEE out of it. Most of it is overpriced junk to break down.

I've been told a few times (mainly by relatives ) that the car was on borrowed time....and I've driven this "on borrowed time" car for quite a number of years past what they thought. The interior is still excellent (back seats look brand new). Front seats are also in quite good shape. Headliner needs replaced. Anyway, thanks for the info about the parts that would be needed for the retrofit of the a/c.

If anyone else out there has done an a/c retrofit on an older car , I welcome any other feedback to assist in making the decision. Thanks so much!

Tech II
06-05-2017, 08:33 PM
Well, you seemed to be determined to do this, so, good luck....

I forgot to mention, you will also need new lo and hi service valves, for the 134a......it's imperative that all the old R-12(which should be gone), along with the old oil(mineral oil), be removed......it will be replaced with 134a refrigerant and a ester/Pag oil.......this oil does not mix with mineral oil, thus a flush should be performed....I worry about 22 year old evaporators and condensers......cross your fingers....

Blue Bowtie
06-05-2017, 09:16 PM
As an alternate the system could be repaired (it leaked out for a reason) and refilled with a refrigerant blend. I have a 1986 Trans Am which was an R-12 car which lost its seal. After a pair of new hoses I refilled it with R414B (tertiary blend) and haven't had issues. It cools far better than R134 in converted R12 systems. I have the advantage of being universally certified. Most motive certified AC technicians are not, and R414 might be out of their reach. As such, it may be no more economical that a full-on R134 retrofit, although it will cool better.

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