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Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:27 am
by JeffHWV
Hello. I have 1988 T-bird turbo with the 2.3l pinto engine. I just got the car out of storage after setting 16 years. I've owned it since 1990 so I know almost all history on of the car. I bought it with front end damage so the system was opened very early on due to condenser damgage and was replaced with a used oem one. When I was driving the car I had to add 1 can of r12 every year. Maybe two cans a year toward the end. The HR980 looks slightly oily behind the clutch and a couple of the springlocks are pretty oily but hard to judge since it has been setting so long.

I would appreciate input on what would be the best route on getting the system up and running again. I know the HR980 has a bad reputation and is supposedly not a good candidate for conversion. I do have access to r12 so no problem there, but if it's gonna stay a leaker I would rather convert. I have read special tools are needed to replace the seals in the HR980 and I'm not sure if I do replace them how long they will hold up. The car has 140k on it and has spent its whole life in the Pittsburgh area, so it's not been flogged continually over those miles so the internals are probably better than most although I didn't drive it in winter.

I have read what I can find on the net about compressor swaps and looked at compressors on eBay until my eyes hurt trying to find a configuration that looks easiest. I can fab about anything, but clearance issues with the turbo inlet and motor mount limit length and the various hose connection types and angles make my head hurt. Also, having the tensioner integral to the compressor bracket complicates the hell out of things. I see a lot of options, none too easy. Possibly a ear mount Sanden mounted to a plate to fit the original C shaped mount. Possibly a pad mount Sanden or top discharge FS10 with a late Fox 2.3l Mustang bracket and adapter plate. Possibly a H6? on the original mount if the ears are close enough to the HR980 dimensions. I have the complete system from a 98 v6 mustang at my disposal. Advice whether toconvert or not and what compressor to go with especially from a pro that has done it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:55 am
by Tom Greenleaf
Not sure I understand what engine you have going on here or layout so just thoughts on it for fixing this vintage of Ford A/C.

Shaft seals will leak passively over Winter if stored and cold enough and is in Pittsburg. Doesn't need to leave evidence just cold unused sitting in storage can leak out some or lots and be fine all season - have a few that can do that myself,

Keep it R-12. Saves tons of headaches now and it can be found - help for it might be hard now.

I'd spray all your spring-lock connections now that you want to do as they were so common to go bad new never mind now and by spray just some lube so they'll cooperate.

Have you asked at a real parts store like NAPA for a compressor or who in your area can put a front seal it what you have? I have no luck (just a curse) with front seals so just don't but it can be done.

Open isn't necessarily the worst thing with R-12 and oil that doesn't mind but would vacuum when real warm and let it hold for days re-vacuum down repeatedly till it holds for an hour with no loss hope desiccant can lose some moisture. I can't verify if moisture will come out of it or not and with R-12 would work if the desiccant was spent but not loose thru system.

Skip (it's your call) Ebay and on line adaptations and just work with what you have. If this old now (mine are) and can work they had something going for them so find local help if needed.

Guess I'm not a fan of rigging brackets and stuff to hold another type compressor in place - at all as I think you have an accessory belt
(one) for everything and some you can't get away bypassing a compressor - no room to route just any which way or only some you can use a belt for the car if with no A/C from new but IDK what's been done with the engine comment up top,


Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:37 pm
by Cusser
My opinion: have a real AC shop find the leak, and fix. And keep with R-12, easier, better chance of optimum performance, etc., and you won't have to deal with oil removal and changeover too. So will be less expensive overall, as refrigerant is not consumed.

I still use R-12 in my 1988 Mazda truck.

Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:47 am
by JeffHWV
Thanks for the replies. Haven't been able to answer as I had a lot going on for past couple weeks.

I didn't mean to suggest I wanted to convert it. My concern is a: the HR980 compressor is now nearly unobtainable since they can't be rebuilt and b: I don't know how well this system can be sealed so that it is practical to keep it r12 if I am going to have to add a can or two every year. Wasn't a big deal back when I was driving it and anyone could buy a can Of r12 at Walley World for $2. Now it would add up.

I gave the system a good looking over and 3 of the springlocks have signs of significant leakage from the amount of oil around them. The oil behind the clutch is minimal compared to those, but there is about 1/32" to 1/16" radial play on the clutch hub and turning it by hand it doesn't feel like it is doing much but that it is still on the car and hooked up.

My main reason for looking on eBay is you can look at pictures of many different compressors easily to see what might be a good candidate for a retrofit. Would definitely stay away from knock offs. But, looking there and a lot of other places, I have found the following: 1. New hr980 compressors are not to be found 2. the rest of the parts for Fox/SN95 cars are dirt cheap. Accumulators are about $20 for barb fittings, $35 for headlock fitting or about $60 for one with the suction hose attached, about $20 for liquid line/orifice ( all 4 seasons) and about $60-80 for aftermarket condenser. Compressor to condenser line is short so should be cheap to make. No mufflers in current system. I think an ear mount Sanden with o-ring fittings pointing up is probably the best retrofit candidate with the factory bracket.

It all boils down to how serviceable the current hr980 compressor is. You have to look far and wide for anyone to say anything good about them. I would like to keep it but I don't know what is the likelihood of having it work for any length of time and not leak and if the amount of play in the shaft is acceptable.

I live out in the sticks so not any AC shops near me, at least any I trust. The last time I dealt with one 50 miles away I paid $170 for 5' long #6 line with straight o ring fittings. I am pretty much on my own.

I think my main 2 very simplified options are:

1. replace barb fitting accumulator, all o rings, possibly compressor seal, vacuum, check for leaks add some quantity of oil and R12. Cost $50-75 ( I have enough R12)

2. Get genuine Sanden compressor mentioned above, fabricate adapter, new bead lock accumulator with fabbed suction line, new SN95 Mustang parallel flow condenser and liquid line/orifice which I think are easy retrofits, new fabbed compressor to condenser line, vacuum, check for leaks, oil and R134a Cost around $450

Would appreciate comments on any or all of this. Thanks again.

Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:34 am
by Tom Greenleaf
Going to change suggestion or ask how much you want this thing to have A/C and willing to spend more than how to.

It's a 1988 with a 2.3 lucky to be running at all by now so is A/C going into this time of year and expecting many more years out of the car in general even likely by condition of the car in general or what?

IMO almost anything you do to make it work now may not be working by Spring all cobbled up assorted stuff so might think about it about now unless you seriously want A/C to work much longer and car is a remarkable rust free dependable car now might want to consider getting another vehicle that's more serviceable - still old if you like just not all the hassles and expense on a car that might surprise you (any can) with something else too costly to keep going with it in general.

It might be less of a cooling season where I am by avatar info is where. It will freeze here tonight - A/C is over and heat is on now and unlikely to be needed again (personal choices) this year.

Most folks here wouldn't fix this at all and pay more attention to keeping it good transportation just do without A/C.

If $$ so important and shops too far away for you for good help it must be tough to own a car this old now? I do but work on them totally myself when possible - all aspects - different game. The old stuff goes into storage for Winter pretty soon as those are rust free, low mile in wrecked vehicles I just personally like. They wouldn't be practical for other folks already either so have another to waste in Winter's hell on vehicles and it is wrecking it,


Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 5:19 pm
by cornbinder89
Be prepared to read a whole lot you don't want to hear!
If you want to fix it and a good shop is a long way off. Then do it yourself. This will require a lot of investment in tools, so welding ability and time.
1st determine what to do for a compressor? Is the OEM mount fixed or does in move to tighten the belt? Fixed is easyer to deal with, and sometime moveable can be made fixed and an idler pulley used to tension the belt.
You say you compressor is NLA, and has a loose shaft. Find a good A/C catalog either on line or have someone mail it to you. You want dimensions as well as what clutches are available. Choose a compressor that will work with whatever mount you are going to make. The rotary Sanden style are easy to work with, but any compressor between 8 and 11 CID will work.
You will need to MFG a mount. Don't go cheap in this dept. 3/8" steel is what I would use.
The only things I would re-use would be the evaporator and metering device (orifice tube or Tx valve).
If the system is empty now, than no R12 is left to leak, than you don't need to capture it.
I would make all new hoses with Beadlock fitting and use a "bubble crimper" ( another tool to buy)
Chances are you don't have a lic to buy R-12 so 134a is what I'd use. You'll need a drier compatible with 134a and Pag or Ester oil.
You'll need a vac pump and a gauge set.
Condenser: I'd go with the largest cap generic unit I could ft.
Everything can be mail-ordered and you are likely looking at over $2000 for the job.
I've done plenty this way, stock hose and common fittings, and order what I need for the job specific parts.
If you made a good selection on the compressor, you will have a system that you can maintain for years to come with common, off the shelf items.

Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:26 am
by JeffHWV
First, thanks again on the input. I appreciate the time it takes to respond to the posts.

The car has never seen salt, at least since 1990 and as far as 88 t-birds go is at least a 8 out of 10. Paint deteriorated on top little while in storage but sides look better than new as I cut and buffed it to near show quality. It is a very nice car and not my main transportation. I plan to put antique plates on it and run it occasionally in the summer, but the car is black and I really like AC. I was considering this a winter project not an immediate need. My problem as far as vehicles go is I have too many. All except this one having working AC, even my 93 Aerostar with rear air.

Having the tools and skills are not my problem as far as fitment go, but I am far from an expert on AC. My main reason for posting is trying to get as much info as I can to make the job easier if it needs to be done. I have done a fair amount of research on the topic and some guys on this site in the past have posted specifically on converting Fox bodied cars, even ones with the HR980. I was hoping to get some specifics on stuff that was not talked about. Having a catalog that had all the mounting dimensions would be great, but I'm not sure that is available as it would only be useful to some doing this kind of job which I am sure isn't many people. I have an older Airsource catalog with all the specs and compressor numbers, fittings etc. and that is a help but not much help for dimensions. I have measured all my vehicles which include 2 types of FS10, pad mount SD7, Ford scroll, and I have a brand new Seltec in the box I bought for a piece of equipment that ended up just needing the clutch gap set.

I'm not planning on cobbling this thing together or I wouldn't do it. I am always open to suggestions as far as improving the quality of the job. Not sure how I could end up with $2000 in it unless I am really missing something major. Hose Wizards make a kit for around $700 for Fox bodied 2.3l Turbo cars, but I am trying not to go that route as guys have had fitment problems and I think I can do it cheaper and maybe better. Not sure if it comes with a Sanden or a clone either. The post above lists the parts and conservative prices for a firewall forward. I know things always cost more than planned but I'll buy the kit if I think I'm going to approach that cost. I actually have all these parts used already I removed from a 98 v6 mustang but the compressor is the big question as always. I can use them for mockup before I buy anything. I could possibly use them as they are off a low mileage car known to not have compressor problems but the stuff is cheap to buy. Maybe the used stuff would be better due to the issue of aftermarket vs. oem parts. I would try to avoid the stuff I know is low quality. Not sure about stuff from Four Seasons. Some things I have bought from them in the past have been OEM.

These cars have the orifice crimped into the liquid line, that's why I'm thinking I would have to use the Mustang one as it would have the proper orifice for R134a. The accumulator comes 3 ways: one with barb fitting and no ferrule $15-20, one with bead lock fitting and ferrule $30-40, and as an assembly with the suction hose attached but with the springlock for the HR980, $55-70. I would think the one with the bead lock fitting would be intended for R 134a, no?

Thanks again.

Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:23 am
by Tom Greenleaf
Sounds good so far and just parts that are right the issue. Been quite a while since I totally did up a couple just for fun cars - Summer drivers and stored Winters type.

So - if going to have this apart and fitting parts I still suggest staying with, rather keeping it R-12. Pay the price which is diddle vs the project and a much better chance of lasting IMO.

Costs? Can't say. A source for possible places that will redo parts you have I've used for ages - all items not just for A/C anything.

Check for info @

They specialize in Lincolns back to 1961 - all parts. The 88 Mark may share stuff you may need. Worth a contact and probably sent on to another.

Doesn't matter but that's based in Putnam, CT but deal with the whole world.

I personally would avoid PAG oils if you do go 134a just because they are hygroscopic (absorbs moisture and can turn acidic) when exposed to air so would use Ester instead. Low mile use, "Sunday" driver shouldn't be any problem.

Totally lost with brands and who currently is making or rebuilding the higher quality stuff of anything as it changes frequently.

The costs again: If a lot redone by you or specially made up $2K would be nothing to get to. I just warn or worried that going for best prices always if quality is compromised could just ruin the project only to start all over again?

Good luck - ask who is making stuff, has NOS stuff if you plan to keep this car indefinitely,


Re: Opinions wanted on resurrecting AC on 1988 T-bird

PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:56 am
by cornbinder89
JeffHWV wrote:These cars have the orifice crimped into the liquid line, that's why I'm thinking I would have to use the Mustang one as it would have the proper orifice for R134a. The accumulator comes 3 ways: one with barb fitting and no ferrule $15-20, one with bead lock fitting and ferrule $30-40, and as an assembly with the suction hose attached but with the springlock for the HR980, $55-70. I would think the one with the bead lock fitting would be intended for R 134a, no?

Thanks again.

Beadlock or no has nothing to do with 134a. The beadlock is a way to make sure the hose/fitting joint doesn't come part or leak.
It became the std for fitting design when the higher pressure that 134a can build to, made the old hose barb unreliable. Berg-clip and EZ clip do the same without the need for a bubble crimp, but my choice is bubble crimp. I have never had one fail even at 375-400 psi. ( a working system shouldn't get that high)
I wouldn't use a hose barb on anything, including R12. It was used back in the day a can of R12 could be had for less than a buck, and no one cared if a hose came off and vented the R12 to the atmosphere.
I am not suggesting that you "cobble" together, but that you design and build to a level the equals of betters what Ford had back in the day, with parts available today. Unless "period correct" is your goal, in which case you are talking about sticking with the compressor you claim can't be rebuilt, switching to a better and more available compressor make sense. I have s%^& canned I don't know how many York/CCI compressors because there are so much better choices to be had than an old shakey York. Any of the rotary compressors From the earlyest A-6 to what is being produced today can be used with a little thought and fabrication of mounts.
It only becomes "cobbleing" if you use the "come here and hold this while I weld it" school of design.