o air conditioning in the minivan. Not good when Summer is arriving.
The local auto repair shop wanted $89 to recharge it. I figured it would be a lot cheaper to do it myself.
So I went down to the local auto parts store and bought a recharge kit for $35. Here are the steps I followed to do the recharge:
Check the current coolant level
I have heard that the AC compressor clutch will not engage on some cars if the coolant level is too low. Also, there
is a "sight glass" that you can see the coolant through. If there are "bubbles" in the sight glass, the coolant is too low.
I checked both of these. First, I turned on the engine and turned on the A/C. I also turned the thermostat on cold and the fan on high.
The compressor clutch is engaged and spinning. That's good news.
The sight glass is "bubbling" -- so the coolant is probably low. (But there is still coolant in the system -- that's good news. Must not be a catastrophic leak.)
This video shows the "bubbling" sight glass. It's kind of difficult to describe.
There are two ports to access the air conditioning system -- a high pressure port and a low pressure port. On the 2001 Sienna, the high pressure
port is in front of the engine compartment on the passenger side. The low pressure port is near the back of the engine compartment on the
I turned off the car and connected the coolant canister to the low pressure port. It would have been nice to have a longer hose on it -- but that model was $10 more. :)
After turning on the car (and the AC), pressure is at zero PSI.
Filling the coolant
With the car still on, I pulled the trigger on the canister several times to charge the system, checking the pressure on the guage each time.
It got up to 35 PSI, which was the right pressure for the ambient air temperature. It was interesting to watch the pressure guage increase to
about 40 PSI as the system temperature increased. Then the radiator fan would come on, cooling the system, and the pressure would fall back
to 35 PSI again.
I turned off the car, disconnected the canister and replaced the low pressure port cap. Here is what the sight glass looked like with
the car running and the AC on after the system was recharged.
This video shows the sight glass with the system fully charged.
And here's a picture of the (nearly empty) coolant canister. For fun.