How to Charge the Air Conditioning System of a Saturn Ionby Richard Ristow
A Saturn Ion's air conditioner uses R134a, a Freon refrigerant, to cool air. Over time, this refrigerant can leak out of the system, leaving the Ion's air conditioner unable to produce refrigerated air. While most air conditioner repairs are best left to an automotive specialist, recharging the air conditioner is a relatively simple process. Widely available at automotive retailers, R134a recharging kits are easy to find. Plus, besides the kit, the only other equipment needed would be safety gloves and glasses. Since the Freon container will get very cold, you should wear winterized gloves rather than rubber ones.
Set the Saturn Ion's parking brake.
Open the vehicle's hood and locate the Ion's low-side pressurized service port. You will see two aluminum pipes. One will be thinner than the other. The wider pipe, which is connected to the compressor, houses the low-side port.
Remove the black or blue dust cap and set it aside for later reuse.
Connect the R134a kit to the low-side pressurized service port. The kit features a coupler at the end of a service hose. This coupler should easily fit onto the service port. If it doesn't, make sure you have the right recharging kit. If you have an R12 Freon kit, you will need to return it to your place of purchase. R12 and R134a do not mix, and R12 will harm the Saturn Ion's air conditioning system.
Put the kit down someplace in the engine compartment. Be sure to keep it away from any part of the engine that could shift or move.
Start the car and let it warm up to its running temperature. Then switch on the air conditioner to its coldest and hardest-blowing settings.
Roll down all the windows, or open all the doors. This will keep the air conditioner from building up cold air in the passenger compartment. You do not want the air conditioner to switch off during refilling.
Return to the low-side pressure port in the engine compartment. Turn the nozzle on the recharging kit downward. This will puncture the seal on the R134a container and release the Freon.
Let R134a flow into the air conditioning system for 60 seconds. For best results, shake the can while adding the Freon.
Close off the Freon's flow by reversing the handle upward and let the air conditioner run for 60 seconds. Shutting off the flow lets the new Freon in the system disperse evenly.
Continue to add R134a in 60-second intervals. Monitor the recharging kit's pressure gauge. It will indicate when the process is complete and the Freon levels have been adequately restored. If you need a second opinion, stick a thermometer into the air conditioner's central duct inside the passenger cabin. Be sure to put down the container in a safe spot away from moving engine parts. In normal weather, the system will cool air to 40 degrees. In very hot weather, the system may level off anywhere between 40 and 60 degrees.
Remove the recharging kit's coupler and service hose from the low-side port and close the car's hood. Replace the dust cap. Let the vehicle idle for 10 to 15 minutes before shutting off the air conditioning and engine. Idling ensures even distribution of the refrigerant.
Leave the nozzle attached to the container and do not dispose of any leftover Freon. Do not release the Freon into the air, and do not throw a partially empty container in the trash. Store the container in a dark place and keep it in an upright position. You can use leftover Freon to top off the system much later.
- "Haynes Repair Manual: Saturn Ion 2003-2007"; Ken Freund; Haynes Publishing Group; 2007
- US EPA: Recharging Your Car's Air Conditioner with Refrigerant
Things You'll Need
- R134a recharging kit
- Safety gloves
- Safety glasses
- Since R134a is a compressed gas, exercise caution. Beyond wearing glasses and winterized gloves, keep the container's coupler and hose pointed away from your face.
Richard Ristow has written for journals, newspapers and websites since 2002. His work has appeared in "2009 Nebula Showcase" and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling Award and he edits poetry for Belfire Press. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and has managed an automotive department at WalMart.