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How to Recharge the Air on a '97 Grand Am

by Richard Ristow

If your 1997 Pontiac Grand Am runs out of R134a refrigerant, the air conditioner will no longer blow cold air; however, this does not mean the air conditioner is broken or has developed a significant leak. Refrigerant naturally leaks out over time. When that happens, recharging the Freon level will bring the air conditioner back to life on those hot summer days. Recharging the Freon is a relatively simple task that you can perform yourself. R134a recharging kits are sold at most auto supply stores.

Walk around your Pontiac Grand Am and open all the doors. This is a precaution for later, while you are actively recharging the air conditioner. The open doors will prevent the system from accidentally turning itself off.

Pop the hood of your Grand Am and prop it open with the hood support rod. Locate the aluminum air conditioning pipes, near the middle of the engine. These tubes will have two connection ports. The high-side pressurizing connection is not part of this task and it should be ignored; in any case, your kit's servicing hose will not fit the high-side port. Focus your attention on the low-side connection port.

Remove the cap from low-side connection port and attach your kit's servicing hose to the port. Do not turn the nozzle on the top of the R134a can just yet. Find a safe location on the Grand Am's engine to rest the kit temporarily. It is okay to lay the kit in an inverted position but make certain it is not on top of or near movable engine parts such as a belt or a fan.

Sit in the driver's seat and turn on the engine. Allow the engine to idle until it has reached its usual running temperature.

Blast the air conditioner at full power. Set the system for the coldest air possible and the maximum blower force. Monitor the temperature in the air conditioner with a thermometer. To get the best reading, insert the thermometer into an air conditioner vent and observe the temperature. A fully charged system will blow cold air at 40 degrees but the air temperature will level off before then. The exact temperature reading you get will depend on exactly how much, if any, refrigerant is still present in the system.

Go back under the hood and have the thermometer with you. Pick up the recharging kit and turn the nozzle on top of the R134a can all the way down. The R134a refrigerant will make a rushing noise as it leaves the can, travels through the servicing hose and enters the air conditioner's aluminum pipes.

Turn the nozzle on the can to the upward position to stop the flow of refrigerant. This will allow you to use and monitor the pressure gauges on the kit. Allow one minute to pass before adding more R134a refrigerant. Pausing between charges will allow the refrigerant to circulate through the air conditioning system and be evenly distributed.

Insert the thermometer into the air conditioner's central duct and carefully observe the reading. The air temperature will begin to fall. Once it reaches 40 degrees, the air conditioning system on your Grand Am will be recharged.

Turn the nozzle on the refrigerant can upward to shut off the flow of any leftover R134a refrigerant. Disconnect the kit's service hose from the low-side connection port and reinstall the cap on top of the port.

Allow the recently added refrigerant to fully circulate through the air conditioner. Let the engine idle and the air conditioner run for 10 to 20 minutes before turning everything off.

Tip

  • Store any leftover R134a refrigerant in a cool, dark place. Leave the kit assembled and make sure it is standing upright. Any leftover R134a can be used later to top off the system. Since the system is pressurized, never overfill.

Warning

  • Gloves and glasses should be worn while you recharging the air conditioner on your Grand Am. R134a is a pressurized gas and should not be inhaled.

Items you will need

About the Author

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.

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