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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.


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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 01:09:52 AM   #1
zingbmw
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Default AC refresh advice

Ive been reading up on AC and watched the 50skid videos on youtube, as mine is currently intermittently hissing while running at low levels. It still blows cold air from all the vents, but Im sure some r134 has leaked out over the years of having the ac running all the time in FL.

I read that a lot of people had success with just adding a bit of r134 (without sealer). I understand that these cars measure their r134 by weight instead of pressure and its impossible to get it exactly right without draining it and refilling it. Is it worth it to get it drained and refilled and having the system pressure checked for leaks?

If I do drain it, are there any other parts of the system that are suggested or necessary to replace? compressor oil, expansion valve, receiver dryer, or valve cores for top and bottom??

If its just draining and filling, Ill have it done at a shop to avoid putting refrigerant into the atmosphere. However, if there are any parts that need replacing, Ill probably have it drained at a shop then take it home to replace the parts.
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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 09:08:59 PM   #2
Pnick
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

I'm from Florida also and I had the same issue you are going thru but mine was a little worse than yours and eventually started blowing hot air on all vents.
All I did was re-charged it with a sealer several times (I say several times because one full charge lasted almost a year then it started blowing warm air and I recharged again a couple more times and that finally stopped the leak). Now I have to turn the temp up a bit as it'll freeze my ass off even in +100F days. AC has been going strong almost 6-years now. Cost? <$75.00

The right way is to reclaim the remaining "Freon", identify/fix the leak and recharge according to weight.

Take it to a reputable AC specialist and get an estimate and see how much it'll cost.
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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 09:27:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

just pray its not the evaporator. mine started out like this but kept getting worse, injected dye and couldnt find any except the drain tube/on ground after running it a bit.

common point of failure on bmws is the evaporator. car is built around it too lol.


was a fun job to do in the garage. thank god my car was a vert but ive done these by the hundreds when i was a bmw tech so it wasnt bad, but not fun. very straightforward diy if you know what you are doing, just not something id recommend for the average diy.

my suggestion get a can of r134 with dye/stop leak. top it off and run it for a while and check for any leaks with a uv light (can get one from harbor freight) check condenser and all lines/compressor and if you see nothing check drain by the bell housing of transmission if you see dye there i have bad news for you....
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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 09:37:29 PM   #4
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

I've been dealing with a 30-40 day leak. After about 30ish days it's cold on the drivers side and each day the passenger side gets a tad warmer. This has been going on for 2.5 years. The leak doesn't get any worse but for the love of God I can't find it!! Took it to a reputable shop 1.5 years ago and they couldn't find anything. No dye coming from drain.

I do have the wonderful smell of band aids but some people say that's normal for BMWs and other say it's the smell of pag oil escaping the evaporator into the HVAC box.

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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 09:47:16 PM   #5
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

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Originally Posted by cgeromi View Post
I've been dealing with a 30-40 day leak. After about 30ish days it's cold on the drivers side and each day the passenger side gets a tad warmer. This has been going on for 2.5 years. The leak doesn't get any worse but for the love of God I can't find it!! Took it to a reputable shop 1.5 years ago and they couldn't find anything. No dye coming from drain.

I do have the wonderful smell of band aids but some people say that's normal for BMWs and other say it's the smell of pag oil escaping the evaporator into the HVAC box.

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Shop may have to use a sniffer to find leak (though not definitive/accurate) to narrow down where its leaking from.
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Old Mon, Oct-07-2019, 09:49:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

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Originally Posted by Race M3 View Post
Shop may have to use a sniffer to find leak (though not definitive/accurate) to narrow down where its leaking from.
Yea I agree. I'm going buy one and put it in the vent.

I just find it odd that after 2.5 years the leak hasn't gotten any worse. I live in PA so I would think the drastic temp changes the components go through would have made the leak bigger and identifiable by now...

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Old Tue, Oct-08-2019, 01:46:44 AM   #7
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

Gotcha so general consensus is to add a can of r134. If the leak is bad, then you'll be blowing hot air again soon and if not, you should be set for another handful of years.

Is there any way to be sure that you dont over fill the system? My research said no because the r134 is measured by weight not pressure. So how are you guys deciding how much to add to the system?

Ill check the cost at a shop. If its cheap, Ill avoid taking the risk of over filling. However its sounding like most shops just refill and dont end up finding the leak.

No one has replaced the valves or any other parts of the system as maintenance while refilling?
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Old Tue, Oct-08-2019, 03:43:03 AM   #8
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

^Unless you open the system to outside air, you should be fine to evacuate and recharge. If the system is opened, however, it's standard practice on automotive a/c systems to replace the receiver drier due to the chance of over-saturating the dessicant inside it with moisture from the air.

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Old Tue, Oct-08-2019, 01:19:00 PM   #9
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

In Texas E46s leak refrigerant from the Evaporator more than anywhere else by a large percentage as has been my experience. Evap leaks will leak down to about 0.3-0.4lbs of refrigerant, they won't ever be completely empty. If it is completely empty then it has a hole in something like the condenser.

What I usually tell people...

If this is the first instance of the A/C not blowing cold, evacuate and recharge to spec and add dye.

At the second instance inspect the car for dye, sometimes you'll get a leak at the compressor pulley shaft seal and that will be visible from the bottom of the car. More often than not though you won't find anything. At that point remove the microfilter housing and pull the blower motor cover. You can see the majority of the evaporator at that point. If you see a spot of dirt/fuzz in the middle of the evap then it is leaking. If it looks clean then use a mirror and flashlight to inspect the bottom corners. You should find evidence of it leaking. *In my experience the system has to have a large leak to get dye out of the evap drains.
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Old Tue, Oct-08-2019, 06:15:15 PM   #10
cgeromi
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Default Re: AC refresh advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeH View Post
In Texas E46s leak refrigerant from the Evaporator more than anywhere else by a large percentage as has been my experience. Evap leaks will leak down to about 0.3-0.4lbs of refrigerant, they won't ever be completely empty. If it is completely empty then it has a hole in something like the condenser.

What I usually tell people...

If this is the first instance of the A/C not blowing cold, evacuate and recharge to spec and add dye.

At the second instance inspect the car for dye, sometimes you'll get a leak at the compressor pulley shaft seal and that will be visible from the bottom of the car. More often than not though you won't find anything. At that point remove the microfilter housing and pull the blower motor cover. You can see the majority of the evaporator at that point. If you see a spot of dirt/fuzz in the middle of the evap then it is leaking. If it looks clean then use a mirror and flashlight to inspect the bottom corners. You should find evidence of it leaking. *In my experience the system has to have a large leak to get dye out of the evap drains.
Awesome write up George! Next spring I'm going to remove the blower cover and put my scope down in there and see if I can find my suspected evaporator leak. Dreading what I find but not knowing is pissing me off to no end. Luckily I'm in PA and get away with adding in about 5-6 oz every 4-5 weeks during the summer months and then I'm good. I would however like a system that is of sound body and mind.

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Discussing AC refresh advice in the E46 M3 (2001-2006) Forum - Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006. at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)