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Air Conditioning Condenser Upgrade?

Discussion in '308/328' started by oceanview328, Jan 3, 2021.

  1. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
    Full Name:
    Ed
    The AC seems pretty wimpy in general. It feels cold if the weather's not to hot but, as soon as it gets really hot outside, the AC wimps out so, it seems like a capacity problem. Is this pretty normal or, are their owners who have great results from the stock AC, all year long?

    I've read that the compressor is very strong so, should not be the problem. It seems to me that an obvious weakness would be the condenser. It seems tiny and is in a bad location, with limited air flow. I've seen people say that they get an improvement by removing the wheel well louver and replacing it with something more open, like a wire mesh. This would seem to confirm the condenser theory. My concern about that solution would be getting sand and/or water in the fan and condenser so, that doesn't seem like a perfect solution.

    Has anyone ever tried installing a normal sized condenser in front of the radiator, like in most cars?

    Or, am I completely off track? Maybe the weakness is somewhere else entirely.
     
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  3. thorn

    thorn F1 Rookie
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    Aug 7, 2012
    2,889
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    It's been discussed at length; the main problem is the lack of airflow in the cabin.

    Compare the size and placement of vents to - well, nearly any other car. There's the biggest choke point.
     
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  4. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    Yes, I've seen some discussion about that aspect as well, in conjunction with other upgrades. Are their any particular threads that discuss specific solutions any of you have tried, and can vouch for?
     
  5. maurice70

    maurice70 F1 Rookie

    Jan 25, 2004
    3,992
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    maurice T
    The A/C in the 328 was upgraded from the 308 series..
    Part of the upgrade was the relocation of Condenser coil.
    As Thorn has stated, the A/C discussion has been talked to death and there are multiple threads on the forum with various people attempting to upgrade their A/C set up,, there was a guy who ditched the belt driven compressor and went for an electric set up,, not sure if the results in the end worked out to be an upgrade..

    Start with making sure that the system itself is in proper working order.. If the system was converted to R134a then that would make it even less efficient.
    It should be on R12 or some of the Propane based refrigerants

    In regards to the air circulation, that is the biggest problem with the system..
    The vents themselves can’t be positioned to give the occupants any direct airflow.

    I made a crude yet pretty effective modification out of a PVC plumbing fitting which is easily removed when not in use..
    I remove the centre vent located on the dashboard and fit the fitting in..Then remove it and refit the original vent when not in use,,
    It make a considerable difference though this modification mainly benefits the driver, (or whoever the vent is positioned to).


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  6. mike32

    mike32 F1 Rookie

    May 13, 2016
    3,199
    Uk
    Thats a good bush fix, haha
     
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  8. mike996

    mike996 F1 Veteran

    Jun 14, 2008
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    #6 mike996, Jan 4, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
    As stated, there are LOTS of posts re this subject. You are not going to get good hot weather performance out of your 328's AC, no matter what you do utilizing the OEM system. You can probably get it to work better than it does at the moment but it will never be adequate in hot weather on a sunny day. It CAN be good enough to be comfortable on such a day if driving "away" from the sun but if it's shining directly into the windshield or on you (from the side), no.

    Of course, "comfort" is a personal thing. I like the cabin in the low 70's, other folks are comfortable with it at 80F. So that makes a huge difference in someone's view of how good/bad the AC is.

    I have done lot of work on my 328 AC system. I have not changed any major components but I have managed to make it work better than it did. A couple things that I did - I switched to propane-based refrigerants from R134 (previous owner conversion) - completely discharging the system, new drier, new expansion valve, etc. (Propane refrigerants are slightly more efficient than R12, much more efficient than R134.). I am one of the folks who removed the louvered panel behind the AC my 328's condenser and installed some 1/4" screen wire in it's place. This helps cooling at low speed. If you examine that panel, you will see that one thing it canNOT do well is allow good air flow! ;) As far as protection, I have not seen any issue at all in the 10 years it's been that way. A standard condenser in front of the radiator is more exposed to debris or damage.

    You mentioned installing a condenser in front of the radiator. That would likely reduce the 328 engine cooling capability. To me, the only MAJOR improvement in the 328 over the 308 was the cooling system. With a correctly-functioning system, the 328 is absolutely immune to overheating. Mine has sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, essentially not moving, for over an hour with the AC on with the outside temp at 108F. The AC was useless but the engine temp never went beyond a needle's-width to the right of the center indices on the temp gauge - the point where the cooling fans activate. So, though I wasn't comfortable, the engine was with the fans activating every couple of minutes. My point is, I would not suggest doing anything that affects engine cooling - as adding a condenser in front of the radiator would.

    OTOH, since Ferrari changed the cooling fan design/mounting, MAYBE there is enough capacity remaining to handle a condenser in front of the radiator. If you try it, let us know how it works. ;)

    I have driven my 328 across the US three times. The first time was in August, 2008, three days after I bought the car. The AC was checked/serviced (134) the day prior to driving. It worked OK in the morning until around 10AM and OK in the eve after 5-6PM. Otherwise, to put it as politely as possible, it sucked. The next two trips occurred after I made the changes and it worked "fairly well." On a hot, overcast day, it was adequate. On a sunny day it depended on (as I said earlier) where the sun was in relation to the windshield or the driver side window.

    One thing I have not done is to have tint film applied to the windshield. Some folks claim that makes notable improvement. I asked about it when the car lived in Maryland but none of the local shops would apply tinting of any kind to the windshield. Certainly worth a try if you have shop around that will do it or you feel like doing it yourself. I do pretty much all my own work on the car but I just don't feel like futzing with that!

    Good luck and if you find anything that makes an improvement that hasn't been discussed in all the posts, please report your findings!
     
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  9. mike32

    mike32 F1 Rookie

    May 13, 2016
    3,199
    Uk
    The best you can hope to get from a condenser is to get the liquid line coming out of it, to be within 5 degrees of the outside air temp.
     
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  10. ferrariowner

    ferrariowner Formula Junior

    Feb 21, 2014
    763
    Mansfield, TX
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    Ron
    I did this modification for the turbo intercoolers. I don't know if it helped the AC.
    However,
    I think one overlooked item is the foam around the radiator going bad. Air will always take the easiest route and will not flow thru the condenser or the radiator if it can flow around them. I did a lot of work to seal the front end so that incoming air had to flow thru the radiators or intercoolers. There is a lot of open areas in the front opening. FYI my car is a QV so the setup is a little different than a 328, but same theory still applies.
     
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  11. waymar

    waymar Formula 3

    Sep 2, 2008
    1,098
    Northeast, PA - USA
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    Wayne
    FWIW when I had my radiator re-cored with 2 less FPI the overall air flow increased across the radiator and there by the condenser. Just saying... This helped my water temp and my AC is improved. I run R134A in my 1982 308GTSi.... I also replaced all the radiator foam whilst the units were out.
     
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  13. ferrariowner

    ferrariowner Formula Junior

    Feb 21, 2014
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    Ron
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  14. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    OK, I see. Yes, I'm still on R12. I horded a bunch before it was discontinued. I'll try to make sure the system is in tip-top condition. I like your PVC pipe fix. Where I live, that's what we call "Bubba Engineering" :) .
     
  15. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
    Full Name:
    Ed
    Thanks for the tips. I am on R12 and I didn't realize the propane refrigerants were more efficient. I may upgrade to propane to see if that helps, and I'll also try the wire mesh.

    Yes, installing a condenser in front of the radiator would definitely reduce and warm the airflow over the radiator so, the logical move would probably be to go ahead upgrade the radiator at the same time. To me this would be a pretty major modification so, this summer I plan to try some simple tricks first to see if I can be satisfied with the original system.

    Yes, I like the idea of the windshield tinting. I've actually already done it to one of my other cars and I love it. I have an eye condition and I have an eye doctor's note that recommends I have windshield tinting. This letter allows the tint shop to legally install the windshield tint, and I carry a copy of the letter in the car in case I ever get pulled over and the cop notices the tint. BTW, if you have any vision issues, you may want to ask your eye doctor about getting a similar letter. I figure it doesn't hurt to ask and, you may be pleasantly surprised with his answer. I have the legal limit on all my other windows (30%), and I have 50% on the windshield, which I believe is the lightest level of tint they make. Even though it's a very light level of tint, it makes a huge difference in the overall comfort level in the car (it is much cooler in the summer time). The one thing it will do is change the aesthetics of the car. So, depending on how much of a purist you are, you may, or may not want to do it based on that aspect.

    OK, I'll experiment with it this summer and I'll let y'all know how it goes :) .
     
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  16. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    Yes, that's a good point. I will definitely look at this.
     
  17. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    That makes sense. Thanks for the tip!
     
  18. maurice70

    maurice70 F1 Rookie

    Jan 25, 2004
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    It looks like it may be effective, but it also looks like a submarine periscope ;)[/QUOTE]

    Although you are right in what it looks like, I don’t leave it on all the time, and to be honest I have only used it maybe a handful of times when I have the roof on and if I get caught out in the rain during summer,, other than that the roof is generally off the car so the A/C isn’t switched on..

    It is effective though. One thing I have wanted to do is to find a donor centre console and modify it by swapping over the radio slot for the A/C vents,, the Centre vents are too low and are in the wrong position..
     
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  19. Lawrence Coppari

    Lawrence Coppari Formula 3

    Apr 29, 2002
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    Lawrence A. Coppari
    "Thanks for the tips. I am on R12 and I didn't realize the propane refrigerants were more efficient."

    The reason for the better efficiency is the latent heat required for the phase change from liquid to gas and vice versa is about 50% greater for propane based refrigerants than it is for R12. A larger latent heat means you do not charge the system with the same amount by weight. Pressures are also lower so there is less pumping energy expended. The molecule is larger so leakage is less.
     
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  20. 2cam

    2cam Formula Junior

    Aug 28, 2014
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    MikeS
    Ed, do you happen to have a picture of your car that shows the tint on the windshield? It may be tough to convey in pictures, but I'd love to see how different it looks from stock as it sounds like a good approach to reducing some of the UV rays coming into the car.

    Thx!

    2cam
     
  21. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    I don't yet have tint on my 328. It's on a Ford Focus. How it looks: If you're paying attention, you can tell it's tinted but, you can still easily see into the car. Yes, the windshield tint I used may only reduce the visible light by 50% but, it reduces UV light by 95% so, it can make a big difference in reducing sun aging of the interior, if your car is left outside much.
     
  22. thorn

    thorn F1 Rookie
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    Aug 7, 2012
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    No, but I'm a professional technician (and 609 certified), and replace compressors, condensers, and evaporators on a regular basis.

    The problem with the 3x8 is airflow, combined with a rear-engined configuration that routes the coolant hoses underneath a cabin that is poorly insulated in the first place. Other cars with car smaller condensers - but more vents - cool quite effectively. You can not drop the air temp in a car by 35F degrees if you don't have sufficient airflow for the evaporator to do the job. It is NOT just a matter of R12 vs R134a vs propane.

    As I mentioned, there are many threads with attempts to make the system work more effectively - and as far as I can tell, most of these efforts offer minimal improvement. Have I tried them? No. I also haven't tried putting 8 suitcases in the trunk. I know it's not going to happen.

    If you're still on R12 - and haven't converted - the best bet is to make sure you have no leaks, and keep the system charged. I will advise against using any refrigerants (duracool, propane-based, etc) that are not certified in automobiles - but on that, do what you will. Personally, my car has been converted to 134a and is ... acceptable... with the roof on, in sunny Florida weather. And I accept that this is the most I can expect.
     
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  23. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
    213
    Charleston, SC
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    Ed
    Oh. Thanks for the info. Yes, I will go over the system, make sure it's working properly and has the right amount of refrigerant. So, then a higher speed fan motor wouldn't help because the air flow would still be restricted by the limited number and size of vent ducts?
     
  24. mike996

    mike996 F1 Veteran

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    Something to be aware of: Although I use propane refrigerant, as Thorn pointed out, it is not certified for vehicle use. Therefore IT IS TOTALLY a DIY thing. IOW, you can't go to your local A/C shop and request propane refrigerant. Well, that's not entirely true, you can ASK. ;)
     
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  25. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
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    Ed
    Ah-ha.
     
  26. Brian A

    Brian A Formula 3

    Dec 21, 2012
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    1983 US 308 GTS QV
    As others have done, I replaced the factory blower motor/fan with a Spal 30000463. I wish I could have put in an even bigger one. Substantially more air comes out of the vents and the replacement is a major improvement.

    In stock form, the evaporator will chill to near freezing point. This says that for that size of evaporator, the compressor, condenser etc. are appropriately sized. Barring major upsizing of everything, the first step to improve cooling is increasing airflow across the evaporator.
     
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  27. thorn

    thorn F1 Rookie
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    This actually reinforces my point. 2 main causes of an evaporator that literally freezes are 1) too little airflow 2) a bad expansion value / restriction in the lines.
     
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  28. oceanview328

    oceanview328 Karting

    Dec 7, 2012
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    Ed
    Thanks for the tip. Do you know the model of the bigger one you would have put in? Or, are you saying nothing bigger (or higher speed) would have fit?
     

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