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Adding Air Conditioning to an s50/s52 swapped car

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    Adding Air Conditioning to an s50/s52 swapped car

    I wanted to write up my experience because I couldn’t find it before I bought my car. It would have been helpful to understand the extent of this before diving in.

    Disclaimer - this is my experience, but depending on your skills and the overall condition of the swapped car you may have a completely different result.

    After my stock 325is was totaled I decided I wanted a change and went for a swapped car. Just a little more horsepower would make the e30 perfect. All but one swapped car at the time were without A/C and the car with A/C was listed at ~$15k. In retrospect, given the condition, mtech package, AND A/C it was a good deal.

    Here is the car I purchased. It was purpose built for the track and I’ve been slowly making it a little more civilized. I love the car and love the raw foundation.

    I slowly approached the A/C addition because I knew it would be a lengthy process. Here is the state of the car and the A/C when I bought it. Not being intimately familiar with every aspect of the A/C I wasn’t really qualified to assess this when I purchased the car:
    • Car didn’t have functional A/C when it was swapped, making every component questionable. I doubt anyone would get rid of a functional A/C so I bet most swapped cars start in this state if they don’t currently have A/C.
    • The A/C was stripped from the car except for everything behind the firewall (lines from the firewall to the evaporator, expansion valve, and the evaporator)
    • The pusher SPAL fan was plugged into the snowflake button on the A/C. Very functional but definitely an issue if you want to have A/C.
    • PO gave me what he had when I picked up the car - condenser, a couple miscellaneous e30 and e36 lines, and the e36 compressor
    • I also have solid engine mounts. I don’t know how this setup would fare without these because there is only a millimeter or so of clearance between my fan and the engine. If the engine could move at all it would jam into the fan which would then go into the radiator.
    • Toward the end, you’ll see that I discovered the M42 radiator isn’t sufficient to cool the car with A/C when it’s 100 degrees outside.


    I took this slowly, step by step because I really wasn’t sure what I had or what I was missing.

    Total Cost: $1,760 (I spent more because of some trial and error, but had I done it perfectly this would be the amount). I’ll get a little cash back selling the m42 radiator and SPAL fans.
    • $900 at Terry Sayther to wire it up, fix one leak, retrofit to r134a, charge and test the system (this was with me doing all the work to get all the physical stuff in place - lines connected, new parts installed, etc.)
    • $225 for Mishimoto radiator on Amazon
    • $80 for the cooling expansion tank
    • $60 for new coolant lines
    • $190 for SPAL fans, mounts, and wiring from Summit Racing
    • $90 to have the e36/e30 hoses joined
    • $280 for A/C lines, o-rings, expansion valve, evaporator, drier, compressor bracket, etc.
    • $25 to test the condenser and compressor


    Depending on the state of the car you buy, I think the range to do this would be:
    • Minimum $400 (assuming you have everything you still need to have the lines joined, drier replaced, etc.)
    • If I had just shown up at Terry Sayther and said make the A/C work….I’m guessing I could easily have spent over $3,000. When you think about it that’s not terribly crazy. People pay $1500 to have an evaporator in new cars replaced all the time.


    Time on my side: I spent a few months slowly doing this because it’s not my primary driver.

    Steps:
    1. Test the parts I had
      1. Took the condenser to an A/C shop and had them test it - $10
      2. Had the compressor tested at an A/C shop - $15 (it was frozen and they first told me it was bad. I took it home, put it in the vice and got it to budge. After that it tested fine)
    2. First thing first I had to remove all the stuff that would get in the way of installing the condenser, compressor and SPAL fan. My philosophy is…if you’re going to remove and reinstall a part that costs $10 you should put a new one on, so you’ll see I replaced quite a bit while I did this.
      1. Drained all the coolant from the car (obviously you should capture this and take it to the right place for disposal)
      2. Removed the radiator and all the coolant lines
      3. Removed the serpentine belt so I could get to the water pump
      4. Removed the water pump because it has a “nub” on it where the mechanical fan mounts. With this nub you can’t fit a SPAL fan in there.
      5. Removed the thermostat - my car was running a higher temp thermostat which was ideal for the track but I worry about Texas heat plus the A/C. I bought an 88 degree thermostat that now keeps temps under halfway.
    3. Compressor install
      1. I found out that I had the compressor but no mounting bracket. I had to buy the bracket off a forum member for $20.
      2. Compressor went on easily - at this point I didn’t connect any lines or wires to it.
      3. Installed a new A/C belt
    4. Waterpump, thermostat, and new serpentine belt install - not terribly hard just time consuming.
      1. First you have to cut the stud off the water pump. I couldn’t get the SPAL fan to clear with this in place. I just used an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel on it, going very slowly so I didn’t overheat the seals.
      2. install the water pump and thermostat.
      3. Install the serpentine belt.
    5. Condenser Install
      1. Had I planned ahead I would have mounted the A/C lines to the condenser at this time. If you can try to do this so you don’t have to go back and access the connections.
      2. Condenser drops in really easy with the radiator out.
    6. SPAL fan Install
      1. I found it easiest to use the zip tie like mounts and install the puller fan to the radiator and then drop it in as a single unit.
      2. I just connected the SPAL fan to the existing A/C wiring that was high-jacked. This way the car remained drivable while I did everything else.
    7. New coolant hose install - put new upper and lower radiator hoses on.
    8. Coolant fill-up and bleed
    9. A/C Line Setup and Installation - at this point I had an engine bay with zero A/C lines and a box of random lines so I took this one step at a time to figure out what I had and what I needed
      1. Removed the car parts necessary to access where the A/C lines mount:
        1. Removed the front right grill - this was to access where the A/C lines connect to the condenser. It was super tight and hard to work with but it was ten times better than removing the bumper and so forth.
        2. Removed the center console and glove box inside the car. I did this at the same time I was replacing my carpet so it worked out well.
      2. Mounted the A/C drier (note: don’t take the caps off! If you do, you’ll ruin it and have to buy another….rookie mistake on my part)
      3. Test mounted the lines I had… Out of the 4 e30 lines necessary in the engine bay I had 2. I had 1 of the 2 necessary e36 lines.
      4. Bought my missing lines
        1. condenser to compressor ($40 on ebay)
        2. firewall to compressor ($85 new from Pelican parts)
      5. Bought missing e36 lines - just need the two that connect to the compressor ($40 from a forum member)
      6. Had Austin Air Conditioning Rebuilders join the e30 and e36 lines. I just took my car over and had the guy size it up and make the lines while I waited. $90
      7. A/C evaporator - you could skip this step but with the whole interior apart it would be a shame to connect it all together and find a leak at the evaporator
        1. Disconnected the lines from the expansion valve
        2. Pulled the evaporator out - this was a pain in the butt
        3. Instead of having the evaporator tested I decided to just put a new one in. They’re only $130 and you don’t want to have to take it out again.
      8. Flushed all the A/C lines and condenser with A/C flush. This stuff is nasty so I wore gloves and a respirator. Maybe overcautious but I wouldn’t breath this stuff.
      9. Then I installed everything - new evaporator, expansion valve and all the A/C lines. DON’T connect the drier to the lines. Let the shop do this so that the drier doesn’t get ruined.
    10. Next step I took it to Terry Sayther to figure out the wiring. My aux fan wiring was highjacked for the SPAL fan and I couldn’t really tell where any of the A/C wires were because they were either stripped out or the new items (pressure sensor, temp switch, etc.) had different connectors. I left the car apart in case they needed to access any of the hard to get to lines. Terry Sayther had to do the following:
      1. Properly wire the SPAL fan up. We decided to do it on a switch installed on the dash that throws a relay.
      2. Wire up the A/C
      3. Vacuum the system and charge it. They found one leak at the expansion valve but that was easily fixed because the glove box was still out.
    11. Car is now blowing ice cold A/C. Phew.
    12. DOH! Car is getting too hot when it’s 100 degrees out and I have the A/C on. The M42 radiator just isn’t cutting it.
    13. Next step I had to upgrade the radiator which led to another series of events:
      1. Ordered the parts I knew I needed - a mishimoto radiator for $220 on Amazon and the expansion tank (m42 radiator has this integrated) for $80.
      2. When I test fit the mishimoto radiator I found out that it is thicker than the m42 radiator and with my 16 inch SPAL fan. It could fit…maybe but it was within less than a mm of touching the engine in several places. Much easier to go to a 2 fan setup which wasn’t possible on the m42 radiator because it wasn’t wide enough.
      3. I think you could fit two 10 inch fans but I could get more than 1400 cfm’s out of a 10 inch and 9 inch fan so I went that route. I’m glad I did because clearance even on the 9 inch on the passenger side was a bitch.
      4. Had to but a couple new hoses - upper radiator hose, expansion tank to the radiator, and an expansion tank overflow hose. This was about $40.


    With the new mishimoto radiator and dual SPAL fan’s the car is staying cool - below the halfway mark on normal days and just below the 3/4ths mark on 100+ degree days with the A/C blasting. The A/C kicks butt too.
    Last edited by rjmcdermott81; 08-14-2015, 05:39 AM.
    Build Thread: Ryan's Hennarot 318is
    COTM Aug 2019

    #2
    Good info.

    Are you using the stock e30 condenser?
    Any fan shrouding?

    I also think hooking the fans up to the radiator temp switch is a better solution than a physical switch - OEM and foolproof (just in case you forget to flip the switch)

    My S52 with AC starts to get hot in 100F traffic with a e36m radiator and a single SPAL pusher (1959cfm). Wish I thought of cutting off the water pump stud to fit a puller.

    Comment


      #3
      I'm using a stock condenser. I had a stock condenser on my 90 e30 and now on this 88 and in Texas which has to be one of the hotter places in the country I get great results. Maybe some of the stock condensers are different? It seems like quite a few folks think it needs to be changed out for r134a.

      I went with the switch on the fan but had them wire it up to the ignition. That way I'll just leave it on 100% of the time. I can't think of more than 2 days a year here I might care to actually turn it off, but I agree, a temp switch would be bullet proof.

      No shroud, and it's probably hard to see in the pics but everything is super tight in there. To the point that when I put the radiator in I had to force it down pretty hard to get past the top of the engine. Not much room for anything else.

      Cutting off the water pump stud wasn't too bad. I just went really really slow and did it before I installed the pump.

      Here are some pics of the fit:










      Build Thread: Ryan's Hennarot 318is
      COTM Aug 2019

      Comment


        #4
        How did you pay $445 for a mishimoto radiator? I just bought mine on amazon for $240 new directly from amazon.
        My 1990 325is Build Thread

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by ksjdan View Post
          How did you pay $445 for a mishimoto radiator? I just bought mine on amazon for $240 new directly from amazon.
          Total typo....I updated the total too. I'm feeling better seeing that I spent less money. I did see the mishimoto radiator on some sites for $445 but Amazon was definitely the best deal.
          Build Thread: Ryan's Hennarot 318is
          COTM Aug 2019

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by rjmcdermott81 View Post
            Total typo....I updated the total too. I'm feeling better seeing that I spent less money. I did see the mishimoto radiator on some sites for $445 but Amazon was definitely the best deal.
            Ah gotcha. I thought someone got horribly ripped off.
            My 1990 325is Build Thread

            Comment


              #7
              Was Terry Sayther pretty knowledgable on the s52 swap e30? Might need to take mine to his shop soon. Thanks

              Comment


                #8
                How did you deal with the idle bump? Or does your setup not drop rpm when on?


                My 1989 e30 s52 Touring... this is Betty

                My 1989 325i vert (sold)...this is Nina

                My 1991 M5 (sold)... this is Veronica

                Photo comparison: OEM vs aftermarket windscreen for a convertible

                Comment


                  #9
                  Terry Sayther is awesome. If you haven't been you should run by there. At any given time they have 20-30 e30's and 2002's in various stages. I was there yesterday and saw a 2002 with an s14 swap in it. Anyhow, they seem to be able to figure out just about anything.

                  As for my idle, with the lightweight flywheel and a tune it was already sitting at about 1100rpm. With the A/C on it will oscillate a bit but not enough to bother me.
                  Build Thread: Ryan's Hennarot 318is
                  COTM Aug 2019

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Which fans did you use?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by mcm185 View Post
                      Which fans did you use?
                      Looks like he's running a 9" and 10" SPAL puller fan. But I'm wondering if anyone's run the 16" with s52 swap

                      This looks like a good deal.
                      http://www.massivebrakes.com/accesso...al_16_adapters
                      sigpicGrind it till you find it.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by departeg View Post
                        Looks like he's running a 9" and 10" SPAL puller fan. But I'm wondering if anyone's run the 16" with s52 swap

                        This looks like a good deal.
                        http://www.massivebrakes.com/accesso...al_16_adapters

                        Came here looking for that specific answer. Too bad I already purchased the z3m rad and a 16" SPAL piller. Doesn't fit. Hits the clutch fan nub and the PS pulley. I have this exact setup in my other M20 and love it....but no room with an a52 in there.....

                        Not sure what I'm going to do now, I have a new condenser to keep the AC, but with the 1/2 gap between the radiator and the condenser, I'm afraid a pusher won't work ideally with cooling.
                        555Garage - Kingston, PA

                        '13 BMW e70 X5 35d
                        '95 BMW e34 525i
                        '92 BMW e30 325i S52 Vert (Quade the Vert)
                        '92 Range Rover Classic
                        '90 Range Rover Classic
                        '89 BMW e30 325i Coupe (The DIRTY30)
                        '81 VW MK1 Rabbit Caddy Diesel
                        '76 Honda CB550K Cafe/Brat
                        '67 Pontiac LeMans
                        '24 Model T Depot Hack
                        ....And a bunch of Motobecane, Puch, Garelli, Batavus and Honda 49cc-78cc Mopeds...

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Klug View Post
                          Came here looking for that specific answer. Too bad I already purchased the z3m rad and a 16" SPAL piller. Doesn't fit. Hits the clutch fan nub and the PS pulley. I have this exact setup in my other M20 and love it....but no room with an a52 in there.....

                          Not sure what I'm going to do now, I have a new condenser to keep the AC, but with the 1/2 gap between the radiator and the condenser, I'm afraid a pusher won't work ideally with cooling.

                          Get rid of the clutch fan, that Spal will put out plenty of air
                          sigpicGrind it till you find it.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by departeg View Post
                            Get rid of the clutch fan, that Spal will put out plenty of air
                            Nah, clutch fan is already removed. I originally intended to use a SPAL puller, but the nub (on the water pump) is in the way.

                            Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
                            555Garage - Kingston, PA

                            '13 BMW e70 X5 35d
                            '95 BMW e34 525i
                            '92 BMW e30 325i S52 Vert (Quade the Vert)
                            '92 Range Rover Classic
                            '90 Range Rover Classic
                            '89 BMW e30 325i Coupe (The DIRTY30)
                            '81 VW MK1 Rabbit Caddy Diesel
                            '76 Honda CB550K Cafe/Brat
                            '67 Pontiac LeMans
                            '24 Model T Depot Hack
                            ....And a bunch of Motobecane, Puch, Garelli, Batavus and Honda 49cc-78cc Mopeds...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Klug View Post
                              Nah, clutch fan is already removed. I originally intended to use a SPAL puller, but the nub (on the water pump) is in the way.

                              Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
                              Cut it off
                              RHD OBD2 M50b25 turbo build thread:
                              http://www.r3vlimited.com/board/showthread.php?t=384800

                              Comment

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