Notices

How-To and Product Review: Spectra AC Condenser

 
  #1  
Old 01-05-2018, 10:36 PM
kr98664
kr98664 is online now
Posting Guru
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 2,210
kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.
How-To and Product Review: Spectra AC Condenser

The original AC condenser (factory air) in my '84 F250 finally gave up the ghost and sprung a pinhole leak. Read on for details of fitting an aftermarket Spectra brand. Right up front, you should know this unit is a poor fit. I wish I could have found a different brand with a fit comparable to OEM, but there's nothing out there as far as I know.

Courtesy of FTE forum member "1985 Bronco", here's a view of a bare radiator support from a 1984 F150. I've highlighted where the Spectra unit interferes with the reinforcing brackets at the bottom corners of the radiator support. I do NOT recommend trimming these brackets for clearance:







To show how nicely the OEM unit fit, here's a view from underneath, looking up on the driver's side. Note how the condenser fits perfectly just inboard of the reinforcing bracket on the radiator support. The OEM fit at the passenger side is similar:







Here's the Spectra unit unboxed, showing the aft side. Note how the top mounting brackets are on the aft side, but the bottom brackets are on the front. To gain enough clearance at the bottom, I had to relocate those brackets to the aft side, but more on that later:







I had read some unkind comments online about the fit of this part, and had hoped to find another source. My local O'Reilly's showed their own Murray brand, so I purchased that. Unfortunately, it was merely a Spectra 7-4150 in a Murray box:







Removal of the original condenser is not difficult. Of course you will have to discharge the refrigerant. The radiator can be left installed, although I had it removed for other reasons in some of the following pictures. Remove the two brackets at the top of the radiator and tilt it aft for clearance. The condenser is secured to the radiator support by four bolts. The top bolts are on the aft side and the bottom bolts are on the front. Here's a comparison view with the OEM condenser resting on the Spectra replacement. The dimensions don't look much different, but the Spectra unit is about one annoying inch too wide to fit properly:







These comparison views show one problem area, at the bottom of the passenger side. Note how the line on the OEM unit is offset forward to clear the reinforcing bracket on the radiator support. For reasons unknown, the line on the Spectra version doesn't have this needed joggle:












Here's a test fit, looking up at the bottom on the passenger's side. Note how the line hits the reinforcing bracket on the radiator support. The condenser mounting bracket is about 1/2" away from the bolt hole in the radiator support:







This view looks up at the bottom on the driver's side. Although there is no protruding line, the condenser still hits the reinforcing bracket on this side, too:







The only way I could get this unit to fit was to tilt the bottom forward about 5/8". You can't go much further because the bottom of condenser hits the vertical brace at the front. To help compensate, I also raised the condenser about 3/4" to improve clearance with this brace:







It was also necessary to shift the top aft about 3/8" to improve clearance along the sides. Here's a view of the top bracket on the passenger side, before modifications:







Here's a slightly different view of the same bracket at the top on the passenger side, with a joggle added to bring the top aft 3/8". Also note the new hole, allowing the condenser to sit about 3/4" higher than it did originally. Because the joggle changed the geometry a little bit, the new hole is actually less than 3/4" from the old one. Take a measurement from the condenser body before bending the bracket, and then subract 3/4" to locate the new position. If tilting and raising the unit doesn't seem bad enough, I also had to shift it towards the passenger side about 1/4". I was able to loosen the two bolts securing the bracket to the condenser body and shift it sideways just enough:







Modifying the top bracket on the driver's side was a little easier, as it did not need to joggle around the line. All I did was flatten the previous Z-shaped profile and measure for a new hole. Note how this hole is slightly offset to the side, as there was not enough play to shift this bracket sideways:







With the top squared away, it's time to fight with the bottom. This test fit shows the bottom of the passenger side, with a gap of approximately 1/2" to the front face of the radiator support. Spectra's Z-shaped bracket is still attached to the front of the condenser. Look carefully, and you'll understand a custom bracket on the aft side of the condenser could be almost flat instead:







Here's the new bracket I made for the bottom of the passenger side, fitted on the aft side now, with only a slight joggle required:







For the bottom of the driver's side, I relocated the existing bracket to the aft side and flattened most of the joggle. Conveniently, the existing hole lined up perfectly to compensate for the condenser being raised 3/4":







There's only one slight modification left. This view, looking towards the driver's side, shows the center brace and the bolt that must be shortened about 1/4" to clear the front of the condenser (not shown):







As a recap, here's how I had to modify the brackets on the new Spectra unit to fit. There's no way the unit could be installed as purchased. All dimensions are approximate:

1) Top edge tilted back 3/8"
2) Bottom edge tilted forward 5/8"
3) Shifted 1/4" towards the passenger side
4) Shifted up 3/4"

How does it work? So far, so good. I converted the factory air in my truck to R134a years ago. The OEM unit, designed for R12, has 33 cross tubes each measuring 3/8" x 23". Not counting the loops at the end, the core has approximately 893 square inches of surface area, and about 83 cubic inches of internal volume.

The Spectra unit (designed for R134a?) has more tubes but each one is smaller. It has 52 tubes, each 1/4" x 24". Again not counting the loops at the end, the Spectra core has approximately 980 square inches of surface area (10% increase), and about 83 cubic inches of volume (36% increase).

Other than the poor fit, the Spectra unit does seem to perform well. The only drawback I've noticed is cooling performance drops off at low vehicle speeds, when ram airflow through the condenser is reduced and the fan is doing most of the work. My hunch is the fan doesn't draw air through the condenser as efficiently because the fit against the radiator now has a bigger gap at the bottom. If you do a lot of stop and go driving in hot weather, this could be an issue for you, but with my typical driving pattern, it's not really a big deal.

Additional pictures of the radiator support, and details of some variations, can be seen in this thread:

https://www.ford-trucks.com/forums/1...r-support.html
 
  #2  
Old 01-06-2018, 02:08 AM
grumpin's Avatar
grumpin
grumpin is offline
Senior User
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Oregon
Posts: 227
grumpin is gaining momentum as a positive member of FTE.
Thanks for the review and pictures!

I think the bigger tubes are better. My F250 outperforms my Bronco and Suburban. All now equipped with R134. Particularly at stops.

I replaced a condenser on a 1987 4Runner I used to have, got an OEM, that was nice.
 
  #3  
Old 01-06-2018, 07:59 AM
Franklin2's Avatar
Franklin2
Franklin2 is offline
Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: New Market, VA
Posts: 43,553
Franklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant futureFranklin2 has a brilliant future
The only drawback I've noticed is cooling performance drops off at low vehicle speeds, when ram airflow through the condenser is reduced and the fan is doing most of the work. My hunch is the fan doesn't draw air through the condenser as efficiently because the fit against the radiator now has a bigger gap at the bottom. If you do a lot of stop and go driving in hot weather, this could be an issue for you, but with my typical driving pattern, it's not really a big deal.

That is pretty normal on all cars and trucks. Besides the low airflow, the A/C compressor is not pumping as hard at idle also. They tried to compensate for this some with the idle compensator to raise the idle speed when the A/C is on, but you can only raise it so much, you don't want to have to put both feet on the brake pedal to hold it back at a stoplight.
 
  #4  
Old 01-06-2018, 09:00 AM
ctubutis's Avatar
ctubutis
ctubutis is offline
Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Denver Metro Area, CO
Posts: 21,643
ctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputation
The joys of working on old cars with aftermarket parts.
 
  #5  
Old 01-06-2018, 03:43 PM
FuzzFace2's Avatar
FuzzFace2
FuzzFace2 is offline
Post Fiend
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Angier, NC
Posts: 9,927
FuzzFace2 is a name known to allFuzzFace2 is a name known to allFuzzFace2 is a name known to allFuzzFace2 is a name known to allFuzzFace2 is a name known to allFuzzFace2 is a name known to all
Thanks for the write up and pictures as one day I have to replace mine.

Is there a way to make "wings" to fill in that gap at the bottom or add an electric pusher fan out front?
Dave - - - -
edit: forgot to add this should be a sticky
 
  #6  
Old 01-06-2018, 07:38 PM
ctubutis's Avatar
ctubutis
ctubutis is offline
Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Denver Metro Area, CO
Posts: 21,643
ctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputation
Originally Posted by FuzzFace2 View Post
edit: forgot to add this should be a sticky
OK, done.

1) I added it to the top of the Heater & Air Conditioning classification in the Sticky:
https://www.ford-trucks.com/forums/8...ml#post7634517

2) I *moved* this entire thread into the HOWTOs subforum with a redirect (expiring in 30 days) from the main forum to there.
 
  #7  
Old 01-06-2018, 08:28 PM
kr98664
kr98664 is online now
Posting Guru
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 2,210
kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.
Originally Posted by Franklin2 View Post
That is pretty normal on all cars and trucks. Besides the low airflow, the A/C compressor is not pumping as hard at idle also.
Agreed, no argument there. It was like that with the OEM condenser even way back in the Dark Ages when it had R12. When I converted to R134a but kept the OEM condenser, the cooling performance dropped off a little more than before when moving slowly. Not a huge concern, but it was definitely there.

It could be my imagination now, but it seems the dropoff is a little more noticeable with this new condenser. I didn't go into full science mode with a lab coat and clipboard, so I don't have any data from controlled conditions to confirm my potentially flawed observations.

​​​​​​
 
  #8  
Old 01-06-2018, 08:40 PM
kr98664
kr98664 is online now
Posting Guru
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 2,210
kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.
Originally Posted by FuzzFace2 View Post
Is there a way to make "wings" to fill in that gap at the bottom or add an electric pusher fan out front?
I'm not a big advocate of electric fans myself. I thought about adding some baffles or wings to fill the gaps letting air bypass the condenser, but decided against it for several reasons:

1) I'm lazy.

2) AC performance about 30 MPH or so is phenomenal. If I was a penguin smuggler and could understand their language, they'd be telling me that they're cold and want some little penguin sweaters. These are difficult to make fit because of their little flipper arms.

3) I was concerned any baffles might inadvertently cause an airflow problem through the radiator. Not super likely and I know i could undo any such mods, but the cooling system works great as is. Also see reason #1 above.
 
  #9  
Old 07-04-2018, 02:13 PM
oduke
oduke is offline
Freshman User
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 30
oduke is starting off with a positive reputation.
Forgive my ignorance here. Can an AC compressor be repaired the same as a radiator?
 
  #10  
Old 07-04-2018, 08:13 PM
ctubutis's Avatar
ctubutis
ctubutis is offline
Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Denver Metro Area, CO
Posts: 21,643
ctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputationctubutis has a superb reputation
Sometimes, it depends on what wore out/failed.
 
  #11  
Old 07-04-2018, 09:12 PM
kr98664
kr98664 is online now
Posting Guru
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 2,210
kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.kr98664 has a great reputation on FTE.
Originally Posted by oduke View Post
Forgive my ignorance here. Can an AC compressor be repaired the same as a radiator?
,

Is "compressor" an autocorrect? Did you mean "condensor"?

In theory? Yes, a condenser can be repaired.

In practice? Probably not worth the expense. If the leak was caused by a cracked seam or external damage, and the unit is fairly new, such a repair might be worthwhile. If the leak was from a pinhole, it means the metal has eroded internally, with reduced thickness everywhere. Fix that one spot and there may be plenty of other thin areas almost to the point of leaking. Generally, the older a condenser (or radiator) is, the less likely it can be repaired successfully for a long-term fix.
 
  #12  
Old 08-27-2018, 12:24 AM
TJAtencio
TJAtencio is offline
New User
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: South Jordan Utah
Posts: 2
TJAtencio is starting off with a positive reputation.
Sprectra a/c

I just got done installing one I ended up spacing the bottom brackets with spacers and longer bolts no trimming needed took a trip to the hardware store and about 5 min of fabrication and fits great now the increased size is due to the condenser having to be larger for 134a systems


 
  #13  
Old 05-10-2019, 08:01 AM
kramttocs's Avatar
kramttocs
kramttocs is offline
Senior User
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Springfield, MO
Posts: 445
kramttocs is starting off with a positive reputation.
Thanks for the write up!

Has anyone tried Action Crash Part Number: 5318-04002716 from https://www.partsgeek.com/catalog/19...condenser.html ?


The reviews look promising as far as fitment goes.
 
 
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
ML190
1987 - 1996 F150 & Larger F-Series Trucks
37
02-27-2017 12:10 PM
nissen4
1987 - 1996 F150 & Larger F-Series Trucks
14
07-07-2016 08:44 PM
Rovernut
1980 - 1986 Bullnose F100, F150 & Larger F-Series Trucks
19
03-11-2016 11:38 AM
pitpawten
1994.5 - 1997 7.3L Power Stroke Diesel
5
11-03-2015 01:53 PM
ScaldedDog
1999 - 2003 7.3L Power Stroke Diesel
4
11-30-2014 09:20 PM


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Quick Reply: How-To and Product Review: Spectra AC Condenser


Contact Us - About Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

© 2019 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
 
  • Ask a Question
    Get answers from community experts
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: