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2003 XTerra SE/XE RWD Auto 3.3L NA V6
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My 2003 Xterra 3.3L RWD Automatic Not-Supercharged has a refrigerant leak in the accumulator-to-condenser tube. Can anybody provide me with some instructions how to proceed with its removal and replacement? Or maybe you could help me to find any PDF or YouTube instructions about the replacement of that assembly?
Any reference would be useful since I cannot find anything ...
 

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Regardless of any DIY ability I might have, any work on the AC system should be done by a shop that has the equipment to recover as much refrigerant as possible. Then the work needs to be done and the system sealed and a vacuum drawn on it to help keep any desiccant in the system from being saturated. At that time, they'll then be able to recharge the system.

If you really wanna do it yourself, here's a link to download the FSMs for free:

 

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2004 Xterra XE 4WD Manual 3.3L NA V6
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Are you talking about one of the little aluminum lines that are welded to the condenser upright on one side and go into/out of the receiver/drier on the other? Or something else?
77389
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yes, exactly!
The leak is from the lower tube. Where it is bent at a right angle (like the corner of letter "L"), it touches some metal part, and that touching probably lead to the corrosion in that area.... I wiped it carefully, filled the system with a can of R-whatever, and AC worked perfectly fine for a day, next day it was not as cold, and in two days it stopped working at all. And that area became wet and oily.... I assume there is no R-whatever left in the system...
Do you know if there is anything that can be wrapped around that tube to seal it and prevent the refrigerant from escaping?
Otherwise I am afraid the entire assembly has to be replaced.
 

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The factory service manual lists that section of aluminum tubing between the condenser and receiver/drier as “high-pressure liquid.” The presence of high pressure, coupled with the fact that the leak is on a bend, makes any “wrap” method unfeasible. If it were on a straight section of tubing, you may have been able to get away with placing a piece of rubber (i.e., a cut up bike tire) over the leak and securing it using a hose clamp as a cheap temporary fix (although I have not done this, just spit-balling ideas).

However, I have had good luck with splice kits to repair AC line leaks (I’ve had this one on my high pressure AC line for 3 years now without leaks) instead of paying for whole new AC lines. Because your leak is on a bend, you'd have to use a 90° line splice fitting like the one pictured below (click this link to see it). To install, you would cut out the small section of tubing that is leaking, insert the freshly-cut ends of the tubing into the red nuts, and then tighten them down to seal the system. I'm not sure if it would fit though, you may have to do some bending of the aluminum tubing to get everything to work. The long side is 3.75" long and the short side is 2.75" long. You would also have to verify that the AC line is, in fact, 5/16" outside diameter tubing in order to use this specific part number. Otherwise you'd have to find the correct part number for the respective tubing diameter.

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If this doesn't work, you will have to replace the whole condenser unit. Also, whenever you open an AC system to the atmosphere, you should replace the receiver/drier as well. You can get the condenser and receiver/drier as an assembly from 1aauto for about $65 or from Rockauto for $48 which is pretty good if you ask me. I, personally, would be inclined to go with this route regardless because it is not much more expensive to swap out the condenser than the splice kit and I would probably want to remove the condenser from the vehicle to install the splice kit on my workbench anyways. I don't remember there being a lot of room to work in that area! Let me know what you think!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The factory service manual lists that section of aluminum tubing between the condenser and receiver/drier as “high-pressure liquid.” The presence of high pressure, coupled with the fact that the leak is on a bend, makes any “wrap” method unfeasible. If it were on a straight section of tubing, you may have been able to get away with placing a piece of rubber (i.e., a cut up bike tire) over the leak and securing it using a hose clamp as a cheap temporary fix (although I have not done this, just spit-balling ideas).

However, I have had good luck with splice kits to repair AC line leaks (I’ve had this one on my high pressure AC line for 3 years now without leaks) instead of paying for whole new AC lines. Because your leak is on a bend, you'd have to use a 90° line splice fitting like the one pictured below (click this link to see it). To install, you would cut out the small section of tubing that is leaking, insert the freshly-cut ends of the tubing into the red nuts, and then tighten them down to seal the system. I'm not sure if it would fit though, you may have to do some bending of the aluminum tubing to get everything to work. The long side is 3.75" long and the short side is 2.75" long. You would also have to verify that the AC line is, in fact, 5/16" outside diameter tubing in order to use this specific part number. Otherwise you'd have to find the correct part number for the respective tubing diameter.

View attachment 77391

If this doesn't work, you will have to replace the whole condenser unit. Also, whenever you open an AC system to the atmosphere, you should replace the receiver/drier as well. You can get the condenser and receiver/drier as an assembly from 1aauto for about $65 or from Rockauto for $48 which is pretty good if you ask me. I, personally, would be inclined to go with this route regardless because it is not much more expensive to swap out the condenser than the splice kit and I would probably want to remove the condenser from the vehicle to install the splice kit on my workbench anyways. I don't remember there being a lot of room to work in that area! Let me know what you think!
I am afraid that fitting will not work. Just like you suggest, I would prefer to replace the entire assembly condenser+receiver/drier. The problem is that it is not clear to me how to do it, that is, what parts of the front of the truck I am supposed to remove in order to get access to the old assembly and be able to remove it and put in a new one; should I remove the entire front bumper, or just that central plastic grill part and that vertical metal part in front of the condenser, etc... Disconnecting the old assembly itself from the car and A/C system seems to be simple enough.
 

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You should be able to remove the condenser just fine by removing the grille and the vertical metal stiffener. It sounds like you have a good handle on things but I'm going to give you a step-by-step anyways in case someone reads this in the future and needs help:

NOTE: Ensure AC system is drained and depressurized before removing components. Venting R-134a to the atmosphere is illegal. Many shops will drain your AC system for free, just call around. Jiffy Lube drained mine for free with no appointment, took about 10 minutes.

1. Remove grille by removing nine plastic clips securing grill to body. You'll need a long flathead screwdriver to remove these. Just insert the screwdriver into the slot and twist until the square clip head lines up with the square hole on the grille. You should be able to pop them right out.
2. Remove the 12mm bolt securing the horn bracket to the vertical stiffener. Move the horn out of the way.
3. Remove 12mm nut securing the black plastic box (not sure what this is?) to the vertical stiffener. Remove the plastic wire retaining clip securing the wiring for the plastic box to the vertical stiffener as well.
4. Remove metal vertical stiffener. There are three 12mm bolts on top and one 12mm bolt on bottom.
5. Remove high pressure AC line from two brackets on top of condenser using a Phillip's head.
6. Remove high pressure AC line and hose block connection from driver's side of condenser by removing 10mm nut.
7. Remove two 10mm condenser mounting bolts on either side of the condenser.
8. Remove condenser from vehicle. Lift condenser unit straight up and out of the two rubber bushing mounts. Then move the bottom of the condenser towards the front of the vehicle and wiggle condenser out to clear the hood latch.

Installation is just reverse of disassembly. Make sure you lube up any o-rings with AC oil before assembling. You'll have to pull a vacuum on the system before refilling; loaner tools (gauges, vacuum pump) are available for free to rent from Autozone. There are plenty step-by-step videos on Youtube for this (I recommend ChrisFix's video). If you are uncomfortable doing this, take it to a shop to have it refilled.
 

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Also, just out of curiosity, what metal part is touching the leaking AC line? I just remembered that you said that. I had a good 3 to 4 inches of clearance between that AC line and any other part. You should probably insulate the new AC line when you install the new condenser assembly if it's still touching to prevent rubbing/corrosion.
 

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2003 XTerra SE/XE RWD Auto 3.3L NA V6
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Also, just out of curiosity, what metal part is touching the leaking AC line? I just remembered that you said that. I had a good 3 to 4 inches of clearance between that AC line and any other part. You should probably insulate the new AC line when you install the new condenser assembly if it's still touching to prevent rubbing/corrosion.
As an answer to your question about that area where the AC tube is touching a metal part...
Here are the pictures... The lack of any clearance between that metal part (I don't know what it is) and AC/accumulator tubing is probably the consequence of an accident that the first owner of this X had, about 15 years ago (I have had this truck for about 11 years). That area is now dry-all freon has probably evaporated from the system and leaked oil dried up...
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