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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Motorhome Dash Air Conditioner Service

As most of you know, our motorhome is a vintage unit, a 1996 Safari Serengeti diesel pusher.  It was actually made in Nov of 1995.  Bit by bit, things break, wear out, run down or leak.

The last two excursions we didn't have enough freon on the front dash air system to cool us from the front vents.  In those cases, we power up the generator and run the roof air conditioners to help keep us cool.  But we knew the dash system needed to get a good look-see soon.  Especially if we head down south some time this winter, we will need it in good working condition.

Steve had re-charged the system a few times over the years with cans of R134a freon, but this last time it would not take in any more freon, sadly it would not cool or kick in the compressor.  That usually means that there is too much air in the system.  It needs to be brought in, get hooked up to a machine to evacuate the remaining freon, and then have it pressurized to check for leaks.   We had this done once about 7 or 8 years ago and we were good until now.  Time to do it again....

We found a nice local garage able to do it locally:

Automotive Source Inc. Service Center
61 E. Chestnut 
Chilton WI 53014

We pulled the rig around back, and we were about 10 minutes early for our appointment.  We were taken around back right away, and our mechanic Eric was right on the job.  He let us stay and watch by the rig, and allowed me to take photos.  (we hesitate to ever leave our rig unattended at a shop after a VERY bad experience up in Oconto that caused us a lot of money, pain and headaches)    So we request that we can observe as long as we promise to not get in the way. 

Eric brought out the evacuation machine, and said he has been working for this shop for three years now. He drives over every day from Menasha. Happily, he is closing on a home purchase in the area in one week and is quite excited to be a new homeowner in our city of Chilton. He is looking forward to an easy commute of only a few blocks by next week! 

Eric had to remove the little caps on both ends of the dash air system. Ours is a Acme brand model 191633 and has both an inlet and outlet openings.  Eric hooked up the machine and set it to work.  It first has to suck out all the freon and the old oil stuff in the system. 

Then he pressurized the system and watched the gauges for any leaks for a period of time to be sure.  Next it was time to add the proper amount of freon and also some new dye and oil treatment fluid.  Our system capacity is 4.6 pounds, and Eric wrote it right on the case of the unit so we know in the future what it takes.  Here is my Steveio waiting patiently during the testing process for leaks....

Now it time to fire it up and check the coolant from the dash vents.  Steve went back to check the compressor unit at the engine and noticed that one long rib of our serpentine belt has come off!  The belt is still working, but with one piece missing, we will soon see more of it destroyed. 

Soooo, now we ordered a new belt, and it will be in tomorrow.  Good thing he checked!  He is thinking the tensioner pulley is causing some grief too, and it helped shred the belt. We we will also replace the tensioner at the same time.  Steve has an extra one on hand in his box of replacement parts.  Usually Murphy's Law is that if we have a replacement part on board, then the part in working action never breaks!  LOL    So while he changes the belt, he will put on the new pulley and keep the current one as an emergency spare. 

Now... it's time to PAY THE BILL! 


 Steve looks pained.
Tom looks happy (or so he says) ~!

The bill wasn't so bad afterall! 
It was $78 freon
$4.50 dye/oil
and $75 labor

The serpentine belt will be in tomorrow and that is an additional $54 
Steve will take care of installing that himself.

Out of 136 reviews on this place, they have a 99% rating.  I read the two negative ones, and they were quite minor.  The other 134 reviews were great. So I think we will now add this to a place on our list that we can return to.  

Thanks Eric and Tom for the work today! 


  1. It is really great that Steve can do the replacements! Thought about you twice this week. First when a Safari pulled into the spotnext to us. It didnT look nearly as spiffy s your! Second was when you know who dropped out! :-)) Did you do a happy dance?

    1. OH yes you betcha we danced.... but the sad part is that we still have to suffer with him for the rest of his term. At least when he was out "stumping" he was ignoring (and neglecting) his work back here in Wisconsin. Nice that you thought of us! Thanks for the compliment on our rig. Although t's almost 20 years old, we try to keep it up. Next year we qualify for "Collector" license plates!

  2. Always good news when you leave a repair place happy.

    1. Yup... it helps that we ask to be "on hand" I think. They are less apt to sluff off or make mistakes one would hope? Even when we did new tires, they had us there to operate the leveling system one tire at a time ... it saved us the danger of someone jacking up the rig and poking something in the underbelly. Plus if we were operating it ourselves, we were the ones to know to block the wheels, only raise so far, not to twist the frame etc. People have popped out windshields by operating it incorrectly. Would rather be there and not have any additional problems!

  3. Not bad! If I was certain it would work, I might pay that much to have ours recharged. But, our dash A/C system hasn't worked in the 8 years we've owned the rig. I'm afraid of how much it might cost if I start to throw money at it! Overall, we like the heat and the fans that we aim at our faces work pretty good.

    Rare to find a mechanic shop that has decent reviews!


    1. Ya never know.. perhaps buy a $15 can or two and try filling yours up? It might take enough to kick in? We don't like the heat and the humidity is hard on my damaged lungs. So the dash air is kinda necessary when we head south in the mid-winter. For a small town with only three repair places, it is nice to find the one with the best reviews!

  4. Glad you got it sorted and now have a garage you trust.

    Hope you have a good day. Sue

    1. Yup, when I ran back to pick up the belt we ordered, I gave the manager my business card with the blog address on it. Hope he is reading this!

  5. I don't think I ever got away with the slightest repair bill on my 5ver for what you paid. Stay cool!

    1. I think sometimes we just luck out... but also we keep things repaired all the time as soon as things break. Then we aren't faced with monumental repairs of things that snowballed up over the months or years.

  6. It's so nice to find a shop and people who work there that are pleasant, honest and hard working. I dont' mind so much handing over money for a job, but sometimes you just don't get what you pay for or they promise you. Glad you found a great place!

  7. Whether it be a motorhome or a truck that tows, there are always repair or maintenance items. I told Jim that this last repair on the truck was better than having to buy a new truck (not by much though). And to find a place that you have confidence in makes all the difference.

  8. You might want to list this place at RV Service Reviews .com. It's always good to know where the good places are.

  9. Always great to find a shop that does outstanding work. Sadly they are too few and far between. Good catch on the belt, but then I'd expect nothing less from Stevio!


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