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I had a scary event yesterday and Like all Treggers, want to get some idea of what it could be before turning it over to the STEALERSHIP or MECHANIC for $$$$$

Quick points about vehicle -
2008, V8 with 117K miles. I have owned it since new - regular and routine maint. had very little problems
AC always blows cold.

Have not been driving alot due to Covid lock down and yesterday took it out for 60 mile trip to play golf.
On return home, car was very hot due to sitting in parking lot sun
Turned on A/C - blew cold - no problems at all
Went to Costco for Gas - refilled- turned back on - no problems

Went into Costco for food - came back to load her up - and then noticed smoke literally pouring into the cabin and from the engine. The smell was electrical in nature
Freaked out and opened the hood - smoke was coming (as if there was a fire) from behind the engine near fire wall
And over the engine sound, i could hear what sounded like a metal on metal turning sound (not the usual smoothness of the v8)
Turned engine off - smoke continued for another few minutes then stopped. I forgot to look under the car for fluid, but checked coolant level and was fine

I decided to try and make it home, so restarted car - didn't touch A/C (left it off)

Drove home 5 miles fine, no difference in performance
Upon pulling down my street, Turned A/C on to see and it didn't get cold. It blew just fine, no smoke, but not cold. The engine was hot admittedly and didn't let it run for that long but it always cools quickly. So i feel like something in the A/C went - but have no idea where to start diagnosing.

Any ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Just to add one point. I do recall smelling the same thing as yesterday's ghastly event weeks before, but on a much smaller scale and with no smoke.
 

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First guess. You lost all the freon from the ac system. There is a metal line near the firewall toward the driver side wheel that is the weakest link in the ac system. It is the most common failure point.

 

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If you've got mechanical noise I'd suspect the compressor may have seized or that the air con clutch nay have disintegrated.

The burning smell could be a drive belt.
 

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First guess. You lost all the freon from the ac system. There is a metal line near the firewall toward the driver side wheel that is the weakest link in the ac system. It is the most common failure point.

Unless he has multiple issues at the same time, refrigerant does not have electrical burning smell on an open drive compressor such as installed in vehicles. Also the system holds such a small amount, that it is unlikely it would fog the entire vehicle, and if it did it would likely leave a fine oily refrigerant mist.

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks guys. Great points. Smell of smoke likeness to electrical could be subjective but definitely enough to fill front seats and then smoke aout of engine. Why does refrigerant smoke at all?

The location of smoke source did seem to be coming from just near passenger wheel well fire wall which is consistent with where the refrigerant tubing runs. But why would it suddenly leak? Corrosion?

All very much appreciated guys.
 

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I’d say remove the wheel, remove the wheel well liner, remove the undertray and inspect the treg.


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Many years ago my next door neighbor parked her Ford Econoline van in her drive. I was in our front yard and heard what sounded like a high pressure release. I looked over and that van was engulfed with "white smoke". One of the AC lines had burst.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks all - going to take it into a shop this week. On the fence between a "VW specialist" and the stealership. At least with the latter I am assured OEM parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Ok - so I went outside one more time to see what I can see without taking apart the car - and noticed that (when looking toward the back of the car) there was some oil around hood seal on the passenger side. This was where the smoke was bellowing out. I smelled it and it was definitely what I smelled when the smoke came into the car - only more intense. I can't tell you exactly if it smells like refrigerant, but it was oily and clear - and has a little electrical smell to it. I lifted the plastic windshield cowl on the passenger side a bit and noticed the oily substance all over the place in there. Also note that most of what I could see was free of corrosion since this section is behind the firewall underneath the windshield cowl.

Upon further inspection i noticed a plug (circled in yellow in the attached picture) was just hanging free. I did plug it back in before taking the picture below, however, but it was just dangling and covered in the same oily substance.

Does anyone know what this is? Could it have contributed to the problem? Could it be the source of the problem (e.g. is this where the refrigerant blew out?)

I had my windshield replaced last year in the fall and likely never used the AC since then - so I am wondering if some how this contributed to it?

Thanks so much.
 

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I can't help on your current problem but once it's hopefully fixed then, to keep the seals in any aircon system from drying out, you should run the aircon for at least 10 minutes every week so the oil in the refrigerant can do its job.
 

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I do not think the pressure blow will disconnect that connector. It is probably the lack of feedback from the disconnected sensor which made the system unstable and generated the blow. You need to take it to an ac specialist as vw will do just that unless you have a vw dealer who can work on the ac system. The windshield guys or anybody who worked on that part of the car are probably responsable for not plugging back that connector. Those connectors are pretty hard to unplug. No way it is going to be unplugged by any pressure unless it was not plugged back or not seated correctly and firmly. Or someone broke the plastic tab which holds it on the connector. This is easily done by someone who does not know or have the tool to unplug those connectors.
Now you need to repair the system and check that sensor. Not expensive to replace to be on the safe side. You certainly have fault codes related to that sensor being unplugged or acc pressure not being good. But why the system didn’t shut off the ac I have no idea if the lack of pressure monitoring is the cause. You might have some explanation in the ac ssp. I’ll put a link to the pdf later.


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Discussion Starter #18
TRespect - your point about the plug aligns with what I observed as well - there was nothing to hold it in place- no clip or anything. The clip was definitely broken off at some point and likely the plug came loose. IT would make sense that the valve or whatever didn't open when it was supposed to, assuming that's what it's supposed to do!

Thank you so much for this - it's extremely helpful!
 

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If that is an AC pressure switch....it would not run with it disconnected. No way it could exceed high side pressure if disconnected unless the switch was already failed closed.



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I can't help on your current problem but once it's hopefully fixed then, to keep the seals in any aircon system from drying out, you should run the aircon for at least 10 minutes every week so the oil in the refrigerant can do its job.
Almost every modern vehicle runs the AC when the HVAC switch is in defrost and/or floor settings. This is for dehumidification. It will run anyway of you use any of these modes.

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