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Wayne at Pelican Parts's Avatar
Troubleshooting the AC / Heater unit in the Project 959... (10-28)

Okay, so before I decide to send off the AC control switch to be rebuilt, I wanted to make sure 100% that the unit was faulty. So, I decided to perform some extensive testing - the proper way. By meticulously going through each component, I can be assured that each one (and the wiring) is working and is not contributing to the problem (which is that the heater is on full heat all the time, and the compressor doesn't come on).

Good electrical diagnosis is not rocket science, but if you don't progress slowly, and methodically, and record all of your results, then you may have not done anything at all. A lot of bad mechanics are in a hurry, and just perform guesswork regarding the cars - they are more apt to replace parts (at your expense) rather than actually do the nitty-gritty work that is required to accurately troubleshoot an electrical problem. I hope that by documenting this process here, that some people can learn what is involved with the steps of troubleshooting electrical gremlins.

So, I started with the three temperature sensors in the car. These three give feedback to the climate control system and help the computer to decide how to meter the air. I took off the plugs on the back of the unit, looked up the sensor pins in the electrical diagrams and then tested each one.

###################

Test Temperature Sensors:

Pins A1 & B6 = Blow-out or vent temp sensor. Read 11.92 Kohms which is within spec for room temp.

Pins A2 & B6 = Internal passenger compartment temp sensor. Read 11.60 kohms which is within spec for room temp.

Pins A9 & B6 = External temp senors. Read 10.98 kohms, which is about right.

All three temp sensors have similar ranges. I heated up the car the other day and re-read them again, and they changed resistance according to how the spec is listed in the factory manuals.

Conclusion: all three temperature sensors and their respective wiring are fully operational.

###################

Test Heater Timing Valve:

The factory manual states that you should pull out harness R from the central electric system, and test pin R12 for power. Actually, it says test pin R12 for power, and then it says pull the harness out. I made this mistake - there's no power to the harness when it's unplugged. It took me 3 days to realize that the manual meant to stick the probe into the connector while it's still connected. Success - there's power running to that point.

Pins R12 & R13 = coil for the heater valve. Measurement of 14 ohms, which is correct, and confirms that the wiring to the heater timing valve coil is correct.

Next, I read the diagrams, and saw that the valve is actuated by bringing pin A11 to ground. First, I monitored the current and resistance through this pin to see if the control unit ever brought it down to ground. Never happened. When the pin is grounded, then it powers the valve, and stops the flow of hot water through the heater. When the A/C system is on, or the thermostat is set to maximum cold, then this pin should be at ground continuously. Also, when the heater knob is set in the middle range, the heater valve should cycle on and off every 3.5 seconds or so. This never happened either. When the pin was manually grounded, you could hear the timing valve in the engine compartment click on and off (the manual said to listen for this happening). So, the operation of the valve seemed to be working (although I have no idea if it's clogged), but the control switch is never sending the signal to shut off the flow of hot water.

#####################

Testing Flaps

I read somewhere that stuck flaps may also cause the heater to fail to the full heat position. The 959 has two flaps, one in the footwell, and one up for the defroster. Taking a 9V battery, I hotwired the operation of the motors while monitoring the resistance in the sensors that measure flap position. Switching polarity on the motor opens and closes the flap:

Footwell motor:
A5 and B8 show 234 ohms to 2.13 Kohms
B3 and B8 show 2.15 Kohms to 168 ohms

Defroster motor:
A6 to B7 show 2.34 Kohms to 500 ohms
B5 to B7 show 333 ohms to 2.175 kohms

Both seem to be operating roughly within spec.

I also connected the control unit and manually operated the footwell and defroster motor sliders while watching the actual flap mechanism (you can see the flaps from the trunk and from inside the dash). Both worked normally. Probably not a problem with the flaps.

####################

Recirc flap & relay

Next I checked the recirculation relay and flap motor (this one has no sensors on it). Pressing the button on and off, you can hear the relay off on the right (under the glove box) and you can also hear the flap opening and closing properly.

####################

A/C Switch & Relay

Likewise, clicking on the A/C compressor switch successfully operated the A/C relay and set the blower operation to low. I went back today to recheck the actual pin outs on the connector, and sure enough, pin A8 has +12V applied when the A/C switch is turned on. This seems to happen whether the thermostat is full on or full off, further indicating a problem with the control unit. Odd though, in my tests, I was not able to get the compressor clutch to operate. If pin A8 has +12V, then according to the electrical diagrams, the compressor clutch *should* operate, unless there is a problem with the hi-low pressure switches or the anti-icing cutoff switch. This currently has me slightly puzzled, but I don't have enough time right now to do more troubleshooting.

####################

Defroster Switch

The defroster switch activates the relay on the control unit, sets maximum heating, turns on the compressor, and sets the flaps to go to the windshield. This seems to work properly, as the compressor had +12V, the flaps closed, and the blower went to max.

####################

On Jeff's unit, I took it apart to see where the contact points are for the temperature control. As you might know from having an old stereo, sometimes the potentiometers of these old units fail, which results in a crackling noise when you adjust the volume. I thought the pot on this unit might have failed, so I ran tests on Jeff's unit and compared it to the 959 unit:

A B C = pins on pot

944 Unit:
Full CCW A-B 1.37 Kohms
Full CCW B-C 0.6 ohms
Full CCW A-C 1.37 Kohms
Full CW A-B 0.6 ohms
Full CW B-C 1.3 Kohms
Full CW A-C 1.3 Kohms
1/2 way A-B 2.74 Kohms
1/2 way B-C 2.7 Kohms
1/2 way A-C 1.37 Kohms

959 Unit:
Full CCW A-B 1.36 Kohms
Full CCW B-C 0.6 ohms
Full CCW A-C 1.36 Kohms
Full CW A-B 0.6 ohms
Full CW B-C 1.3 Kohms
Full CW A-C 1.3 Kohms
1/2 way A-B 2.8 Kohms
1/2 way B-C 2.4 Kohms
1/2 way A-C 1.35 Kohms

As you could see, the pot on the 959 unit tested almost identical to the 944 unit. Rats, when you have a moving part like this, it's somewhat common to find a failure.

####################

CONCLUSION:

With the exception of the A/C clutch not operating properly, the proper operation of the valves, flaps, and sensors of the system were confirmed. In addition, the signal to turn off the heater valve was not working properly when monitored as per the factory manuals. With this information, it becomes apparent that the A/C control unit is faulty with respect to the thermostat portion of the unit.

What to do now? There is a place in Italy that seems to have a bunch of experience in repairing these units (http://www.accinni.com/Inglese/Servizi/Servizi.htm), and here is a site that recommended them after they performed a repair on the similar-looking 964 unit: http://www.porsche964.co.uk/technical/climate.htm I am going to email them tonight with a link to this thread, and see what they have to say. I think that based upon what I've read, the unit should be repairable. Unfortunately, comparing it to the 944 unit, there is one board that is significantly different. Also, the electrical diagrams for the 944 show the operation of a mixed-air flap (not exactly sure what that is, and why the 959 doesn't have one) which could cause problems.

In a pinch, I'm quite confident that I could adapt the 944 unit to the 959. What I would need to do is to obtain a servo motor with a pot that will emulate the mixed-air assembly on the 944 and give the 944 control unit the proper values it's looking for (maybe even use the motor and sensor off of a 944). Then, I would have to swap the pins from A4 (I believe) to A11, which is the heater valve control signal for the 959. In a pinch, I'm quite confident that I would be able to get that system to work. However, that's a lot of effort, and if the original unit can be repaired, well, that's really the proper way to go then.

The good news is that through all of this testing, I learned that grounding pin A11 will energize the water valve and stop the flow of hot water into the heater. So, I can hot-wire a lead from pin A11 to ground to permanently shut off the heat while I'm waiting for the unit to be repaired. The only hang up and concern that I have is that some solenoid valves have what are known as duty-cycles. That means that they are not supposed to be activated 100% of the time. I'm not sure if this valve has a duty cycle. I doubt it, but I would hate to burn out the valve accidentally ($600 if it's still available). I'm thinking that the valve does not have a duty cycle - the text of the factory manuals seems to indicate that the valve should be energized (closed) when the A/C system is on, which would be all the time on a long drive. If anyone has any input on this, I would love to hear it. I'm sure the 944 valves operate in the same manner.

-Wayne
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Old 10-28-2007, 07:20 PM
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Some photos from today and yesterday:

Here's a shot of the 944 unit and the 959 unit. As mentioned previously, they are virtually identical, with the exception of the top board, which seems more complicated on the 944 unit. The entire structure is hard-soldered together making the swapping of boards very difficult for someone who is not an expert with a soldering iron (I am not an expert). I'm a very big butterfingers type with that iron (and I have the proper lab-quality Weller ones), so I would most likely damage my unit if I tried to desolder it and take it apart. If I send this in for repair, I will probably send the 944 unit along so that they would have spare parts to use in case the broken parts are ones that are used in common.



Top shot of the two control units. The top one is the 944 one, the bottom one is the 959 unit.



Here's a blurry shot of the thermostat pot that I tested.



The pot mounts to those three points right near the diode D7.



Here I am testing the continuity / resistance of the sensors in the car with my new Fluke meter, which I bought yesterday after you guys were making fun of my Radio Shack one. I never had a problem with the Radio Shack one, but when you're talking about spending a lot of time on a project, you want to make sure the numbers you're reading are correct. This is the "automotive" version of the unit, which does a bunch of neat things like frequency testing (so you don't need to dig out the oscilloscope). Note the electrical diagrams open and at the ready.



Here's the spot at Pelican where I was working on the car. I had to move the RS out of the way because one of the metal-halide lightbulbs in the warehouse was burned out and I couldn't see (had to dig out the 14' ladder, and I was very careful not to drop it on the 959).



Neat shot of the car with the engine lid open:



-Wayne
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Old 10-28-2007, 07:56 PM
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Wayne,

Awesome pics! I can say thats the first time I have ever seen that part of the 959 in pics.

Keep up the good work.

Do you have your punch list of repairs for the car? I am just wondering how you are deciding what to work on first...

t.
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Old 10-29-2007, 05:52 AM
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Thanks for keeping the updates going.

If you plug the 944 unit into the system does the system function correctly?
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masraum View Post
Thanks for keeping the updates going.

If you plug the 944 unit into the system does the system function correctly?
Not willing to try that just yet. From the electrical diagrams and what I've learned, I'm 99% sure it wouldn't work properly.

-Wayne
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Old 10-29-2007, 12:20 PM
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Wayne,

Is it possible to clean the pot on the unit or is it sealed. Use canned air to blow out dust then electronic contact cleaner and then use an electronic lube also use it on the slider control and switches. De-oxit is the brand that I use for guitar repair as in scratchy pots etc... Also if the pot is sealed you can drip cleaner down the shaft of the pot or use a clear tube that fits over the shaft and spray to force cleaner down the shaft. Not sure if this will fix your problem just thought i'd throw it out there since you seem to be doing alot of electical work on the car. Having clean electrical conections is a good thing. Also check for bad or broken soider joints on the PC board. Hope this may help.

B.T.W. 959's rule you have my dream car!!

Aloha
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Old 10-29-2007, 02:09 PM
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This stuff is so fascinating to me. Bummer the 944 unit won't work in native form. I'm a bit surprised (though not entirely) that Porsche didn't just use an off-the-shelf available part and instead went through all the trouble and expense of having a "mostly the same" unit created. Not necessarily the way I'd have done things. . .

When one looks at the two units side-by-side (especially in the top view) there are pretty obvious differences to the solder patterns. This would lead one to believe the internals are different, although it doesn't rule out the possibility that the physical locations of individual resistors, I/Cs, etc. simply moved around to alternate locations within the assembly from one version to the next. . . Wayne has the wiring diagrams, so that's the Rosetta Stone of this whole thing.

I agree with Wayne that simply plugging in the 944 unit would be reckless and could create some unintended consequences, maybe even bad ones. Not something I'd risk. If there were more market for 959 air conditioning consoles (since the part is NLA), I might even feel compelled to create a signal translator that would go between the 944 unit and the 959 harness, enabling those poor stricken 959 owners to simply source a 944 unit, plug it into the box and live happily ever after (as if they weren't to begin with, being owners of 959s and all. . .)

Electrical diagnosis is not difficult but it can be a big PITA. I'm going through this on my own 911 right now with much simpler (and fewer!) circuits. Look forward to seeing how this all plays out!
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Old 10-29-2007, 02:37 PM
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It may come down to that - designing a piggyback computer and harness that will adapt the 944 unit to the 959. It wouldn't be too terribly difficult, but you'd somehow have to turn a set of signals that control a flap, into a timed on-off 3.5 second pulse for the water heater valve. I have a feeling that the 944 valve is on-off, and not pulsed. It would be far easier to find someone who could repair this unit. As someone stated before, I could take the top board off and meld it with the bottom board (that Jeff said was working fine) to see if that will fix the problem. Trouble is, then what if the top board is the problem? There's one chip on the top board, and I can't see it from this angle. All the diodes and resistors - they are probably fine, but that chip may be the one that has failed. If I can find a replacement chip for that one, and then check all of the other components on the board, and then meld it with the 944 one, then that should work. I'd rather give it to someone who has done this already - I'll see if / when the guys from Italy get back to me...

-Wayne
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Old 10-29-2007, 11:04 PM
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Wayne, I'm on a plane to Italy later today. Want me to drop the board off for you .
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Old 10-29-2007, 11:08 PM
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Why don't you let Loren repair the unit?
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Old 10-30-2007, 08:12 AM
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See other thread, RE: Loren:

Quote:
No, we no longer have Loren rebuilding our CD boxes. Not our choice - it was his. About 3-4 years ago, Loren must have been having a particularly bad day, and said something so outrageous on the forums, that I gave him a 3-day suspension. I don't remember what it was, but it was pretty over the top, even for Loren. A bunch of people were complaining too, so perhaps my fuse was short back then too. Well, he hasn't spoken to me or returned my emails or phone calls since. I wish he would, as I truly believe that Loren is an asset to the community as a whole. He used to come in all the time and talk with Tom Gould when he dropped off the CD boxes. I think I only talked with him in person once, but he is a totally different guy in person than online. I think part of his online persona stems from a frustration with people on the forums who seem to talk about things they don't really know too much about. That can be frustrating for me sometimes too.

-Wayne
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Wayne R. Dempsey, Founder, Pelican Parts Inc., and Author of:
101 Projects for Your BMW 3-Series 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911 How to Rebuild & Modify Porsche 911 Engines 101 Projects for Your Porsche Boxster & Cayman 101 Projects for Your Porsche 996 / 997
Coming in 2014:
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Old 10-30-2007, 08:55 AM
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