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Old 04-19-2020, 11:46 AM   #1
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Starcool info

With summer approaching, I thought folks experiencing difficulties with their Starcool units might be interested in some information. My SMB has a Starcool system that didnít work when I got it. The P.O. said he intended to remove it, but never got around to it, and lots of other folks have asked about removing one too, likely due to the fact that they have been unable to get them working. They are pretty much the same as any A/C system in that thereís a compressor, evaporator, condenser, fans and a control system. They differ mostly in the fact that they are tied together with another separate system, the Ford factory system and have a second condenser. They share the same refrigerant, and the Ford condenser, but otherwise they are completely separate, with a shut off solenoid that isolates the Ford evaporator when the Starcool is running on AC shore power. It took me a bit to figure out why my system wasnít running, and it was a combination of a shorted compressor start capacitor, a bad connection on the compressor start contactor, two frozen condenser fans, and missing fuses (probably removed when the fans froze up). Having the wiring diagram really helps understand how the system works but itís actually a pretty simple and anyone with a basic knowledge of refrigeration and controls should be able to figure out. Removing one could be more complicated than fixing one, since the refrigerant would have to be pumped out, the lines removed, a method devised for plugging off the Tís where the old hoses attached, and then pulling a vacuum on the system before recharging. Fixing one, shouldnít be too expensive unless there are destroyed components like a smashed condenser or burnt out compressor. Since the compressors are sealed, and the motor runs in oil, they rarely go bad, and if your factory A/C is working, you still have refrigerant in the system, (it could be a bit low, but there probably arenít big leaks) I found the wiring for the compressor to be in a non sealed box on the side of the compressor that Is basically open to rain, mud, snow, etc. The parts inside (the motor contactor, capacitor, and a12vdc relay) surely suffer over the years. If yours wonít start, after checking the fuses, Iíd open that box next. Mine was a mess, but it was easy and inexpensive to renew the parts. Next are the condenser fans, even more exposed to all the elements, itís obvious why they donít seem to last. While researching previous threads on condenser fans, I found some folks have ordered replacements costing between $70 to $100 each. I found these on Ebay for the really low price of $26 a pair. https://www.ebay.com/i/151521113218?...26pg%3D2385738
They were not exact replacements, but with a little fabrication they work just fine. They are a bit noisy but since Iíve never seen an original fan that wasnít seized up, I canít compare the sound levels. Once operating correctly, the system puts out ice cold air ( I measured a discharge temp of 30degs F on a 65deg day), so Iím pretty happy with it. The bottom line Iíd say is, donít give up, they are well worth fixing.
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Old 04-19-2020, 02:49 PM   #2
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Agree with all of the above. The 12v aux fans seem to be the most common issue. They seize up and then cause fuses to blow or the breaker to pop. The one behind the drivers front wheel is in a bad location, too, for exposure to road gunk. I replaced both in my 98 SMB and also did the external relays and stuff. Added a ďsoft startĒ capacitor, too, to help take some of the electric load off when the compressor kicks on.
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Old 04-25-2020, 04:39 PM   #3
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I have no issues with my Starcool, while driving, anyway. When I'm driving, it will freeze you out, even when it's 90F+ outside. My issues is when I'm in a campsite hooked up to 110V. It seems the air is barely cool. The compressor fan is running, though. I figure it's because the coolant isn't circulating like when I'm driving.
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Old 04-26-2020, 12:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wander View Post
I have no issues with my Starcool, while driving, anyway. When I'm driving, it will freeze you out, even when it's 90F+ outside. My issues is when I'm in a campsite hooked up to 110V. It seems the air is barely cool. The compressor fan is running, though. I figure it's because the coolant isn't circulating like when I'm driving.
There is no coolant used in the refrigeration circuit. When plugged into 110vac, there should be two fans running, one in front of the radiator and one under the van just behind the drivers door in addition, the compressor should be running. You should be able to feel it running by touching it and feeling it vibrate.
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Old 04-26-2020, 07:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arctictraveller View Post
There is no coolant used in the refrigeration circuit. When plugged into 110vac, there should be two fans running, one in front of the radiator and one under the van just behind the drivers door in addition, the compressor should be running. You should be able to feel it running by touching it and feeling it vibrate.
The fan behind the driver's door was running, but I don't know about the one in front of the radiator. I suspect the compressor is running because I get some cool air, just not as much as when going down the road. I'll check the fan up front and the compressor. Regrading "coolant," I actually meant freon. I had a "brain freeze."

Thanks!
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Old 04-26-2020, 09:12 AM   #6
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Starcool info

The BTU rating for the Starcool is different on 12v vs 110v. Per SMB literature (see attached) the system does 18,000 BTU when driving (12vdc) and only 12,000 BTU when on 110vac.

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Old 04-26-2020, 09:52 AM   #7
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A few days ago, while running on 110Vac, the air coming out of my vents was 30deg's on a day with a 65deg ambient outside temp. That's a 35 degree delta. If yours is only slightly cool, it's likely the compressor is not running and your just feeling the cooling effect of the air moving, just like a house fan. Because it works well with the engine running, it's highly likely the system is not low on Freon. You also need both fans running, with just one, the ability to reject heat is highly compromised. You can also check the compressor to see if it's running by touching the lines attached to it, one should be far warmer than the case of the compressor. On a warm day, it will probably be quite hot.
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Old 04-26-2020, 10:43 AM   #8
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BrianW, good information. Thank you!

Thanks arctictraveller. Good information. I'll check it out.
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Old 05-03-2020, 01:29 PM   #9
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Starcool on my last van worked great while driving, maybe too good at times. On 110 however it was a bit of a disappointment. A trick I used if camping in the desert would be to get the van cool on 12v with the engine running and both stock and starcool on. Then stuff a moving type insulated blanket to the edge of the non-popped pop top bed across the van interior so it separated the bed area. Deploy the lower 50 style bed and put in reflectix in the back windows and side awning windows (all windows generally). After that I would shut the van off and fire up the generator and run just the starcool on 110 and it only had to cool the small bed area. This made it adequate but was a lot of effort.

I had wanted to try the 86Scotty method of a separate house AC in one of the pop top windows but never got around to it.
Eric
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Old 05-04-2020, 08:28 PM   #10
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Nice write up and good info Thanks!
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