Should I TOTALLY avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Should I TOTALLY avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 2:17am

I have every intention of obtaining an Astro/Safari as a people hauler/enclosed cargo hauler to supplement the 2010 Toyota Tacoma I currently own and drive daily. As much as I love these vans, I've almost never had anything good to say about the HVAC systems in them based on personal experience.

NOTE: This won't be until 2019 or 2020. I do not have the funds to insure a second vehicle or the space to keep one at the moment.

Obviously I want at least 7-passenger seating, 8 if I can find it. No 5-passenger UNLESS it's a 1993-older model without the rear quarter windows.

An Astro/Safari is a big vehicle and with all those windows may as well be a rolling greenhouse. My obvious first choice would be to get one WITH rear A/C. However, my reasoning here is this...

I've taken bunch of friends out to the movies in my mom's 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan, or acted as designated driver for a bunch of drunk friends in the same van. The Odyssey had dual A/C that KICKED ***. 9 years and over 130K miles we had that van and the A/C never had to be serviced. However, most of friends did not like it as cold as me unless it was well into the nineties, and most of them shut off their individual vents.

If I bought a used Astro/Safari, chances are that more than half the time, it would only be and a passenger in the shotgun seat. If the right van comes along that doesn't have rear air, should I go for it?

My questions are:
Would the dash/front A/C be adequate enough to keep the whole van comfortable for 4 or more passengers if the van didn't have rear A/C?
I've heard that dual A/C and heat, especially in older vans, can be troublesome (prone to leaks, inefficient because of how much tubing there is, etc). Is this true?
If I buy a 1993-older Astro/Safari and the A/C system is still R-12, should I retrofit it to R134a if the system leaks or breaks down all together?
I've also heard of people disabling or disconnecting the rear portion of the A/C in vehicles so equipped. Can this be undone easily?
Last edited by 99SLEG80AWD on March 25th 2017, 12:55pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Mmusicman » March 25th 2017, 2:26am

You didn't mention where you live. It often makes a difference.

Avoid rear A/C? Why?
Front A/C can be "troublesome" too.
With that line of logic why not just avoid A/C altogether?

If A/C is important to you... then yes, you want front and rear A/C if available. Especially if you are hauling 7 or 8 passengers (you said this was something you were looking for) .. and if you plan to ever drive it in the summer time. Mine works great! This is an awesome extra feature that I'm often so thankful for... worth it's weight in gold! I live in South Florida where summer temps often push 90+ with 100% humidity.

Better to have it than not have it. But if you run into trouble with the rear a/c and you don't want to fix it... you can pinch off the lines.. no big deal. I would never dream of that, and would simply repair the issue. But at least is would be an option... your choice.

I converted the R12 system in my 92 to 134, and it works and blows ice-cold without issue. But this van is a cargo shorty and only hauls 2 people at most. This is something you would want to do on an older van if it needs it.

99SLEG80AWD wrote:If I bought a used Astro/Safari, chances are that more than half the time, it would only be and a passenger in the shotgun seat. If the right van comes along that doesn't have rear air, should I go for it?

Yes... ABSOLUTELY!
Last edited by Mmusicman on March 25th 2017, 2:45am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Astrodawn » March 25th 2017, 2:42am

99SLEG80AWD wrote:Would the dash/front A/C be adequate enough to keep the whole van comfortable for 4 or more passengers if the van didn't have rear A/C?


i guess it depends on your level of comfort and the climate you plan to drive in.

i grew up riding in three different Astro/Safari vans with a family of 8. Only one of those had rear A/C, which was an awesome luxury, but not a necessity. it just helps you quickly get past the point where you step into a hot car that's been sitting in the sun and you feel like you're suffocating.

it'd never be a deal breaker for me.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Meterpig » March 25th 2017, 3:06am

The rear A/C is in there because the front will never get to the rear. Figure about $1000 for a partial rebuild. $1800 for a full rebuild. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, dual A/C is awesome.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby dramey » March 25th 2017, 6:41am

I have a cargo van with rear heat and no A/C (front or rear). I live in Alaska and don't need the A/C, but I need the front and rear heat.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 6:55am

Mmusicman wrote:You didn't mention where you live. It often makes a difference.


Southeast Pennsylvania
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 7:03am

Mmusicman wrote:Avoid rear A/C? Why?
Front A/C can be "troublesome" too.
With that line of logic why not just avoid A/C altogether?


I will never buy a vehicle without A/C, EVER, with few exceptions (A 1970 Chevelle 454SS LS6 is one of those exceptions).

My daily driver is a 2010 Toyota Tacoma with A/C that blows 41°F at the vents (After almost 8 years and nearly 72K miles), so perhaps I'm a little spoiled? My parents bought a 2000 GMC Safari conversion van brand new and the A/C had to be recharged every year. The 1999 GMC Safari SLE I drove for work had A/C that worked SOME of the time. Basically, I have not had good experience with the A/C in newer vans.

I met a guy at a car show who had a 1987 Chevrolet Suburban R2500 (2WD) with the 454cid V8 and TH400 3-speed automatic. It had the Silverado trim and was ordered with every option except 3rd row seat and rear A/C. This guy was the original owner and he said he got it without rear air was because it was "less **** to go wrong."

Unless I found a mind condition, low mileage Astro van without rear A/C, I'd never buy one without it.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 7:05am

Mmusicman wrote:If A/C is important to you... then yes, you want front and rear A/C if available. Especially if you are hauling 7 or 8 passengers (you said this was something you were looking for) .. and if you plan to ever drive it in the summer time. Mine works great! This is an awesome extra feature that I'm often so thankful for... worth it's weight in gold! I live in South Florida where summer temps often push 90+ with 100% humidity.


How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby chevymaher » March 25th 2017, 11:43am

99SLEG80AWD wrote:
I will never buy a vehicle without A/C, EVER, with few exceptions (A 1970 Chevelle 454SS LS6 is one of those exceptions).

I have had 30 something chevelles in my life. I would never have another without air. I went through major changes getting air in the one I got now. I paid major money for a El Camino just to get a few dash parts that are not reproduced I needed. I sold the SS numbers car and went with a clone just for this reason. I like air.

99SLEG80AWD wrote:
How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!


I held my hand on the tube running from the air box into the accumulator. Charged til that puppy was cold. Got a electric fan. On a hot humid day you see steam coming from the vents like opening the freezer in the summer.

Part of the comfort thing in the van is vent placement. Cold air sinks. Point the dash vents at the ceiling. Then the cool air falls making a even coverage. If you point them back at you there is a hot pocket at your head. Secret is getting a Convection current to form in the van. Cold air running back the ceiling falling and warm air will run along the floor toward the front. Evenly cooling the interior.

Rear air is nice I wont argue it. But I don't have it. And it takes longer to cool but it will do it if you set it up right. And in Pennsylvania it be fine with out it. We get same temps here as musicman has in florida in the peak of summer. Be it only a few weeks. My van is a ice box. It does take a few miles to get it to where your actually turning it down from high.

Once it has cooled it comes off of max A/C and blower goes to 2. That is enough to keep it stable once it has cooled the giant greenhouse.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 12:52pm

chevymaher wrote:
99SLEG80AWD wrote:
I will never buy a vehicle without A/C, EVER, with few exceptions (A 1970 Chevelle 454SS LS6 is one of those exceptions).

I have had 30 something chevelles in my life. I would never have another without air. I went through major changes getting air in the one I got now. I paid major money for a El Camino just to get a few dash parts that are not reproduced I needed. I sold the SS numbers car and went with a clone just for this reason. I like air.

99SLEG80AWD wrote:
How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!


I held my hand on the tube running from the air box into the accumulator. Charged til that puppy was cold. Got a electric fan. On a hot humid day you see steam coming from the vents like opening the freezer in the summer.

Part of the comfort thing in the van is vent placement. Cold air sinks. Point the dash vents at the ceiling. Then the cool air falls making a even coverage. If you point them back at you there is a hot pocket at your head. Secret is getting a Convection current to form in the van. Cold air running back the ceiling falling and warm air will run along the floor toward the front. Evenly cooling the interior.

Rear air is nice I wont argue it. But I don't have it. And it takes longer to cool but it will do it if you set it up right. And in Pennsylvania it be fine with out it. We get same temps here as musicman has in florida in the peak of summer. Be it only a few weeks. My van is a ice box. It does take a few miles to get it to where your actually turning it down from high.

Once it has cooled it comes off of max A/C and blower goes to 2. That is enough to keep it stable once it has cooled the giant greenhouse.


Honestly, I probably never would have bought an Astro/Safari without rear air. I was just wondering if getting one without it would be worth it. I'm gonna change the title of this topic too.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 12:58pm

dramey wrote:I have a cargo van with rear heat and no A/C (front or rear). I live in Alaska and don't need the A/C, but I need the front and rear heat.


Your 1997 came from the factory without A/C or it just doesn't work anymore? I've never seen an AWD Astro or Safari without air.

Also, do you have the G80 rear in addition to all-wheel drive?
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Mmusicman » March 25th 2017, 1:06pm

99SLEG80AWD wrote:How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!

Sounds like you need another mechanic! There is an exact science to the perfect charge.. too little or too much is bad. The Gen II's have terrible vents, so that doesn't help. More reason for needing rear A/C.

I had a 2000 cargo and the front a/c worked quite well.. but no one ever rode in back. If the vent wasn't blowing directly on you.. then it felt warm on a hot day... even up front. After an hour or so... it might reach comfortable levels. With dual-a/c... you can get quite cold inside, even when it's pushing close to 100 outside. Like said... it all depends on your comfort level.

However, since you are in Penn, you probably don't use a/c most of the year anyway.. so it shouldn't be a deal-breaker. I just wouldn't "avoid" it either.

Most multi-passenger vans WILL have dual a/c... and for good reason!
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 2:11pm

Mmusicman wrote:
99SLEG80AWD wrote:How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!

Sounds like you need another mechanic! There is an exact science to the perfect charge.. too little or too much is bad. The Gen II's have terrible vents, so that doesn't help. More reason for needing rear A/C.

I had a 2000 cargo and the front a/c worked quite well.. but no one ever rode in back. If the vent wasn't blowing directly on you.. then it felt warm on a hot day... even up front. After an hour or so... it might reach comfortable levels. With dual-a/c... you can get quite cold inside, even when it's pushing close to 100 outside. Like said... it all depends on your comfort level.

However, since you are in Penn, you probably don't use a/c most of the year anyway.. so it shouldn't be a deal-breaker. I just wouldn't "avoid" it either.

Most multi-passenger vans WILL have dual a/c... and for good reason!


The rear A/C in the 1999 Safari "Puck Van" worked better than the front A/C! It had that unexplainable "crisp" feeling to it, which told you the A/C was working just fine.

I have a mechanic who does routine maintenance on my 2010 Tacoma (inspections, oil changes, etc). He knows the "exact science" you are talking about. He did it with a 1994 Astro passenger with dual A/C. What he did was make sure the refrigerant oil as at exactly factory specifications, but undercharged the actual refrigerant (R134a since it was a 1994) so the system would run at a much higher pressure. This made the A/C blow colder.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 2:22pm

Mmusicman wrote:
99SLEG80AWD wrote:How do you guys (and gals) get the A/C in your vans to blow so cold? The A/C in our 2000 Safari was nothing but trouble, and we bought that NEW!
If the vent wasn't blowing directly on you.. then it felt warm on a hot day... even up front. After an hour or so... it might reach comfortable levels. With dual-a/c... you can get quite cold inside, even when it's pushing close to 100 outside. Like said... it all depends on your comfort level.

However, since you are in Penn, you probably don't use a/c most of the year anyway.. so it shouldn't be a deal-breaker. I just wouldn't "avoid" it either.

Most multi-passenger vans WILL have dual a/c... and for good reason!


As I said, I drive a 2010 Toyota Tacoma regular cab 2WD with the 2.7L 4-cyl. and 4-speed automatic. This truck was a present from my dad when I finally got my learner's permit. It was purchased brand new in September 2009 with 20 miles on the odometer. As of March 2017, my truck almost 72K miles and I had the A/C performance-tested at the Toyota dealer in the summer of 2016 for an oil change (my Toyota dealer gives you a free loaner car for the first 48 hours, and they only had my truck for like 3 hours), and it was blowing 41°F at the vents! It also had the factory-specified level of R134a that it left the factory with in August 2009. This was a year AFTER I rear-ended a 2014 Mustang GT (only road accident I've ever had that was my fault) in August 2015 and did about $1,500 in damage, including a bent radiator support.

After "love-tapping" a Mustang GT in stop-and-go traffic at about 5 MPH:
IMG_1566.JPG


Obviously, a regular cab pickup is going to cool off faster than a huge van, even one with dual A/C. I think I've been spoiled by the A/C in my truck. Also, my dad's 2013 Pilot Touring has dual A/C that is freezing cold. My best friend's 2006 Nissan Maxima SL had 160K miles on it when he sold it last week and the A/C still was skin-numbing. Am I spoiled by the A/C in other vehicles or have I just had bad luck with Astros and Safaris?
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby dramey » March 25th 2017, 8:04pm

99SLEG80AWD wrote:
dramey wrote:I have a cargo van with rear heat and no A/C (front or rear). I live in Alaska and don't need the A/C, but I need the front and rear heat.


Your 1997 came from the factory without A/C or it just doesn't work anymore? I've never seen an AWD Astro or Safari without air.

Also, do you have the G80 rear in addition to all-wheel drive?


My van was ordered from Chevrolet by a local cable company with the A/C delete option.
The option code for this is YG6 HVAC System: Air Conditioning, Not Desired.
That option took $845 off the sticker price. I do not have the G80, I wish I did and have my local junk yard looking for one for me.
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Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby 99SLEG80AWD [OP] » March 25th 2017, 8:43pm

dramey wrote:
99SLEG80AWD wrote:
dramey wrote:I have a cargo van with rear heat and no A/C (front or rear). I live in Alaska and don't need the A/C, but I need the front and rear heat.


Your 1997 came from the factory without A/C or it just doesn't work anymore? I've never seen an AWD Astro or Safari without air.

Also, do you have the G80 rear in addition to all-wheel drive?


My van was ordered from Chevrolet by a local cable company with the A/C delete option.
The option code for this is YG6 HVAC System: Air Conditioning, Not Desired.
That option took $845 off the sticker price. I do not have the G80, I wish I did and have my local junk yard looking for one for me.


The Puck van was like an 8-passenger enclosed snowmobile, with it's all-wheel drive and G80 locker! It had it's flaws, but once you drifted it in a parking lot during a snowstorm, none of those flaws mattered! Yes, I have done this!

Another thing I loved about driving the Puck van was pulling up to a red light with the windows down on a warm spring day belting "Once Bitten Twice Shy" by Great White on the factory 6-speaker stereo (it sounded pretty damn good)!
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Re: Should I TOTALLY avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Astro Pop » March 25th 2017, 8:53pm

I disconnected rear A/C when I first purchased mine. It had many other problems to address first. Never got around to fixing it and do I regret it. In summer I hear nothing but complaints from the back even when the front A/C is on max. I will fix it before summer this year!!
As with everything that is optional in life...better to have it and not need it than to find out later you need it and there's no way to get it.

BTW, It does have a separate switch to turn it off....just sayin'
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Extra Info: AWD - 5 inch lift

Re: Should I avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby dramey » March 25th 2017, 9:38pm

99SLEG80AWD wrote:
The Puck van was like an 8-passenger enclosed snowmobile, with it's all-wheel drive and G80 locker! It had it's flaws, but once you drifted it in a parking lot during a snowstorm, none of those flaws mattered! Yes, I have done this!


I have 2 feet of snow in my backyard and I can drive my van through that 2 feet of snow without getting stuck. My van is AWD with 4 studded snow tires. I can live without the G80, but the G80 will make life easier.
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Re: Should I TOTALLY avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby Leeann_93 » March 26th 2017, 12:42am

My '02 doesn't have rear air. I've never had to charge it, though - and my husband's an HVAC-R master.

The '00 has rear air. The PO said the AC doesn't work, but I think that's because the shop that replace the LIM gasket broke the retaining clip on the electrical connection at the back of the compressor. I haven't checked the charge on that truck.
'05 Astro AWD vin X
'02 Astro LS AWD vin X
'00 Astro LS AWD - WIP
'99 Safari XLE AWD - broke
'93 AWD EXT vin W - real broke
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Re: Should I TOTALLY avoid passenger vans without rear A/C?

Postby AstroWill » March 26th 2017, 3:40pm

I would avoid it unless you really need it. TOTALLY!

Trolls take away from productive work, best to starve the troll of attention by ignoring it and going about your business.
In 2016 ~66mil voted for Clinton, ~63mil voted for Trump and ~100mil(eligible) didn't vote Make a difference - register+vote!
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