I'm putting this out there for anyone who wants to replace their Roadtrek A/C unit. After watching many YouTube videos (which skipped the key steps in the removal) and reading some of the horror stories, I decided to 'bite the bullet' and replace the original Fedders A/C in my 1991 Roadtrek with a new Energy Star one. Although the original unit worked on shore power, I have just bought an inverter generator specifically to run the A/C and microwave. When I tried it on the generator (2000W) it overloaded the generator and it kept tripping off. I expected some power surge as the A/C starts, but not this much! After putting a clamp-meter on the shore supply, I found the A/C was drawing about 30A at start-up. More research revealed the necessity of having either a soft start kit or a hard start capacitor. Either of these involve taking the A/C apart to install them. The age of my A/C also means it could fail in a few months anyway, and is very inefficient compared to modern ones.
Anyway, that is the background. I was prepared for a multi-day job from other people's experiences, but it turned out to be a straightforward job. I did it in little over two hours, even with the 'learning curve' slowing things down.
So for anyone out there who is deterred by the thought of replacing their A/C this post is to show you it can be easily done using just a few basic tools in under half a day!
1. Selection of square (Robertsons) screwdrivers or bits Ė smaller sizes
2. Bare 12Ē hacksaw blade or sharp knife that can reach 3Ē inside a crack
3. Medium sized flat bladed screwdriver
4. Low profile ratcheting screwdriver (depending on the model year). I got this from my local dollar store:
1. Remove the 12 small screws on the hinges on each of the overhead doors. I found it quickest to hold the door up against the ceiling with my head to take all the screws out. You will
need to remove both overhead doors in order to slide the unit out.
2. Unclip the plastic front A/C fascia and remove it from the unit.
3. The unit is secured mechanically using two screws, one on each side of the unit, into the side wall of the overhead cupboards. Newer models have the screw head inside the A/C vent cavity and are easily accessed by peeling back the foam liner as shown below
Older models (like mine) are screwed through from inside
the cupboard, and you will have to remove a thin piece of wood panel to gain access to the screw head. The wood panel is held in place by four screws. The ones at the rear of the panel are tricky to get to with a normal screwdriver (hence the ratcheting screwdriver I bought) especially if someone has installed loudspeakers in each of the cupboards (like mine)! The panel should then slide forwards and out of the cupboard easily.
4. Newer models may have a wooden trim screwed across the top front of the A/C unit which will have to be removed
5. Remove the wooden trim along the bottom front of the A/C unit which is secured by four screws. This trim runs the entire width of the vehicle.
6. On newer models there is a metal lip at the bottom of the A/C unit which will have to be bent forwards in order to permit the unit to slide out later
7. By removing the two screws underneath each of the overhead cupboard frames the frame can be pushed inside the cupboard slightly to permit easier access for the next step
8. In theory, the A/C unit should now slide forwards and out of the cavity. It wonít, however, as there is a thick bead of silicone caulking around the left, right, and bottom of the unit which is sealing it in place. I found it easiest to insert the flat bladed screwdriver between the metal side walls of the A/C and the wooden side walls of the cupboard, and gently pry them apart so I could insert a hacksaw blade, or long knife blade, into the crack and cut the caulking away. On the bottom edge of the unit, you will need to cut the caulking along the very bottom edge where it sits on the plywood base. Caulking shown as green line above.
9. I slid the screwdriver or another thin object along the top edge of the unit to ensure that the vinyl roof had not stuck to the A/C over the years.
10. You should now be able to move the unit within its cavity slightly by inserting the flat bladed screwdriver between the walls on the left and right sides (as in step 8 ) and between the plywood base and the A/C base and using it as a lever to force the A/C away from the sides/base. This should also break any final caulking clinging to the unit.
11. I found the best way to slide the unit forwards and out was to insert the screwdriver (again) at either side of the plywood base (left side then right side) and lever it out a little at time by bracing it against the plywood base itself. It may help if you also pull the A/C forwards using your hand in the vent cavity at the top.
12. Once the unit is out about 1Ē, it should be easy to slide it all the way out and lay it on the seats, feeding the cable through the gap in the cupboard frame opened up at step 7.
Needless to say, the A/C unit will be very heavy so donít drop it to the floor!
Hereís some photos of the unit and cavity with useful measurements:
Note the drainage hose on the bottom left (mine was blocked) and the 0.5Ē metal rail near the front of the unit along the bottom. This is where the bottom bead of caulking was stuck to. It seems to be there to angle the unit slightly backwards to allow better drainage.
The unit appears to be a standard window unit, although both left and right side vents have had their vanes cut off to improve air flow. I donít know whether this is absolutely necessary, but you couild easily cut them off the new A/C using a grinder.
Itís a good opportunity to clean the cavity out before installing the new A/C unit.
One thing I should point out is that if you plan on running the A/C from a generator (like me) you will need a hard start capacitor fitted to it. You could either reuse the one from the old A/C or buy a new one (about $15 from eBay). The Supco SPP6 seems to be a popular model of capacitor. If you donít do this, there is a very strong likelihood that the generator will not be able to start the A/C and will keep tripping off.