Ghana is a hot humid country in the tropics, so air conditioning is not an optional feature, we have to have it. The EPA Land Rover is equipped for air conditioning, but after 15 years it is not in great shape. Opere does not do A/C and does not seem to want to recommend someone. I got Francis to put me in touch with someone, Ben from Big-Ben Air Conditioning.
In the process of getting a quote I encouraged Ben to re-use any of the parts, but both he and Francis were quite insistent that to work properly and last the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and hoses should all be replaced. Opere also confirmed that much, so I will bite the bullet. In this case I did not even go to the trouble of getting two quotes; instead I perused the web as a source of wisdom and prices for parts. Ben’s quote was really only a fraction of the price of bringing in new parts: GHC 550 (CAD 300) for a reconditioned air conditioning system – new hoses all round, a new fan belt and the reconditioned compressor, condenser and evaporator – gassed up and ready to go. At that price, we signed a contract with 50% down and 50% on delivery, with a 3 month guarantee. I tried for a hold-back but Ben was not buying that.
When delivered a week later the system seemed to work well, but there were a couple of problems. There was a fair bit of condensation on distribution system in the cabin, and I also noticed that the belt seemed to be fraying on one edge. Then when I was out to see Opere on something else he pointed out that the thermostat had been mounted in the wrong place under the bonnet, up high in front of the fuel filter so that it would not be possible to change the filter without removing the whole housing from the frame.
With those problems obviously I had to call Ben to test the worth of the guarantee I had secured without the benefit of the holdback. It took him a few days to return my call, and when he did finally come by he was not easily convinced the thermostat had been misplaced. However, when I explained the placement Opere had shown me he agreed to relocate it. On the condensation he said that was normal, but could be reduced by the installation of some foam around the interior distribution system for another GHC 30. I offered to deliver the vehicle to his shop, which is located near Kaneshie market. It was interesting to see that this is not a “shop-under-a-tree, he has a whole fenced yard with a gate and a building. I drop it off on a Saturday and grab one of Accra’s dilapidated but affordable taxis back across town through the late Saturday afternoon traffic.
Ben brought the Defender back to me on Tuesday. It is working quite well and the drive is much more comfortable. In addition to re-situating the thermostat and replacing one of the interior vent housings that had been broken before I gave it to him, , he also also insulated the simple, rather bulky interior A/C distribution system for the GHC30 (CDN 20) cost of the foam. We really appreciate the greater comfort this offers, although the effectiveness of the new A/C is temporarily limited by the fact that all the door seals and panels are all off because of the body work in progress so the cool air does not stay in for too long. That will be corrected after we paint and can finish the interior. I do not have unlimited confidence in the reconditioned parts that were sourced from god-only-knows-where, but at least the cost was low enough we can replace a few parts before we get close to the cost of new parts. The additional work of the belt-driven compressor seems to make the engine run hotter, which is no great surprise, and suggests I should also look carefully at the cooling system to mitigate the risk of overheating. But in addition to being more comfortable, the whole vehicle seems to run more quietly, even when the A/C is not activated. Need to get focused on painting, soundproofing and interior upholstery next.