Damaged AC fitting bolt hole

intro

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Hey guys,
So the road to having working AC on this Jetta wagon has been a long one, and we've been fine for the most part without it the last 2 summers but it has gotten a bit grueling lately with the humidity and the kiddo is complaining even with the windows down, so I'm trying to wrap this up and get it recharged.
Changed the compressor years ago (purchased the car and it gave out soon after) and when I went to replace it the next summer I damaged the condenser while maneuvering the drier tube out. Left the compressor unplugged and the following summer I replaced the condenser while I had the front end apart. I had to drill out one of the bolts in the ac hose connector, the bottom one. The issue is that the connector was slightly damaged in the process. I know these are high pressure, and the hole the bolt goes through into the bottom of the condenser is not really that far out of spec. Is this bolt hole even pressurized? I was thinking of just grabbing a washer or two at the hardware store to make the connection closed otherwise. The actual fitting with the o-ring was unaffected. I have a new bolt from the dealership.
Do I proceed with the washer idea and then take it in to be evacuated and recharged?
Thanks!

 

Genesis

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The seal is made on the nub that sticks out and via an O-ring. So long as the fitting sits flush with the compressor it will seal; just make sure you use a new, refrigerant-compatible O-ring (NOT a Buna-N one as they will be eaten over time!)
 

intro

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The seal is made on the nub that sticks out and via an O-ring. So long as the fitting sits flush with the compressor it will seal; just make sure you use a new, refrigerant-compatible O-ring (NOT a Buna-N one as they will be eaten over time!)
Now to find that O-ring somewhere in the house. I vaguely remember it being green or orange?
 

Genesis

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The stock ones are usually purple or green. If I remember correctly they ones intended for R134a are a flourocarbon compound; the common Buna-N ones you find in various places WILL be damaged over time and leak.

(Nope -- just looked; they're polyacrylate....)
 
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wonneber

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How long has the system been open to air? (no Freon)
You should replace the dryer before charging it.
 

Genesis

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The dryer MUST be replaced. In addition I would flush the system. It's not very hard; find a diver if you're not one, get a scuba tank and air nozzle adapter for the BCD hose (so you have a source of extremely clean and DRY air -- do NOT use shop air or air out of a shop-style compressor!) Get new O-rings for the TXV and dryer fittings, plus the condenser hose. The dive tank full of air is what you use, of course, after you run whatever solvent (something that leaves no residue please!) through the various pieces. Do NOT flush the compressor (if you want to clean it out you need to completely disassemble it, then replace the oil, etc) -- but everything else would be a good idea while you've got the ability to do it easily and the system has no charge in it (so there's no recovery requirement first.)

When you put the new dryer in get the correct amount of oil for the dryer (and if you flushed the system the condenser and evap -- it's small) and put that in the compressor, then turn it by hand before you charge it so you're sure it's not hydrolocked.

The dryer goes in LAST. Leave the plugs in until you're ready to connect it. It's a bear on the ALHs due to how it's mounted; that's a definite "skin off hands" thing, but it is where it is. A ball-end set of allen wrenches will make that top bolt on the dryer easier, but a regular allen wrench CAN be used -- you just have to be careful.

Just remember on the various line connections that you're NOT sealing with the tightness of the connection -- that's the job of the O-ring. You're going into aluminum with those bolts and you WILL strip the threads if you crank on it. Don't. It just has to be tight enough to not back off and allow the O-ring to extrude, not cranked down.

Then pull a hard vacuum on it; when it gets to full vacuum (30") shut the valves and turn the pump off. Go inside and WAIT at LEAST a half-hour. Come back and check the gauges. They should NOT HAVE MOVED A MILLIMETER. If they did there's a leak or you didn't get all the moisture out. Do it again; if it moves a second time the system is leaking. Find the problem before you go further.

If not turn the pump back on, open the valves and let the pump run for at least 30 minutes. An hour is better. You want every bit of moisture to boil off and get out of there. That's why the long time; technically once you have a hard vacuum that doesn't leak down you're there, but the extra 30 minutes is good insurance, and you don't have to babysit it.

Then charge the system by weight. It's 2 full 12oz cans + 100g out of a third (2 cans is 680g + 100 is 780; spec is 750 +50 tolerance). You NEED a scale for the third can -- no way around it. These systems are fairly hard to "slug" with liquid as the low side fitting is a decent distance from the compressor but even so be careful and don't invert the can; better is to start the charge with all gas, and once the system is running "slosh" it back and forth with occasional tips to horizontal. The compressor should come on somewhere around 35-40psi on the *high* side gauge and once it starts it should keep running if there are no restrictions as there is no low-side sensor on the ALH. A bit of liquid that sloshes into the sight glass is ok and will speed things up somewhat, but a lot is NOT OK.

WEAR GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION. If you get a leak at any point and the refrigerant as a liquid gets on you it WILL frostbite you, and if it sprays out and gets in your eyes you're screwed.

Oh, and you might want to run over to Autozone or wherever else and get a set of low and high side service fittings. There's a non-zero chance one or both leak when you disconnect them after all this time. If you have a replacement then you are out two more cans of refrigerant. If you don't then you're out (another!) dryer since you can't immediately replace the bad one and charge it again! If you want to be proactive (many shops are) just replace both -- they're pretty cheap, about $5 each.
 
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GCBUG00

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Just reading for curiosity. Genisis no clue if your details are correct but I'd follow your details cause it looks like you got it figured out. Lot's of been there done that type comments.
 

Genesis

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I do not know what precise chemical is in the dryer used in these systems but some of the chemical dessicants are irreversible (they will not release their moisture under vacuum as the chemical binds with the water chemically, and thus is no longer water, as opposed to simply absorbing it.)

R134a was developed because it doesn't eat ozone like R12. Then the EPA went insane over it because it's a "greenhouse gas"; the so-called "next generation" stuff they're trying to force people to use has flammability problems (unlike R134a) and, big shock, is ~10x as expensive too! The only real operational problem with R134a as a refrigerant for air conditioners is that it combines with water vapor to form an acid and will eat everything metallic in the system over time if there's moisture in it, so getting it ALL out is quite important unless you want to keep replacing parts on a regular basis.

BTW one of the better refrigerants -- if you don't care about flammability -- is propane! In fact one of the so-called "safe" (environmentally speaking) replacements out there basically IS propane. Of course using that in a car system could be a pretty bad idea because the condenser is right up front and people do get into wrecks on a fairly regular basis, which tend to both put holes in the condenser and produce ignition sources..... A fuel-fed fire with a couple of pounds of propane in your engine compartment (or worse, in the *passenger* compartment!) is likely to really ruin your day..... :)
 
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GEFP

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BTW one of the better refrigerants -- if you don't care about flammability -- is propane! In fact one of the so-called "safe" (environmentally speaking) replacements out there basically IS propane. Of course using that in a car system could be a pretty bad idea because the condenser is right up front and people do get into wrecks on a fairly regular basis, which tend to both put holes in the condenser and produce ignition sources..... A fuel-fed fire with a couple of pounds of propane in your engine compartment (or worse, in the *passenger* compartment!) is likely to really ruin your day..... :)
I have used propane and other alkane refrigerants for years. (Red Tech, Freeze-12, Dura-cool, etc) I keep a bulk container of R-134 for keeping the warranty on new vehicles but other than that I use aftermarket refrigerants on everything. (cars, trucks, agricultural equipment) They work a lot better than R-134. Most times similar cooling at 50 -100 psi less on the high side. The molecules are also larger therefor less leaks.

Speaking of leaks. Dura-cool makes an awesome product for sealing leaks. Expensive like $40/can but it works.

I'll regularly use propane to diagnose a dead system. It's cheap. It's up to the customer if they want it left in or not. You don't need to pull a vacuum. Just push out the air with propane and start recharging the system. Propane doesn't absorb water either.

Forget about weight. Add liquid to both sides of the system until you have 100 lbs on both low and high sides. (The A/C system is not running for this.) Let it sit a few minutes for the liquid to dissipate and start up the A/C. Feel the return line at the compressor after a few minutes. If the line is cold your good. If not you need to add a bit more till the refrigerant coming back from the evaporator is cold as the compressor relies on that for cooling.

There in a nutshell is how I get an A/C system going again. I expect to hear from people who have issues with the way I do it. Before you chew away at what I've said think about what you are going to say. For instance the statement about propane exploding in an accident. I've never heard of it happening and cars/trucks have run on propane for years. Aftermarket refrigerant manufacturers are aware of the risk and they still produce flammable refrigerants. Also I was told that GM did a test run a few years ago with I believe about 500 pickups running on propane charged A/C in the state of California.
 

Genesis

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Oh propane is an awesome refrigerant in terms of actual heat transport, it's not something the EPA gets all pissed off about, it's cheap and generally has good compatibility with oils, seals and such too. You still want to pull a vacuum though as water vapor in the system can freeze in the TXV and cause performance problems. The manufacturers won't use propane despite its superior cooling due to the liability issues. In fact I heard there's a lot of screaming going on related to the upcoming R134a replacement (EPA again) in that a couple of the manufacturers have found it's flammable under the "wrong" circumstances too, and that's got them more than a bit concerned.

Filling to 100psi on a static system in warm weather (e.g. 90F) will get you "close enough" for the system to work reasonably well. But if you have gauges and cans of refrigerant why not charge with the correct amount instead of guessing? It's not very hard to do.....

Propane as a *fuel* is a different matter liability wise since the tank is reasonably well-guarded (as is a fuel tank full of gas) and has a "pull in to run" solenoid on the output, so in a wreck the fuel source is isolated much as the fuel pump is cut off with a gas tank. You sure as hell wouldn't approve if your propane fuel tank was mounted in front of the radiator!
 

AndyBees

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I'll add a few comments and two questions.

1. The best of gauges can be faulty. Thus if your gauges cannot hold a vacuum, you're pissing in the wind.

2. While waiting to see if your system will hold a vacuum, check the ambient temp. If ambient temp goes up or down so will the vacuum reading, although minor which could give you false info.

3. Although the primary purpose to pull a vacuum is to remove the air, vacuum results in water boiling which turns it to a vapor. The vapor comes out with the air. So, pulling a long deep vacuum has good benefits.

Questions:

1. So, is Red Tech (Red Tek, Red Tec) basically propane?

2. Will R134a mix with propane?
 

GEFP

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Genesis

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As GEFP noted the "alkanes" are all ok with R12, but I don't know if they're ok with R134a. The biggest issue is that they run at a different pressure and their weight is different too, so exactly how much is a "correct" charge can be a bit fun to get right. You would basically have to guess, especially with a mixture where you're not sure how much is in the system to start with.

There's some stuff called "EnviroSafe" that is likely a propane/isobutane mix in some proportion (of note is that portable backpacking stove fuel cans are the same thing, but the percentages are likely quite different) and is designed to run at near R134a pressures. You might want to consider that. Just tag the system if you do because any commercial shop that gets that stuff in their recovery system will be VERY angry with you (contaminants in their recovered refrigerant tanks can get them fined by the recyclers when they go to recycle them.)

Note that "neat" propane intended for fuel use (and isobutane mixes intended for fuel) typically have mercaptan added to them so they stink. That is a sulfur compound. Guess what sulfur + H20 makes? Uh huh -- H2SO4 -- sulfuric acid! I therefore would likely buy something like the Envirosafe product as they grab the propane/butane BEFORE the mercaptan is added to it, thus no corrosion risk.
 
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GEFP

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One thing I did not mention that is rather important... If you are going to try propane straight out of the bottle it needs to be filtered. I guess it's not very clean as a friend of mine plugged up an expansion valve with contaminants from the propane. I got lucky and found a ceramic filter that's good for 5000 psi that I clean the propane with.
 

intro

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How long has the system been open to air? (no Freon)
You should replace the dryer before charging it.
Seriously? So that sucks. I was all set to take it somewhere tomorrow for the evacuation and charging. Today I got all the right o-rings for the expansion valve and the lower condenser connection and buttoned everything up. I had replaced the dryer years ago when I did the compressor but as you say, it's been open to air at that break that had been at the dryer to condenser line and more recently down below with the lower condenser fitting. What's the concern? That its rusted or dried out now? Wouldn't oil from the recharge fix that? Do I have to worry about the compressor having been affected as well even though it remained unplugged for fear I might hit the ad switch without refrigerant circulating.
Thanks!
 

intro

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The dryer MUST be replaced. In addition I would flush the system. It's not very hard; find a diver if you're not one, get a scuba tank and air nozzle adapter for the BCD hose (so you have a source of extremely clean and DRY air -- do NOT use shop air or air out of a shop-style compressor!) Get new O-rings for the TXV and dryer fittings, plus the condenser hose. The dive tank full of air is what you use, of course, after you run whatever solvent (something that leaves no residue please!) through the various pieces. Do NOT flush the compressor (if you want to clean it out you need to completely disassemble it, then replace the oil, etc) -- but everything else would be a good idea while you've got the ability to do it easily and the system has no charge in it (so there's no recovery requirement first.)

When you put the new dryer in get the correct amount of oil for the dryer (and if you flushed the system the condenser and evap -- it's small) and put that in the compressor, then turn it by hand before you charge it so you're sure it's not hydrolocked.

The dryer goes in LAST. Leave the plugs in until you're ready to connect it. It's a bear on the ALHs due to how it's mounted; that's a definite "skin off hands" thing, but it is where it is. A ball-end set of allen wrenches will make that top bolt on the dryer easier, but a regular allen wrench CAN be used -- you just have to be careful.

Just remember on the various line connections that you're NOT sealing with the tightness of the connection -- that's the job of the O-ring. You're going into aluminum with those bolts and you WILL strip the threads if you crank on it. Don't. It just has to be tight enough to not back off and allow the O-ring to extrude, not cranked down.

Then pull a hard vacuum on it; when it gets to full vacuum (30") shut the valves and turn the pump off. Go inside and WAIT at LEAST a half-hour. Come back and check the gauges. They should NOT HAVE MOVED A MILLIMETER. If they did there's a leak or you didn't get all the moisture out. Do it again; if it moves a second time the system is leaking. Find the problem before you go further.

If not turn the pump back on, open the valves and let the pump run for at least 30 minutes. An hour is better. You want every bit of moisture to boil off and get out of there. That's why the long time; technically once you have a hard vacuum that doesn't leak down you're there, but the extra 30 minutes is good insurance, and you don't have to babysit it.

Then charge the system by weight. It's 2 full 12oz cans + 100g out of a third (2 cans is 680g + 100 is 780; spec is 750 +50 tolerance). You NEED a scale for the third can -- no way around it. These systems are fairly hard to "slug" with liquid as the low side fitting is a decent distance from the compressor but even so be careful and don't invert the can; better is to start the charge with all gas, and once the system is running "slosh" it back and forth with occasional tips to horizontal. The compressor should come on somewhere around 35-40psi on the *high* side gauge and once it starts it should keep running if there are no restrictions as there is no low-side sensor on the ALH. A bit of liquid that sloshes into the sight glass is ok and will speed things up somewhat, but a lot is NOT OK.

WEAR GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION. If you get a leak at any point and the refrigerant as a liquid gets on you it WILL frostbite you, and if it sprays out and gets in your eyes you're screwed.

Oh, and you might want to run over to Autozone or wherever else and get a set of low and high side service fittings. There's a non-zero chance one or both leak when you disconnect them after all this time. If you have a replacement then you are out two more cans of refrigerant. If you don't then you're out (another!) dryer since you can't immediately replace the bad one and charge it again! If you want to be proactive (many shops are) just replace both -- they're pretty cheap, about $5 each.
Wow, thanks a lot for the wealth of info. I don't think I'll be able to do all this though. My plan was to take it somewhere to have the system vacuumed and refilled. Today I finished up, changing the expansion valve and o rings and replacing the o ring and bolt that I started the thread with.

Does the dryer really have to be replaced you think? I had replaced it years ago with the compressor and that's when I got into trouble, snapping the condenser line. Don't want to do that again for sure.

And now you've got me nervous about the compressor. Could it really be waterlogged or seized from the system being open. I hope not, it was a brand new Behr. I've kept it unplugged all this time just in case with the system empty.
 
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intro

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Where does one usually go to get the recharge done? I've heard it's best to look for an independent shop that deal only in ac. Not having a lot of luck finding a place and don't feel comfortable trusting a Pep Boys.
 

Genesis

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Yes, the dryer has to be replaced on a R134a system! That refrigerant + moisture makes an acid, which will eat the inside of the system over time. The dessicant in many of the dryers is one-time use (chemical reaction, not simple absorption), so once it's open to atmosphere it's "full" of water, will NOT release it under vacuum, and also can't absorb any more. Therefore ANY amount of water vapor will eventually kill things that are hard to change (like the evaporator, which you have to rip the entire dash out to get at, or the compressor which is sort of expensive.)

It ain't worth it given that the dryer is not an expensive component; $20 at IDparts + another $2 for the o-rings.
 
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intro

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Yes, the dryer has to be replaced on a R134a system! That refrigerant + moisture makes an acid, which will eat the inside of the system over time. The dessicant in many of the dryers is one-time use (chemical reaction, not simple absorption), so once it's open to atmosphere it's "full" of water, will NOT release it under vacuum, and also can't absorb any more. Therefore ANY amount of water vapor will eventually kill things that are hard to change (like the evaporator, which you have to rip the entire dash out to get at, or the compressor which is sort of expensive.)

It ain't worth it given that the dryer is not an expensive component; $20 at IDparts + another $2 for the o-rings.
Just to be clear, even though the dryer had been sitting there in the car the last 3 or so years, it's never had refrigerant run through it.
 

GEFP

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Just to be clear, even though the dryer had been sitting there in the car the last 3 or so years, it's never had refrigerant run through it.
That doesn't really matter if the system has been left open. Every night the air cools off and the system sucks a bit of cool humid air in. During the day it gets warm and the air pushes back out but it leaves some of the humidity behind as it condenses on the cooler metal. Next day the cycle repeats itself.

The desiccant in the receiver dryer can only absorb so much moisture and then it's full. It won't boil off when you pull a vacuum because absorbing humidity is a chemical reaction. Just do yourself a favor and replace the receiver dryer.
 

intro

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Ok guys, thanks for saving me the trouble down the line. The condenser and compressor should be ok though I hope? So the heat from the vacuuming process can clear those passages just fine because there's no absorption anywhere? I guess I wasn't to clear on the function of the dryer. Will replace, really hope I don't f up that condenser again though, going to take my time.
 

Genesis

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Should be.

Any liquid (condensed) or vapor water will boil under vacuum; that's the point of doing and holding it, basically. Getting the air out of there is also important (since air doesn't phase-change, which is where the cooling comes from; the heat of evaporation is why refrigerants refrigerate.)

There is always risk on anything left open like that for a length of time in that contamination can certainly have gotten in there. I'd contemplate removing the TXV, hose to the condenser (high pressure side) and then flushing everything except the compressor, then using either nitrogen (if you have it) or a tank of scuba air (which is extremely dry and very clean) to blow everything out before you put the system back in service, plus changing all the O-rings just so I don't wind up doing it again.

But in terms of "musts" it's the dryer and pulling the vacuum. When you replace the dryer do not remove the plugs from the new one until you're ready to tighten the connections; the shorter the time you have those ports open the better.
 

intro

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Ok, so I switched out the Dryer today, now what are some suggestions as far as where to take it for the evacuation and recharge (is that what I'm asking for)?

Is it safe to go to a chain store like a Pep Boys or do I want to look for a place that specializes in AC? Can anyone suggest a search term because I'm having trouble finding a place like that. I want to trust wherever I'm taking it will do what needs to be done right.
 

wonneber

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I would think any repair shop that has all the equipment to charge it including the gauges, vacuum pump, correct oil as needed & such.

If the system was open for a long time (picture of the dangling hose) it really should be flushed.

I would let them open the dryer and install it at that time.

This is one of the things where you shouldn't cut corners.
 

intro

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I would think any repair shop that has all the equipment to charge it including the gauges, vacuum pump, correct oil as needed & such.

If the system was open for a long time (picture of the dangling hose) it really should be flushed.

I would let them open the dryer and install it at that time.

This is one of the things where you shouldn't cut corners.
At Sears now. They are doing the evacuation and making sure there's no leaks. Fingers crossed.
 

intro

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Ugh. Evacuation was done, no leaks, but the compressor isn't getting power. Before leaving the house I struggled to clip the connector back on, it wasn't clicking in place so I pushed it on as hard as I could and zip-tied it. The tech said the issue was the wire connector itself wasnt getting power, I guess he metered it. He said he changed a burnt out fuse but it wasn't clear which one (not sure what else is on that circuit at the moment). I'm wondering if maybe the relay is bad? Open to suggestions on troubleshooting. I do remember jumping power to the old compressor years ago to rule out a wiring issue so this is a new problem.
 

intro

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Ugh. Evacuation was done, no leaks, but the compressor isn't getting power. Before leaving the house I struggled to clip the connector back on, it wasn't clicking in place so I pushed it on as hard as I could and zip-tied it. The tech said the issue was the wire connector itself wasnt getting power, I guess he metered it. He said he changed a burnt out fuse but it wasn't clear which one (not sure what else is on that circuit at the moment). I'm wondering if maybe the relay is bad? Open to suggestions on troubleshooting. I do remember jumping power to the old compressor years ago to rule out a wiring issue so this is a new problem.

Ok, I went back and did a little reading on some of the testing procedures I had gone through years ago when diagnosing the compressor. The FCM had checked out at that point. I see there is no AC relay. I'm going to go out tomorrow morning and make sure I didn't forget to plug something in when I swapped the condenser out. Am I correct in understanding that if the tech had never gotten as far as adding refrigerant and only evacuated and checked for pressure on an empty system, the ac wouldn't have received power? Or the signal to kick on? Thanks.
 
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