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Thread: Convert Your A/C System to Use an Alternative Refrigerant

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    Convert Your A/C System to Use an Alternative Refrigerant

    OK, as regular visitors to the forum already know, I recently converted the A/C system on my DeLorean to run on R-152a (aka Ultra-Duster/Dust-Off/etc) as opposed to the stock/OEM R-12 (which now requires an EPA certification in order to purchase lawfully).

    The problem that necessitates having to perform such a conversion is two fold: 1) a relatively small/minor leak in your system has caused enough of the stock/OEM R-12 to leak out of the system that such has rendered the system either ineffective or completely un-useable in its present condition; and 2) a desire to avoid obtaining the requisite EPA certification and pay the often times comparatively high prices associated in securing replacement R-12 refrigerant for your system.

    Of course, there could be other reasons that rendered the A/C on your particular car from functioning, but the scope of this tutorial will focus solely on the refrigerant conversion of an otherwise functional system.

    The first course of action in such a conversion should be to familiarize yourself with the basic layout and functioning of the components involved in the A/C system, a standard General Motors / Harrison Radiator fixed orifice design, with six primary components - the compressor, the condenser, the orifice tube, the evaporator, the accumulator (aka drier), and the low pressure switch.

    The locations of these components are as follows:

    Compressor: engine bay mounted via brackets off the driver's side valve cover

    Condenser: behind the front clip/fascia and in front of the engine cooling system's radiator

    Orifice Tube: in the feed line between the condenser and the evaporator where the line turns into a metal pipe and passes thru the fiberglass tub / bulkhead

    Evaporator: within the cabin of the car inside the climate control / ventilation box on the passenger side end of the box

    Accumulator: mounted to an exterior fiberglass tub wall in the front passenger side wheel well

    Low Pressure Switch: mounted to the accumulator

    Essentially, the compressor takes gaseous refrigerant and compresses it into a liquid and sends the pressurized and heated liquid refrigerant to the condenser, which cools the liquid refrigerant via the passage/draw of forced ambient air over the condenser (either via virtue of the car's motion or the activation of the car's electric cooling fans).

    From the condenser, the liquid refrigerant travels to and encounters the restriction of the orifice tube (which acts as a barrier between the high pressure side of the system and low pressure side of the system), which focuses/concentrates the liquid refrigerant into a small narrow outflow passage, essentially atomizing it (kind of like a fuel injector), which has the effect of rapidly expanding the liquid refrigerant passing through it and lowering the pressure / temperatures of said liquid refrigerant to the point that it changes state as it heads to the evaporator.

    It's in the evaporator that the pressure / temperature of the liquid refrigerant falls so low that it reverts back into a gaseous state, the effect of which causes an additional lowering of the temperature of the now gaseous refrigerant. As the cold low pressure gaseous refrigerant travels through the evaporator, outside ambient or cabin air is drawn across/through the evaporator by the HVAC blower motor (fan), which is cooled/chilled by the coldness of the gaseous refrigerant filled evaporator, and is then pushed by the blower motor (fan) through the ducting system, out the vents, and into the cabin of your car.

    From the evaporator, the now gaseous refrigerant heads to the accumulator, where it is filtered and dried of any moisture that may have infiltrated the system (or been present in less than pure refrigerant products) and mixes with miscible lubrication oil that has accumulated there by virtue of system operation. Attached to the accumulator is the low pressure switch, which monitors the pressure of the gaseous refrigerant passing through the accumulator, and controls the activation/cycling of the compressor based on such pressures at the range in which it has been adjusted/calibrated to work within.

    The gaseous refrigerant (low pressure/low temperature) then travels back to the compressor, where it's compressed back into liquid form and the cycle begins all over again.

    You can follow the process/cycle from start to finish on the image below:



    Here's a visual representation of the functioning of a similar style system (expansion valve), albeit the function and location of the accumulator in such systems is different:



    Now that you have a basic understanding of the system components, their operation/function, and their locations on the car, we're ready to dive into doing our conversion with the required (and optional) parts list!
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
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    Special Note:

    Several people insist that at a minimum, you should change out the accumulator and orifice tube when doing a conversion, under the believe that it's physically impossible to sufficiently/effectively flush through these components. While it's true that flushing through the accumulator will cause it to partially fill with the flushing agent, it's also possible to sufficiently blow and vacuum all (or most) of the flush agent out of it, thus the choice as to how to approach this aspect of your conversion is completely up to you as the individual owner.





    Caution should be taken in making such a decision, as due to corrosion and the factory bend of the tubing that contains the orifice tube, both jobs, that while sounding like they should be relatively simple and easy, could end up turning into a nightmare and cause you to have to replace the evaporator and primary high and low side hoses as well, which are all pricey components in and of themselves, and NOT an easy undertaking to accomplish - changing out the evaporator is a MONUMENTAL undertaking and a royal PIA (of course, if your evaporator has a leak, you'll to need to change it out regardless).





    Thus, only if you're prepared to accept the worse case scenario should things NOT go as easily as was originally planned/anticipated should you even consider replacing the accumulator and the orifice tube, at least IMHO anyway. If you get lucky (many owners have), you get lucky - good for you But many owners also face the nightmare scenario - can I get an 'Amen,' Farrar?

    As I'm personally adverse to spending more money than I otherwise would have to in order to replace parts that weren't broken before i broke them in attempting to take them apart, I chose to try the conversion without replacing the accumulator or orifice tube, and it worked remarkably well.

    Another concern for owners of pre 3466 VINs, such as myself, is that the design of the accumulator used on the cars changed, and the early style accumulator that's required for a direct replacement isn't easy to find/locate, nor is it cheap - compare $99.95 for the early style accumulator to $18.95 for the later style on Special T's website. DMCH doesn't even offer the early style on their website anymore....

    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
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    For the conversion process only, you'll want to have the following parts/tools available to you and ready to go before tackling the project - pictures and links are to the exact parts/tools that I used (keep in mind that I usually always try to buy the cheapest made in USA products that I can find when/where practical):

    - pair of pliers

    - scratch-awl or similar poking device

    - 9/16" open ended or box wrench

    - 13mm open ended or box or socket (with extension) wrench

    - 11/16" open ended or box wrench

    - a funnel that will fit the low side hose connection opening

    - flushing agent of some type (mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, or any of the specific A/C flush products available), minimum 1 gallon



    - an air compressor capable of generating sufficient pressure to blow through the orifice tube and a suitable blower nozzle

    - catch bucket for old oil / expelled flushing agent

    - manifold gauge set (with hoses equipped with fittings for use on either R-12 or R-134a service ports - note that R-134a fittings will require the addition of R-134a quick-connect adapters being added to the top of the stock/OEM service ports)



    http://www.tooldiscounter.com/ItemDi...e&kw=MAS33636#

    - a/c vacuum pump (can be substituted by using engine vacuum, though a dedicated system pump is preferable)



    http://www.harborfreight.com/25-cfm-...ump-98076.html

    - 6oz-8oz of ester oil (*Note: DO NOT use PAG oil in a system or any system component that previously had mineral oil in it, as to do so poses the risk of causing what's known in HVAC circles as the 'black death' - use ester oil)



    http://www.pepboys.com/product/detai...nlyStore=false

    - refrigerant can tapper (either a top screw on or a universal side) (unless you're using a large refillable cylinder of refrigerant)



    http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-in-1-Side-...3c01f4&vxp=mtr

    - a cooking pot for boiling water and a means to heat up the water to boiling temperatures

    - anti-seize thread lubricant



    - a flat blade screw driver

    - your choice of alternative refrigerant and enough of it to fully charge the system (see Step 21 for the applicable amounts)

    *Special note: you want to make sure to purchase ONLY pure refrigerant, and NOT refrigerant mixed with oil (as is commonly found at many retailers and auto parts houses)



    Optional parts/tools include the following, though are heavily recommend:

    - compressor hose connection o-rings (standard size available at any auto parts house)

    - replacement 1/4" sae schrader valve cores with teflon seal



    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Authentic-Sc...item1c32b9909a

    - schrader valve core removal/insertion tool (or skinny needle nose pliers)



    - o-rings for the service port caps (if you're using the brass stock/OEM ones) (standard size available at any auto parts house)
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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    Step 1: Locate the compressor and remove the service port caps, exposing the schrader valves. This may require the use of a pliers in order to remove the caps, depending upon how tightly they were originally installed.

    P1010005.jpg

    P1010006.jpg

    P1010007.jpg

    Step 2: Using a scratch-awl or other such poking device, depress the schrader cores in both service ports until both sides are completely alleviated of pressure. Technically, you're supposed to use a refrigerant recovery machine and recover any refrigerant that might be left in the system as opposed to venting it to the atmosphere, but I won't tell anyone if you don't Replace the service port caps loosely.

    P1010009.jpg

    Step 3: Using a 9/16" open ended or box wrench, remove the bolt securing the holding plate to the compressor, which holds the high and low side hose connectors onto the compressor backing plate. The hoses will now be free from the compressor.

    P1010012.jpg

    P1010015.jpg

    Step 4: Using a 13mm open ended or box or socket (with extension) wrench, remove the 4 bolts holding the compressor's mounting brackets onto the driver's side valve cover of the engine. Unplug the compressor's electrical power wire connector - it's simply a pull apart, push/snap on connector. Tilt the compressor forward to remove the belt from the compressor's pulley and remove the compressor from the engine bay.

    P1010018.jpg

    P1010017.jpg

    P1010019.jpg

    Step 5: Using an 11/16" open ended or box wrench, remove the oil fill/drain plug from the compressor. Position the compressor over a catch container of some kind and rotate it so that the fill/drain hole is above the catch container, allowing any oil within to drain out of the compressor and into the catch container. While allowing the compressor to drain like this, occasionally manually rotate the clutch several full rotations to assist the gravity draining of the oil. After allowing the compressor to drain in such a fashion for a good period of time, rotate it so that the hose connection ports on the backing plate are now directly above the catch container, allowing any oil within to drain out of the compressor and into the catch container. Again, while allowing the compressor to drain like this, occasionally manually rotate the clutch several full rotations to assist the gravity draining of the oil. Don't be surprised if not much (if any) oil comes out of the compressor, especially if your system is still all original.

    P1010020.jpg

    P1010021.jpg

    P1010022.jpg

    P1010023.jpg

    Step 6: While letting the compressor gravity drain, you can do the back-flush of your A/C system. Prepare for back-flushing by positioning the high side hose, that's the skinnier of the two hoses and the one that has a 90 degree bent metal tube between the compressor connector and the rubber hose, so that it aims/directs any discharge onto the floor (unless you want oil and solvent all over your engine bay). Then position a catch container somewhere on the ground below the high side hose so that it catches the oil/flush agent that will be discharged from it. Make sure that your air compressor is all charged up and ready to go and that you have a blower nozzle on the air compressor hose that will allow you to blow compressed air (at significant pressures) into the low side hose. Using a funnel, pour your flushing agent of choice into the low side hose (the thicker of the two and the one with a straight connector to hose fitting) until the system will accept no more. Then use your air compressor / blower nozzle to blow compressed air into the low side hose. To do this properly requires that you get a good seal between the low side hose and blower nozzle so that you can build sufficient air pressure within the system. This will push the flush agent backwards through the orifice tube and throughout the rest of the system until it is discharged out the high pressure hose and into your catch container. Repeat this step several times until you've exhausted about 1 gallon of your flush agent. Don't be alarmed if you don't recover as much flush agent as you put into the system, as the accumulator will partially fill with the flush agent.

    P1010024.jpg

    P1010027.jpg

    P1010028.jpg
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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    Step 7: Now that you are done with the flushing agent, blow out both the low and high side hoses until you get nothing but compressed air being discharged from the system. Start by back-blowing - low side to high side. Then reposition your hoses so that you can forward blow high side to low side.

    Step 8: Remove the two rubber o-rings from the back plate of the compressor. If you won't be replacing them with new, then simply flip around the existing ones upon re-installation, otherwise replace them with new.

    P1010026.jpg

    P1010025.jpg

    Step 9: Fill the compressor with 6oz-8oz of ester oil. While it's commonly accepted within the community that system capacity is 6oz, the Sanden manual (manufacturer of the compressor) states that 8 oz is the total system capacity. Accordingly, I put roughly 7oz into my system. All of the oil added to the system should be added directly to the compressor via the fill/drain hole. There is no need to add oil anywhere else, as the system will disperse it as it sees fit. After filling with oil, reinsert the fill/drain plug/bolt, and manually rotate the clutch at least a dozen complete rotations to get the oil saturating all the internal parts.

    P1010029.jpg

    P1010030.jpg

    Step 10: Reinstall the compressor by reversing what you did to remove it. Apply anti-seize to the threads of the screws/bolts that hold the bracket onto the valve cover so that they won't seize in the aluminum of the valve cover. Reattach the hoses and tighten down the bolt (apply anti-seize to the threads) securing the holding plate to the compressor, but be careful not to tighten too much, as you don't want to crush the o-rings or mess up the receiving threads in the compressor backing plate. When facing the compressor from the back of the car, as you would when normally looking at the engine, the low side hose connects to the left hand port of the compressor, while the high side hose connects to the right hand port of the compressor. Once again, remove the service port caps. Don't forget to hook the electrical power wire back up.

    P1010031.jpg

    P1010032.jpg

    Step 11 (optional, but highly recommended, as 8 times out of 10, a leak in the system is caused by degraded valve cores): Remove and replace the schrader valve cores with new replacement cores. The old ones simply unscrew out, and the new ones simply screw in.

    P1010010.jpg

    Step 12: Set up your manifold gauge set in the engine bay, connecting the blue hose to the low side (left hand) service port, and the red hose to the high side (right hand) service port. Make sure that when you attach the hoses to your manifold gauge set that you connect the open ended fittings of the hoses to the manifold gauges, so that you can attach the fitting ends with the schrader core depressors in them onto the service ports and vacuum pump/tap/refrigerant cylinder. If you're using the same manifold gauge set and hoses as me, tighten down the fittings on the service ports as much as you possibly can by hand, and then back them off approximately 3/4 - 1 full turn - if you don't do this, the seals in the core depressors will become crushed and prevent flow through the hoses.

    P1010034.jpg

    P1010033.jpg
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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    Step 13: Setup your vacuum pump somewhere in or near the engine bay where it can operate on a flat level surface. Connect the yellow hose from your manifold gauge set to your vacuum pump. Again, if you're using the same manifold gauge set and hoses as me, tighten down the fittings on the vacuum port as much as you possibly can by hand, and then back it off approximately 3/4 - 1 full turn - if you don't do this, the seal in the core depressor will become crushed and prevent flow through the hose. Make sure that the cap on the other/unused port on the vacuum pump is tightened down good. Make sure that the valves for both sides are open on the manifold gauges. Initiate the vacuum pump. Within the first thirty seconds, you should see the gauges drop into vacuum, as well as see some vaporized gases escaping from the pump's air discharge port. You can leave the vacuum on the system for as long as you wish without any ill effects (other than possibly burning out your vacuum pump if it's operating in a low ventilation area with a hot ambient temperature). After a flush, I strongly recommend a minimum of 4 hours of vacuuming, if not even longer (I let mine vacuum down over night for close to 12 hours), as it could take a while to boil out your flush agent from the accumulator if it's full. Before disengaging the vacuum pump after vacuuming for as long as you desired, close the valves for both sides on the manifold gauges. Then, disengage the vacuum pump, disconnect the yellow hose from it, and set the vacuum pump aside, as you're now done with it.

    P1010035.jpg

    P1010037.jpg

    Step 14 (optional): Record the level of vacuum that the manifold gauges are showing. Let the system sit static/idle for at least 12 hours with the vacuum in it. This will assist you in determining how leaky your system is. If upon your return to the system, the gauges read the same as before, or only decreased slightly, then you can rest assured that your system is for the most part leak free. However, if you return to your system only to discover that the vacuum has dropped significantly (or even entirely), then there's a rather large leak somewhere in your system that you'll want to identify and repair before proceeding onward with charging (of which, such is beyond the scope of this 'how to').

    Step 15: Start boiling a pot of water so that it will be boiling hot and ready when you need it.

    P1010042.jpg

    Step 16: Move the car outside (if you were previously inside).

    P1010052.jpg

    Step 17: Start the car. Make sure that the blend dial is set all the way to cool, set the HVAC mode switch to Max, and turn on the blower to speed 4.

    P1010040.jpg

    Step 18: Connect the yellow hose that was previously on the vacuum pump to your can tapper or your refrigerant tank. Again, if you're using the same manifold gauge set and hoses as me, tighten down the fittings on the tapper port as much as you possibly can by hand, and then back it off approximately 3/4 - 1 full turn - if you don't do this, the seal in the core depressor will become crushed and prevent flow through the hose. Go ahead and tap your can of refrigerant or open the valve on your refrigerant tank. If using a side tapper like me, be sure to tap the side of the can near the top of the can, as opposed to the middle or bottom of the can. Unscrew the yellow hose from the manifold gauge set until you see/hear/feel refrigerant escaping from the hose, and then tighten it back down again - you do this to purge the charge line of the air that was within it. If using a can of refrigerant, you may have to shake the can a little to get it to purge the line.

    P1010041.jpg

    P1010050.jpg

    P1010044.jpg

    Step 19: You are now ready to open the low side valve on your manifold gauge set and charge the system with refrigerant. Only charge via the low side. DO NOT open the high side valve - it stays tightly closed for the remainder of the project. The vacuum within your system should suck several ounces of refrigerant into the system immediately after the low side valve is opened, but the charge pressure will remain relatively low until the compressor starts cycling or you add a stimulus (heat) to the refrigerant can.

    P1010043.jpg

    P1010045.jpg
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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    Step 20: Go get the pot of water that you began boiling earlier if you haven't brought it out already. While you were getting the pot of water, you may notice that the compressor has started to cycle - that's a great sign, and exactly what you want it to do. Place your pot of boiling hot water somewhere so that you can place the bottom of your refrigerant can into it - I used a step ladder setup just behind the car. Then go ahead and place your refrigerant can into the pot of boiling hot water. The contents of the can should disperse into your system pretty quickly after introducing the can to the boiling hot water, and you'll notice a big jump in the charging pressure.

    P1010051.jpg

    P1010047.jpg

    Step 21: Check the can until it feels like it's empty. When your can is empty, you're ready to change it out with a fresh can. The side tapper that I used has built in schrader valves on its ports, thus all that's required to change cans is to declamp the spent can and dispose of it, and clamp in a fresh can. No additional purging of the charge hose is required as no new air was introduced to the charge hose during the can change over (thanks to the schrader valve in the tapper port). However, not all tappers function this way - determine what you need to do with the tapper that you've purchased to prevent the introduction of air into the system during a can change. For some, this will require closing the low side valve on the manifold gauge set, re-purging the yellow charge hose, and re-opening the low side valve on the manifold gauge set. When changing cans, you may notice that a little refrigerant remained in the can that the system just wouldn't take - this is normal and expected.

    Charge the system in the fashion described above until you've accomplished a full charge. Once you've accomplished a full charge, close off the low side valve on the manifold gauge set. You may now turn the car off.

    The following are the weights/amounts of refrigerant that constitute a full system charge for the three most popular R-12 alternative refrigerants on the market today. Note that because it's impossible to get every ounce of refrigerant out of a can and into the system because of hose purging, impurities in the refrigerant product that don't vaporize, etc, that you'll want to use slightly more refrigerant than the combined total capacities of the cans you're using in order to obtain a full system charge. Also, it's better to slightly overcharge the system than it is to undercharge the system, as it's a lot easier to vent refrigerant from the system than it is to get additional refrigerant into the system after the fact.

    R-134a: 30oz - 34oz
    R-152a: 20oz - 22oz
    12a products (propane/butane/methane/ethane blends): 12.5oz - 14oz

    I used R-152a in my system, aka Dust-Off/Ultra-Duster/etc. (essentially any Difluoroethane based air-duster product on the market), which took approximately 2.5 10oz cans of the Dust-Off product I used in this full charge up.

    Step 22: Disconnect the manifold gauges from the car's service ports as quickly as possible (to prevent the loss of refrigerant from the system) - you are now done with them. Reattach the caps to the service ports, adding o-rings to them to use as a crush seal, if you so desire.

    P1010057.jpg

    Step 23: Access the adjustment screw on the low pressure switch (LPS) (located on the accumulator in the passenger side wheel well) by disconnecting the electrical plug from it. You should be able to do this without having to jack up the front end and/or removing the wheel/tire, unless your car was previously lowered. Adjust the low pressure switch so that the compressor cycles most efficiently for the type of refrigerant that you're now running. The stock/OEM setting (for R-12) should be somewhere around a 25psi cut off. 1/4 turn of the screw equates to roughly 1 psi of pressure. Turning the screw counter-clockwise lowers the cut-off pressure, while turning the screw clockwise increases the cut-off pressure. The ideal cut-off pressure for each of the three alternative refrigerants covered here for average ambient temps of below 100F are as follows:

    R-134a: 22psi

    http://www.pacificseabreeze.com/tech...a-PT-Chart.htm

    R-152a: 19psi

    http://www.hvacsuitemobile.com/HVACS...a_TP_chart.pdf

    12a products (propane/butane/methane/ethane blends): 27psi

    http://www.coolearthinc.com/PDFs/tem...t%2812a%29.pdf

    If you think that your LPS was adjusted by a PO (previous owner) and aren't sure where it's currently set at, then you'll need to use your manifold gauge set to properly adjust the cut-off pressure. As that's beyond the scope of this otherwise simple 'how to', I'm going to refer you to Alex's excellent blog entry and accompanying video covering such process/procedure in more detail. Regardless, the video is a good watch, as it shows you the location of the LPS, how to access it, and how to adjust it (which is why I didn't provide any pictures of this from my own conversion, as it's all shown in the video)

    http://delorean6575revisited.blogspo...ystem-and.html



    Step 24: You are now ready to take your car for a ride to test the condition of your newly refrigerant converted A/C system! If you so desire, you can check your vent temperatures using a small probe thermometer inserted into the passenger side center console vent (as it's the closest one to the evaporator).

    If after all that, you're not getting cold temperatures from your vents, then you have a problem elsewhere in your system which will need to be identified and remedied before using the A/C system further.

    If your vent temps are so cold that they're freezing or dropping below freezing (which is noticed by a reduction of air flow after a very cold spell of air being discharged from the vents), then you have the LPS adjusted too low and are freezing up the evaporator. Simply adjust the LPS cut-off pressure upwards by a couple psi until you get the system running so that it no longer freezes up the evaporator.

    Enjoy and stay cool my friends!
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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    Senior Member 2628's Avatar
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    Excellent Tutorial! Thank you for posting this!
    Only thing i can think of ? Is for all of us cheap people.
    Showing us how to use the engine as a vacuum.

    Again! Thank You.
    Great Job!

  9. #9
    Ultra bargain basement method (Steve and I used a modified version of this on Brandon's car): http://www.dmcnews.com/Techsection/r134_v2.html

    Bill Robertson
    #5939

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2628 View Post
    Excellent Tutorial! Thank you for posting this!
    Only thing i can think of ? Is for all of us cheap people.
    Showing us how to use the engine as a vacuum.

    Again! Thank You.
    Great Job!
    Bill should tackle that question, as he's the expert on that.
    "Driving Concours - proving it's possible with every mile!"

    --Josh S.
    #1798

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