By Marion J Posen, MACS VP member relations and marketing
Everyone knows the Schrader valve; it’s been around since 1893, and has been used in A/C systems since we haven’t had to open the car windows to stay cool. But few people are aware of the technology and manufacturing complexity used to make these simple little valves. Meet MACS member, Jeff Schultz, the product engineer for Schrader A/C valves. Jeff is the senior product engineer at Schrader in Altavista, Virginia. Jeff, who has been at Schrader for 28-years, helped develop the family of Schrader A/C valves. Jeff is responsible for a variety of engineering improvements in the function and durability of these valves and enhancing their quality.
Jeff explains, “Schrader is, as of September 2018, a part of Pacific Industries. Schrader has been the largest producer of A/C charge and service valves in North America. Pacific Industries has a similar market share of A/C valves in Asia. The combined Schrader Pacific is now the dominant global producer of A/C valves, and so will bring a new level of technological development and technical support to the industry.”
The Schrader U.S. lineup of A/C valves is the broadest in the industry. Schrader produces every style of A/C valve used in the world. Each valve design is engineered, and is produced, for a specific application. These valves, almost 150 million of them a year, will continue to be made right here in the USA, in central Virginia. The production system is highly automated, and includes multiple automated quality checks, including a leak test of every valve to assure that all Schrader valves meet the most stringent original equipment (OE) quality standards.
Recently, Jeff gave a plant tour to MACS manager of service training, Steve Schaeber. Steve witnessed the processes used to make the various cores. Jeff showed Steve how the valve components are machined, in specialized, high speed, precision machining centers, some producing as many as 22 million pieces per year. Following thorough washing and nickel plating on some parts in the Schrader plating facility, the components are brought to the valve assembly area. During the assembly operation, which produces two valve cores a second, each valve is subjected to multiple quality checks for dimensions and assembly integrity. Every valve is leak tested ensuring when the (end user) technician pulls a valve out of the box he can be confident it will not need to be replaced again. Schrader produces these A/C valves for the OE vehicle market, but all valves including those for the aftermarket, are made to the same exacting standards.
Jeff started his employment at Schrader in 1991. Jeff had assignments in manufacturing, engineering and quality, as well as product engineering. Jeff helped implement new valve designs supporting the transition from R-12 to R-134a. In addition to his responsibilities at Schrader, Jeff has been active with the SAE Committees responsible for drafting the Standards for A/C systems, helping to assure the valves function effectively in the system. Now, with the transition to R-1234yf, and development of possible R-152a and R-744 systems, A/C valves continue evolving to meet new system needs. Jeff splits his time between the production floor, the test lab and customer meetings. It’s not unusual to find Jeff collaborating with the vehicle engineering team, or the line suppliers, or at one of the vehicle assembly plants assisting with vehicle charging or other build concerns. The current transition to R-1234yf has brought a number of new requirements: higher operating temperatures, new refrigerant oils, and increased system integrity. While the changes to the valves aren’t obvious, there have been a number of new improvements implemented and countless laboratory hours spent in testing to assure that Schrader valves will meet every challenge.
MACS’ importance gains increasingly as A/C systems continue to become more complex, and more differentiated among different refrigerants. As a member of MACS for over 25 years, Schrader has recognized the critical role MACS plays in bringing essential product and system information to the aftermarket service industry. Schrader recognizes that MACS is our best means of talking to the people who use our valves, and know the service issues. We learn from MACS service technicians, and, in turn, we try to provide educational materials through MACS to help educate the industry about the valves.
If you are coming to MACS 2019 Training Event and Trade Show, February 21-23, 2019 at the Anaheim Marriott in Anaheim, California, be sure to visit Jeff and his team in the Schrader booth.