This is the conclusion of a 3 part article about the air conditioning system of vehicles. Even though most vehicles produced today are equipped with air conditioning it is still a luxury option. It is not needed for the operation of a vehicle.

In the first article we discussed the process of an air conditioning inspection which is checking the operation of the compressor, it’s clutch and belt, checking the high and low pressures of the system while operating, check proper control panel operation, checking heater blower fan and engine cooling fan for operation, check for restrictions in the system, check for proper air flow through the condenser and evaporator, checking for obvious leaks. This inspection can take anywhere between ½ to an 1 hour of labor time, depending on the specific make and model of vehicle and how easy it is to access the location of the air conditioning components.

If the freon/refrigerant is determined to be low and the leak is not obvious then dye needs to be added to the system along with more freon to pressurize and operate the system properly. Depending upon whether a few ounces are added or a complete evacuation and recharge with freon and dye are suggested the price can vary. Freon is charged by the ounce and a vehicle can hold anywhere from about 14 ounces up to 48 ounces in some of the older vehicles. So you can be into a top off for as little as $50.00 again depending on how much freon/refrigerant is used and what type R-12 is substantially more expensive. A complete evacuation and recharge of a system with dye added takes about an hour and ½ of labor along with the dye and refrigerant needed and can range from about $180.00 to over $300.00 again depending on how much freon/refrigerant and the type is needed. R-134 is the standard in vehicles produced starting in 1994 and it one-third the price of R-12 that was used in vehicles produced prior to 1994.

If it has been determined that the air conditioning compressor has failed or is failing in the vehicle, this can be a very expensive repair. In order to warranty the replacement of a new a/c compressor the following procedures need to be performed: replacement of the a/c compressor, replacement of the orifice tube/expansion valve, replacement of the receiver dryer/accumulator, flushing the a/c system, a complete evacuation and recharge of the freon/refrigerant in the a/c system. We have seen this type of repair range from $1,400.00 to well over $2,300.00. Then if there is any metal or debris that was sent through the system from the old compressor, the a/c condenser needs to be replaced also, since the inner passages are so tiny it is impossible to flush all the metal out, so it can ruin the new compressor as it is released through standard operation.

If there are any leaks other than the a/c compressor, the system can generally be evacuated and the leak can either be repaired or the part replaced and the system can be rechecked and recharged. This process is impossible to even give a range of price since the parts price vary so much, but keep in mind the evacuation and recharge process price, would be added to the repair or replacement cost. We would recommend regular yearly inspections of the air conditioning system to catch weaknesses while they are still small, and can be repaired less expensively.

We would also recommend having these inspections performed by your trusted repair facility. There are sealants that have been added to some of the over the counter a/c recharge kits, that claim to seal leaks, the problem is that they actually contaminate the refrigerant and a professional repair shop cannot then properly evacuate and recover refrigerant from a vehicle with contaminated refrigerant. This sealant can actually cause damage to the air conditioning recovery equipment.

Air conditioning in our vehicle’s is a wonderful luxury and helps with the comfort of the vehicle in the summer months and the humidity factor in the cold wet winter months. Hopefully this series of articles helped to answer questions or concerns about the operation, repair and costs involved with the air conditioning system in our vehicles.

Steve and Karen Johnston are owners of All About Automotive in Historic Downtown Gresham. If you have questions or comments, call them at 503-465-2926 or email them at [email protected]. Steve and Karen Johnston are owners of All About Automotive, providing auto repair and auto maintenance in Historic Downtown Gresham. If you have questions or comments, call them at 503-465-2926 or email them at [email protected], you can also visit our website at

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