A/C repair ballpark figure.

I may be coming into a semi-decent chunk of change soon so now i’m wondering if I could repair my car.

I drive a 1992 Accord Lx. The A/c works but no longer blows all that cold. If it’s hotter then 85ish degrees then the A/c stops cutting it. I had new freon put into it over a year ago and I believe it helped. It should be r12, but I’m not sure. My Dad had the car repaired without my permission at a shop I don’t trust(FYI My a/c worked before my dad took it to this shop the first time. Why oh why he took it back and a second time after that I have no idea. ) Because they’re an asian place and I don’t trust them I’m not ruling out the possibility they put in r134. Still, since the car had improved after the freon was put in and is now pretty dismal I’m assuming theres some sort of leak in the system.

Does r12 usually come with UV dye?

What else could be wrong?

What kind of ballpark repair cost am I looking at? From likely best to worst case scenarios?

Does the a/c have its own radiator or does it connect to the main one? Maybe I could clean it out a little.

Did this shop just stick in the R143 without purging the R12? Pray that they didn’t.

The proper procedure is to completely purge the R12 and its compressor oil before introducing the R134 and its oil. The two aren’t compatible and form waxy crud in the system if mixed.

You’re going to have little luck finding a reputable shop that wil have R12 any more.

Neither R12 or R134 come with UV dye. You have to ask the shop (or they’ll suggest it) to put it in if you suspect a leak.

The radiator has a little evaporator that’s usually right behind the dash. A clogged evaporator may affect AC performance slightly, but you’ll probably notice the puddle of water forming on your floor first.

If there’s an easy to reach, simple leak you might get by for $100 plus the cost of the coolant charge. However, my mechanic just finished trying to fix my AC 3 times. After all the coolant leaked out overnight for the third time, he decided the only place it could still be leaking was in an inaccessible spot that required pulling the dashboard – minimum labor charge, $550.

The good news is, if you had the coolant charged up last year and you still got cool air this summer, it means you still have some coolant left, which means the leak isn’t too bad.

Your car could have R12 or R-134 or something else.
It is still legal to install R-12 into a R-12 system, the stuff isn’t made anymore, and the only legal R-12 around is what has been recovered from other cars, cleaned and recycled.
R-134 is what all new car makers are using, and usually what is installed during retrofits. R-134 is readily available. A proper retrofit will include new fittings, label, and a different receiver drier / accumulator. The fittings and label are required by law.
Some shops are however using various “drop in” refrigerants that are not R-134 or R-12. There are various witches brews out there, including some that contain propane. Cools great, but also goes boom! These refrigerants are not illegal, but there are only supposed to be serviced by dedicated machines. Most quality shops will use a refrigerant identifier to make sure that they don’t introduce crap into their recycling machine.
It is unlikely that you have a mix of R-12 and R-134, since dedicated machines for these (and the tanks they come in) have vastly different fittings on them.
You can add R-134 to an R-12 system without removing all the mineral oil, by using an ester oil instead of a PAG oil. Many car makers include ester oil in their retrofit kits for R-134. The ester oil mixes with the mineral oil and is then picked up and carried through the system by the R-134.
Getting back to the OP, how much to repair? Beats me. If it is just a seal leaking that is easy to access, and a recharge probably under $200 (depends a lot on what the local labor rate is in your area)
If the evaporator is leaking and the dash has to be removed, quite a bit more.
I suggest that you take the car to a competent shop and get an estimate.

Thanks guys.

Rick: How do I read the r12 viewing glass? I’ve looked at it and i’m just confused.

Also would you recommend the retrofit kits? I’ve generally do my own repairs and am fairly comfortable with the car.

I’ve got a related question:

I’ve got myself a 98 Subaru Legacy with no AC. Well, like the OP, the AC button is there, but no cold air (at all. I leave it oging for twenty minutes and it’s still the same temp as no AC button on.) Assuming it only needs a recharge or a very easily accesible leak, what might the charge be at an average shop? And will an average shop be able to do it, being a foreign car? The nearest Subaru dealership is an hour away, so I can’t really go there unless I take a day off from work to do it.

I just converted my 93 Toyota pickup to R134 from R12, Schuck’s (or Checker or Kragen, depending on where you live) currently has a retrofit kit on sale for $50. It cost $15 to have a local repair shop evacuate the old R12 and took me about 45 minutes to do the retrofit. My once barely chilly A/C now blows at a frigid 38°. Now if we could just get some weather so I can use the A/C.

Before you kids rush out to purge your systems and/or replace refrigerant, remember that there’s an electrical side to the equation. Your compressor has an electrical fan clutch. If it isn’t getting power, no amount of refrigerant will solve the problem. Possible components at fault include:

A/C under dash fuse
A/C fusible link
A/C power relay
Dashboard temp/function selector
A/C compressor field coil
Low pressure cutoff switch
Low temperature cutoff switch

These are the components in my current truck. You may have more or fewer in your vehicle. My point is that all faults don’t automatically equate to low charge. The word is “diagnostics.” :wink:

A reasonable guess, though not a certainty.

Usually? No. Some brands have dye mixed in, but it’s not a standard practice.

Lots of things. Various electrical faults, clogging/restriction in the system, faulty mechanical parts (e.g. compressor, expansion valve), etc.

Could be under 100. Could be over 1000. Too many reasonably likely possibilities to do more than guess.

The A/C system has a condenser, located in front of the radiator. If there is debris clogging it (restriciting airflow through it), said debris should be carefully removed.

Both R-12 and R-134a are available with dye mixed in. They’re also available without.

The radiator has an evaporator? WTF? The radiator doesn’t have an evaporator.

The A/C system has an evaporator. Water on the floor means the evaporator drain is restricted, which has nothing to do with the performance of the system.

The radiator is part of the engine cooling system. We’re talking about the A/C system. Apples and oranges. No connection.

The A/C system doesn’t use coolant. It uses refrigerant. Coolant is used in the engine cooling system. Apples and oranges. No connection.

Clean the sight glass so you can see through it clearly. Look at it with the A/C off for reference – it should appear quite clear.

Now look at it with the A/C operating (make sure the compressor actually engages). With a partly full system you will see bubbles, which sometimes appears as cloudiness. With a full system it will be clear. With an empty system it will be clear, sometimes with oil streaks visible.

A full system will show bubbles/cloudiness momentarily when the compressor first engages, then go clear.

Basic A/C servicing is the same for any car. Most independent shops should be able to handle any A/C repair on a Subaru, but if a shop is afraid to, it might be best to find a shop comfortable with working on them.

I’m going to be hopeful and assume the r12 that was put into my system had UV dye in it.

How long does this dye last/remain detectable assuming all the freon leaked out/is leaking out?

What am I looking for? a green florescence under UV? Would it be visible during the day or should I do it someplace dark?

Again, thanks.

Indefinitely. It’s sometimes a chore to remove the dye from leakage areas.

Typically it’s a green or yellow/green fluorescence under UV light. Yellow-lens glasses enhance its visibility. Some degree of darkness is usually helpful, as the dye’s appearance can be washed out by too much ambient light.

How tough a job is that ? Inspired by your post, I looked up that kit and am somewhat intimidated by the number of O-rings and gaskets involved. Is it something that you’d think a shade-tree mechanic would be able to do (not that I am one, but I do know a few) ?

The problem with a do-it-yourself retrofit is that you probably don’t have a vacuum pump at home to remove the air and moisture from the system prior to charging. This will prevent you from getting a quality result. It may work OK, but it won’t be 100% I would suggest that you take the retrofit to a shop and have it done right.

can we retrofit it then have the shop vaccum?

Oh, this is something I assumed, but I want to make sure i’m right.

It is most likely that a leak will form at one of the seals or gaskets. (the tubes are all metal aren’t they? Haven’t had a chance to look). The retrofit kit will replace those seals and gaskets which are likely leaking correct?

If you read my entire post, I also mentioned I had the system purged prior to installing the retrofit kit. This clears out the moisture and left over oil. You install a couple of adaptors, add some R134 compatible oil then the refrigerant. The kit tells you to have the system checked and purged prior to use and to have the system repaired prior to using the kit. I have training on automotive A/C systems and have many of the tools to work on the system so this kit was a piece of cake to me. You don’t need any special tools to install the retrofit kit but if your not comfortable working under the hood of your car, leave it to a professional.

My understanding is that the seals are provided to ensure compatibility with the new/different refrigerant and oil. While leakage in those areas isn’t uncommon, there are plenty of other potential leak sites that aren’t uncommon either. Among these are evaporators, condensers, hoses (most of the tubes are a combination of metal pipe and rubber/plastic hose), and compressor shaft seals (not in the kit, I’m sure). The wise thing is to identify the leak(s) first. Leak repair can be done in conjunction with retrofitting, as the system has to be emptied and opened for both. It’s a big gamble to assume the retrofit kit seals will fix the leakage.