$1800 quote to fix AC

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Apr 24, 2010
North Bend, WA
*Sorry for the incomplete post, I got side tracked and accidentily submitted

Th AC on my 96 hasn't worked since I got it. I rarely need to use it here in western WA, but a trip to Bozeman this summer prompted me to find out what is wrong.

The service history indicates that the PO took it to a local toyota dealership because it wasn't blowing cold air about 50,000 miles ago (summer 2005). The dealership recharged the system. The PO never returned to the dealership but I presume the system had a small leaked since it need to be recharged.

When I took ownership the AC didn't really blow cold air and it appeared to have a partial charged based on what I could see from the the sight glass (refridgerant about half way up) and that the compressor would turn on and the magnetic clutch would engage. At some point along the way the compressor stoped turning on and engaging the clutch. I'm assuming this is because the presure in the system got too low and the pressure switch prohibited the compressor from turning on. I never heard or smelled anything funny.

On friday I inspected the sight window and saw no refridgerant. I took the LC into Toyota of Seattle for a re-charge and inspection. Upon recharging the system the mechanic identified a leak on the high side of the condenser (o-ring). The compressor pressure was building too high (350psi on high side and 10-12 psi on low side). He also noted that the compressor was seizing and at times freezes the clutch and drive belt, burning up the belt. He said I will need a new compressor/clutch, condenser and receiver/dryer. Parts and labor = $1800. I know that if this is actually what needs to be done that it can be done for a lot cheaper. Based on his findings I'm also wondering if he overcharged the system.

Upon further questioning of why I would need a compressor and clutch if it was just the compressor that was bad, I found out that the clutch was working just fine. I also asked him if there was oil in the compressor and he said there was "some". When I asked why a new condenser was needed he said that particles from the compressor more that likely had clogged the condenser and it should be replace. I asked him if it was possible to remove the condenser and clean it and he said "no". I guess he's never heard of AC flush?

I asked him what harm there would be in just fixing the highside condenser o-ring and replacing the receiver and associate o-rings, which is what I'm inclined to do at this point. He said that I might be able to get another summer or two out of it but that the compressor is about to die.

So if my compressor seizes up while I'm driving down the road am I going to do damage that would prevent me from continuing on down the road or will I just be without AC for the reminder of the trip? Any and all thoughts and comments welcome. Sorry about the novel.

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Bender what did the estimate cover as far as repairs.
A/C comp, lines, dryer, 134 recharge........?

You could almost install air in a none air 80 for that kind of money.
I remember getting a $1100 quote to change my evaporator coil. I think I paid $250 for the coil and 2.5 hours changing it, not know what the heck I was doing.
Working on A/C systems only requires knowledge of a few things.

1) How to properly evacuate a system
2) How to check for dirt/debris in a system once it's opened up
3) How to measure if you plan on refilling yourself

Obviously correctly diagnosing the initial problem is very important as well, but you should be able to do that without opening the system up. If you use an A/C shop to recharge your system properly, you can generally fix most A/C problems with limited tools.
Working on A/C systems only requires knowledge of a few things.

1) How to properly evacuate a system
2) How to check for dirt/debris in a system once it's opened up
3) How to measure if you plan on refilling yourself

Obviously correctly diagnosing the initial problem is very important as well, but you should be able to do that without opening the system up. If you use an A/C shop to recharge your system properly, you can generally fix most A/C problems with limited tools.

I would like to know more about step number 2. Opening my system up tommorow.
If you don't know the condition of the system (most of us don't if we haven't owned the vehicle for a while), you should check for debris in the system. This is evidence of a compressor's untimely death throwing crap into the system. If you have stuff in there, it can kill a new compressor, putting you into a nasty repair cycle, so it's important to know what's up.

The evaporator (box inside the cab that air blows over) is a good place to check for this. In the 80, it's not that hard to get the box out, and since it has a lot of tubing (for lack of a better term) in it, it's likely to show you if there are/were problems with the system.

In order to clean out the evaporator, you should get an A/C flush and kit. The kit is basically a bottle that can hold compressed air and the cleaner that you force into the evap box. You express this into a bucket so you can check for foreign materials or whatever - basically you don't want metal, or anything really nasty in there. Hopefully you just have slightly dirty cleaning fluid coming out.

The bad part about this is that you have to get all that stuff out of there before putting the system back together... this means a lot of compressed air over and over again, tilting the evap box around, trying to get everything out.

If you want more info on what kinds of things to use to clean it out, I can post some links. You can get most everything you need from NAPA.

By the way: if you DO find crap in there, you need to take the time to clean ALL the lines of the entire system (not fun) before recharging.
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To respond to your original post:

1) ALWAYS replace the drier. It's cheap and probably needs it at this point.

2) One of the nice things about the design of these trucks: the A/C is on its own belt. Real problems? Cut the damn belt off! So no, I don't believe there's much to worry about if you do fix the leak and recharge it.

If I were you, I'd do a UV dye to see where the leak is, fix that, replace the drier (expansion valve replacement isn't a bad idea) and maybe flush out the evaporator.

Thanks for the replies. Yes, I know about replacing the drier/receiver once the system is opened. They put dye in at the dealership. They located the leak to the high-side of the condenser at the o-ring. No other leaks were found as far as I know but I suppose they could be found with a UV light. How lengthy of a process is it to remove and flush the evaporator and replace the expansion valve? I don't have alot of free time these days and my trip is in a month.
You can do the work yourself for less than half the price. I ordered a new compressor, seal kit, dryer, and some o-ring oil for around $300 from Rex at CoolStream a Mud vendor. Rex is very knowledgable and very helpful. You can get a Robinair vacuum pump for around $160 at Amazon and a set of manifold gauges for around $50. I found some R134A at Big Lots for $5 a can.
Exp valve comes out with the evap box anyway, so that's a non-issue. Evap box is probably 1/2 hour of taking it out, flushing can be about an hour or so depending on your skills and tools. But an hour if you do it right I'd say. Put it back together... maybe another hour? It's pretty easy to get to everything. I also replaced some foam rubber seals that were going bad/had gone bad around the evap box to help with airflow as well, so I spent about 4 hours on my truck doing this job (not including the time spent vacuuming the system and recharging)
Only if the evaporator shows signs of contamination.

The evap is a lot easier to take out, you have to take out other components that are likely to replace anyway (exp valve), and is a good sign of the overall health of your A/C system. Use it as a gauge, and go from there.

And oh yeah, there's also likely contamination in the evap anyway from leaves, fungus, crap that can make an A/C's job harder, not to mention smell bad. So IMO it's the best place to start to figure out how far you should go.
This has been a one of the most direct and informative threads I've read on this forum. I am looking at a 94 80 series this week that the owner describes as having a "busted A/C". Bender, if you wind up following CruiseOrlando's instructions it would be amazing if you could take some pictures to document the process for those of us who are relatively new to 80s repair. Unless that's already been done before on another thread? If so, does anyone know where? Good Luck Bender!
Hi side spiking over 300psi and low side dropping to 10psi indicates possible blockage in the system. This is usually caused by debris.

Flushing is very time consuming and there are no guarantees. I can see why the tech recommended replacing parts.

Clutches are wear items when they slip. Under normal non-seizing conditions they don't really wear. As soon as you get a compressor lock the clutch is slipping and will wear out quickly.

Yes you can change your own compressor and flush the system, that's what I would do if it were my car. Just be thorough with the flush
Thanks to everyone for all of the input. It makes sense that it might be a good idea to replace the compressor/clutch as a unit at this point if indeed the clutch may have worn out from the compressor seizing. It probably makes the overall repair process easier too.

I was kind of hoping they would charge the system and I'd be on my way with down the road with a small leak. It appears that there may be more serious problems that will need to be dealt with at some point. I don't really have the time and/or budget to tackle the AC system at this point. I'll probably be putting the further diagnosis and repair on hold for the moment and just dealing with the less comfortable drive to Montana next month. There is actually some residual refrigerant in the system still since the mechanic didn't fully evacuate it when he discharged it so the vents are blowing somewhat cooler than they did before. Who knows how long it will last though.


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