AC dye/recharge

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I have a '02 LC with 52,000 miles (32,000 from previous owner) and just this week as the weather began to get hot I noticed the AC was not as strong as last year (and no I did not use it 5 minutes a week like I was suppossed to ;) ) Anyway I took it to the local mechanic (a long time friend of the family) and he "shot dye through it and gave it a recharge" for $150 bucks. What exactially does this mean, and app. how long will it go before it needs another recharge. Is this normal maintenance for a 5 year old LC with 50K miles, or might this be symptomatic of a more serious problem?
 
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a/c cools air by using a refrigerant, which in most cars is called r134a. the refrigerant will cool air through cycles of evaporation and condensation. when this refrigerant gas begins to run low, the A/C loses some of its potency. "recharging" refers to replenishing the R134a.

the refrigerant should last for some time in a vehicle, but it all depends on how often it was used. to me it seems really early for an 02 to need a recharge, but the previous owner may have run the A/C hard and nonstop. if u see you need another recharge soon, there may be a leak in the system somewhere. however, if there is no leak and the air is still not cold, there may be a problem elsewhere in the HVAC system, such as in the evaporator, condenser, receiver/drier, and so on. but hopefully you'll be ok with the recharge.
 
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The dye tells ya if there's a leak. Toyota used a dye when they recharged the R12 in my '86 back in '03. That was the second time it had been charged in its life.

Another tip: make sure the grime/dirt is cleaned out of the AC cooler. I blast out the grille/radiator/ATF cooler w/ a hose after each road trip to cleanse out the bugs and periodically spray simple green on the fins to flush out any grime.
 
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The AC is a sealed system and does not "consume" refrigerant. If there is a leak for the dye to find then what did he do to fix it ? If there was no leak that needed fixing then why did he "recharge" it. Overfilling with refrigerant is as bad as it being low. Does it cool better now?

This would not be normal for a cruiser at 5 years but one-of-a-kind problems do occur. My 98 will still give me goosebumps on a hot day with no maintnence at all.

Have you changed out your in-cabin air filters, cleaned the intake screens of the AC system and cleaned the condenser (as recommended by Jim) ? Also make sure you haven't blocked the D-pillar vents with gear. Acessory belt should be checked for tension also.

There is a glass window (bottom of the condenser) where you can view the refrigerant level. Can you feel the temperature difference between the condenser inlet and outlet tubes ?
 
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Thanks everyone for your help - I will call him tomorrow to find out if he found a leak or not. The AC does work better now so I guess it is fixed for the moment. It did work fine all last summer, so I was a little surprised it was so weak this year. I had the serpentine belt replaced a few months ago - could that be related to the problem?
 
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Thanks everyone for your help - I will call him tomorrow to find out if he found a leak or not. The AC does work better now so I guess it is fixed for the moment. It did work fine all last summer, so I was a little surprised it was so weak this year. I had the serpentine belt replaced a few months ago - could that be related to the problem?

Coulc be if they hit a line and caused a leak in your AC.
 
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Your mechanic is just being prudent. It wasn't blowing cold, he recognized the coloant pressure was low and added coolant and die. Most lesser mechanics would just add coolant. Your guy thought to add die, so if the pressure drops again, he will know, after using a black light to find the leaking dye, where the leak is. Sounds like you have a good man there.
 
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Anyway I took it to the local mechanic (a long time friend of the family) and he "shot dye through it and gave it a recharge" for $150 bucks.

That's some expensive dye. A can of 134a refrigerant cost about $7 and one or two cans will normally replace what was lost over the winter through a slow leak. It takes five minutes to put it in. Leaks can be found with an "electronic sniffer"; no dye required, the sniffer reacts to the escaping 134a and buzzes louder as it is moved closer to the leak.
 

e9999

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our 03 A/C did have a leak up front where the peep window is, when 2 or 3 years old. Window was covered with oil. I just recharged it ($7x2) and it was fine for over a month of extensive use. Had the part replaced later on under warranty. Usually you'd see a leak pretty easily.
And yes, some of the little cans for recharge do come with the dye in them already. Maybe $10 or so. These are typically UV dyes, though, IIRC, although they may be bright to the eye too.
 
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Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but:

My AC system would lose its charge over the course of a 3 months or so, I'd recharge with a new can and it would go another 3 months. I finally got wise and turned on the rear AC system while charging it, and it swallowed 2 cans and has been fine for a long time now. AFAICT the rear system was low and the coolant was bleeding into there over time, decreasing the intervals between charges. I have no doubt that there's a leak, which I'll get to at some point. Anyway, give this a shot if it goes low on a recurring basis. The capacity for the models with the rear AC is something ridiculous, like 38 oz, compared to a typical passenger car with 16 oz.
 
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Another tip: make sure the grime/dirt is cleaned out of the AC cooler. I blast out the grille/radiator/ATF cooler w/ a hose after each road trip to cleanse out the bugs and periodically spray simple green on the fins to flush out any grime.

I think it'd be great if you started a thread on all these "other" mainteneance ideas you have and or do yourself. Seems like you've thought a lot beyond the normal scope. I would be nice to have some big checklist for us to go by....much of it this "added" stuff. ???
 
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Hmmmm, that's what I was thinking. About how much do you think would be a fair price?

That's some expensive dye. A can of 134a refrigerant cost about $7 and one or two cans will normally replace what was lost over the winter through a slow leak. It takes five minutes to put it in. Leaks can be found with an "electronic sniffer"; no dye required, the sniffer reacts to the escaping 134a and buzzes louder as it is moved closer to the leak.
 
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Hmmmm, that's what I was thinking. About how much do you think would be a fair price?

Since your mechanic is "a long time friend of the family", he should of let you off for $50-$60. Otherwise, $75. Since the EPA classifies refrigerant 134a as "environmentally friendly", it doesn't take a license to buy it or special training or expensive equipment to put it in. Wal-mart sells it by the can for $7 or in kit form for around $15 that includes the hose and adaptor to put it in. As your case shows, mechanics don't usually charge a fair price, they charge what they think they can get away with.
 

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knowledge is $$, ain't it JK...

before you asked here, this job was worth $150 to you cuz ya didn't know so you paid for his expertise (?), fair enough

Now it's worth $15... :)

you increased your efficiency by a factor of 10!

ain't life grand! :D
 
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I prefer paying my friends full price for their work as long as they know what they are doing. Why should I be the one getting a break when it's me with the need ? I'll give them a break from having to deal with cheap customers.
 
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Thanks everyone for their input - I have nothing against paying a man a fair price for his labor - after all he has bills to pay and a family to support as well. However paying what is for me a day's wages for 15 dollars worth of parts and 15 minutes of work done seems excessive to me.
 

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Thanks everyone for their input - I have nothing against paying a man a fair price for his labor - after all he has bills to pay and a family to support as well. However paying what is for me a day's wages for 15 dollars worth of parts and 15 minutes of work done seems excessive to me.


well, if that's all it was it was no big break as a family friend, that's for sure. But then to be perfectly fair, before you pass full judgment you should find out exactly what he did. "Shooting dye" through it could mean he just recharged with a can of 134 with dye, or OTOH that he spent 3 hours painstakingly looking for a leak with a UV light after taking off all sorts of parts. If a friendship judgement is on the line, better be careful.
 
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If the mechanic ...
- put gauges on the unit or ran a series of diagnostic tests using the sight window and various settings on the AC system
- and detirmined the system was low
- Added fluid to recharge then retested.
- Added a dye also so that if it was a small leak he could later identify it
then the charges don't sound unreasonable.
 
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