This is the wrong summer for a broken a/c
October 2, 2012 8:06 PM   Subscribe

How much (roughly) is it going to cost to fix my car's air conditioner?

I am driving a 2009 Honda Fit, and the a/c is acting weird. It blows cool air, but not cold air, and seems to work better when it's not too hot out (it's been around 100 lately though, so that's hard to test). It might work better when I'm driving on city streets than the freeway (so, slower), but I'm not sure.

Any idea what's wrong? Any idea how much it would cost, and whether it's a relatively quick fix - say within a day - or might take longer?

I'd like to have some idea of what I'm in for before I take it in. But, if there's no way to predict what is going on, it would be helpful to know that as well. I'm in Los Angeles, CA, and I have a mechanic who I more-or-less trust.

I saw this question about an older Honda that had a similar-ish problem. But, I am unsure if it is relevant since the car in that question is so much older. Also, if it is the compressor belt - as suggested in that question - what would that cost, roughly?
posted by insectosaurus to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
When (if ever) have you had the refrigerant recharged? If never, it's a $10 job to do yourself, or <$100 to have someone do for you.
posted by ellF at 8:18 PM on October 2, 2012

If a 2009 Honda has low refrigerant, it's because it's leaking. Someone will have to find the leak, fix it, and then recharge it. I would be surprised if this cost you less than $500.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:20 PM on October 2, 2012

Assuming a slow leak, you can spend $10 every year and not worry about it -- which is a band-aid, but will cost far less in the long run. (Also, you can do a leak check yourself, with dye and a UV light.)
posted by ellF at 8:25 PM on October 2, 2012

It could be a host of different things. I suffered through a brutal Okie Summer last year with no a/c in my car ('04 Subaru Impreza Wagon) because I thought there was no way I could afford to have it fixed. I finally got a recommendation from a co-worker on a trusted local A/C place and paid the ~$50 to have refrigerant refilled and a leak check. It wound up being a blown O-ring, which added all of like $25 to the bill (parts and labor) and I left very happily and feeling foolish for waiting so long to get it checked out.

Naturally, YMMV, but it may not be that bad. Call your more-or-less trusted mechanic and ask what it would cost for a diagnostic. You'll at least know what you're facing from there.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:32 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Toyota Matrix had the exact problems you described, and it turned out a $9 relay needed to be replaced. It took about 30 seconds plus about 8 months of procrastination. There's a lot of possibilities here. I diagnosed mine by poking around a message forum specific to my car. A lot of Matrix owners have their a/c relays fail. Check out a Fit forum and see what the common causes of your issue are.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:38 PM on October 2, 2012

A few years back my CR-V needed a $2000 A/C fix. It was only four years old, but out of warranty. I wrote to Honda of America and told them that I'd been a Honda owner for years, and that I wanted them to cover this repair. They did.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:56 PM on October 2, 2012


But yeah, it might be $500+. You might be able to get away with doing a recharge a few times before it totally goes out.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 PM on October 2, 2012

I'm in Australia so YMMV a lot but when my air conditioning stopped working I took it to a mechanics that advertised free air con checks. They shone a black light over the system and they could see the compressor was leaking. I ended up going to an air con specialist to get the compressor replaced. Took just over half a day to fix. Cost me AUD$950. They were able to give me a rough quote and let me know the compressor was in stock.
posted by poxandplague at 10:23 PM on October 2, 2012

I had a car that blew cold air, then cool air, then warm air over the course of 20 minutes before settling in to cycle between cool and warm--also got worse when the temperature climbed. I had to get a new compressor for about $1k USD.
posted by whitewall at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2012

Had an AC problem in a van that I owned. Repair place said there was a leak, and for about $100 they could put in some sealant and recharge the AC. Did it, and it worked fine until I sold the vehicle. That sealant, I learned, is what automobile AC places use when they do a repair anyway, to stop any small leaks.
posted by mbarryf at 6:08 AM on October 3, 2012

You have a car that's 3 years old. Is the warranty sill in effect?
posted by JohnE at 7:32 AM on October 3, 2012

Thanks all - sounds like it could be $10 or $500+. I'll take it in and see.

(It's not under warranty because it's a salvage, but I think that is unrelated to the a/c issue - I've owned it for about two years and the a/c has worked just fine until a week or two ago.)
posted by insectosaurus at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2012

Indeed, the general rule (sad as it is) that i've been told is:

Either less than $100 or more than $1000, and it's hard to figure it out without the $100. That's assuming a shop does it. The $100 drops a bunch if you fill with r134a yourself, but bear in mind that some think that the propellants in the DIY recharge kits are risky...
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2012

My wifes airconditioning blew out a little colder than warm air. The mecahnics did the leak test and did not find anything. they filled the air conditioning with a freon that had leak filler in it and its been fine ever since.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:24 PM on October 3, 2012

It seems like A/C condensers are a common problem in many Honda models since they are prone to damage by road debris. There was even a class action lawsuit filed, though it didn't apply to the Fit. If the condenser is damaged, your comprehensive insurance might be able to cover it.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:25 PM on October 3, 2012

It was the freon. And I think they overcharged me, perhaps it's time for a new mechanic.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:05 AM on October 4, 2012

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