Should I fix the A/C in my 2004 Honda?
July 25, 2013 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid. The clutch in the A/C compressor is bad, as diagnosed by a well-respected mechanic. He doesn't want to do the repair, recommended the dealer. Dealer price for compressor replacement is US1165(ouch). Without A/C, trips of any length are pretty miserable. The noise from an open window at 70 mph is not pleasant, and I assume it affects the mileage. I can manage short trips up to an hour or so. It's been an especially humid summer in Maine so far. The Honda has 110,000 miles, and is in good condition. I question putting so much money into a car this old(Bluebook @ 6,200), though I expect to keep driving the car for the next several years.

Is a compressor replacement something a skilled mechanic can do at lower cost, or should I have it done by the dealer? Dealer may be able to find non-Honda parts, but couldn't give me a price. They don't install used parts. thanks.
posted by Mom to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would find another independent mechanic willing to do it.

Honestly, spend the money. You're going to keep it for several more years, it's worth fixing the airconditioning. I myself would never go without it. There are certain things I think it is important to keep in "working order" so as to live a balanced, ordered life. Keeping the important components of a car in working order is one of those things, IMHO.

While the dealer price is expensive, it's certainly not the most expensive repair I've ever faced on a car I owned. Call a few other mechanics and ask them how much it would cost.
posted by deanc at 10:06 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be able to get a compressor from a scrapyard, or there's a suggestion here for your make/model to buy the parts for around $400.

A decent mechanic should be able to do the work, but you wouldn't get any warranty on the parts.
posted by holgate at 10:06 AM on July 25, 2013

I paid $1200 to replace the clutch a few years back on my Honda; it was worth it at the time (99, 120k miles). A different but related part that was replaced at the same time happened to die just out of warranty a year and change later, but I've also had similar repairs done on other Hondas that lasted beyond a year.

I'd go with the dealer and be done with it.
posted by tilde at 10:07 AM on July 25, 2013

I had a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid, and my local non-dealer mechanic told me that he was confident in his ability to deal with anything that wasn't the actual hybrid batteries. Everything else was either Civic-standard or close enough that his training and equipment was just fine for dealing with it.

Take it to a non-dealer mechanic and get an estimate.
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2013

Take it to a non-dealer mechanic and get an estimate.

Seconding this. You want to be happy in your car. If you are going to sell this car in the future working AC will be a hugely important factor. This is not a super tricky repair and other non-dealer mechanics should be able to do it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:14 AM on July 25, 2013

Best answer: I had the a/c compressor replaced in a non-hybrid 04 Civic last summer, and it was $600 at a local mechanic, so I'd say try another shop before going with the dealer. It was definitely worth it for me; there are a lot of miles left on that car.
posted by songs about trains at 10:16 AM on July 25, 2013

In addition to trying to find a general mechanic to do the work, you could also look for an automotive air conditioning specialty shop. They do this kind of stuff all day, every day, so may be more confident in being able to do this, and sometimes works out cheaper.
posted by FishBike at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just had the AC fixed in my 2002 Toyota with 175,000 miles on it. It was worth doing because I was going to murder someone in a road-rage incident without it. If you intend to keep the car & drive it for a while, save your sanity & get it fixed.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2013

I'd bet you can get a cheaper one out of a junkyard, and that a well-reputed mechanic should be able to do the replacement.

And if you couldn't find one cheaper or find a mechanic, then to me the question is, would you pay $1,165 to buy your car if you needed a car and saw yours in the used car lot?

I probably would. That's still a good car with some life in it and not a ton of money.
posted by gauche at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2013

Is a compressor replacement something a skilled mechanic can do at lower cost, or should I have it done by the dealer?

Your mechanic presumably doesn't have the air conditioning recharging equipment - this is not at all a complicated job. Find an independent specialist and it will be a TON cheaper. Either way, spend the money on the car. It has plenty of life in it and comfort while driving is a major factor in driving fatigue.
posted by Brockles at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2013

I like to think of spreading the cost of the repairs over the number of months you hope to keep the car. If it costs $1200, and you keep the car for another three years, that's only $33/month. Seems worth it to me.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on July 25, 2013

It's been an especially humid summer in Maine so far.

A working A/C will also help you dehumidify windows in the fall and winter months. If you think driving with your window open now is miserable, wait until a New England winter. I'd get it fixed at an independent mechanic.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 AM on July 25, 2013

Best answer: I question putting so much money into a car this old(Bluebook @ 6,200)


Your car is newer than the cars of nearly every person I know. In addition to that, 100k on a Honda is like finally breaking in that pair of boots you like. Over 250 is when the mileage starts getting high. If this thing had like, 220k on it and was from 1994 I might be agreeing with you.

Calling a 9 year old car old is like calling a 25 year old person, or a 3 year old computer old. Not fixing this would be a "penny wise, pound foolish" thing to the max.

If you didn't live somewhere hot, I'd say just remove the belt or disable the wire to the clutch. But in a hot area it's like having a broken defroster in a cold/snowy area(I could tell a story about this, ugh). You could seriously start getting delirious from your car being 120 inside one day.

Personally, I'd go the junkyard pull off route. But I'm also cheap/thrifty/a wackjob. Fix it though, for sure.
posted by emptythought at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find another mechanic and see what they will charge. Definitely get it fixed and keep driving the Civic. 110,000 miles is nothing.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:56 PM on July 25, 2013

There must be some shops in your area that specialize in a/c repairs.....take a look in your yellow pages.
posted by DonM at 5:18 PM on August 3, 2013

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