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96 Ford Contour - Need Opinion on Plan

sk8token on Sun August 16, 2009 11:31 PM User is offlineView users profile

Year: 1996
Make: Ford
Model: Contour
Engine Size: 2.0 I-4
Refrigerant Type: R-134A
Ambient Temp: 100+
Country of Origin: United States

The A/C in my 1996 Contour with 180K miles works extremely well when the charge is right, but it leaks. I've been topping the system off each summer for about 5 years now with (only) R-134A, no additives or sealers or anything like that. This summer, the leak got a lot faster to the point where the top-off charge only lasts about 3-4 weeks. The system does not empty entirely, but it dose lose enough charge to where it starts taking too long to cool down in traffic.

This week I took the car to an a/c shop and explained the situation, and asked them to tell me where it's leaking, and how much to fix it. They looked it over and said that the front seal of the compressor and the hose manifold assembly are leaking, with an estimated repair bill of $1,000 - $1,300 to replace the compressor, orifice tube, accumulator, and to flush and evacuate/recharge the system. I looked underhood and I can see the evidence of leaks in both these areas, especially that hose manifold block, which I think might be a more recent leak than the compressor seal, which I suspect has leaked for years. I also noticed that it seems they opened the system because I went to the shop with a low charge and came out of there with the system completely empty (is that refrigerant theft?

My dilemma is the cost of the repair, doing it the right way, vs. the value of the vehicle. The car is probably worth about $1,000 right now, and I'm hoping to get it to last 1-2 more years until we can afford a newer car.

With all of the above said, I'd like to do the following:

1) Replace manifold hose assembly
2) Rent or buy an A/C vacuum pump and evacuate the system. Also, see how well it holds a vacuum at this time.
3) Recharge the system with 134a
4) Take my chances with the compressor front seal leak and hope it is a manageable 1x per summer season top-off

Does this sound like a recipe for disaster or do you think it's worth a try? Also, with the system leaking over time like this, has it lost oil, and should I try to replace lost oil?

Thanks for reading and for any help.

Tim


knightgang on Mon August 17, 2009 5:40 PM User is offline

I would check to make sure the hose assembly was bolted tight against the compressor. Some shops (not saying this one has done this) will do anything to make a system look worse so they can sel you more parts and labor time, especially in this economy.

If it is indeed in need of a hose assembly, then your plan sounds good. However, you might want to contact the sponsors fo this board and see about the possibility of getting a seal kit for you compressor and pulling it apart and replacing the seals to stop your shaft seal leak as well. Some compressors are easier to do this then others.

If not, then I would replace the compressor as well. Doing it yourself will really save $$ over a shop and you sound as though you are mechanically inclined enough to do this.

That shaft seal leak will only get worse over time and cause you more headache. A working AC will bring more value to the car in the next few years when you do sell it than a no working one. Noone is going to want to buy a $1000 car and then put $1000 into the AC as well. Just a thought...

newton5 on Mon August 17, 2009 10:42 PM User is offlineView users profile


"That shaft seal leak will only get worse over time and cause you more headache. A working AC will bring more value to the car in the next few years when you do sell it than a no working one. Noone is going to want to buy a $1000 car and then put $1000 into the AC as well. Just a thought..."

I tend to feel the same way. In many parts of the country, working AC is the difference between selling a "beater" car and having it languish in the driveway.

Don't weigh the repair cost against resale value, you will cringe every time with an older car regardless of the repair. Weigh it against the value of your personal comfort and overall reliability of the vehicle while you still own and drive the car. If the AC works reliablly, and the car is reliable in general, you will likely keep it long enough to get your "moneys worth" out of the repair. Remember, $1K-1.3K is only about 3-4 monthly car payments. In 1 year, the AC repair has long since "paid" for itself, even at that shop rate (assuming no other major repairs). If you can DIY, the "payoff" comes earlier.


Chick on Mon August 17, 2009 11:06 PM User is offlineView users profile

Check out 96 contour for dome of the parts, they don't have the compressor listed, but they do have them very reasonable.. You can e-mail the guys at ackits.com with a ,mlost of what you need..You'll save hundreds of dollars changing the parts yourself and having a shop recharge it when you're done.. Hope this helps..

-------------------------
Chick
Email: Chick

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Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose

sk8token on Tue August 18, 2009 12:03 AM User is offlineView users profile

Hi guys. Thanks so much for the replies and info! I've also been reading over everything I could find in the archives searching for "contour" and there's a lot of good stuff in there. For example, now I also know to watch out for the famous Ford wrapped accumulator for the rusting and leaking commonly found there. I've also picked up on how "impressed" (in a bad way) people are with the compressor that comes in this car LOL

Chick, thanks for the pep-talk about the car and fixing it right. I actually LOVE this car, and really the only thing that has me considering selling it other than the miles is that it's such a pain to work on! (as I can see that you are well aware of LOL)! I've done a decent amount of auto repairs and modifications over the years, but thinking about changing the timing belt or the water pump on this car again makes my knuckles want to run for cover!

Please know that I really appreciate all the info you guys have here and continue to give out to people like me. I'm going to try to do as much of this as I can. Of course I'll be sourcing every part and tool that I can get through ackits.com ! I might even go ahead and pick up an A/C starter Kit since I have two vehicles with R12, the Contour with 134-A, and I like to do things myself whenever possible. I'm not sure yet if on the Contour that I'll start with the full overhaul (including a new compressor and flushing everything out, etc) but I think I'll replace that hose assembly, evacuate, and recharge the system and see how well it does at that point. If it still leaks down too quickly I'll go ahead and replace the compressor or look into the seal kit option, and go ahead and give it the full service at I'm sure a fraction of the cost, thanks to you guys!

Thanks again,
Tim

Chick on Tue August 18, 2009 1:41 PM User is offlineView users profile

The initial outlay for the starter kit will save you "thousands" of dollars depending on hoh many of your own cars, and friends and neighbors cars you fix, you can't go wrong that route.... Do it right, and you'll do it once....

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Chick
Email: Chick

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Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose

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