Engine Size: 2.0
Refrigerant Type: 134A
Country of Origin: United States
My wife was driving our 96 Contour and the A/C was blowing cold and then suddenly started blowing warm air. At the same time this happened, she saw smoke coming from under the hood. She turned the air off and drove home. When I look under the hood I notice a lot of rusty red coloring on the pulley face of the compressor (I guess clutch material?) When the engine is running and A/C off, I now hear an intermittent pulley rattling type sound that I didn't used to hear before. When the A/C is turned on, you can see what looks like metal shavings coming out of the clutch area, and it smells like a burning clutch kind of smell.
I believe this is the original compressor and the car has 190,000 miles on it, so I'm guessing it has finally failed? Given it's a 1996 with 190K+ miles, I'm considering whether I keep the car at this point and overhaul the system, or get rid of it. I'm pretty good at fixing cars, but beyond a set of mastercool gauges, a mastercool a/c manual, and the spring lock tools I bought previously from ackits.com, I don't know if this is something I should take on or not. I'm not sure what the costs would be if I have it done professionally, or do it myself.
I'm in Phoenix, AZ. One thought I had was maybe I bring it by AMA for a quote, and either I have the work done there, or I'll buy all the parts and try to do it myself?
Thanks for any thoughts,
The 'smoke' was probably the Freon escaping through the blown shaft seal, which probably blew right after the compressor toasted itself. Or a belt burning on a seized clutch.
If you haven't worked on your AC before I'd definitely recommend taking it into TRB's shop. Just because when a compressor fails internally, it is likely to affect every other system component. You'll have to take most of the system apart to access and inspect. Replace any filters/driers, flush any debris out of the lines, replace the orifice (if applicable), and obviously replace the compressor. You'll need your gauges, a vacuum pump, the r134a coupler adapters, refrigerant, oil, a scale... and nitrogen is always nice to have on hand for pressure testing and evacuation.
But I'm definitely not saying it's not within your abilities. I'm good with AC and mechanically inclined, and have a basic understanding about cars. Last year I took it upon myself to fix a power steering issue on my ex-girlfriend's Cutlass, with a Haynes manual as my guide. Ended up having to drop the subframe and use a sawzal to replace a bad leaky line, and then I had to remove the pump and re-tap the threads that I stripped. Took me a week and a half, in the evenings. And then a week later we broke up. Anyway, my point here is that I'll never touch a power steering leak again, and in retrospect I would've forked over the money myself to have it professionally fixed.
If you have lots of time and lots of patience, and maybe a second vehicle to drive, it would be a great learning experience. But parts aren't extremely expensive, and an experienced shop should have the system apart, repaired, charged, and running properly within a day - assuming that you don't have any leaks that you don't know about.
There is no knowledge that is not power
Thanks Tim, appreciate the quick reply. I just called the shop and I'll be bringing it in tomorrow morning to have it checked out and we can go from there.
Any refrigerant left in the system will boil off and equalize in relation to ambient temperature, and will give you its saturation pressure. So at 70F ambient, you'll still read around 70psi (static) with R134A, regardless of if you've lost a lot of the charge. In any case, smoke/refrigerant coming out from under the hood, and the AC suddenly not working is a bad sign best of luck tomorrow
There is no knowledge that is not power
Edited: Tue June 21, 2011 at 12:18 AM by bromodragonfly
Well, I heard from the shop today and the compressor is indeed destroyed. Professional repair cost is as expected, and I wouldn't think twice to give the go-ahead to a shop like AMA, other than the fact the car has 192,000 miles on it. The car also has a check engine light right now that just popped up a couple of weeks ago. I think I'll get that sorted out first, make sure it's not an indication of some other major problem lurking. Assuming that's OK I'm going to return it to AMA to get it fixed by the pro's, and then hope the car holds together!
Tim, do you guys see many cars come in with high mileage where a total a/c overhaul is done? I feel kind of silly fixing it on such an old car but it seems like it has a lot of life left in it still and it gets great gas mileage for a daily in-town work commuter... ah decisions...
Sure, it all depends on if the owner wants to keep it. I just turned 200K on my Toyota P/U. It runs great. I would do any repair needed. As I don't plan on getting rid of it anytime soon. Which reminds me I need to get it painted. So please come back and have the A/C fixed and as I need paint money.
Now THAT was funny! Especially since my 200k mile beater needs paint too...
Hmm, well maybe then if you guys will outsource your a/c parts warehousing/order fulfillment to the company I work for, I can get a referral bonus for signing you up, and then get my car painted too! The car still runs like a champ, so I'm like 99% sure I'll be back to get her fixed up.
I've seen that happen when it all comes apart... another reason not to use HC refrigerants.
Just an (overdue) update... Had the A/C overhaul done by AMA and it seems to be working pretty good now, nice and cold on the open road. Actually feels like it gets better the more I use it (like the new components had to break in or the oil distribute through or something). Only issue I've had is on some 105+ degree days, I've had the compressor kick off and on unexpectedly in situations where the car is parked and idling with A/C on, and also during low speed stop and go I've experienced this too. I get warm or barely cool air from the vents and can feel the compressor kick on and off, but then if I get going and sustain speed the compressor stays engaged and it cools fine. Almost felt to me like a high pressure cutoff kind of situation but I don't really know why it was doing that. It's sporadic and hasn't done it for about a week so I'm just keeping an eye on that issue right now. Otherwise nice and cold and loving driving the car. I'd rather be in that car than in my house right now!
Let us know if you want it checked out. As we all know. Cycling off at idle is normally a pressure issue. Not need to stress the compressor.
Good to hear, but not unexpected, you'll always get a job well done at AMA.
As for the low speed issue, guarantee it's related to the cooling and/or condenser fans not coming on, or running too slowly, causing the HPCO safety to cut the compressor. Probably something simple, like a sensor or relay, or the fan(s) themselves. That could've been part of the reason for the failure. Is the check engine light on?
When the problem occurs again, if it's safe to do so, pull over and check to see if the cooling fans are operating properly. If they're not running, or running slowly without a nice blast of air, that's probably the issue. Hopefully, it's not an intermittent problem...
The failure mode on those fans can be a hard to detect 20% loss in airflow.
Has a similar one on a Freestyle here last year - the thread got long with diagnostics, but the short answer was a new fan assy fixed the problem.
"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
~ Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi, An Autobiography, M. K. Gandhi, page 446.
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