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Can compressor "Black Death" be avoided?

OKCjones on Tue August 31, 2010 6:43 PM User is offline

Year: 2003
Make: Honda
Model: CRV
Engine Size: 2.4L
Refrigerant Type: 134a
Country of Origin: United States

I have 2003 Honda CRV with 79,000mi and the compressor is making a low growling/vibration noise when it cycles on. I am familiar with the known issues on these vehicles with the A/C and compressor failures. Have even seen some talk about a class action lawsuit. Taking the vehicle to Honda probably won't work since I bought it with a rebuilt title from a body shop(totaled on hail damage). The A/C works fine, but I was wondering if I could avoid the catastrophic failure and system contamination by not using the system until I can replace the compressor or is it too late? Or could it be something else, like the charge being too high? Needs a flush and recharge? I haven't taken it to a shop yet, but wanted to get an opinion before I go, so I know all my options and don't get misled. I am mechanically proficient, having done engine swaps, suspension rebuilds, clutches, ect but had not worked on A/C systems. I am waiting on a service manual cd and would not be opposed to doing the work myself, if I can find a local shop with the appropriate tools to evac, flush and recharge for me. Thanks.

GM Tech on Tue August 31, 2010 8:49 PM User is offline

To avoid failure, don't run the a/c if it is not cooling well-- the worst thing you can do to a system is run it when it has a half system charge or less- this creates poor oil circulation, and premature compressor failure.....

The number one A/C diagnostic tool there is- is to know how much refrigerant is in the system- this can only be done by recovering and weighing the refrigerant!!
Just a thought.... 65% of A/C failures in my 3200 car diagnostic database (GM vehicles) are due to loss of refrigerant due to a leak......

HECAT on Tue August 31, 2010 9:15 PM User is offline

I think it was "Bohica2xo" that said once a scroll problem begins it takes ten more revolutions to complete failure and possibly lock up. I have seen exploded scrolls and the internal debris that is created from the destruction that occurs in those last ten revolutions. It can pack a condenser with shards of metal, blow back chunks into the evap, and even explode externally. I would go ahead and replace the compressor (if this is truly where the noise is coming from), drier and txv. Flush the evap while the txv is removed and make sure it is dry, dry, dry before replacing the txv. Backflush the condenser and make sure it is dry, dry, dry; if a powerful and competent flushing process is not available, then do what Honda does, and just replace everything.


HECAT: You support the Forum when you consider for your a/c parts.


iceman2555 on Tue August 31, 2010 10:24 PM User is offlineView users profile

A suggestion, unless your seriously like doing the job over and possibly to bite the bullet. Honda suggest a total system replacement. It is possible to save the evaporator and since it is your labor...then by all means flush the evap and replace the TXV. Flush and clean the hoses....but replace the condenser....without the correct equipment and flush chemicals, you are not going to clean this unit.
Spoke with a shop owner today....they were installing the 6th unit on the same vehicle. They, at the customers insistence, had taken a few short cuts...the condenser being one...and the result was numerous compressor failures. Two of these units were OE Sanden compressors.
The amount of labor to R&R this compressor is quite extensive and for a newbie DIY'er can be quite intimidating. Do this job all that is necessary.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson

TRB on Tue August 31, 2010 10:34 PM User is offlineView users profile

Do it right do it once is great.

Issue with the CRV is the compressor is junk. I've sourced them from just about everyone and they all fail. We have a few customers (our shop) going on their 4th total replacement. Hate to say it, but these models may have repeated failures no matter how well the job is done.


When considering your next auto A/C purchase, please consider the site that supports you:

Edited: Tue August 31, 2010 at 10:35 PM by TRB

HECAT on Wed September 01, 2010 5:42 AM User is offline

Thus the talk about the class action thing.

Scroll compressors remind me of the many small block Chevy engines I have run (and destroyed) in my drag cars. Sounds great (like music to me) and all is good as I push 9 grand plus toward the finish line and then BAP! Time for a new one. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine the root cause because of so much damage.

Has anyone tried to use something other than the scroll?


HECAT: You support the Forum when you consider for your a/c parts.


NickD on Wed September 01, 2010 7:09 AM User is offline

Blackdeath was a Ford syndrome, using Telfon in the compressor rings that would fail with or without the proper amount of refrigerant and lubrication. Entire interior would be coated with black.

Existing AC systems that don't use an oil sump, they used to do that way back when, with even a sight glass to visually check the level are tantamount to a 2 cycle engine that is now finally becoming history. If you forget to add the oil to the gas, that engine would be quickly history.

Way back when, adding AC to a vehicle would just about double the price of a vehicle, today, standard equipment on practically any new vehicle, but not the best systems in the world. Would be nice if they could somehow go back to that sump, would also increase efficiency because that oil circulated around does not cool, only the refrigerant was circulated. But today with problems, have to thoroughly flush out the system and assure it has the right mix of oil and refrigerant. With parallel flow condensers, practically better just to replace them.

Back then, average price for a new vehicle was around 2,500 bucks, today, more like 25,000 bucks, that is a crime in itself as those old cars could be easily repaired using screws on all components, today, made of mostly throwaway parts, try resealing an aluminum pop can, about the same thing. So ratio wise, spending around 300 bucks for a new compressor or a couple of hundred for a new condenser is not that bad.

Practically all systems are protected for low refrigerant and will automatically shut down, but there are no provisions for detecting oil leakage, and yes, it is possible to lose oil without losing a even a proportional amount of refrigerant. Especially by mounting the compressor so its darn near dragging on the ground. Up north here, using AC is very seasonal, so if you don't check for oil leaks before switching on your AC, and have lost oil, when you switch it on, your compressor will seize, so its your own fault for not checking. But the compressor will let you know that is wasn't getting sufficient oil eventually.

Least they are doing a better job on bodies today, would rather change a compressor than a rear quarter or rocker panels, that was also very common back then. Damned things would have huge rust holes well before the 36th payment. See they increased that to 60 months today. Do they even last that long?

Automobiles always have been a ripoff, and you can't even deduct your transportation to and from work or school and both are mandatory by the government, yet another major ripoff while corporation executives can completely write off a private jet.

With practically zero public transportation in this country, you are dead without a vehicle, they know that and really take advantage of that situation, the basterds, both republican and democrats, not a dimes worth of difference.

iceman2555 on Wed September 01, 2010 8:13 AM User is offlineView users profile

I saw a 'Denso' type replacement for the CRV. Bolt on design. This was at the MAC's show....I think this past year. Need to research this a bit more. The down side of the scroll works...very little parasitic power drain. Total agreement with TRB....often times...the repair can be done as close to perfection as possible and still have an issue. The key, is almost...this is one of those jobs that must be done correctly...all that is necessary...and NO SHORTCUTS!!!
Actually the Ford 'Black Death' was a design feature of the Ford FX15. The failure occurred with the swash plate. The failure of the 'teflon' sealing washers was a by product of the cause of this compressor failure. We still see basically the same material being utilized today, When I return and have some time, I shall post information concerning this design and the resultant failures. Some of the photos are quite revealing.
The 'Black Death' issue continues today, however, in a more sinister form. There are numerous compressors that are encountered that have failed due to this issue. The major contributor to this problem today seems to be the influx of flush chemicals that are difficult to totally remove from the system and the resultant contamination of the new lubricant, possible acid build up from lubricants that...shall we not meet specifications. Moisture contamination are another large contributor to this 'black' issue. This issue can be an all makes,all models issue. At least with the initial 'Black Death' it was centered on Ford products.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson

NickD on Wed September 01, 2010 8:59 AM User is offline

FX15 rang a strong bell, brain is still good, but the recall is getting bad, too much crap to sort out. But haven't had an FX15 problem in over ten years, mainly because I haven't had an FX15 in over ten years.

FX15 was a factory made problem, the rest of the stuff you mentioned are workmanship problems made by the user. There is no excuse for that.

OKCjones on Wed September 01, 2010 10:22 AM User is offline

Thanks for the advice. I found Honda TSB 09-076 that specifically addresses this problem. Outlines the diagnosis and repair pretty well. Doesn't appear much more difficult than some of the things I've done DIY or at work(Clinical Chemistry Lead Tech for a large hospital lab). I am not constrained by time, like a shop is, have other transportation, a shop to work and leave it in and can approach it carefully and methodically. I agree that if I pursue this, replacement of all the parts affected is the best course of action. I think I have some time left before full failure if I limit use of the system to the defrost mode. I thought I would call around locally for quotes and see if someone would work with me. From the TSB, it appears most of the labor is in the removal and replacement of the affected parts, which I suspect no one enjoys, since everything is buried. I also have a vested interest in learning this, since we own 2 CR-Vs, an 03 and 05.
If I understand, this is a design problem, not a specific manufacturers problem? Kind of disappointed that there isn't a improved design for retrofit, or a way to limit the damage when the compressor fails. Thanks!

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