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Aftermarket Compressors and Driers - Do you get what you pay for?

Barryng on Thu December 23, 2010 8:50 PM User is offline

Although I have considerable experience with moderate size HVAC systems, I have very little experience with automotive systems. I need to replace the compressor in my 2002 BMW Z3 3.0i Roadster (shaft seal leak) and I would appreciate some opinions. I am going to do the job myself because the shop I use wants $1800 to do it, including $1064 for the BMW compressor and $230 for the BMW receiver drier. He does not want to use aftermarket parts because none are recommended by his reference source. Since I have everything I need (except an accurate method of weighing in the charge) I am going to do it myself and use aftermarket parts. Since my labor is free, I can probably save almost $1.2k by doing it myself. This large saving might be worth the risk of getting a compressor that will not perform as well or as reliably as the BMW compressor. This goes well against my grain but right now $1.2K is not something I can easily part with.

Car Quest has an aftermarket compressor for $352 (manufacturer unknown) and Auto Zone (Compressor Works) has one for $570. There is a lot of truth to the adage that you get what you pay for but this does not always seem to apply when comparing the cost of OEM parts to aftermarket parts. Will it be a mistake to use either of these compressors instead of the $1084 BMW compressor? I will bite the bullet and use the BMW compressor if these aftermarket compressors will be more likely to under perform and/or fail prematurely as compared to the BMW compressor.

Car Quest also has a receiver-drier for $27 as compared to the $230 BMW part. I think it is absolutely essential to start with an effective drier but the Car Quest part is so cheap I just don't feel comfortable with it. So, is it possible to recover the existing drier by maintaining less than 1000 microns (or even 500 microns) of vacuum? Will the desiccant give up its entrained moisture under a sufficiently good vacuum? I have heard it said this is possible but talk is cheap.

Once I have everything put back together I intend to evacuate the system and then charge it with just enough 134a to establish some reasonable positive pressure. I am then going to take it to my local shop and have them weigh in a proper charge with their computer.

I would appreciate opinions as I want a high probability the system will perform as well as it has for the past 120K miles and last for some reasonable period of time into the future. Although this vehicle is eight years old, I enjoy driving it so much I just do want to trade it for a new one. I have also maintained it very well so I do not want to undertake a repair and regret saving a lot of money just to end up with a system that does not work well or is unreliable.

Dougflas on Thu December 23, 2010 9:41 PM User is offline

Get with the suponser of this site (AMA) for a price on quality parts. You will be surprised how reasonable they are.

emsvitil on Thu December 23, 2010 9:56 PM User is offlineView users profile

Is it possible to just change the shaft seal on the existing compressor?


Cussboy on Sat December 25, 2010 4:16 PM User is offline

Originally posted by: Dougflas
Get with the suponser of this site (AMA) for a price on quality parts. You will be surprised how reasonable they are.

I agree. The rebuilt Air Pro compressor on my 1988 B2200 is from them. They'll stand behind everything. If something is not listed on their web page, they can still usually get it. And get the receiver-drier from AMA ( 602-233-0090) or CarQuest as well. Just the fact that BMW charges that much more for that part, which is basically a cylinder with pipes that contains a small bag of desiccant pellets, just demonstrates what their parts mark-up is.

TRB on Sat December 25, 2010 10:32 PM User is offlineView users profile

Cussboy, it is ridiculous what these euro parts go for these days. I price evap cores out all the time. You know the same freaking cooper tubing and aluminum fins as all the rest. Yet they for some reason are $200.00 more in cost then all the rest.


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

NickD on Sun December 26, 2010 5:50 AM User is offline

Dealt with a German company buying a thousand buck computer here, shipping it to Germany, installing it in their system and returning it back here. With tariffs, freight, other taxes for their healthcare, early retirement, and long vacations, ended up costing 5,000 bucks here. They couldn't be competitive, said that computer has to stay here. They also had extreme taxes and tariffs on imports from Japan and China, we don't for some ungodly strange reason. It cheaper to buy products made in Japan or China here than in Japan or China.

Venezuela is really bad, looked at dirt cheap Harbor Freight six piece combination metric wrench set you can buy here for around six bucks, same one was over a hundred bucks in that crooked country. Chavez needs that money to buy weapons from Russia. 130 bucks for a V-belt! And made in China at that!

TRB on Sun December 26, 2010 11:36 AM User is offlineView users profile

Nick, aftermarket wise. Many times the source producing the evap core is the same one that is doing all the rest. Just because it says Mercedes, BMW or Volvo they for some reason think the cost needs to be triple.


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

NickD on Sun December 26, 2010 1:58 PM User is offline

Kind of know that since I have worked for a first tier supplier, a second tier supplier supplies to the first tier supplier, but the first tier supplier supplies directly to the automotive company with just in time inventory and all that other nonsense you have to put up with and at the lowest bid price. But the volume is there. Unless the automotive company pays us for the engineering cost all supplied us with precise engineering drawings, we owned the product. Can't even recall one instance where the automotive company either supplied us with the prints or paid us for the engineering and tooling cost.

Therefore we were free to sell the same identical product, different name and model number stamped on it, but in all other respects the product was identical to the OE unit we supplied. Since I was a member of SAE and APRA, attended many shows, just about all the suppliers have that same agreement. The AC compressor market however was very secretive, but assume they work the same as the rest of us did. We also made parts with the Lucas and Bosch names on it

Have known BMW to use Delco or Denso compressors, but is there even such a thing as a BMW compressor that is entirely different?

Henry Ford I was one guy that wanted to do everything in-house, but that kind of died with him, OE's can make a lot more profit by jobbing it out to non-union shops and even make them store their inventory so they don't have to pay taxes on it. Most have reduced just to final assembly plants. Somebody else makes all this stuff for them.

Barryng on Sun December 26, 2010 9:27 PM User is offline

Last Thursday I bought the Compressor Works 639309 (7SBU16C) compressor. Although I would have rather taken the advice above and ordered the the parts from AMA, they are closed until after Jan 1 and I cannot wait to then. At the end of this week I am shifting to 12 hrs midnights for the next three months to support a major project at my real job (Electrical Maint Supv in a nuclear power plant) and with a six night on and one off schedule I will not really have an opportunity to do it myself. Unfortunately the 639309 is not the correct compressor so right now I am sol without any clear path to get the correct unit.

Interestingly, Car Quest, Bennett, Auto Zone, and three internet sites all specify the Compressor Works 639309 (7SBU16C) compressor as an aftermarket replacement for a 2002 BMW Z3 3.0i Roadster. When I compared the 639309 to the installed compressor it is obviously not the correct compressor. The 639309 has both refrigerant line connections at the rear, the installed compressor has the high pressure connection at the rear and the suction connection at the front.

The installed compressor (factory installed) is a Seiko Seiki SS120DL1. I am going to try to find the correct replacement on Monday. If I cannot, I either do without A/C until the end of March (not acceptable) or get raped for $1800 to have someone else do the job. NAPA has a Denso compressor but I have to verify if it is really the correct one. Pelican also seems to have the correct compressor but I do not know if they can ship it at any reasonable cost and have it here by mid week. I am also going to see if BMW has a rebuild kit for the shaft seal but I really do want fix the existing unit with 120K miles on it. Any good ideas would be appreciated.

Dougflas on Mon December 27, 2010 5:09 AM User is offline

my info states that the OEM # is a Seiko-seiki SS96D2. Why not wait a week for AMA to reopen? You are spending $$$ and not getting anywhere.

Edited: Mon December 27, 2010 at 5:11 AM by Dougflas

NickD on Mon December 27, 2010 8:04 AM User is offline

Just wonder where you are living where the heat is torturous, you certainly are not shoveling snow in subzero temperatures.

Barryng on Mon December 27, 2010 8:40 AM User is offline

Thanks for the responses.

It is a Seiko-Seiki SS120DL1 as clearly printed on the label on the body of the compressor. I do not know why virtually all the reference material is incorrect but it is hard to argue with the actual installed device. My Z3 was assembled during the last month of production (before the Spartanburg plant shutdown the line to retool for the new Z4). Maybe it was a part expedient issue and it was a better business decision to use the same compressor used in the X5 (assembled on a parallel line) - I don't really know.

If I wait a week I will be immersed in a work schedule for three months that will give me no time for anything but minor home projects. I work for an electric utility at a large nuclear power plant. We are shutting down this week for a three month overhaul and refueling. As an exempt employee my company essentially owns me, and from experience with these overhauls, I know I will not have time to replace it myself. If I cannot find a compressor to install before the end of the week, I am stuck with having someone else install it.

I live in south Florida. Heat is sometimes but not typically the driving issue this time of year and especially today (36 degrees now). For that matter the car is a convertible and the top is mostly down this time of year, known for a lot of "Chamber of Commerce" weather and the main reason I live here. The real issue is air conditioning which includes humidity control. In humid or rainy weather the A/C is important. It is frequently very damp in the morning now and we do get some rain (like yesterday), albeit not a lot during the winter. I am also very anal about some things and driving a car with everything not working right, especially a major system like the HVAC, is very annoying.

NickD on Tue December 28, 2010 6:34 AM User is offline

Tim repairs MVAC systems, in my town we have three dealerships that do AC work, and if I count the dealerships in other towns within 12 miles, that number goes to ten. Plus many independent shops. Not everyone repairs their own AC system, matter of fact, very few do. In my corporate days, guys that owned BMW's took them in every month for servicing and were bragging they paid 300-400 bucks a month for that. Have no idea what they were doing with brand new cars, said it had to be done, changing brake fluid every month? Back in the 70's, shop rate were around 30 bucks an hour, talking about 10-13 hours of work with brand new BMW's.

When I sold my soul to the company store, had no choice but to take my vehicles to a dealership for all repairs, demanded 16 hours a day of my time, either that or to buy a new one. So not really a sin to pay someone to do your work. Chick and others here make their living by repairing other people's vehicles.

From time to time, people come here just once with a 2,200 buck repair bill and their AC system still doesn't work, key is to find a good shop that doesn't screw you. Know we have some guys here in the Miami area, maybe they can make recommendations.

Barryng on Tue December 28, 2010 8:24 AM User is offline

Originally posted by: NickD

So not really a sin to pay someone to do your work.

...key is to find a good shop that doesn't screw you.

You are correct and it is certainly not a sin to pay someone to do the work. However, to do the job myself, considering my labor is only at the cost of a holiday vacation day, total parts cost will be less than $600, compared to $1806.82 to have a shop I trust do it for me. The $1800 includes a new BMW compressor and technicians that frequently do this job whereas I am going to use a 1 year warranty reman compressor and, although experienced with refrigerant systems, I only infrequently do major repairs to automotive systems. From my perspective, not saving over $1000 by taking the DIY approach, with minimal but manageable increased risk, would be a much bigger sin.

When I lived in the Miami area a number of years ago I had a small cadre of shops I trusted completely. I now live in Stuart, about 110 miles north of Miami, and I have two shops I do not hesitate to trust, in all respects. Ken Shaffer in Rio and Mike McAdams Church Street Garage in Stuart. Both these guys are honest, do excellent work, and there is never a worry about them standing behind what they do. In fact, I am going to use the Church Street Garage to accurately weigh in the refrigerant charge after I complete the job. This is not a case of not wanting to use them. It is a case of willing to trade a vacation day this week for saving over $1000 that I can certainly use elsewhere.

BTW, I did find the correct compressor by searching under the compressor model (Seiki Seiko SS120DL1). I was only able to find a reman not a new one. The reman is almost $700 less than the new BMW compressor but it does not take much risk-benefit analysis to justify buying it when the source is trusted.

NickD on Wed December 29, 2010 6:55 AM User is offline

Kind of strange dealing with dealers, can get a nice discount buying the part if I install it myself, but if they install it, strictly list price. Also had bad experiences with a dealer really messing up my AC system. My kids wished they could get their vehicles repaired, but just pointed out with their miserable minimum wage jobs and taxes, they would have to work at least 22 hours for one hour of labor. And we definitely do a better job.

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