A/C Recharge Pricing

Messages
22,678
Location
CA
Yesterday, it was over 90F and I discovered that the A/C in the '96 Saturn was barely blowing cold air. The A/C has not been working well for a few years-- the air coming out of the vents is only slightly cold. The system has never been recharged by a professional. Earlier this year, I purchased a DIY A/C recharge kit and attempted to recharge the system. However, the included low-pressure gauge showed that the system was at 29 psi. I went ahead and added 5-6 ounces, but the pressure did not change much. Strangely, the A/C did work a bit better. Nevertheless, after considering the potential consequences, I decided that it wasn't worth the risk to recharge the system myself. I called my local Pep Boys, which is a shop that I trust, and I was quoted $145 for an A/C evacuation, recharge and leak check. Sears wants $125. What is a reasonable price for this service? Please keep in mind that I live in CA and shops average between $100-$150/hr for labor. Thanks!
 
Messages
25,044
Location
ON, Canada eh?
I'm not worried... My dad holds a license so he buys the tanks and does it for our family when needed so it's just the cost of the gas... I'm just sayin' what the prices cost up here is all. \:\!
 
Messages
22,634
Location
Dallas,Tx USA
Same thing happened with my gf`s 1998 Olds 88. Her dad came over with a can of coolant and this hose thing. Got it blowing ice cold in a matter of seconds. Parts all bought from Autozone.
 

Kestas

Staff member
Messages
13,820
Location
The Motor City
If you opt for professional service, make sure they add UV dye into the system. It is, or should be, standard procedure for a/c service. If the charge doesn't last long, expect to visit them again so they can determine with a UV detector where it leaked out.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
44,810
Location
New Jersey
Does the pep boys remove the refrigerant then pull a vacuum for a decent amount of time? I'd personally want to ensure that a good vacuum is pulled, and that then dye is added on recharge, but no other junk.
 

The Critic

Thread starter
Messages
22,678
Location
CA
My mechanic said that he'll do it for $40, but I really don't trust his work after the A/C adventure with the van. However, if for $40 he'll let me use his equipment and allow me to operate it myself, we might have a deal. ;\)
 

JDD

Messages
595
Location
Utah
Be thankful you have R134 and not R12. R12 is running about $100 per pound and when you evac and recharge, they don't credit you the R12 coming out, but they charge you the total they put back in. To answer your question, R134 can be bought by the pound size can and you can put it in yourself with about $25 worth of equipment.
 

The Critic

Thread starter
Messages
22,678
Location
CA
 Originally Posted By: JHZR2
Does the pep boys remove the refrigerant then pull a vacuum for a decent amount of time? I'd personally want to ensure that a good vacuum is pulled, and that then dye is added on recharge, but no other junk.
Yes, Pep Boys does, but I'm not sure if my mechanic does.
 
Messages
19,479
Location
Chicago Area
It depends on WHEN you checked the low side pressure. That 29 could be way off. Most compressors cycle, and you check it when the clutch is ENGAGED. ALso, AC on max with fan on high, and windows open. Engine at 2,000 RPM or so and the system running for a few minutes.
 
Messages
10,847
Location
Phoenix
If you are low on refrigerant, you have a leak somewhere. It most likely is something small like a dried out o-ring. I would just add a few ounces like you did previously, it is really simple and fool proof. Forget the gauge, if you only add a can at a time you won't overcharge it. You can get a bucket of hot water to set the can in while it is charging. The hot water will keep the valve from freezing up.
 
Messages
5,916
Location
Waterloo, ON
 Originally Posted By: StevieC
I think it's reasonable. I'm in Canada and would pay about $200 for that.
Lots of places around me charge $39.95 for an AC check up. R134 is extra if needed.
 
Messages
21,643
Location
Apple Valley, California
We get $75 for the evacuate and charge. $20 for oil with dye and $25 a lb for R134a. If the car had say 1/2 lb of refrigerant in it I only charge the customer what the car needed. I believe PB will charge you for the full charge regardless of how much they pulled out. The PB price is about what it would cost at my shop with no major repairs. If I see an obvious leak such as an O-Ring I'll replace it while I'm working on the car. If it's easy to get to I won't charge them. I also ask them to run the AC as much as possible and to bring it back in a few weeks so I can go over it again with the blacklight.
 

The Critic

Thread starter
Messages
22,678
Location
CA
I had the A/C recharged today for $40. The system was 1/2 pound low. The system's capacity is 1.5 lbs and I evacuated about 1.07 lbs. I vacuumed the system for 15 minutes and the gauge was showing about 25 degrees of vaccuum. Then, I pumped 1.5 pounds of R134A in, started the car, equalized the pressures (which pumps any refrigerant left in the lines back into the car), then ran the system for 10 minutes on MAX recirculate. The vent temperature, taken by an infared thermometer, showed between 31-33F.
 
Messages
12,385
Location
Northern CA
Chris,
  1. Is there any reason to not put dye in a car AC. Seems like it would be nice to have it already there if there is a problem in the future.
  2. If your system is acting weak and needs freon, should you always get it evacuated?
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
44,810
Location
New Jersey
 Originally Posted By: Chris142
If I see an obvious leak such as an O-Ring I'll replace it while I'm working on the car. If it's easy to get to I won't charge them. I also ask them to run the AC as much as possible and to bring it back in a few weeks so I can go over it again with the blacklight.
Two questions, sorry to hijack... 1) if you open the system to do an O-ring, arent you supposed to replace the receiver/dryer? I was under the impression that this is always the case, but are minor system openings OK with just a vacuum pulled? 2)when going over it with a blacklight, what do you look at? Do you try to look at the drippings from the evaporator, or just surfaces under the hood? Thanks!
 
Messages
962
Location
San Antonio, Texas
You don't always have to replace the drier. I always put a cap or ziplock bag with a rubber band on the end of the open hose to seal it up if i'm not putting it right back on. Otherwise I don't worry about it. When you go over it with a Black light the dye will glow. So you would look over all of the parts of the AC system and see if you see any glowing dye.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
44,810
Location
New Jersey
but that would only tell you underhood... would you check the evaporator via studying the liquid condensate?
 
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