Aftermarket air conditioning on a new car

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Say, I wonder if somebody might be able to shed some light on something. I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this, but thought I'd ask. I'm asking for a friend because she asked me, and I think the dealer sent her on a wild goose chase. She bought a new car ('09 Chevrolet Cobalt), and apparently didn't do the homework to find out ahead of time that the ultra bargain basement trim level didn't come with air conditioning. So the dealer told her to get pricing on what it would take to put it in. Uh huh, the ones who should know are telling her to get pricing. I'm inclined to believe that putting the factory air in is NOT practical and it might even be cheaper to trade up to one that does despite the depreciation. Is there any kind of aftermarket add-on system? Short of going ghetto and putting a home window unit or RV unit on (don't laugh, I've seen both!), does such an aftermarket system exist?
 
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Yes, my mom's 1979 Mercury Zephyr had an aftermarket unit that worked really well. Other than the aftermarket control panel on the dash next to the factory HVAC controls, you wouldn't have known it was not factory. It worked the entire life of the car. Much better than the first generation add-on A/Cs that hung under the dash. This one used the factory vents. As I said, just a second control panel on the dash. So yes, quality aftermarket A/C units exist. They've been around for 30 years!
 
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She should have gotten the factory AC. Adding it afterwards will be a major expense now. The dash, heater box, controls, belts, Compressor, condensor etc would be a major job to do now. I don't know of any aftermarket companies that make AC for new cars....Unless she has room to hang an old under dash unit on it.
 

Dave Sherman

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I think I'm with Chris on this one, I had the service manuals for my '97 Saturn, and even on that car there were other parts that were different for A/C vs non-A/c, like a bigger radiator, two cooling fans instead of one, different radiator shroud, pressure switches, different PCM software, and I figure newer cars also have frost sensors in the evaporator (my Honda does anyway), so who knows if the wiring to support the necessary sensors and pressure is even present or not. I have a feeling the cost of installing it would be prohibitive.
 
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its so much cheaper to just get it with a new car. adding it on is such a nightmare, plus it will always show as no AC when the VIN is looked up. the only easy thing to add anymore is cruise control. on the newer fords that are fly-by-wire you just get a steering wheel with the buttons and activate it with the scan tool.
 
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While not impossible, I suspect it just isn't cost effective on a bargain basement cobalt. You're looking at about $1000-ish in parts and then a solid half day of labor. It wouldn't surprise me if it ended up costing $1500-2000 by the time all is said and done. That said, there absolutely are kits available and there are shops that specialize in this type of work (mostly for vintage cars since even the most cheap econoboxes usually come with A/C as standard equipment these days). Also, if she does go down this road, make sure she's got a good mechanic or the shop that does the conversion is local. Otherwise she'll end up paying through the nose for service if/when the aftermarket system (or any of the other systems that have been compromised by shoehorning it in there) has issues. Good luck.
 

JHZR2

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My parents had a car that they bought without A/C, because the deal was right and the color and setup was what they wanted. They took it to an aftermarket installer, and got AC put in. The installer used the OE button in the controls section, so it looked like it was OE. No secondary controls or whatnot. I would think the toughest thing would be installing the evaporator, as potentially dash surgery will be required, and getting in there is $$$.
 
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My dad's 1967 Chrysler New Yorker came with every option that was available... except for the air conditioning. I haven't a clue why the dealer my dad purchased the vehicle from ordered it that way. Anyways, a year or two later my dad decided he wanted AC. Mopar at that time had a kit that could be installed. It worked very well considering the massive glass and interior area of this vehicle; however, a portion of the installation occupied a huge area under the dash. These days it given how things have changed under the hood from the 1967 era it might be better to have the AC from factory.
 
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mfgrs make cheap econo cars w/o AC as loss leaders. dealers are supposed to use them to get people in the door, but MOST times people don't actually BUY them. how did your friend buy a car in the summer, test drive it, sign the papers and LEAVE with it, and never realized there wasn't any AC???
 
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 Originally Posted By: mpvue
mfgrs make cheap econo cars w/o AC as loss leaders. dealers are supposed to use them to get people in the door, but MOST times people don't actually BUY them. how did your friend buy a car in the summer, test drive it, sign the papers and LEAVE with it, and never realized there wasn't any AC???
If the weather's anything like around here, I could easily see how - I've used my A/C a whole three times since May. I usually just roll my windows down. Excitement of a new car can get the better of some people.
 

01rangerxl

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 Originally Posted By: firemachine69
Excitement of a new car can get the better of some people.
I guess so, but even on a new car I would try the AC out just to see how it works before buying. Too late for that though. I'd probably learn to live with it or trade up. That's going to be a huge job to get done correctly and have it look factory. I have seen aftermarket kits for AC, but I don't think I have ever seen one actually installed on anything less than 20 years old.
 
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 Originally Posted By: mpvue
how did your friend buy a car in the summer, test drive it, sign the papers and LEAVE with it, and never realized there wasn't any AC???
Not to stereotype here, but I believe it was purchased by a woman. My wife, as wonderful of a woman as she is, could easily pull a stunt like that, especially with the cool weather we are having right now. I also knew another woman who came out of the dealership knowing that she had just purchased a car at a fantastic price using monthly payments. The salesman told her a bunch of times that she was purchasing a car. It turns out that she had just signed the papers to LEASE a car.
 

Dave Sherman

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I gather this was not the same car that she test drove. Not surprising, I've found the dealers like to have you test drive the high end models. The one I drive now is not the same one I test drove, but I asked to look at an example of the trim level I was ordering before I committed to it, and reviewed enough info to know exactly what I was getting. Even on Chevrolet's website they don't mention the XFE trim, climate control is standard on all the other trim levels, so it would be easy to assume it was still standard. Even I had to go searching through reviews of the Cobalt to find out it was optional on the XFE, because I too figured it was standard. Go figure though; the XM satellite radio and OnStar are standard equipment.
 
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I'm not aware of aftermarket units that I would put in a new vehicle today. Besides all the hacking, fit and finish and interaction with the OEM electrical and computers, it probably won't be very efficient. In the '60s, AC was a popular OEM-made accessory, and most worked well. They were big hangdown boxes and easy to install. By the late '80s, someone I know bought an Escort with dealer-installed AC. It was a genuine FoMoCo kit and integrated into the existing climate system. It was awful, constantly on the fritz, and didn't cool jack. Mickey-Aire, the mechanics call them. If it's not factory-installed AC, I would avoid it. Live with a hot car or take the depreciation hit on a trade up to one with AC. Sounds like the dealer can't find a solution, and is dumping the problem in your friend's lap. Great dealer service on a new sale.
 
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In 1989 I believe the importer put AC in my parents' mazda 323. It worked great. Back then dashboards had 1x1 inch punchouts for options you didn't have; they just punched out a hole for the button. It had its own belt external of the alternator/water pump belt and its own "pusher" fan that mounted in front of the condensor... which was in front of the rad and the typical "puller" fan that continued with its own thermostatic control like nothing ever happened. The dealer tried to excuse it away as being some tax advantage. (like toyota pickups getting American beds maybe?) The lack of AC on the cobalt XFE is probably a "credit option" so they can call it "standard". If the spare and passenger side rearview mirror are options I bet the one they tested for mileage lacked them! I remember my dad's 93 ford escort wagon's roof rack being "optional" but it was years before I saw one without one.
 
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I'd trade it to a dealer during cooler weather. Maybe they wouldn't notice it doesn't have air either.
 
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 Originally Posted By: mpvue
mfgrs make cheap econo cars w/o AC as loss leaders. dealers are supposed to use them to get people in the door, but MOST times people don't actually BUY them. how did your friend buy a car in the summer, test drive it, sign the papers and LEAVE with it, and never realized there wasn't any AC???
I doubt this would happen in Florida.
 
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