'07 Vue: 10K miles, Dealer $600 A/C Bill!

'07 Vue: 10K miles, Dealer $600 A/C Bill !!

My 82-year old uncle (perfectly lucid and very active and energetic guy - not crazy), is driving down the main drag in town in his '07 Vue (4-cyl engine). He’s LEASED it since new and it only has a little more than 10,000 miles on it over 3 years time! It’s 95+ degrees outside, so he’s got the A/C running. He hits a puddle of water which does not appear to impair the car at all, however, his A/C no longer blows cold. After two more days of driving around, still no cold air. His son checks the car from the top declaring all the fuses to be OK. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look underneath because they both think this LEASED car is still under warranty. So it goes to the Buick/GMC dealer in town to be checked out. They tell him his warranty is expired, Saturn is out of business, the part he needs (high side pipe/hose combo underneath the car) will take DAYS to get, and the bill will be (nearly) $600 (including an insulting freight charge to GET the part)! Disgusted with this story, I took a look at the car today for myself. Absolutely no visibile damage underneath, but a river of pristine refrigerant smeared/stuck to the underside of the car (especially all over the trans. pan). I’m thinking if this failure happened while driving the car, there would be dirt/debris mixed in with this refrigerant river. Looked to me like the tech tried to charge it up and blew it all out - but even then, I couldn’t see how it would’ve ended up looking like it does!

Is this fraud? Sure looks like it to me. Looks like the refrigerant got sprayed onto the bottom of the pan at the dealership! The pan is completely covered! Any history of these refrigerant pipes/hoses leaking on these Vues? Could the street water have caused a crack in the metal line on impact? I couldn’t see any breaks anywhere. And aren’t these parts readily available via the Equinox, Rendezvous, and Torrent? The whole thing looks very suspicious to me … 82-year-old man … the Saturn out of business story …etc…

Since it is out of warranty, I would get a second opinion from an independent air conditioning specialist. Most medium to large towns have at least one. Let them give you another diagnosis and see what they say. There is no reason to pay dealer labor rates for this repair. An AC specialist may also have better parts sources.

You aren’t seeing refrigerant under the car. Refrigerant is a gas, and it doesn’t hang around. It is possible that you are seeing compressor oil, or something unrelated under there.
Saturn being shutdown has nothing to do with your warranty expiring, three years going by does.
Forget the fraud stuff, you are letting your imagination plus ignorance (about AC) get the best of you.

First I would hook this car up and try to pull a vacuum on it, if that goes OK give it a little shot (it will be close to a pound probably) and see if you see where it is leaking. Be prepared to recover the charge quickly and don’t use this method if vehicle will not hold a vacuum.

If you don’t have the equipment or skills to do this safely and with minimal refridgerant lost into the atmosphere (we are thinking none will go into the atmosphere at this point) stop and turn this over to a pro. I could list some issues that don’t add up but will save that for later.

Get another opinion and you’re completely mistaken with much of what you’ve posted.
Refrigerant has no taste, smell, or color so you’re not looking at a river of pristine refrigerant. You MAY be looking at a river of refrigerant oil and if that’s the case then uncle apparently hit something a bit harder than what he’s letting on.

The price is in line (ALL OEM A/C parts are pricy) and any special ordered parts always incur a freight charge. Regular stock order parts delivered in en masse have much lower shipping charges and these are factored into the retail price of the part.

Saturn is HISTORY, and so are many of its parts suppliers. GM, the parent company, is operating in bankruptcy and have enough problems of their own and could not care less about Saturn…

A GOOD independent A/C shop should be able to MAKE a new custom hose, replace your hose, evacuate and recharge the system for less than $600…But you should know that air conditioning has been an automotive profit center for over 50 years…

If this is from impact damage, the OP’s insurance should pay for the repair, less any deductible of course.


Uncle claims because it’s a LEASED vehicle, he HAS to take the car to the dealer. I’ve never leased a car, nor will I ever. Is this true? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was, but then again, how would the dealer know something was repaired “behind their back” by an independent if genuine GM parts were always used??

OK, it’s the oil (with dye?), but it’s definitely from the A/C line. And I know the Saturn shutdown is irrelevant but the three years is, that’s why I argued successfully this morning to cover a defective part on a relatively ‘new’ vehicle just three months out of warranty. There’s no way this part should’ve failed this soon, and I seriously doubt that what they SAY failed, actually failed. But if it did, they ought to eat it. A failed part like that after only 10,000 miles is ridiculous (inside or just outside of warranty). After getting the runaround by the “podium guy” and the “cubicle guy”, the Service Manager finally agreed to reduce the bill to $125 (cost of the part plus tax on labor). I told him my uncle would be turning this vehicle in within the year (which is true) and a “goodwill” gesture to help out with this repair would go a long way toward his considering this dealership for his next vehicle (which is probably true).

OK, I said “refrigerant”, but it’s the oil from the refrigerant. It definitely belongs to the A/C system. And I realize that the Saturn shutdown is irrelevant, in fact I argued that this morning. And yes, he was outside his warranty by three months, but with only 10,000 miles on the car and all the necessary checkpoints made along the way, there’s no way this part should’ve failed this soon. If it did (and I’m skeptical), GM ought to eat it. This is what I very calmy and quietly requested of two middle “managers” before finally getting the Service Manager (a very nice and seemingly trustworthy guy, actually) to agree to. He’ll be paying about $125 … the cost of the part, plus tax on labor. Then we’ll see what fails next …

I used a high/low gauge set (Imperial) to successfully charge a couple of my own cars for the first time ever a few months ago, but I’m not touching this car. We’ll just wait and see what happens next. I’d sure like to prove that hose/pipe gets replaced, though…

Sounds like you and your uncle got treated more than fairly. “Out of warranty” is just that. You did well to hang possible future business in front of them, some folks make the mistake of saying “I’ll never buy another X!” which removes any reason for the dealer to go out of his way.

And for an AC to stop working because of a massive leak immediately after the splash in the puddle means something hit the AC tubing, not a defective part.

OK - I said “refrigerant”, but it’s really the oil in the refrigerant. Point is, it’s definitely “material” from the A/C system.

And no - there are No signs whatsoever underneath of any damage. No scraping, scuffing, nothing bent or broken. It’s all pristine everywhere you look from top to bottom. Where the leak is allegedly occurring, there is no sign of any kinks, cracks, ripples, nothing. The majority of the green oil is smeared all over the tranny pan. As you look back from that, there is this same liquid on this rubber hose with the crimped metal end where it meets the rigid metal pipe. Upwards from that along the metal pipe, heading toward the compressor, there is a “nipple” or fitting or something (doesn’t look anything like the fittings on top of the engine) that juts outward from the metal pipe about an inch. Looks like a nut on the end of it. Above this there is no more green liquid, so maybe it blew out of this “port” or nipple? Problem is, this opening faces the front of the car and there is no liquid on any part of the car in front of it! Really weird!

The part, according to the Service Manager, is allegedly around $100, but I haven’t verified that with the parts department. Also find it hard to believe that this hose is so rare - but maybe that’s because it never fails…

I was very calm and composed, smiled frequently at them and did not make a scene. Two guys were very evasive, rolling their eyes from side to side and squirming like they didn’t know what to say. The Service Manager really impressed me. Tall guy in his mid 30’s, very friendly demeanor. Seemingly trustworthy - something you rarely come across in people who work at these places (sad to say).

And like I’ve post already in response to others’ posts - NO - no damage underneath whatsoever. I believe him when he says he hit the puddle and that was it. He drove it without incident for another two days in 95+ heat before he and his son decided to take it to the dealer. The only thing I can think of is the HOT pipe developed a pin-hole crack when the cold water hit it, OR - there’s really nothing wrong with this pipe/hose assembly and it’s something else. But what? Blend door? Unlikely with a splash of water, I’d say…

uncle claims the dealer must perform the repairs on a LEASED vehicle. Not sure it this is true.

You would need a evacuation pump also, not just charging equipment.

That might be true, since “leased” is just another way of saying “rented”…It’s not your car…It’s pretty pathetic when the warranty runs out before the lease does!!!

It is not true, the dealer has to do the repairs if it is a warranty repair. I have leased vehicles and unless it’s a warranty repair I did the repairs myself.

Now if he is talking about maintenance items he does not have to take it to the dealer even if it is a leased vehicle. He can have anyone change the oil and all he has to do is keep the receipts to prove he has had the work done.

I don’t lease cars, but am doubtful that he must take the car to the dealer. Read his lease contract carefully. As I understand it, you the lessee are responsible for keeping the car up, and the lessor (usually a dealer) has the right to inspect and require repairs up to a reasonable wear and tear standard, but I don’t think they can demand that all repairs be made in their shop. That becomes particularly difficult if this is a Saturn lease and you have no Saturn dealer.

Note I have no real info to back up my claims. Check your uncle’s lease contract about repairs and how they must be done. He may be confusing the end of lease inspection with normal upkeep.

Let me just say parts availability isn’t what it used to be. Freight or overnight charges are part of the deal, because many parts departments are much smaller and stock less than in the past. In many cases, “just in time” turns in to “just too late”. As a consumer you become victim to the system and just have to deal with it, particularly for specialty parts.

That said, a good independent shop might be able to fabricate the needed part or find an aftermarket part supplier who actually has the part and can deliver sooner.

Yeah - I’m not buying what he said about having to do the repairs at the dealer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what someone VERBALLY told him when he signed the contract and that’s what he remembers (ie: he never actually READ the lease contract). I probably should read his lease contract to be sure since he’ll probably lease another vehicle next year. This one was a 4-year lease. I was just thinking today about how much money he’s poured into this thing. Four years, probably around $300/month??? That’s $14,400. The sticker on this thing was probably $22,000?? So what do they do next March - offer it to him for $5,000? He says “NO” and it goes on the dealer’s lot for $10,000??? I’m just pulling numbers out of my A## here, but I’d bet they’re fairly close…

One other thing - I stopped by the local Chevy parts department today and found out these hose/pipe sections on this '07 Vue run anywhere from $115 to $160 retail. Availability is next day from GM (if available) or special order from Saturn (apparently there is still a Saturn dealer in operation 75 miles from here). I also asked for the replaced part this morning at the dealer. The “podium guy” told me the job had been completed and the old part had been returned to Saturn (by rule).

Another story, I’m sure.