1998 Buick AC Repair

I have a 1998 Buick Century, 130k miles. Owned the car a little over 6 years now, hoping to hold onto it until it dies.

For the past 2 or 3 years, I have had a steady ac refrigerant leak. At first, I would need to recharge the AC 1 or 2 times during hot months (Philadelphia heat). Now, it needs AC recharge about 1-2x a month depending on usage.

Last time when I went to recharge, it would not accept refrigerant. I noticed the AC compressor clutch was not engaging/spinning, and my pressure on the attachment was reading ~0-15psi.

I tried jumpstarting the compressor in the relay box, and that got the compressor running, but it would still not accept refrigerant. (this was after swapping for a new relay switch and checking all fuses to rule out a simple fix).

Next I plan to borrow a proper gauge manifold and vacuum pump from autozone and try recharging that way.

Any suggestions on further troubleshooting or what to look for? I realize my compressor might just need replacing and is likely the culprit for the leaking over the years, but I would like to keep nursing it along if possible.

If the system is loosing refrigerant, the leak needs to be located.

And for that, you need a refrigerant leak detector. (sniffer)


These can detect leaks as small as 1/2 oz/year.


You’ve reached (or passed) the point where you need to pay a pro to fix it.


There is 100 psi in the can of refrigerant, the can is empty or you did not open it.

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The most likely source of the leak is a compressor shaft seal. That is very common with age and it is possible to obtain a seal kit as in the pic below. There are a few special tools required also. Some more refrigerant oil is a must as refrigerant loss also means oil loss.


I agree with Nevada. I do not think you punctured the can. I had that happen to me once where it would not puncture the can.

Based on the age of the car and your history of slow leaks, I think it’s a safe assumption that the seals have gone but it could be something else.

At this point instead of throwing parts and money at the problem, your least expensive option is to use an AC Pro to confirm the source of the leak, make the proper repair and recharge your system,


Blockquote[quote=“weekend-warrior, post:6, topic:185704, full:true”]

I agree with Nevada. I do not think you punctured the can. I had that happen to me once where it would not puncture the can.

I have one of those recharge hoses with the gauge and quick-connect fitting. Have you ever had trouble with these?

Yes, that is the one I am talking about. A friend came over with a can and that type of hose that he got from autozone and asked me to add refrigerant.
when I hooked it up the can would not puncture. I guess it was defective or someone returned it because of the problem, and it was put back on the store shelf. I hooked up my gauges and everything worked fine.

On a side note. if you bought the can with the gauge and the hose already attached to the can. there is a plastic tab in-between the gauge and the can that has to be removed first. unscrew the gauge and hose off the can, remove the plastic tab and then screw it back together. when you screw it back it will puncture the can. I posted this just in case you or others reading in the future don’t know this. but A/C work should really be left to the PRO’s if you do not know what you are doing. you can do more harm than good. to the vehicle and you if you get the refrigerant in your eyes. always wear eye protection and gloves.

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