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2002 Honda CRV (86K miles) -- A/C compressor blew metal bits through the system -- $4K repair?!

Hi all, thanks in advance for your help. I was driving my 2002 CRV with 86K miles on it, when suddenly the A/C stopped working and there was a burning smell. Immediately stopped A/C and took it to my local dealer, Berkeley (CA) Honda. They say the compressor blew metal debris throughout the A/C system, destroying it completely. $4000 to replace. They suggested I phone Honda of America, which I did, and they have offered to pay 50% of the repair cost, which brings my total (including, for some reason, having to pay tax on the full amount, according to the dealer) to $2100. I am, of course, furious that a low mileage Honda in excellent condition would require this kind of repair. Should I have it done? Should I find another mechanic and get aftermarket parts? I need to let them know by Monday or the offer expires. Thanks for your expert advice…

I forgot to add, very importantly, is it safe to drive if I don’t repair? We have two little ones riding around in this car! Thanks again.

The car is 12 years old and over time A/C seals age and small refrigerant leaks develop. With the loss of refrigerant comes loss of refrigerant oil so catastrophic failures can occur unless at some point in time the A/C system is checked and oil added.

It’s unknown to me exactly what is being replaced for 2100 dollars but assuming it’s pretty much the works then I would say at dealer pricing the charge is fair.
However, there’s a fly in the ointment and without going through the details what this would boil down to once the smoke and mirrors are removed from a Good Will warranty is that the 2100 would essentially pay for the entire repair at a minimum and possibly even generate a small amount of profit.

You should certainly try and get another opinion before committing to anything and it’s entirely possible the reason for the tax on the entire amount is related to legalities.

It would be safe to drive temporarily if the A/C compressor is not engaged and assuming there is no problem with the compressor clutch. Best of luck.

You have a 12 year old car and Honda is offering to go half for something that was only waranteed for 3. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!

you can replace it yourself for about 1K, or find a cheap mechanic to add about 1k in labor to the parts bill. either way, you are still back to $2K. Go get it fixed thru these folks. You won’t be saving much by shopping around.

I think Honda’s willingness to pay anything for the AC repair on a 12 year old car is outstanding, regardless of the mileage. The metal debris is an issue. If you went cheap and just replaced the compressor, the residual metal debris would kill the new compressor in a few days and miles. So, you need to do the whole job and I don’t think many independent AC shops or mechanics could do it for much less than the deal you have now. Now if you really have a 2012 CRV then Honda might not be offering such as sweet deal - but if it is in fact a 2002 they are.

I think the only reason Honda is paying half is that there is known issues on the AC units on certain year CRV’s and this one might be one of those.

Galant is correct that self-destructing A/C compressors are a know issue on some Honda models of that era. That reality notwithstanding, few-- if any–other car mfrs would offer to split the repair costs on a 12 year old vehicle.

Kudos to Honda for providing this assistance, when they could easily refuse to do so after so many years.

I think it is good Honda is offering up some help on this. Great of Honda to do this in fact. I’d accept their offer straight away if you want to fix this problem. A 2002, it’s not exactly a new car. $4000 to replace the AC system components seems sort of high, but no entirely beyond belief. I guess they have to replace the stuff under the dashboard in the passenger compartment, and that kind of work is awkward and very time consuming. $100 per hour or more adds up fast.

Have you ever had this AC system recharged or otherwise worked on? If so, my first guess is the prior servicing is cause. An improper AC service, probably done using pressure gauges. Newer AC systems are especially sensitive to being overcharged. The proper servicing method for many car’s AC systems when the refrigerant is thought to be low is to pump all of it out into a pressurized holding tank, then add it back in, the amount determined by weight, not by pressure.

“I am, of course, furious that a low mileage Honda in excellent condition would require this kind of repair.”

I’m not trying to be flippant or disrespectful here, but I wonder, would you be furious if your 12 year old refrigerator needed repair? Your 12 year old washing machine, furnace, or lawnmower? That air conditioner compressor has given you 12 years of year-round service and now it’s broken. A/C is a luxury, not a necessity. You can safely choose to live without it. I think I would if I had to pay $2000 to get my car A/C fixed.

Having said that, it’s entirely possible that your compressor “grenaded” internally and spread little bits of metal debris through the system. If so, you need a new compressor, condenser, drier, expansion valve, possibly an evaporator, and the remaining parts flushed and cleaned. I can see this costing over $2000 at a reputable independent shop. I have a feeling the dealer price may have been inflated and then reduced to make you feel better about getting some help from Honda.

Rock auto price. Compressor 200. Condenser 80 comp in/out lines 40 each. Exp valve 14. Parts are 400. Labor is always 2/3 of bill so 800? 1200 total.

I believe its a more common failure of Honda CRV then. It is a gift Honda after 12 years is covering 50% of the repair.

Apparently the scroll compressor in that era CRV can fail by shredding small abrasive particles that contaminate the hole system to the point of not being able to successfully cleaning out the particles. New replacement compressors have a high failure rate shortly after replacement using standard cleanup techniques, So Honda Recommends replacing the entire A/C system.
Honda covering half for the repair on a 12 year car is nothing to complain about.