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2004 BMW 325i A/C does not work

I love my BMW with its 76,600 miles.

I had it serviced at the dealership until it went beyond 50,000 miles, and even then occasionally go back. However, just beyond the 50,000 miles warranty expiration its air conditioning (A/C) stopped working and it has now been broken for about 2 years. I was driving home in late spring 2009 on a warm day so I pressed the button to activate the A/C. It blew really hot air - and only hot air, so after a while I shut it off. I took it to Crown to have them resolve the problem. They charged the A/C system, told me they had used a dye in the gas

so that they could see a leak if there was one, but that otherwise they could find nothing wrong and it seemed to be working after the charging. I remember my bill for the service as being a small fortune, but the A/C was working and repairs do cost money. They were right - it worked beautifully, for about two weeks. I was busy at work (summer and early fall were killer times of year for us) and so endured the summer and early fall without the A/C, and when I took it back in late September/early October 2009, I was able to tell them that it worked reliably for two weeks, and then stopped. It would work intermittently (i.e., blow cool air) - when the ambient temperature was below 75 degrees Fahrenheit or so. They could find nothing wrong, and saw no signs of a leak (assuring me they would have seen evidence of the dye even at that late date.) They offered to charge it again, but as that step had not resolved the problem permanently the previous spring, I was reluctant to pay for it again. They suggested I wait until it became warm in the following spring (2010) and come back. I paid the bill for that advice and servicing, too. In the spring of 2010, we retired from working and went to Maine for the summer, where the A/C was only needed a few days, and since there was no dealership nearby, decided to just put up with the hot days (the windows the car work well, though when it is really hot outside, they are not much help.) I noticed recently that when I pressed the A/C button, nothing happened: it used to be that pressing the button resulted in the fan going to high and air was blown at me (either hot or cold air.) Now, nothing happens. I need to up the fan setting myself, and it is never cool air that comes out. So - it is getting warm again in Virginia and my husband asked that I take the car to a mechanic he trusts. This mechanic had the dash off and could find nothing wrong. In putting the dash back together, he said it began blowing cold air (though he said it was very, very quiet.) That only lasted that evening, and in the morning it was no longer working. He is willing to try again, but we are soon leaving for Maine again, so I do not know what to do. I noticed today that the recycle air button does not seem to work now also. I love driving this car (it is my second 325i and likely my last BMW given the problems I have had with this car). I recognize that part of this situation has been exasperated because of my inattention to it, but the A/C needs to work reliably. The nearest dealer to me in Maine is about 3 hours from where I will be located. Has anyone seen this problem before? What do you suggest I do to get this problem resolved?

There are 2 possibilities here.
One is that the system is low on refrigerant and this would mean a leak obviously. I’m not a fan of dye myself and prefer an electronic sniffer. It’s much more sensitive and can access areas that the eyeballs cannot.
If the system is low or out of refrigerant what I would do is have an A/C specialty shop pull a vauum on it. The A/C gauges (the tool) should then be turned off and the car allowed to sit for a while to see if the vacuum holds.
If it does not then there’s a leak and the next step is a partial charge and leak check. (preferably with a sniffer)

Two could be that the A/C system is fine and the problem is related to a fault blend door. The blend door directs air over the heater core or A/C evaporator depending on what mode you prefer. If there’s a door problem air will continue to be heated by the heater core and it will never cool. This can also be an on and off thing.
One way of checking for this is by running the A/C for a while and noting if there is a condensation drip from the evaporator drain tube and if the outlet hose of the evaporator is cold to the touch and possibly sweating.

That’s about the best I can do without knowing system pressures, etc, etc and hope it helps.

Who, or what, is “Crown?”

I suggest you locate, either in VA or in Maine, a shop that specializes in automotive HVAC systems, and take your BMW there. My guess is one will be easier to find in Virginia.

The other option is a BMW dealer.

There are lots of reasons why automotive AC doesn’t work. If your AC system needed a recharge, then there is a leak, because otherwise the refrigerant would still be in the system. Whether they can detect evidence of a leak with dye all depends on how hard they look, and where they look.

If a recharge worked for two weeks, I’m betting there is, indeed, a leak and the refrigerant they installed leaked out again. This is not unusual. I had exactly the same problem with one of my cars a few years ago.

The AC wasn’t working well. My mechanic recharged it and added dye. About two weeks later the AC wasn’t working again. BUT, I took it immediately back to my mechanic who quickly located the source of the leak, thanks to the fresh dye, and repaired the system. I’m happy to report it has been working perfectly ever since.

When your recharge failed you didn’t go back right away. Two years have now passed. That dye may or may not be visible any more. In any event, your problem may be a simple leak that can be fixed quickly and easily. Or it could be something more serious and expensive.

I consider AC to be a safety issue, since it’s connected to the windshield defrost/defogging system, and I expect the AC in my cars to work. If it doesn’t, I make sure it gets fixed. You should do the same, regardless of cost.

BMWs are not inexpensive to own or to fix, but if you can’t afford to fix it you can’t afford to own it.

Quit worrying about the money and fix the AC so you can enjoy the car in all weather conditions.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Open your phone directory and find an automotive AC shop. Or bite the bullet and go to the dealer.

But fix it.

Wow! GREAT info. Thanks.

Crown is the name of the dealership. And yes, I recognize that my not returning the car in a timely manner means I have contributed to the problem. And I also recognize that maintaining a BMW costs money. And I do not mind paying it when they can fix the problem.
I appreciate your input and thank you for your suggestions.

My adorable spouse tells me that I need to add that the mechanic he recommended checked pressure and was OK (this just last week). Within both high and low pressure limits. Also, it has been filled (charged) and still failed. Just so you know. And thanks for all the help!!

If the refrigerant level within the system is OK, the problem might be within the doors, flaps, etc. in your car’s HVAC system. These doors, or flaps, whatever you want to call them, direct airflow through the AC evaporator, the heater core, or a combination of the two, depending on the desired temperature.

If these doors, or flaps, are not working correctly you won’t get AC when you want it.

This is not something for amateurs. Take your car to the BMW dealer, or find someone you trust., but get it fixed.

It’s also possible that the electronic unit that controls your car’s HVAC system is to blame. If that’s the case you still need an expert.

Thanks so much for this response! I did know my A/C had doors! I will get it fixed. Should I post the solution when it is found? (Trying to get a sense of the etiquette for this group …) Again, thank you!

Yes, by all means please let us know how this works out. We want to know, and we appreciate you telling us the outcome.

Thanks for asking.

At one time (some decades ago) A/C systems were pretty simple affairs but they’ve just about been high-teched to death with an assortment of electronic head controls, modules, numerous high/low/pressure switches, and of course a small box full of electric fans, relays, and ECM controls.

You should see the factory diagram about how the headlights work on my Lincoln and what all something as simple as that is tied up with. It will cause a man to take up a full time residence in the back room at the liquor store. :slight_smile: