A/C condenser damage

My A/C condenser (2000 Toyota Sienna) was replaced last July so when it didn’t work this spring I took it back in. They noticed the freon (or whatever the coolent is these days)had leaked out and assured me that if the leak was in the condenser it would be replaced under warranty. They found a hole in it and claimed it must have been hit by a rock and therefore, though the part would be covered, I’d have to pay labor and for the freon, almost $500! I have never heard of a rock taking out a condenser before. Is this even possible? If so, do I have to worry about this happening every 9 months? Or was it just installed wrong and they’re trying to get me to pay for their labor and botched job? It’s fishy because I don’t believe a warranty would pay for damage I caused, but they should cover the whole thing if it was a faulty part. I’ve been taking my cars to this place for 15 years and fear they may have lost my trust in a heart beat, so I’d almost like to hear that this can happen, but that it’s the 100 year fluke I shouldn’t have to worry about again. Thanks in advance for your opinions/advice.


Don’t know the setup on your particular vehicle, but it seems to me that for a rock to hit it and damage the condenser (big enough rock and with enough force), there’d be damage to some of the plastic bits in the grille area, wouldn’t there? Beyond that, it is curious that they argue that the damage was not due to part failure but nevertheless accept responsibility for replacing the part. That’s either a tacit admission of a failed part, or incredible good will by the mechanic, or he’s charging you enough to cover the cost of the part without your knowing it.

I have never personally seen a condenser get taken out by a rock, but have heard of it before. It doesn’t happen very often, but it is certainly very plausible. The condenser sits right behind the grille in front of the radiator, so it would get hit before the radiator would. The shop is not really under obligation to replace the part for free, let alone the labor and refrigerant, so it sounds like they are trying to keep you as a customer. As far as a 100 year fluke, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. If a rock chipping your windshield is a 5 year fluke, a rock causing an a/c condenser leak is probably a 20 year fluke.

Well, a rock could do it, drop by the shop unannounced and have them show you the damage. We just had a long discussion about the same thing happening to an Infiniti. If it was damaged by a rock, accept their offer as a good will gesture.

Yes, AC condensers can be damaged by rocks or other debris on the road. The condenser is in front of the radiator, so it’s the first thing a rock would encounter if it came through the lower bumper opening.

I’ve heard of damage such as this several times, but I’ve never had it with my own vehicles.

It is unusual that they would replace a condenser damaged in this way under warranty.

is this a Toyota dealer or an independent mechanic?

We had a recent post here about a rock taking out an Infinity condenser. Life happens, but if it were me I’d want them to show me the damage.

If it truely is rock damage it would not be covered by warraty.

While a condenser can be damaged by flying debris it’s rare.
I would go down there and ask them to physically point out this alleged damaged area.
If there is a hole in it then it should be apparent to the naked eye and it will also be oily in that spot.

Considering your car uses relatively inexpensive R-134 refrigerant and not the pricy R-12 (or Freon) the cost seems kind of high considering the part is allegedly under warranty. As mentioned, warranty does not cover a part damaged by a customer, flying debris, or auto accident.

Maybe what’s happened is that someone made a mistake in installation (failed to tighten a fitting, reused an O-ring seal, etc.) and the shop has reverted to CYA mode by blaming it on something else and having you pick up the tab.

Ask to see the damage. If it’s legit, they should not be offended and gladly do this.
Ask them how warranty pays for damage that is not caused by a manufacturing defect.