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AC blowing warm in 1998 Ford Escort ZX2

I bought the car new in 1998 w/out AC - added a unit new in 2000 for anticipated move to Los Angeles. Has been working okay, but live by the beach and don’t use that often. This week, noticed when I turn on in the morning (engine is cold) the AC works fine and is cold. But, as soon as I’ve driven 5 minutes and the engine warms up, air becomes very noticeably warmer - and never gets cold again. Having a heat wave this week and it’s really awful! Mechanic says will have to pay over $150 for them to just “look at it”. So, I wanted to get some ideas on whether it’s something easy like needs freon (unit hasn’t been touched since 2000 install)or if it could get pricey (they charge $90/hr for AC labor apparently). Thanks for any advice!

Until someone looks at it, it isn’t real easy to diagnose long distance. You probably have a leak around O-rings, or somewhere else, and the unit has lost part of its charge. In general, the issue is more than a refrigerant recharge, because a recharge only doesn’t fix the leak.

Take it back to the folks who installed it and get it checked out. I sympathize on the labor rate and possible diagnosis charge, but the mechanic can figure out exactly what is wrong and what it will cost to repair much better than we can long distance.

Wish I could take it back to where I had installed - but I’m in LA now and it was installed 8 yrs ago in Seattle. I’ll just have to call around and see if I can find someone cheaper in the Santa Monica area to take a look at it. There goes my $600 IRS stimulus check!
Thanks for the input!

unfortunately it needs an inspection by a AC shop.

these guys specialize in the AC systems.

typically they check it, and if they can’t find anything obvious, they recharge the system (if it needs it) and then you bring it back to check for leaks in a week or so. this usually costs around 125 or so.

they will credit you that portion (usually) when you bring it back for repairs if they do find leaks and you get it fixed.

Well, the plot thickens! On Monday, I called Santa Monica Radiator & AC (85 yrs in business) to make an appt for Thurs. The problem had happened over the previous weekend and continued thru Monday (when I called). On Tuesday, I tried the AC and it WORKED! I drove for 45 minutes, running errands, turning the car off and on and it stayed ice cold the whole time. Did the same thing on Wed - stayed cold all day. Took it in to SM Radiator on Thur. Told the owner (Chuck, very nice man)that it now seemed to be working and his best guess was debris build up in a valve which had now cleared. I paid the $95 to have them check it out, which they did. He called me at the end of the day to report that it was challenge for his guys - the ran every test they could think of, took out the refrigerant, pressure tested, etc. and could find no problems or leaks. He said if it happens again to bring it back, free of charge and they’ll do more tests. So, no idea what the issue was but apparently it corrected itself, for now. It’s happened more than a few times over the years, so we shall see how it goes!