CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Air conditioner repair / rip off or reasonable?

I took my 2003 Suzuki Aerio in because the air conditioner was blowing hot. They first told me that it was most likely the compressor & quoted a $689 price to replace. I said okay. they call me later to tell me the good news, it was the relay that wasn’t working so it was only $166. I pick up my car later that evening & while driving home the air conditioner does work however it is making a horrible sound every time the compressor comes on and the compressor seems to be surging on/off; on/off every few minutes. My car has never made this sound before. I took it back & the mechanic & manager tell me that the sound is the normal. I tell them that it may be normal for other cars but that my car has never made such a sound (and honestly no other car that I’ve driven has ever made such a sound). So I bring it back for them to take another look at. Now the manager just called & said that the compressor does need to be replaced and while they’re in there they want to replace the part that absorbs the moisture too. Now they tell me it will cost $1100 !! and they will need to keep it another day. so, I guess what I want to know is: should they discount this price since they misdiagnosed the first time & have taken two more days to do more work which probably should have been done the first day. Also does the moisture part really need to be replaced? Thank you.

Yes the Acumilator/dryer needs to be replaced any time the compresser is. My question is why is the price not $689 to replace the compresser like it was the first time?? Why is it more now??

Also can you describe the sound the AC is makeing?

I would question whether they began to pull down the system when they decided to check the relay (the first thing they should have looked at in the first place) and did not fully recharge it, or the schrader valve is now leaking.

A/C work is expensive. Sometimes if the compressor just needs an oil charge it will make a growling/grinding noise.

Thanks everyone! I agree with you gsragtop - why the extra $$ now? I’ll be sure to ask them about this.
I can’t really explain the sound. it was so loud that the radio wouldn’t drown it out. :slight_smile: I thought for sure something serious was wrong & was afraid to drive the car until I realized that it stopped when I turned off the defroster.

Maybe it’s the heater blower motor and not the compressor that’s making the noise…You can buy a lot of air conditioning for $1100…(unless it is for a car)

I think what has happened and the the price quoted seems reasonable. If they meant to rip you off they wouldn’t have called back and said it was just a relay. I expect both the relay and the pump were bad in the first place, and they thought it was cheaper (for you) just to replace the relay first and see if that worked good enough for your requirements. It didn’t, so now they’re more than willing to accomodate, and they find they now have to replace the pump to get rid of the noise you are complaining about. I don’t think they mis-diagnosed. The reason it is more now being quoted than they said before is because they decided they have to not only replace the pump, they have to replace the moister accumulator too.

You seem to be complaining about how many days it takes them to keep your car and do the work. But take into account they have to order the parts, wait for them to be delivered, and then schedule your car into all the other cars that they are working on at the moment. And they are probably working on a lot of car’s air con systems now as summer approaches. I think you have to be a little more reasonable. They appear to be doing about as good as can be expected. You have a 9 year old car. It’s going to break down from time to time.

You have some choices:

  1. Do nothing. Just ask the mechanic to top off the oil level in the pump. And live with the remaining noise. The pump will eventually fail, but you can keep your dough a while longer.

  2. Tell them to go ahead with their recommendations.

  3. Take the car to a different shop and see what they think.

I decided to have them complete the repair. I think you’re right about the process GeorgeSanJose. But what bothered me most was them telling me that the noise it was making (after they replaced the relay), was normal. And then after I insisted that it was not normal, having the new diagnosis. Anyway, just felt like a bit of a battle. Got me a little riled up. Thanks for the input.

“…what bothered me most was them telling me that the noise it was making (after they replaced the relay), was normal.”

That bothers me too. In fact, I would ask for another technician this time. I would also ask that $166 be deducted from the final bill since the $166 you spent didn’t solve your problem, and was most likely a misdiagnosis.

Thanks Whitey. I have already let the manager know that they should discount the bill just as you suggest. He said he would work with me.
It’s 4:25 pm and still haven’t heard from them about the status. It’s supposed to be finished today. sigh.

@pattio … Sorry for the troubles you are having with your car. Maybe I can tell you a funny story to brighten things up a bit.

I had a VW Rabbit once, and the VW dealership fixed a problem where it would completely stop running for no apparent reason. It would strand me on the side of the road without warning. Turned out to be the fuel pump relay. But after the fix at the dealership, when I turned the key to ON (before starting it), the fuel pump ran. I could hear it running. It never did that before. The fuel pump is only supposed to run while the engine is running. Anyway, I told them I could hear it running, and they said it was normal. I said “Ok, let’s test this theory out on one of the cars on the lot”. It was a dealership after all. So we went outside, found another Rabbit, and turned the key to “ON”. No sound. The technician guy said “Oh, the fuel pump is running, but with these newer cars you just can’t hear it”. lol …

Anyway, I took the car home and discovered they had mis-wired the fuel pump relay circuitry, which had short circuited the fuel pump relay and ruined it. The fact that the car started was simply a coincidence that the relay was now short circuited and ran all the time the key was on. Which is unsafe by the way.

I had a few words with the tech guy the next day, and he said “Ok, we’ll look into it”. I came back the next day after that, and he said everything was fine, and no changes had been made. When I took the car home I noticed the noise was gone until I actually started the engine, and when I later inspected the relay, I found they had installed a new one and corrected the wiring.

Everything old is new again it seems. :slight_smile: