Air Conditioning Compressor

Yesterday, the air conditioning in my car conked out - of course, on a freak hot day in May. Almost exactly a year ago, we had a relay fixed in relation to the air conditioning. We took it in today and the mechanic said that the clutch in the air conditioning compressor had burnt out and that the entire compressor needed to be replaced. The parts would cost $600 and the entire cost including labor would be about $800.

Now I know nothing about cars, and I don’t want to be taken for a ride. I know air conditioning is an expensive thing to be replaced, but I scouted around online a little bit and saw price ranges of $250-$400 for the compressor itself. Granted, these are just semi-shady websites and not someplace I’d ACTUALLY buy an air conditioning compressor from, but the price difference seems pretty substantial.

I asked the mechanic about getting a used compressor, but he said it’d only save about $150 and there’s no guarantee that it won’t be a piece of junk.

Am I getting taken for a ride by these guys or does $800 seem like an appropriate price for this? Would I be better or worse off taking it to the dealership? Thanks for any help you can give me!

$800 sounds like a fair price to me. I wouldn’t take any chances on substandard parts. Depending on the damage done, you might be able to just replace the clutch, but if it were me, I would replace the clutch and compressor. It’s a lot less of a gamble to do so.

If only the compressor clutch failed the entire compressor doesn’t require replacement. Just the clutch assembly.

Most compressors have enough flexible hose to them where the compressor can be unbolted from the engine and then orientated where access to clutch is gained so it can be replaced. All this without discharging the refrigerant from the system.


Yes, I was quoted $750 10 years ago for the same job for my Caprice. The price involves purging the system, replacing the compresor, usually a number of fittings, belt, maybe a hose, etc. A qualified A/C shop does not want to do a questionable job, since they will get you back when something happens and their reputation is at stake.

The $800 quoted would get you a rebuilt compressor with a warranty, and a good shop will also stand behind their work.

Sometimes, if you are handy you can pick up a used compressor from a low mileage wreck and do a credible job. A friend of mine had his fail just out of warranty and was able to get one from a very low mileage wreck.

The last time I had my air conditioning compressor replaced, the whole bill came to slightly more than $1,300. I don’t think you are being taken for a ride.

When it comes to air conditioning repairs, don’t try to cut corners. Bite the bullet and pay for the new compressor.

By the way, your mechanic should be allowed to mark up parts he buys and resells to you. That is how they make money. In addition, the profit margins for parts isn’t usually that big, so they are usually worth paying. Trying to skimp on parts leaves you with nobody to blame if something goes wrong after the job is complete.