Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Air conditioning compressor

My air conditioning worked fine last fall. I took the car (2004 Kia Optima) in to the dealer to have the freon recharged. They say no can do, your compressor is shot. I said I’m not ready to pay half what I paid for the car to fix it.

It was working great in the fall and its not making a noise or anything when I turn it on. Could they be taking me for a ride as they say? If it is shot is it a part I can obtain used?

Take the vehicle to an independent AC repair shop and get a second opinion. It could be that the AC just needs a recharge. Or, the compressor shaft seal is leaking so badly the compressor requires replacing. But get a second opinion.


An installed compressor can easily set you back $1000. You can buy a lot of r-134a for $1000. Get that second opinion. If they say it can be “fixed” with a recharge, but may leak out over the season, consider buying a recharge kit and learning to do it yourself. If they say, it needs the compressor, you can have the hottest Kia in town.

OK, getting a second opinion tomorrow… Thanks!

Get a second opinion at your local corner garage or if you have them an A/C shop. Your car may very well need a compressor but for the $800 or more it will set you back you want to be sure it’s not something else.

By the way, you do realize your compressor was operating (or trying to) all winter, right? It’s on anytime you use the defroster.

Automotive air conditioning is the biggest profit center in the industry…

In any other sector, $1000 will buy an amazing amount of air conditioning…

I would get it leak checked and go from there. In many cases a compressor will make some noise before it goes belly-up.

Just my opinion, but I think a lot of compressor failures are due to mounting, which is often low in the bottom of the engine compartment. When shaft seals leak, as they often do with age, the constant pressure of the refrigerant in the system is constantly trying to force refrigerant oil out also and even more so when the compressor is inoperative and the oil starts settling and pooling down low in the compressor.
Back in the old days compressors were mounted high and while refrigerant may be lost a lot of the oil remained pooled in the bottom of the condenser and lines with the compressor not being as much of a factor.

Agreed that you need to get another opinion before jumping off on another compressor though.

"Automotive air conditioning is the biggest profit center in the industry…

In any other sector, $1000 will buy an amazing amount of air conditioning…"

Yes, but residential HVAC systems have nowhere near the load and adverse conditions that automotive systems do. Besides, A/C is a luxury, not a necessity to drive your car.

As the summer heat builds, you will see half the threads on this board concerning A/C problems…

Automotive A/C systems were once mostly JUNK, car owners were lucky if they worked for 2 or 3 years before the freon found a way out of the system or the compressor scattered. They hold up much better today but the “open” compressors are still a major weakness…

“Besides, A/C is a luxury, not a necessity to drive your car” Speak for yourself, or tell that to someone that lives in Texas, Florida, or Arizona. (or even parts of Ohio in July) Today’s cars are not engineered with the ventilation features of cars in days past that had wing windows, vents you could open to blast cooler air at your legs, etc., just like modern houses are pretty much designed for AC use and not natural ventilation for cooling…