Air Conditioning for 1997 Honda Accord

I have a 1997 Honda Accord Wagon, 150K mileage - runs beautifully and has a lot of life left. But the air conditioning is so wimpy it’s unbearable during hot summers - East Bay (other side of Caldecott Tunnel)of the SF Bay Area. All mechanics do is replace the coolant which does very little.

May years ago, when the car was about 30K, the heating core was replaced, this was covered by warranty. The air conditioning still worked well at that time, this problem is about 50K miles ago.

Is the problem with the air conditioning core? Are the heating core and the air conditioning core the same? If this is the problem, how much should this job cost? Any insight would be deeply appreciated.

The heater core and the AC evaporator core are similar in function, but are different and unrelated components. A qualified shop should be able to tell you what is wrong with the system. The dealer might not be a bad idea, at least for a diagnosis. One common problem I have seen on these older Accords is that one of the electric fans under the hood stops working or is weak. You can check and see if both fans are coming on when the engine is warmed up and the a/c is turned on. They are easily seen with the hood open.

The heater core and the AC evaporator (the part that cools the air) are separate parts. The heater core has engine coolant flowing through it, while the evaporator has R134a refrigerant in it.

There are several possible reasons why the AC does not work the way it should. If there is a leak and the refrigerant level is low the system will not cool correctly. Simply replacing the refrigerant without fixing the leak doesn’t work because the refrigerant leaks out again.

Assuming a leak-free system and the correct amount of refrigerant there is still a potential problem within the HVAC system. Air temperature is controlled by flaps in the system. The flaps direct incoming air through either the heater core or the AC evaporator (or both) depending on the desired temperature. If the flaps are not moving correctly, and the air is not being directed through the evaporator, the air will not be as cold as it should be.

Perhaps one of these flaps was damaged during the heater core replacement, or one of the motors that move the flaps is bad.

I suggest you take the car to an automotive AC shop, rather than to your normal mechanic. An automotive AC specialist will be able to figure out why the AC isn’t working as it should and fix it.

I have a service manual for a '97 Acura CL, which is very similar to your Accord. The chapter covering heating and air conditioning has a “troubleshooting” section that is 38 pages long. You need an expert.