Car AC isn't working for 3-4 years, approx fix costs?

Hello folks,

2006 Sentra’s AC is not working for at least 3 to 4 years. I can deal with it and I was not planning to fix it at all. The heat works, which is more important for me.

That said, DS, now 10, started getting serious heat intolerance. He has always had it but it was never this pronounced. This year, it hasn’t reached 100F and he has already complained of a headache at least 8-10 times. So I may have to fix it.

Last year, I tried DIY refill using those AC Pro kits. It worked for a day and leaked out by the end of the second day. So my question to experienced folks, what average repair costs I am looking at?

I talked to the mechanic and he mentioned that he will fill up fluorescent dye to check leakage and then he will know for sure abt the costs. But he also mentioned that I made a mistake by not fixing it right away as the refrigerant not only contains refrigerant but also lubricating oil (or similar) to keep the seals intact. Now, there is a good chance that they are broken. I agree with his reasoning. Just wanted to know if anybody can give me a rough idea abt what usually goes wrong most often and what is the worst case scenario.

Many thanks in advance.

P.S. - Is this leak check DIYable? I have a UV flashlight. All I need to get is a dye.

totally depends on where it is leaking from. could be as simple as an o-ring replacement, or as involved as replacing a compressor or condenser.
You’re gonna have to get it checked to know what is going on.

I never recommend a/c work as DIY project. Pros have the tools, the training, and the experience to know what they are doing without causing more damage.

I’m no expert but have had a couple of AC repairs done. AC work can be expensive. $1,000+ would not be unexpected. Get estimates from a couple places.

Seems every estimate from an AC repair shop begins with $1500. If the compressor hasn’t imploded it should be much less. Hopefully just a hose so a few hundred dollars.

The problem when an AC system loses it’s refrigerant for a long period of time is, it allows air/moisture into the system.

Today’s AC systems with the R134a refrigerant uses PAG oil as a lubricant.

When moisture mixes with the PAG oil, it becomes corrosive to system components.

So, judging from the amount time the system has been open to the atmosphere, you’re looking at a total rebuild of the AC system.

And nobody uses the dye anymore.

Takes too long to locate leaks.

Instead a refrigerant sniffer is used to locate leaks.

These can detect leaks as small as 1/2 ounce/year.


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Have no idea what DS means but if I had a family member who suffered because of heat I would replace this 12 year old Sentra even if it meant leasing a new vehicle at the lowest price I could find. As someone who also has to be aware of heat related health problems I know just how miserable one can be.

Presuming only the refridge loop is in need of repair, here’s appx how the costs breaks down for an 06 Sentra How much it will cost for your situation depends on what needs replacing.

Compressor: $700 + 1 hour
Condenser: $325 + 1.5 hour
Evaporator core: $275 + 1.5 hour
Expansion valve: $50 + 1.5 hour
Dryer: $100 + 1.5 hour

Figure in some more if seals, O-rings, connectors, and piping replacement is required.

Plus the cost the initial leak diagnosis, cost of refrigerant, and hourly billing to refill the completed system.

Thank you, folks. My guesstimate was on a right track. I will at least ask him to check it and give me an idea abt the cost then will decide if I want to go ahead.

@VOLVO_V70 DS is Dear Son and I totally agree with your comment. This car was already ready for replacement before we figured out that DS has a diagnosis of autism. Most of the people still don’t know what autism is (latest rate is 1 in 49 kids) and financial ramifications of it on a family. Autism makes you realize how difficult it is to put aside $200 a month even if you make 6-figure. And that is the ONLY reason why we are still holding on to this car.

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My A/C hasn’t worked in 25 years. I suffer.

How much of this stuff can one just do? If I suspect a part that I can replace, a cheap part, such as an o-ring or hose, I just replace it. Sometimes things work just because I take them apart then put them back together. It’s cheaper by far to replace cheap parts than to figure out whether they’re a problem. Could one take an A/C apart, replace all the hoses and o-rings and other cheap parts, put it back together? If so, how likely would this be to repair it?

If you take the parts off it’s a lot easier to find leaks: just seal up the ends and blow into one of them. Put in a tub of water. Is this crazy?

A/C operates at high pressure, you likely won’t find leaks by blowing. And many leaks are at fittings. You’ll also find that ‘other cheap parts’ aren’t so cheap. Better to pay to have the problem diagnosed, then decide if you can handle the needed repairs.

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Yes , it is …

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VOLVO_V70’s standard answer on repair questions is some variation of, “your car is old so get a new one”.


Sounds like you’ve found a capable AC man. Let him do his diagnosis and get your estimate from him directly.

And I urge you to please, please, please get DS (daughter’s son?) to a doctor immediately. Getting the cause of the severe headaches diagnosed is 1000 times more important than getting the AC fixed. This could be as serious as a growing tumor, or a growing aneurism.

I commented a few posts above. He is already under extensive medical care and thanks to our medical system, I am dealing with this car.
His headache is due to a mitochondrial dysfunction, which is very common in autism population (but not really recognized by the mainstream medical community, yet). Thanks for your concern.

My sincerest apologies for having missed that post.
Sincere best wishes for you both.

If you live in a dry climate, low humidity area, there may be some stop gap solutions available using less expensive evaporative water-cooler gadgets. I saw folks use those on their cars (especially VW Beetles & Busses for some reason) when I lived in western Colorado. But for that to work is has to be really quite low humidity, less than 20%, better if less than 10%. I use evaporative home cooling here in San Jose. For the most part it doesn’t get very hot here, so no cooling required, but when it does get into the high 90’s or above, even to 115 degrees sometimes , the humidity is usually very low so the evap method works well.

Evaporating cooler on a car :roll_eyes: If one could even be found.

By blow I meant pump with my bicycle pump, which goes to 120 psi.

Aren’t those easily fixable? You just have to change the fitting.

I’ve seen them.

They used to be a thing, but I haven’t seen one in years - mainly because it’s really hard to find a new car that doesn’t have air conditioning anymore.

And windshield sun visors are getting rare also.