How long should a car's A/C last?



I am the usually happy original owner of a 1985 Honda Prelude with 147K+ miles. For the most part, the car gives me little trouble and is inexpensive to maintain.

The problem is the poor quality A/C systems Honda supplies. There is no alternative equipment available other than these factory parts. I’m now on my 5th compressor. The last two functioned correctly for an average of 26K miles each (and part of that was winter).

This is an expensive repair and it seems to me I’m having to do it too often. What is the typical longevity of A/C compressors in general and Honda in particular?


It really depends and you may have another issue at hand causing your AC to fail.

My 95 Civic’s worked fine without issue for 9 years/225,000 miles and was sold working to the next owner.


I don’t think you have a parts quality problem; you have an A/C repairman problem.

Someone is not doing something right, and without knowing the details it’s hard to say, but compressor life can be shortened by someone not making sure the system has the right oil quantity, the system does not have a restriction, cooling fan inoperable, etc.

There’s a reason for the failures and unless the repairman can tell you…


Did they pull a good vacuum on the system? Did they replace the filter drier each time? Did they flush the lines before installing the new compressor?

It sounds like the compressor burned out and they did not completely clean the system before installing the new compressor. The acids and sludge then burn out the new compressor. Air and moisture make this even worse.

Find a different HVAC company. They might be able to fix the problem before another compressor burns out.


Automotive A/C has improved somewhat, but in 1987 they were junk, designed to last the length of the warrantee plus about 2 weeks. Everything about air conditioning is high profit, from the original mark-up to the inevitable repairs. Quality refrigeration systems use a hermetically sealed compressor and no rubber hoses. They can last 20 years or more…


I had a 1992 Honda Accord and when I sold it with 280,000 miles the AC was still working good.


Any repair/replacement should last much longer than that. It could be the tech is having problems finding proper parts for that old a car, or it could be they are not that good a tech.


Why in God’s name are we discussing HVAC, burn outs, and hermetically sealed compressors on an automotive forum?


Geez. the AC in the 84 Buick that I inherited from my grandfather went 15 years with no repair and had the compressor seals replaced. It went another 5 before the compressor went completely.


Sounds like your repairman is botching jobs, badly.
I’m assuming by this time the A/C has been updated to R134a instead of R12. When ever an A/C is opened, it should be vacuumed down, if this hasn’t been done they’re flat out idiots. Anytime a compressor is replaced, the Accumulator/Dryer/Receiver and Expansion Valve/Orifice Tube should be replaced, the system flushed, evacuated, and oil in all of the replaced parts replaced before recharging with new refrigerant and addtl. oil.

I do hope you have not used the same shop for more than two repairs. If you have, it’s time to move on. And you may want to consult lawyer, you might have a case against them.



I second this.
Who’s got ban control? This site is designed so that knowledgeable people can give USEFUL advice to people in NEED OF IT. Unhelpful people, or those intentionally trying to confuse, shouldn’t be allowed to continue expanding their track records. 'Less something bad happen to some poor soul who takes the ill-advised advice.