Intermittent A/C in Mississippi



I have a 1996 4-cylinder Toyota Camry and have lived in Southern California until two years ago, using my A/C sparingly & only with passengers in my car. We recently relocated to Mississippi where I absolutely NEED my A/C to work and found it wasn’t working at all. After refilling it with two canisters of stuff my husband bought, it now works intermittently and only for a maximum of half an hour when it goes back to the humid feel of the vent. I switch to recycle the air when I turn on the A/C. What do I need to do & will it be expensive?


Take the car to a shop that specializes in automotive AC systems, and let them test the system. They have the equipment and knowledge to correctly diagnose the problem, repair it, dry the system, and recharge it.

If you absolutely NEED AC, which I agree, you do, does it matter what it costs?


If your a/c worked last year, and you put two cans of refrigerant in it this year, this is a large leak. The leak could be anywhere, so changing parts blindly won’t fix it.


Before moving here, the last time I used it was about 3 years ago.


So far I haven’t had any luck with mechanics here. I’ve gone to two for other things and have been taken advantage of both times. Also, I’m hesitant to keep shelling out cash since we just bought a new house and are on a pretty strict budget. I’ll keep trying to find a trustworthy shop.


So how were you taken advantage of?

You have no A/C experience and are blindly throwing refrigerant at it without even knowing what the problem is.
Unless you have a manifold gauge set and know what’s going on inside pressure-wise you have no business messing with the A/C.

A/C work can be somewhat risky, both to the car and the person repairing it, and should be left to a pro actually.

The car is 12 years old and if the system was out of refrigerant this means a leak that needs to be repaired. Most leaks can usually be traced back to the compressor shaft seals.


Well you’re either going to have to find an A/C service shop you can trust, or invest in a few hundred dollars worth of equipment.

What has most likely happened here is that when your A/C stopped working, it had leaked down to nothing. This allowed air and moisture to enter the system. That air and moisture is now circulating around the system with the refrigerant (as you called it, “stuff”). The system will cool after initially being started but not as effectively as it should because there is air circulating within the system. As the system gets cold, the moisture in the system begins to freeze. Eventually the ice circulating within the system begins to clump together, kind of like a blood clot. Eventually this “clot” completely restricts flow of refrigerant through the system, causing it to not put out any cold air.

Continuing to operate the system like this will damage it. Restrictions in the system cause pressures before the leak to climb dangerously high, and pressures on the other side of the leak to get dangerously low, or even become negative (vacuum). The high pressures will begin to overstress the lines, hoses and seals in the system. The low or negative pressures will allow more air and moisture to enter. And then there’s “black death” which is the nickname for the black acid that is formed when air reacts with refrigerant. This acid is already eating away at seals and components, including the always expensive compressor.

In order to fix the problem, the system has to be emptied. A shop has to do this. Then the system has to be leak tested and the original leak has to be found and repaired. Any faulty components have to be repaired as well. All of the o-rings and seals should be replaced since you’ve been running the system with moisture in it, and everything should be inspected for signs of stress which could indicate impending stress failure, since you’ve been running the system under such stressful pressures. Finally, the receiver/dryer and the expansion valve have to be replaced, and the system has to be evacuated so that all air and moisture is removed. This requires a vacuum pump, and a manifold gauge set with a compound low-side gauge. If the system holds vacuum, then it can be charged up and operated once again.

Call around, talk to neighbors, look on the internet. Find a good A/C shop with good reputation and a service manager that you can feel you can trust when you speak with him. Then tell them the situation, and they’ll figure it out.

And I’m sure this question will come up so I’ll answer it now. Assuming that no major components or refrigerant line assemblies have to be replaced, you’re looking at a 600 dollar estimate for work, with parts. That’s a ballpark figure. I’d say +/- $100.



Actually the “taken advantage of” issues were not of the A/C sort. I paid $290 to a garage to fix a loud clanging noise under the front driver’s side. The clanging was still there when the car was returned to me and when I inquired at the garage, the mechanic who had “fixed” it said he hadn’t known what noise I was talking about. His coworker took a look and repaired a crack he’d found in about 10 minutes. The noise was gone and so was my $290.
The second problem occurred when I took my car in to Firestone for an alignment and oil change. I’m pretty sure the oil change took place but I received no paperwork regarding the alignment as I normally do at all other Firestone garages. Driving out back to work the car was pulling left just as it had when I had brought it in. An alignment was listed on my receipt, but I know how my car feels when it’s been aligned-yes, I’ve had it for 12 years.
I’ve talked to many people here about a good mechanic and I’ve been told by every single one that they’ve had a hard time finding someone they could trust.


THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! For your knowledge! I have stopped trying to use the A/C and I was able to find a mechanic who, although he was extremely busy, was able to let me know I was probably looking at a compressor issue and that it would not be a quick fix. I had no idea I would get so much patronizing grief from some of the folks on the site-I was just looking for some help. I really appreciate your suggestions and now I know how important this is! Again, THANK YOU for not being a creep!!!


Can you get a more specific diagnosis from the mechanic? I’ve noticed a trend with mechanics just using the compressor as a default diagnosis. Even though it may not be the fix. Rebuilding your A/C system will take care of the average mechanic’s boat payment for a good long time.

So, please get a more specific diagnosis and post it here. There’s enough mind power on this forum to sniff out a BS diagnosis from a genuine problem.