Is it worth it to fix broken A/C in '91 Cavalier?



I have a '91 Chevy Cavalier with about 145K miles on it. It runs well but the A/C stopped working last year. I really need to get it fixed so I don’t look like a stuck pig when I arrive at customer meetings. The car is 16 years old so I’m not surprised that the A/C is dead, but I am wondering if anyone knows a ballpark cost to repair the A/C? I always have in the back of my mind that I will eventually need to buy a “new” (used) car, but so far it’s been very economical to make small repairs as needed. I am basically wondering if A/C repair tends to be “small” or “large” in cost? I don’t know whether it just needs new Freon or a whole new compressor, but I’m assuming the compressor is dead because I can’t imagine it lasting 16 years…




The question is “what’s broken?” If your a/c quits working, it really pays to get it looked at ASAP! Often it is simply a minor leak that allows the freon (or other stuff) to leak out. Problem is, it also allows moist air to enter the system. That moisture can corrode the inside of the system, including the compressor, causing long term damage rather than a short term quick-fix. Take it to a reputable shop and have it checked. The cost of a new or rebuilt compressor is probably more than the car is worth. Hoses and freon are cheaper.


Take it in for an estimate.

Assume $1000.


Is it hot?

You will have to take it in to get it diagnosed and get an estimate. Most A/C repairs are straight forward for someone with the tools, knowledge and license.


I just wanted to add. Find a A/C shop. A lot of radiator shops do this work as well.


Thanks guys, I will bring it into an AC shop for diagnosis. Your statement about the compressor costing more than the car is worth doesn’t surprise me, because the Kelly Blue Book value for the car is around $200 the last time I checked. :slight_smile: In fact, pretty much all repairs will be more than the car is worth. But that’s fine if it saves me from shelling out $8,000 for a new used car. I’m basically trying to determine if AC repairs are generally economical. I guess I better see what the diagnosis comes back as.


I have a 1993 Caprice (last year for R12). Last week when I used it for the first time this year, I noticed it was barely cooling the air down. The compressor was running/disengaging in 5 to 8 second intervals. I was able to scrounge up a can of R12 and after charging the AC, it was working normally again. It’s only been a week but the AC is fine. You may just be low on freon, hopefully the AC shop can diagnose this. Converting the system to R134a probably is not cost effective.

Ed B.


LOL, that’s probably a good guess, every-time I have an AC problem in a car I end up spending about $1000 before I’m done. Shops are charging around $50 per pound for R-12 these days, so plan on about $150 just for the recharge (after the leak is fixed).