Leaking AC

Hi all, I’m driving a Ford Taurus 2004 and the car’s AC is broken. When we turn it on, it starts blasting super hot air, hotter than the outside. We’re told that the AC was leaking and the freon is gone. The guy in the car shop told us that we needed to completely replace our AC system, which costs $1500. If we leave it unrepaired, then the compressor will eventually be stuck, which in turn will destroy the belt. Because the AC compressor, water pump, and alternator are all sharing the same belt in this model, breaking the belt would destroy the car.

Is there any way to avoid this costly repair, if we simply don?t want to use the AC anymore? Or is there some other way to fix it?


Usually there’s a pressure switch in the AC system that interrupts power to the compressor clutch if the freon pressure gets too low. The purpose of the switch is to prevent the compressor from burning out in the absence of sufficient freon to lubricate the seals.

If your system does have a pressure switch, it will not allow the compressor clutch to engage. So even if the compressor totally freezes, the clutch will still freewheel.

And if you wanted to be double-sure, just disconnect the electrical power to the compressor clutch.

By the way, I’d get a second opinion about needing to replace the entire AC system. Why is it not simply a matter of recharging the refrigerant? Even if you have a slow leak, you could still get several years out of a charge. I’d just recharge the system and see if that does the trick.

Get another opinion, preferrably from a shop that specializes in automotive AC systems.

Normally a leak will not necessitate replacement of expensive parts like the compressor.

A good AC shop will put a leak detector in the system so they can determine where the leak is. Sometimes it’s a simple thing like an o-ring, which can be replaced easily. Once the leak is corrected the system can be recharged and it should work good as new.

Since the AC is part of the defrost system I consider it a safety item and suggest fixing it, but get another estimate first.

You absolutely need a second opinion. If you start getting heated air in the cabin when you turn on the AC (assuming that your temp control is set to cold) this suggests a problem with your blend door, not with the AC. That doesn’t mean that the AC isn’t a problem. It might be. But having lost all of your R-134a refrigerant will not result in the AC system blowing heat.

Cigroller makes excellent point. If you’re actually getting HOT air (in winter) with the AC on, then the blend door is stuck in the wrong position.

Many auto parts stores carry a pulley to eliminate the A/C. You may or may not need a different size serpentine belt. It has been my experience that about a year after the compressor stops working the clutch seizes up, necessitating this work-around.