Lots of cars with A/C problems these days

I’m seeing a lot more used car ads for cars that are less than 10 years old with normal mileage that say “a/c compressor replaced” or “a/c not working” or similar language to indicate problems with the a/c system. Are a/c problems becoming more common on cars these days? Could it be the new R134a refrigerant? It seems like more domestic makes have problems than imports regarding air conditioning, from the ads I read. I remember driving 80’s GM cars with R12 that would freeze you out and last a long time. What are some late model cars with good or problematic air conditioning?

Well if you remember, back then they used York, Frigidare, etc compressors. Big cast iron behemoths. You could only fry one of these compressors if you meant to. But now they’re made from light aluminum/magnesium castings. Not very forgiving to heat. So that’s why modern compressors don’t last very long.

You also see this with the steering systems in todays vehicles. In the old days, there was a big cast iron steering sector bolted to the frame that provided steering assist. But now what you find are light weight rack and pinion assemblies made from the same cheap casted material. You rarely had a problem with the old steering sectors. But with todays rack and pinion assemblies, if you don’t keep up with fluid changes, it’s not uncommon to find the seals give out after five years. And the R & P requires replacement.

Same thing with todays transmissions!

Nope! They sure don’t build 'em like they used to!


I think most of the problems are due to lack of maintenance/repair. I don’t think it has anything to do with R134a. Many people will ignore an AC system problem (or any other problem, for that matter) until it becomes a major headache, and then complain about the cost of repair.

I have two cars 10 years old or older (A Subaru and an Acura, both built in the US). The AC in both cars works as it should. Neither of these cars has needed any major work on the AC system, but both have had minor leaks which were easily repaired.

If you fix the small stuff you don’t have to worry about the big stuff.

If I see a used car for sale, and the ad says “AC not working,” or something similar, I move along to the next car, because I know the owner of the car for sale is not properly maintaining his/her car. To me, AC is just as important as any other system on the car.

Interesting explanations. I can imagine though that a lot of times an A/C problem will just show up suddenly, such as when the compressor works but blows warm air and the technician says that the front seal of the compressor is leaking and who knows how long it will last it you just “top it off” with freon. I asked about A/C because I live in Phoenix and am casually looking around for a good second car for the summer months with cold A/C. So after reading these posts, I’ll stick with late 80’s GM cars or newer models with a/c maintenance records or even a new compressor.


I rebuilt the A/C compressor on my 73 Chrysler New Yorker during the summer, talk about robust. The thing is build like a miniature engine complete with piston, con rod and crank, cast iron block and bolted cylinder head. It even looks like a miniature V Twin.

My wife’s Mitsubishi threw a compressor clutch a while back, no touching that thing, just had to replace the compressor.

so how many compressor failures have you found in cars with Sanden Trs090 scroll compressors. I ask because the one in My old 95 Stratus still works perfectly with over 150K. Have you noticed better reliability with the newer scroll type, versus the older Swash plate compressors?

I agree. Lightweight construction and just like many cars compressors are almost a throw-away item.
Last summer a seal dropped in my daughter’s Mitsubishi compressor and that seal was available nowhere. It was only available with the purchase of a 500 dollar compressor. Lucky I found a wrecked low miles car and got the compressor for near nothing.

Another factor is that many years ago keeping up the A/C was cheap. Twenty bucks at Firestone got a system check and top-off. Since it’s expensive now many people fool around with their own. Most do not realize that when refrigerant is lost that compressor oil is also lost. They add refrigerant with no oil and eventually lack of oil does it in.

One good thing is that newer compressors don’t rob the engine of as much power. Can you imagine my daughter’s Mitsubishi 4 banger with an old GM A-6 on it? Turn the air on and the car would never idle or move.