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Mazda only ac or defrost now ac quit

I’m the original/only owner of a 97 Mazda B2300 PU with 111,000 miles. The truck has been a great vehicle to own and hasn’t cost anything aside from normal maintenance. Last year, my regular ac setting stopped working and I couldn’t get fresh air in the vent. I took it to a repair shop and they said that the control center in the dash broke so it defaulted to Max AC and defrost. They estimated around $1600 to repair. I have been living with it. About 2-3 weeks ago, the air stopped working. The compressor doesn’t seem to kick in. I live in hot and humid FL and summer is around the corner. Should I take the dive and repair it and continue to drive it until it rusts to the ground?? No signs of rust anywhere, or should I just give in and get another vehicle? I know repair is cheaper than replace, my concern is that the $1600 may end up being so much more if the ac has gone bad too. What are the chances?

And, the truck is 15 years old, is it worth repairing this at this point?

I would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer.


Florida has lots of AC specialty shops. Take to a shop for an estimate, then go get a second estimate. The truck is not worth much, but if it works for you the repair is likely cheaper than getting another truck. Only you can decide where to spend the money to repair or sell the truck and replace it.

I’m trying to figure out what they were claiming was wrong before.

The dash control unit for a Mazda B2300 pickup shouldn’t cost more than $30-40 or so for a used one in excellent condition. It should be interchangeable with that out of a Ford Ranger, so the supply is near endless. Replacement is a simple, straightforward job - no harder than changing your car’s stereo. That is definitely not a $1600 job. Or anywhere near it.

I could see the defrost mode door actuator failing - that would keep the thing in essentially a defrost mode all the time… but that’s fundamentally different than max a/c, in that it doesn’t direct the airflow up against the glass, but both put it in recirc (which is all max a/c really is over regular a/c).

That’s a $10 part… replacement could be a bear, though, requiring a bit of labor, but nowhere near $1600 total.

None of that makes any sense to me.

As for the current problem, it could be as simple as a fuse or the compressor relay having failed… there’s no reason to panic yet, as this might be a very cheap repair.

If it’s actually the vent control module that’s failed, then the cheapest fix is to aquire a used vent control module from a local auto recycler and then have an independent shop replace it.


Both eraser and tester, you guys nailed it. they said that the vent control thing is the problem. I didn’t think to check the fuses for the ac currently, but that is an easy fix so me and DH can do that. I think I’ll have to call some independent mechanics around here and see if anyone is up for this. The previous place was an independent, but they obviously wanted alot of money for what could be a job that shouldn’t cost that much. They also said they have to remove the dash board. Is that the case, or are they just trying to not do this job?

You should not need to remove the dash to replace the vent control panel. But, that may be only part of the problem. There are some AC repairs that could require the dash to come out, such as to replace the evaporator on some cars. Get several shops to look over the AC and get quotes to repair. Pick one you think has the price and credentials to do a good job.

I had an 88 Honda where the AC compressor stopper kicking in due to loss of refrigerant. There was a pressure switch in the system, and when refrigerant pressure dropped below a certain point, the pressure switch stopped the compressor from kicking in, to save the compressore from damage.

So you may also need a refrigerant recharge.

@hebe - if its the actuator, I can certainly see needing to remove the dash to get to it. That is never cheap, but $1600 is still highway robbery for it. A heater core replacement in your truck should cost $640-833 according to repairpal (for my region - $556-$709 of that is labor). That’s pricing it at around 7-9 hours of labor. The actuator in this case is significantly cheaper than the heater core, so the upper bound of costs should still be what a heater core replacement costs, since labor should be similar. Heck, with those actuators so cheap, there’s a strong argument for replacing them ALL if you DIY the job when you’re in there.

You might want to shop around for a different shop, though, not simply because the price was too high. Every once in awhile, someone figures out a trick that speeds up replacement and they might pass some of that savings through. For example, some mechanics found that for some Tauruses, you could cut a little support bracket used for installing part of the dash, and then you didn’t need to actually remove the dash to replace the heater core - you had to remove a few bolts so you could move it slightly, but it eliminated all the wiring disconnects and such and cut a 7 hour+ job into a 2 hour job.

eraser, thanks for the additional insight. I’m going to get on the phone this week with all the shops that have good recommendations on here and see if I can find someone who knows more of what they are talking about and is willing to give a realistic estimate. If I can salvage the vehicle, I’d really prefer doing so as it has been a great vehicle to own(reliable, dependable and very cost efficient.)