CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Should I spend $1360 to fix the A/C on a 2001 Ford Focus with 195,000 miles?

Hi,

I am trying to canvas opinions on whether to fix the A/C on my 2001 Ford Focus wagon with 195,000 miles, or trade the car for something newer. The evaporator needs replacing at a cost of $1360.

I have had the car for the last 110,000 miles and it has been great. I have had very little trouble, and I have invested in the routine maintenance, and I really like the car. The lack of A/C is the only current issue and otherwise it runs great, burns no oil, and gets great gas mileage. However, I am aware that cars do not last forever and at almost 200,000 miles, the great unknown is how long the car has left to live. Maybe I would be worth putting the $1360 into the cost of another car purchase?

Any wise words appreciated,

Thanks.

Really it is going to come down to what you want to do… We can give you all kinds of advice, but you need to do what is best for you. With that type of mileage anything can happen at anytime, however that does not mean it will. There are guys on this board who will say you can get another 100,000 out of it, there are others who are going to say dump it…

Lets start with some questions:

  1. have you kept up with your maintenance (IE Oil changes, trans fulid exchanges, belts, hoses, etc)??
  2. Does the car have any rust issues?
  3. Can you afford a car payment?
  4. Have you gotten a second opinion?
  5. If not for the inop AC would you keep the car?

If the rest of the car is in good shape, I see no reason not to…

I would certainly get a second opinion and other quotes, however. Your quoted price is above the high end of the range repairpal says for my area. In fact, a relative had the evaporator core changed out on her 2003 Focus (it would have been a simple repair, but neglect to repair a $0.20 part doomed it). She also had the heater core replaced at the same time simply for the heck of it, just like many people replace a water pump when replacing a timing belt - you’ve done 90% of the labor. Total bill was about $750, which is a darned good price, IMO…

Given that you like the car and that this is the only issue, I’d say that this is an easy decision. Even if you get only four months or so out of the car before something else goes wrong, that’s still cheaper than a new car for those months.

1360 seems excessive to replace one component, i’d get a 2nd opinion. If you like the vehicle and it is in good shape otherwise, repair the A/C and move on.

Accordion

If you live in an area that is not very hot then I would just drive the car without the AC. Save the money you would have spent on the AC repair and use it when it comes time to buy a new vehicle. $1360 for an AC part is too expensive for a vehicle with almost 200K on the clock.

Evaporator failure is very rare…How was it determined that this was the problem? I think I would be getting a second opinion from an automotive A/C expert…Have the system re-charged and evaluated one more time before I spent $1400. You can have central air conditioning installed in your house for that kind of money…

Count my vote as for getting another opinion about whether the evaporator is leaking or not due to the rarity of the problem.

It would be interesting to know how this evaporator diagnosis was arrived at.

Thanks to all for the quick responses. To answer the questions, I have kept up with all maintenance, even swapping out the power steering fluid at 150,000 miles. Timing belt was changed at 100k so it’s due a replacement in the next year. There is no rust, and the car looks extremely clean and drives really well. You’d never know it has covered the distance. My daily commute is a 46 mile round trip on the highway, so it’s all highway miles which I think has gone a long way to preserving the car, and I usually set the cruise to 60mph which I think helps as well.

As far as diagnosis is concerned, I took it to an extremely busy local independent repair shop in Connecticut. (It’s usually a week+ to even get your car in for a service so they aren’t looking for unnecessary work). I trust them. I took the car in about a week and a half ago and they filled the system with dye and they asked me to bring it back a week later so they could find the leak. On return, the mechanic said it was an easy diagnosis that the leak was coming out of the evaporator and apparently it’s not an easy thing to replace.

I will get the second oppinion though. It certainly will not hurt.

CONNECTICUT? Roll down the windows. How often do you really need a/c in New England? Two weeks per year?

If you lived in Florida or Texas, by all means have it fixed or replace the car if you have the means.

The evaporator is VERY difficult to see…it’s inside your heater-box, behind the dashboard…It could be they used a process of elimination, they could not find any dye trail anywhere else so the hidden evaporator is the last man standing…Still, have someone else take a look at it…The most common place for a leak is the compressor seal and that will cost you almost as much as the evaporator to repair…Look on the underside of your hood for any trace of the dye…

In case you’re considering not fixing the A/C, but I dont think you are, keep in mind that the A/C also serves to defog the windows in wet weather and high humidity, regardless of the temp outside. I think it contributes to safety by maintaining good visibility out of your windows.

Accordion

Just an additional point - the mechanic could be using a sniffer to try to pinpoint the leak. If they don’t see dye outside of the passenger compartment and detect highest trace amounts of refrigerant inside the passenger compartment, then logic would say the leak is likely at or near the evaporator, the only significant component internal to the passenger compartment. At that point, you’re going to be digging into the dash even if the problem is simply a loose connection, and you’re looking at a relatively small upcharge to replace the core, even if the problem is just a fitting… throw in the desire to CYA so the owner doesn’t come back, and you can quickly end up with a reco to replace the core.

If you live in Alaska don’t worry, if you live if Death Vally get an experienced professional to look it over.

Get an other quote or two, but whether or not to fix it is a purely personal decision. It’s always been my philosophy that of you have a car you like that runs well and is in good shape it’s worth keeping everything running right. And your AC system is also used to remove moisture when you have your defroster on.

Hey, why throw away thousands and thousands of dollars needlessly on another car? Unless, of course, you need this excuse to convince “the boss” that you really need that new 370Z…

I drove 30 years before I had air conditioning in a car, Is AC necessary for you? What is the trade in value and what cost would be a suitable replacement? So many things to factor in, my gut reaction is if you are cheap skip the ac, look into bypassing the AC as far as belts go, and drive on, otherwise upgrade and do not put the money into AC.

Way too much to fix the AC,this car is a bit too old to put that much repair into,had a 2000 F