To replace or not replace the compressor (or condenser?)

My 97 Jetta (with a little over 150k miles) did not hold the freon when I had the AC system recharged about a month ago. Already there is no chill in the air. The shop says the leak is probably the condenser (or was it the compressor) because that is usually what goes since the seals wear out. And it’s dirty. Not sure if it’s really any more dirty than the rest of the engine, though. Anyhow, he would test it before doing the actual replacement. But this expected repair would run around $1400 by the time the AC is charged back up and ready to go. Is this a reasonable price (near Los Angeles)? What do you think of the tradeoff between replacing the car instead of putting so much money into it? The radiator also leaks - needs a refill every couple of months. Had to replace a whole batch of hoses last fall to get the car past the smog check. But there are probably at least as many more that have never been replaced. For maintenance I generally keep up with basic replacements like belts, etc., but sometimes a good bit later than the suggested time/ mileage. As for personality and life, I don’t have extra money lying around for car payments, or for repairs, nor extra time to kill while cars are in the shop. So which bullet shall I bite?


well, if you’re that poor, then I suggest you invest in a 2/40 AC system:

2 windows down / 40 mph.

That’s the system I use. I know the heat can get pretty oppressive there in LA, but it sounds like you’re about done with this car, and it doesn’t make sense to pour money into a car you’re not fond of. I suggest you suffer through summer, save your money for another ride, and come winter, sell it or trade it in if you want. I specify winter so the prospective buyer is less likely to notice the A/C problem… if you’re underhanded enough not to tell them, of course. : P

i guess it depends on how much you can live with or without the AC.

if the car is fine otherwise, and you HAVE been keeping up with the maint. then what is another grand?

BTW, was this price at a AC radiator shop, or the dealer?

the dealers kill you on this type of repair.

also, try a couple of repair shops.

do it soon, since you undoubtably had the dye put in when it was recharged, so they can see it with a light to know exactly where the leak is.

otherwise each shop will want to “fill it and check for leaks” each time.

The radiator is a lost cause, replace it. Find a good A/C shop. Since your current one does not seem able to figure out what the problem is and wants to just replace parts, at your expense.

Fix the radiator first. Make sure the issue is radiator leak and not head gasket leak. $1400 is in line with getting a full AC replacement w/compressor and condenser last time I checked a couple of years ago. I suggest comparing prices at an Auto AC speciality shop, and then decide.