Unnecessary AC repair?

My sad story: We live in AZ and last summer the AC in our 9 year old but well maintained Volvo started acting up. It would occasionally just start blowing hot. Shut it off and wait a few minutes and it would work again. Dealer said test found Climate Control Mod (CCM) had fault and needed replacement at $1169. I declined the work and lived with the inconvenience for a year but as weather heated up again, problem started up and I decided to bite the bullet. Dealer again recommended the CCM replacement, assured me it would solve the problem and – you’ve guessed the next plot turn – it didn’t. The exact occasional cut out recurred that afternoon. Returned to the dealer and he informed me they’d found a small leak, which was not hard to repair. I said, great, what a relief, but what about that $1169 part from yesterday. You’re not charging me for that, are you? Well, yes, you needed that, too, says service mgr. Says I, you mean the leak and faulty CCM worked together to cause the problem but fixing just one wouldn’t solve it? Kinda. Service mgr passed me to mechanic for explanation, but best I could figure out was they were saying that some time the leak caused the problem, some time the faulty CCM caused it, two separate underlying issues that coincidentally both caused the same problem but at different times. Well, I don’t get many of the puzzlers, but I’m not that stupid. OK, says I, then just fix the leak and put the old CCM back in and I’ll takes my chances. Can’t do that, says he. Why not, says I, the new one only has about 10 miles on it? It’s too late, the part’s “married” to my car. Well, that’s what he said. I’m disputing the charge to my credit card and gonna fight it. Do I have a case? Do they have one that they’re just not explaining very well? Thanks for any thoughts and sympathy.

A marriage can be “annulled” if it was not “consummated”! The dealer’s version is that 10 miles is considered “consummated”.

I would try small claims court, but your chances are not good, since the dealer is supposed to be the expert, and you would have to have your own “expert witness”, such as a seasoned mechanic to back your claim. I have served as expert witness in some industrial situaltions, and you need a clear case of being right. Your claim here is that the dealer is either incompetent or dishonest or both.

In the mean time you are right to not pay the credit card charge.

Thanks. I did take the old CCM with me and maybe could get it tested somewhere else – but it just might show some kind of fault, though I doubt it would have anything to do with the occasional cut outs. Still, the point is, I was willing to return the new one but they refused. That seems unreasonable.

They guessed wrong on the repair, and now they won’t own up to it. Good luck. I’d bet their wrong about the “small” leak being the issue either. Of course, they might have found and corrected the real problem without telling you.

Yeah. I’m afraid they’re wrong about the small leak, too. And I have a six hour drive across the desert with two young kids scheduled for next week. If the AC dies in the middle it’s gonna be miserable. Hopefully, if it’s gonna cut out again, it does it before we leave. Then we’ll make other arrangements.

Update: Wife just got home and turns out fixing small leak did not fix the problem. So now, anyone have any ideas on what’s wrong with the AC? Works fine for stretches, then blows hot. Shut off, let it rest, turn it on. Works for awhile. Seems like there must be a short somewhere.

I’ll assume that they verified that the refrigerant is at the right level (might be a bad assumption.)
Things it could be…
A failing blend-air door or heater control valve (which ever of these it uses).
A failing AC compressor clutch.
Random electrical failure.
Odd compressor or other refrigerant system problem.

I had the same symptoms with the air conditioning on a 1990 Ford Aerostar. The shop where I take my car had the car for the better part of two weeks trying to solve the problem. It turned out that the fan clutch was slipping so that it wasn’t pulling enough air through the condenser. The mechanic figured it out by hooking up the gauges and running the air conditioner until it quit putting out cool air. He then noted that the pressures on the gauges went way up. He directed air from his shop fan through the grille. The pressures on his gauges dropped to the normal range and the air conditioner pumped cool air. A new fan clutch solved the problem. Now I don’t know if your car has a mechanical fan clutch or an electrically powered radiator fan, but this might be something to check.

Thanks for suggestions. I’m trying to get into another dealership and will ask them about these possibilities.

Thanks. I don’t know about fan clutch in my car, either, but will check on it.

One key here is going to a COMPETENT independent mechanic, preferably an AC specialist. No need to go to a dealer for other than warranty repairs. While some dealers are OK, the prices are generally higher, and Service Managers are usually experts not in car repair, but in making unknowledgeable customers feel good. (Always exceptions, some of whom help here.)

You may not have any luck getting right from the dealer on this, but you would do better to find somebody else if more work is needed.

Update 2: Just got off the phone with another dealer. Turns out the “married” part-to-car business is correct. New guy used same term. Something to do about downloading software? So the new place is gonna look at it tomorrow. Will discuss suggestions I’ve seen on here with them.

Thanks. But figured it’s a pretty specialized thing and would be best handled by Volvo specialists. I’ll look around for alternatives.

They are all just a bunch of parts changers who really don’t know what they are doing…Had the original “mechanic” discovered the freon leak the first time he could have at least “insured” the $1200 module by adding a little freon…

On your next car, if you avoid Mickey Mouse “features” like “climate control” you can save a lot of money, both on the front and back ends…

I don’t see how a small leak caused an intermittent total inoperative condition, how does that work? I could see how a small leak could eventually lead to a steady total inoperative condition, but not one that comes and goes. If they tell one lie then all they say can be thrown out.

Of course it wasn’t a leak.

Yes, many modules do get “married” to the rest of the car now. It’s all about security. Anyway, almost all modules can be unmarried (or divorced), and then remarried to another car. You just need the dealer’s scan tool (or some high end aftermarket tools) to be able to do it.

Yes. Thanks for this. My feeling about the dealership is that they tried to give me the runaround. Of course their explanation didn’t make any sense. Once they did that, they lost me. If they’d been straight and said, our test did find a fault but it obviously wasn’t causing the problem. But the module might have started giving you problems in the future and we can’t take it out, so we’ll split the cost with you and we’ll try to find the problem … they would have kept my trust and business, and maybe even sold me a new car. They’re idiots.

When low on freon, the compressor starts cycling on and off. The Climate Control Module has it’s own agenda and can not deal with a cycling compressor, so it shuts the system down…

Nobody here knows what, exactly, was done to cure the problem…

So the new, faultless CCM is shutting the system down more efficiently than the old supposedly defective one did? But, apparently, nothing was done to cure the problem since the problem still exists.