1999 Cadillac Deville A/C Problems

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  • 129,000 MILES

Took my car to Pep Boys today because I had a coolant leak and I thought it was the reservoir based on where the drip was. I was right. Couldn't believe it cost me $350 for a plastic jug installed. Anyway, when I left, my A/C was really warm and in a few minutes on the dash it said "low refrigerant. No A/C" and the compressor cut off and it was only vent air at that point. I was upset because my A/C has been fine for the 3 1/2 years I've owned the car and I also used it this morning going to the shop. I thought they probably allowed the refrigerant to escape to put in the reservoir so I went back a little bit angry. They checked the A/C System for leaks and told me my evaporator was shot. They could hear it hissing and it would not allow them to recharge with refrigerant. They told me they only pulled out 2 oz of refrigerant when they evacuated the system to install the reservoir. My A/C was really nice. Could it have been working so nice on 2 oz of refrigerant? Do you have any idea what my problem could be? They told me it's a 10 hour job to replace the evaporator because the engine has to be lowered and they don't do that. I'm a little angry at this point and confused!

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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 AT 12:06 PM

1 Reply

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I just posted a reply to your first question before you included these details. The system will not work on only two ounces of refrigerant. For all practical purposes, it's empty. Most systems on larger cars take around 1.5 to 3.5 pounds of refrigerant. The low-pressure cutout switch would trip before half of that was lost.

I would get a second opinion, preferably from an AC specialty shop or a radiator repair shop. Most of them do AC work too. If they too find the leak is in the evaporator, that is fairly common but there is no way anyone could cause it to leak intentionally or unintentionally. It is buried way too deeply inside the heater box. Chalk that up to a bad coincidence. Also, refrigerant escaping from there could take hours to leak out completely, and as it does it expands which is what makes it get real cold. That alone can make it look like the system is working. I recharged the system on my minivan years ago and was impressed when I saw frost coming out of the vents. It was really cold, but the next day it was empty. It was the escaping refrigerant that was making the "cold", not the system itself, and as I realized later, that frost was the refrigerant I was seeing. You can't SEE cold.

Sometimes inexperienced mechanics use the wrong terminology when they say "evaporator". If they are pointing to the unit in front of the radiator, that's the "condenser", and it is another common failure item. That one is relatively easy to replace. Since they said the engine needed to be lowered, (something I've heard about on some GM cars but have never done), that does point to the evaporator in the dash. On most cars the steering column is lowered and the dash assembly is pulled back to get the heater box out. It's still an expensive job on any car.

If the diagnosis IS for the condenser, have the mechanic point out exactly where the leak is. Typically it will be in a corner where the aluminum corroded. If it's in the middle in the front, it may have been hit by a rock. If it looks like it was hit in the back, I'd suspect the first mechanic hit it with a tool. The tubes on the condenser are pretty tough and accidentally bumping it would not damage it. They're also fairly well protected. The person giving you the second opinion will be better able to evaluate that kind of damage.

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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 AT 1:10 PM

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