2001 Honda Civic 5spd, ~160K miles (4dr EX, non-CA emissions).
After extensive A/C repairs in the last 12 months, car is not cooling well. Most recent repair was replacement of compressor (part was under warrantee) and most of the suction lines between the evaporator and compressor (do not believe drier was replaced at this time). This repair was completed ~4 days ago. After repair (the next day) car seemed to take a very long time to achieve any cooling and effective cooling did not happen until after being at highway speeds for some period of time. Returned to mechanic to see if refrigerant pressure/level was same as after repair (to see if any uncorrected leaks remained), he checked it with a dual pressure gauge assembly (high side and low side gauges) and stated that there was a little too much refrigerant in the system and vented some. Now cooling is virtually non-existent. Checked suction side pressure with a combination pressure gauge/fill line (cheap one), pressure was ~40 psi with an outside temp of ~95. According to the documentation I have this is ~10-15 lbs low. Also noticed that there was oil foaming up in the suction side schrader valve fitting when I removed the quick disconnect. A time line of repairs follows/actions follows after my questions.
Questions: Is this oil foaming " normal" immediately after a compressor replacement? Can I safely add any refrigerant to the system to see if this restores performance? Could the lack of drier replacement be causing a slow to cool/minimal cooling problem?
~Aug 05: Compressor suffered catastrophic mechanical failure (observed clutch assembly rolling down road in my rear view mirror). Mechanic One replaced compressor and drier with non-OEM new parts.
~Mar 06: Noticed marked decline in A/C performance. Took to Mechanic One (a general automotive multi-bay/employee facility), who adjusted idle, resulting in an idle speed in excess of 1600 rpm and a minimal improvement of A/C performance at idle, no change in performance at speed.
~Apr 06: A/C still performing poorly, and then check engine light came on. Mechanic One replaced IAC valve (based on code read out). Returned to Mechanic One to get idle better adjusted (to a more normal range of 600-100 rpm)
~May 06: A/C still performing poorly, went ~40 minutes one day before any cooling--took to Mechanic One who found that condenser cooling fan motor was failing intermittently and that refrigerant level was very low. Replaced cooling fan motor. Found engine mount broken when I picked car up from this repair (determined after driving ~ 10 miles to house and back to shop).
~May 06: ~2 weeks after the fan motor replacement, noted decline in performance of A/C. Having come to doubt A/C skills of first mechanic, took car to Mechanic B. Mechanic B found leak in evaporator housing and replaced expansion valve.
~June 06: ~2 weeks after expansion valve replacement, A/C performance declined again. Found that charging system with a gauged line restored performance. Returned to Mechanic Two. Mechanic Two, using sniffer, found evidence of leak at or near compressor shaft (the compressor that Mechanic One had replaced).
~June 06: Returned to Mechanic One with information that compressor appeared to be leaking at shaft seal (compressor was under warrantee, though labor was out of warrantee period). Mechanic One could not find evidence of compressor leak with sniffer nor any visual indication(s) such as an oil residue. Did find evidence (sniffer) of refrigerant leaking into vents and from evaporator housing. Now I have two mechanics basically pointing at areas where the other has worked. Found that adding ~1 10oz can of refrigerant every two weeks maintained acceptable A/C performance.
~July 06: Took car to a shop specializing in A/C work to determine where problem(s) probably lay. Specialist found leak in compressor housing/casing, drier/hose manifold block, and crimp joints on suction lines.
Aug 3, 06: Took to Mechanic One to replace compressor. Provided with OEM suction line assemblies (basically all suction lines from compressor to evaporator).
Aug 9, 06: Morning after having picked up car, A/C seemed very slow to get any cooling. In afternoon (higher temperatures) A/C was again slow to cool and did not cool effectively until at uninterrupted highway speeds. Same basic performance on August 10th.
Aug 11, 06: Took to Mechanic One to have refrigerant charge level checked (to see if there might be another leak, etc.). Checked with dual gauge (I assume this is pressure differential measuring method between high and low side pressures). Mechanic stated that the charge was too high and vented. Today (Aug 12th) the A/C is barely cooling at all. See first paragraph for steps taken by me since then and questions related to further actions.