Apr 222011

Last August as football season was about to start I made a decision to purchase a car and put the Corvette in the garage. There were several factors that forced me into this decision:

  • The gear required for football was starting to overflow the small storage area available in the Corvette.
  • My daughter is about to turn 16 and I figure this car would be for her after I drive it for a year and am comfortable with its reliability.
  • The AC stopped working in the Corvette and it is August in Texas after all.

After a short search looking for small to mid-sized cars I realized that the small car market was a sellers market. The cars I was looking for just felt over priced for what you get. Specifically Chevy Malibu, Ford Focus, Mazda 3 and even a few of the compacts like the Dodge Neon. Then I ran across a listing for a Ford Taurus; A larger four door car than the Ford Focus but half the price for a similar year and mileage. This felt a little off so I refined my search for 5 year old Ford Taurus’ with average mileage and found that they were everywhere at what I felt were below a market prices. I took a test drive and pulled the trigger. These are great cars, there are millions of them on the road and a used one was most likely owned by a grandma somewhere. This leads to abundance in spare parts and a fleet of low mile used cars to choose from.

This leads me to the irony of the repair I was faced with at the beginning of summer this year. The AC stopped working in the Taurus. How unlucky is this, one of the top reasons for getting the car and I was right back to sweating in rush hour traffic. I know very little about the automotive AC system. Do I have time to become an expert at something else. I finally had a free weekend and decided to dig in and see how it goes.

First step was to go ahead and refill the Freon and see if it holds. It held for 15 minutes, so there is a leak and it is a big one. Next is a leak test kit. I found a reasonable one at the local parts store and followed the die injection instructions. Then it’s on with the sexy yellow glasses and the ultra violet light. The first thing you discover is that the AC lines snake throughout every section of the engine bay and even into the passenger compartment. After scouring every line in the upper engine with no results it was time to get under the car. Once up on ramps it took no time at all to find the leak. A small hole in a hose now covered in yellow die. When I go to take the hose off I realize it starts at the top of the engine bay with a fitting that requires a special tool. Another trip to the part store and $5 later that fitting is off. Then I continue to follow the hose to the compressor and then to the bottom of the engine bay. After some contortions and curses the part comes out and I figure that I am totally screwed. This hose is like four in one, it has to cost a fortune; at least $200 – $300 dollars from the dealer is my guess.

I make another trip to the parts store and tell the tech what I need, close my eyes and cross my fingers as I wait for the pain. $119, what a relief. I had to wait for them to get it delivered from another store but I left feeling so much better than when I went in. Installation was the reverse of removal, refill with Freon and test.

Success. The AC cools even better than before and just in time for the first 90 degree day of the year.

Total Cost $234:

  • Hose fitting release tool (reusable) $5
  • AC and Cooling System leak test kit (reusable) $50
  • 3 cans of Freon, one for initial leak test and 2 for fill after repair $60
  • replacement hose $119

My estimate for the repair at a shop is between $500 – $800 so I feel pretty good about this one. Even with the purchase of the tools (that I will eventual reuse when I repair the AC on the Corvette) the price is well below what it would cost at a shop.

Picture of the crazy beast hose:

 Posted by at 11:44 am