Honda Accord A/C Compressor Went Out Again – Why?

Reader Question Hi Austin,

My name is Will J. and I just recently purchased your product “Honest Mechanic”. I find the information truly helpful in understanding what exactly goes on “behind the scenes” (0r) just a day in the life of a service advisor. Anyways, I just had a quick question regarding the A/C in my 1987 Honda Accord. I just had a refurbished compressor put in my honda in 2004 – and I’ve only used the a/c for – I guess about 2 seasons. Well, I started having some trouble last fall (2005) with my a/c.

I took it to a repair shop and they said I would need a new compressor. Well, since my car is RATHER old to be investing $1000 or more into it – I took it upon myself to put some Refrigerant R-134a in the system. Well, the a/c starting working for a couple of months (2 to be exact) – then stopped once again. I had another mechanic look at it again – and they told me the same thing – I needed a new compressor or a refurbished one. I am wondering

(1) is it safe to place Refrigerant R-134a in one’s vehicle – and does it have any permanent *negative* effects on one’s vehicle? AND

(2) why would my compressor only last for one season before it went out on me? I don’t understand.

Maybe you can clarify this situation for me. It has been bugging me for a while. I just recently got married and moved to a new town – and it’s frustrating not having any a/c here in the summer. Plus, I was trying to avoid heavy car costs (if you know what I mean). Any advice you would have for me regarding this situation – I will gratefully accept. Or, maybe you could point me in the right direction – so that I can find out what needs to be done about this problem. Thank you for your time Austin.

Your Loyal Customer,

Will J.

Hey Will,

Thanks for your purchase.

You do have a dilemma here, this is an “old” car, a great car that will last forever if properly maintained, but never the less, an almost 20 year old car. So, the REAL question here is are you ready for a new car, or do you LIKE this car enough to sink more money into?

My gut tells me the real reason the replacement compressor did not last very long is because it was poor quality to begin with. A rebuilt compressor is someone else’s worn out compressor that has been “overhauled”, but rarely do these rebuilt units make it 2 seasons, and in some cases not even one. There is a reason a new compressor is twice as much as a rebuilt unit…they last.

If you are interested in keeping the car, you really need to get clarification from the mechanic as to what is wrong with the compressor. You could just have a bad compressor clutch, which is the part the belt wraps around. The compressor itself could be fine, but the clutch could be worn out.

If this is the case, the repair is not as expensive. If your compressor is worn out and not pumping enough Freon, then you will need a complete compressor assembly…..which is going to be $1000 MINIMUM. More like $1500 for new parts. That money, along with the money you can get when you sell your car could be a nice down payment on a new car.

If you want my REAL advice…..cut your losses and get a new car. You just got married, trust me you will want to use your money on other things besides a worn out 20 year old car your wife is embarrassed to be seen in. HA!

Honestly, that car would be in demand for any college student, with A/C or not, so selling it won’t be a problem unless it is totally worn out and looks horrible.

Go to your local KIA dealership and test drive the KIA Rio, it’s a base model car, but one heck of a great deal. It looks great, drives great, and is CHEAP to buy and to drive. The Kia Sorento is their SUV, and it is also AWESOME. My wife has a KIA Sedona, we have to kids, and she loves it.

Best part, KIA’s warranty is 100,000 miles. They replaced our A/C compressor not to long ago…free of charge.

Honestly, go and take a test drive. I would NOT trade in your car, you will get MUCH more if you sold in on eBay on just placed an ad in your local paper. Take the money from the sale and put it down on the new car.

Kia Rio

But you say, “I don’t want a car payment”. Add up all your repair bills on your car the last two years, and multiply by 24, you have a car payment now, its called repair bills. If you broke down, or needed a tow truck, add in a hassle factor to that number…for missing school or work, borrowing or renting a car, time loss etc. etc. etc. Is this number $180 a month? That’s probably what the new car note will run.

For your other concern, adding R134 to the system will not hurt anything. They had to have converted the system to R134 when they replaced the compressor. The fittings are totally different with R12, and you would not have been able to add R134…so it was already converted over. No harm was done there.

I would like to know one thing. When you added the R134 last, did the a/c cool ok? You say it did…right? So that tells me your compressor is probably working ok, it might have a leak in it and that is why they want to replace it, because it leaked out all the R134. If it just has a leak, and works ok when you add R134…ust keep adding R134…its cheap…and summer is half over.

Did I answer all your questions?


Austin C. Davis

Posted in: A/C and Heating

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