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2002 Outback Air Conditioning Repair


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11 replies to this topic

#1 SfoSubaru

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 12:58 PM

We have a 4 cyl with 60k miles and the air conditioning had stopped working. We took it to get fixed and they told us the low side hose had a "very slow leak". They suggested we fix both the hose ($500 w/labor) and the valve ($600 w/labor) and the estimate was $1100 total. Obviously I did not do that right away. A couple questions:

1. They said we should fix the valve since it is often related to the hose leaking, but I'm not inclined to do that if I don't know there is definitely an issue. What do people here think?
2. This wasn't my usual repair shop (SF Auto Works) or a dealer, so what is people's opinion on what this should cost?
3. Is this common on Outbacks of this year? I've seen other posts w/similar issues at relatively low mileage.

Thanks

#2 kami333

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 04:21 PM

By valve, do they mean the valve that is on the low side hose? The hose itself is only like $200 from the dealer and should come with a new valve.

#3 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 04:54 PM

The valve is generally part of the hose.

Most of that estimate is labor. At shop rates you can easily eat up a LOT of time of a refrigeration tech - they have to evac the system, replace the hose, probably replace the drier as well, then pull it down with a vacuum pump, charge it with nitrogen, check for leaks, then do it again and charge it with R134. It's virtually all labor and it has to be done by someone with a certification. It just plain isn't cheap.

It's actually pretty simple stuff though and if you rent a recovery unit and a vacuum pump you could do it yourself pretty easily with just some reading on the subject.

GD

#4 jon38iowa

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 05:16 PM

3. Is this common on Outbacks of this year? I've seen other posts w/similar issues at relatively low mileage.

Thanks[/QUOTE]
I don't think it is all that common for any Subaru of this vintage. My friend's 2000 Outback (abused) is still going like a champ. My '99 Forester, excellent. I follow several web sites, and I don't see this issue come up very often, if ever with your model year. Best of luck with it. Perhaps it is worth getting a few more estimates. Definately replace the Drier.

#5 grossgary

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 09:24 PM

A/C repair is mess. few people care to do this work themselves so shops suck people dry and know they can get away with it.

many a/c leaks i run across end up being simple, like an oring or the schrader valves....same freaking valve stem type that's in your tires. which they typically replace when you buy new tires. they replace them because they have a rubber seal on the base which leak over time. and this makes sense....rubber orings will deteriorate and fail quicker than metal, duh.

of course there's compressor and other kinds of failure and whatever, and i've fixed that stuff before too. my main beef with this is that i have NEVER heard of someone getting their a/c fixed for $2.00 in orings or schrader valve + labor (except myself) - it's always hundreds of dollars in parts. BS.

so...my money is that you're getting ripped off. unfortunately it's hard to find honest places, it's too easy to just keep ripping people off in this biz.

i've replaced just about every part in an a/c system and gotten many old systems that hadn't run in years back and running again. it's actually not hard and equipment isn't necessary. you can replace the oring/valve/part yourself and charge it with a can off the shelf and fix it. i guarantee i could fix it for less than $100 in parts. although for a such new and valued vehicle i'd suggest making sure it's done right....which means you're dishing out the dollars. or drive to WV and i'll do it for half price!

i've fixed two this summer that didn't work - neither one needed new actual parts. orings/schrader valve/charge, that's it.

#6 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 10:01 PM

i've fixed two this summer that didn't work - neither one needed new actual parts. orings/schrader valve/charge, that's it.


That is very common as Gary says. I will add though that if you are doing the work yourself CHANGE THE DRIER. They are like $20 from the dealer. The dessicant inside protects the system from contaminants that will acidify the refigerant and eat the orings and shrader core's. The driers are less expensive than the refrigerant you are going to put in the system so it's a worthwhile investment.

GD

#7 grossgary

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 10:10 PM

CHANGE THE DRIER. They are like $20 from the dealer.

wow. i never even price checked them, i just assumed they'd be $200 or something off the charts. that's definitely worth replacing every time, i'll do that from now on.

i've done a number of cars years ago that are still on the road with perfectly working A/C...but they also were still under some pressure for the most part. i think the ones that are only open for a few minutes to replace something minor may not get much actual air in them...where as a system that has been leaking and/or open for any period of time probably has had quite a bit of air and moisture in it? just a random thought, i really don't know all the ins and outs of A/C (like i needed to say that?!?!)

#8 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:30 PM

wow. i never even price checked them, i just assumed they'd be $200 or something off the charts. that's definitely worth replacing every time, i'll do that from now on.


I'm sorry - I misrepresented that one. They are about $100 from the dealer and about $15 to $20 from Napa. Still worth replacing though.

GD

#9 grossgary

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 08:29 AM

i don't mind aftermarket on that part.

#10 McDave

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 01:08 PM

We have a 4 cyl with 60k miles and the air conditioning had stopped working. We took it to get fixed and they told us the low side hose had a "very slow leak". They suggested we fix both the hose ($500 w/labor) and the valve ($600 w/labor) and the estimate was $1100 total. Obviously I did not do that right away. A couple questions:

1. They said we should fix the valve since it is often related to the hose leaking, but I'm not inclined to do that if I don't know there is definitely an issue. What do people here think?
2. This wasn't my usual repair shop (SF Auto Works) or a dealer, so what is people's opinion on what this should cost?
3. Is this common on Outbacks of this year? I've seen other posts w/similar issues at relatively low mileage.

Thanks

At $600 installed they must be talking about the expansion valve under the dash, particularly since that's the only valve in the system. I've never heard of one causing a hose to leak and they are usually very reliable. About the only thing that happens to them is if the desiccant inside the drier breaks loose it will clog the valve.

Since it has a "very small leak", I would take it to another shop for a second opinion and consider asking them to just top it off with freon if there are no real obvious leaks. Since your car has so few miles for it's age, it's more likely the compressor seal leaks a little during long periods of non-use, rather than a hose leaking. Try to use the a/c, or even the defrost regularly, then see how long the freon lasts before committing to larger repairs.

If/when you decide to replace the hose assembly, change the drier too. Don't worry about the expansion valve unless the tech says it's restricted.

BTW One reason a/c work is so expensive is because the equipment is expensive. We've already had to upgrade once from R12 to R134a, now the manufactures are wanting us to do it again once they decide which way they want go.

Plus like GD said, it is labor intensive. A seemingly simple job can snowball quickly when threads strip out taking hoses off evaporator cores and condensers. It can be frustrating work and our shop tends to bid jobs high to cover the bases. It's easier to make the customer happy if we can get it done for less than the estimate, rather than explain why it's going to cost more than we thought it would.

#11 Rooster2

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 02:18 PM

My wife's 98 OBW has a small leak somewhere. Like you, I would really question paying a shop $1100 to start throwing in new parts just to fix a small leak. With just 60K miles on your odo, your A/C system shouldn't be needing new parts.

I simply add a little bit of 134a refrigerant myself into the system low port. It took me all of 10 minutes to do that last night with a cost of less then $10 with one of those shaving can size containers from a car parts store. I have a pressure guage on the feed line that tells me how much to add. It is really a very easy diy project. My wife just called me to report in that her Subie's A/C system is back to pumping out really cold air. System works, wife's happy, life is good.

#12 ronemus

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 11:58 AM

You might also ask whether they just pulled the book price for changing the hose and changing the valve, then added them up. There are a lot of procedures in common (Freon recovery, evacuation, leak checking, etc.), so they might be willing to come down on price if you call them on it. It would certainly cost less to have an independent do the job as the cost of parts will be much lower, and their shop rate is likely to be lower as well. $1100 is way too much for a simple part replacement ad recharge.




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