A/C: Why so Expensive?

Vehicle dashboard image
(bigtunaonline | Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sponsored - It’s spring, and summer will be here soon. Air conditioning is on all our minds. Usually, the first thought is, “Why so much?” Well, to answer that question, let me explain in a little more detail about the parts in an A/C system. The A/C system has 4 main parts. The A/C Compressor (the work horse), the Evaporator (what gets cold), the Condenser (by the Radiator), and a Drier to make sure the freon stays dry. You also have lines and hoses connecting all the parts.

Back in the past, these 4 main parts were separated, and easy to get to, except for the Evaporator which is in the dash. If you needed an A/C Compressor, you also had to replace the drier in order to make the warranty good on the compressor. Driers were inexpensive and easy to replace. In modern cars, the drier is part of the Condenser now, and the part price is 3 to 4 times higher. Also, on most cars, it requires the bumper to be removed in order to replace the Condenser and drier combo. The labor costs are very high.

The second problem we have seen is people going to the parts store buying freon and putting it in themselves. This is a very bad idea. First, if you overcharge or undercharge by 15% the A/C will not cool properly. Even with professional gauges, it is very difficult or impossible to get it right by watching the gauge. Secondly, it is illegal to sell freon to somebody who has not take the A/C Certification. The only way they can sell it is if it has stop leak in it. If you keep putting these cans in your vehicle, you will cause catastrophic failure. This may cause you to replace every component and lines and hoses to fix the problem. So, if you have a Schrader Valve ($5.00 part) leak and you use stop leak laced Freon, now you went from less than $100.00 to a possible $2000.00 repair.

The third problem is this New Freon R-1234yf. When I started working on A/C systems, the freon was R-12 and cost about $50.00 to charge an A/C. After that, they came out with R-134 and raised the cost to about $80.00 to $100.00 to charge an A/C. Now, in the newest cars, they have R-1234yf and it starts at about $300.00 up to about $500.00 to charge the A/C.

Also, we must do a leak check and if you have a leak, we must fix it or take the freon back out. The reason why we must remove it is because it is mildly flammable.

So just remember, parts are more expensive. Cars are harder to work on. Freon has gotten more expensive and these freon DO-IT-YOUR-SELF kits can cause more damage than it’s worth. If you use a DIY kit for this new freon, be careful! Not only is it flammable but it is so cold, if it drops on your skin, it will burn you in a split second. Come see us at White’s Automotive Center for more information.


White's Automotive Center logo