Does $700 installed seem high for a replacement AC compressor? The shop says they had a hard time locating one. Is there maybe a less expensive compatible version? Should I use the opportunity to switch away from R-12?
That sounds pretty high to me if all they are doing is replacing the compressor. The compressors are around and should be about $200 or $250. If they add R134a or R12 that will make a difference in price (R12 costs more). A couple of years back I had a local shop replace the compressor, replace the drier, repair a hose, and put R12 back in the system and the bill was about $700. So In your case I would think maybe $400 to at most $500 would be fair. I'm in Florida, so take into account there might be some regional variation in the labor cost expectations.
Shouldn't be hard to find the compressor, it's a very common Sanden SD508 which can be had for $150-$200 for a remanufactured unit.
Depends on what you're getting for $700. Are they replacing the receiver/drier and expansion valve along with the compressor. They definitely should replace both if your original compressor crapped out. They are all common parts and not overly expensive. Along with evacuating the system and recharging with R12, $700 is not a bad price especially if it comes with a decent warranty on parts and labor.
Good advice from lotus4s. if the old compressor died out if likely that its sent junk and crap flying down the line. Replacing the dryer and expansion valve should be necessary if the compressor "lunched" itself.
Also if the $700. includes a complete flush of all lines, get all the old gunk out like I did on my 94. Make sure they put the right amount of new mineral oil in, new drier, etc.
And yes stick with R12, what the car is set up for! I tried R134 on my 87 hci, and on my 94 S4, and it did not work right on either model, hoses not correct and too much pressure in the system also with R134.
If you trust the A.C. shop and if they will do a complete flush, replace the drier and replace with R12, new compressor, then it is a good price. The compressor itself is not a high dollar item, but there is labor involved.
No the $700 is just for the compressor installed. I think they found an actual Lotus part somewhere and are paying a lot of money for it. The current compressor has not crapped out. It just leaks oil, other than that (and slowly loosing freon) it works fine.
R134 was working great in my car. Ice cold right knee and no water dripping on the passenger floor on the last drive for the car (ever, RIP). New Sanden was like $175 or so from techchoiceparts.com and that included the clutch, also new expansion valve and drier from them, new hoses (which I probably didn't need) from local NAPA, and a new "elbow" from the Jeffs.
The seven bills doesn't really seem out of line for the job, given labor costs Seems like any AC job always costs at least five bills, and then we have inflation.
You don't need a $700. sanden compressor from a lotus dealer. Just a sanden compressor from any NAPA for a lot less. If your compressor is leaking oil, you can have it rebuilt, but the cost and time to send it off is probably less than just getting a new one-- they are not expensive brand new, I think less than $200. The problem is if you are getting a new (or rebuilt) compressor, then (IMHO) you need to fully flush the lines, replace the dryer, clean the expansion valve, etc. I recommend staying with R12 b/c your lines are not R134 lines, and your expansion valve is for R12.
So to do this job right, if you let them charge $700. just to purchase and install a compressor, it will be a lot more to do it right, and they are not doing it right! hope this helps.
It is somewhat amusing reading all the opinions offered without much information from the op or the replies. Anyone know why a compressor is needed?
If the original label is still intact, there is a 4 digit code in small type that should make it possible to identify the exact model of Sanden compressor. Using a brand new compressor, as opposed to rebuilt, is highly preferable, especially since a large part of the cost is probably labor. At least the 1994 S4 I had up on the rack a few weeks ago in one of my A/C shops looked difficult to change.
Lotus4s' post is exactly right. The compressor is common and cheap, and should just be changed.
It is actually pretty easy to change the compressor, but access from below makes it easier. I would say no harder than the average car. The only very difficult part of the AC system is if the hoses require changing, as they run through the body.
rteichman posted that the compressor was leaking oil. I had that problem with the compressor on my 94 S4. When the compressor leaks (not just a fitting), he needs to replace it or rebuild it. I had the same options, replacing is quicker and just as cheap.
I replaced the hoses. It was, like every Esprit task, a colossal PITA. I would not suggest replacing the hoses unless you know beyond a doubt that they are the cause of your leak. You have to: Remove the passenger seat, pull up the carpet, drill out the rivets, remove the side panel box thing, (it helps A LOT to have the right gas tank out), drop the radiator assembly, and spend a lot of time in the Lotus position. If you have a leak, I would strongly suspect the elbow on the expansion valve. Jeff sez he sells a couple of those a year. I think hoses cost me like $350 or so to have made. I have the originals in my shop, and as far as I know, they were not leaking. My leak was the elbow.
If the compressor is still running and just leaking oil and no sealant has ever been used in the system, you can probably get by with just replacement. Should still replace the receiver/drier which is a 10 minute job and $30 part.
And yes, $700 is way too much for that job.
A new unit is always preferable over a remanufactured unit but I have had good luck with the remans from Techchoice. I've installed 3 of them in various Esprits and have yet to have a problem. I paid $145 for the last one.
Fortunately, the need to replace the hoses or the evaporator are fairly rare. Most leaks are o-rings at fittings and occasionally the condenser.
A full system flush is a complicated job and you cannot flush or clean out an expansion valve, it has to be removed and you might as well replace it at the same time ($25 part). You really can't effectively flush the condenser either and replacement is recommended, a very costly procedure if you have to pay to have it done.
As Randy said, replacing the compressor on a 4 cyl is not too bad of a job and probably not worse than most compact cars that an ac shop works on. The V8 is much more difficult to get to.
Bottom line is fix the compressor now because once it loses enough oil it will disintegrate and contaminate the whole system and all of the above will be required to get it right again...
FYI, according to the manual, add 2 ozs of the correct oil when replacing the compressor. No telling what is already in a new compressor from the factory so it needs to be drained and then 2 ozs added on installation.
One word of advise buy a new compressor and not a "rebuilt" one. Its been my experience the rebuilt ones never last! R12 is getting very hard to find and because of that over the last few years prices have skyrocketed so keep that in mind.