So my compressor (2001 Cavalier 2.2 5-speed manual 214K) has been leaking for a while. I know this from having crawled under there and seen the yellow dye all over the plug and bottom of the thing - as well as having seen the stains on the driveway from the PAG oil while it sat there without moving much for the month of December. I didn't run the compressor nearly at all for the whole winter and was able to deal with defrosting/defogging the windows by keeping my (broken) vent doors just permanently set to open/fresh air. Anyway, yesterday (and today and this whole week) it is going to be unusually and brutally hot out - near 90. So I went out and finally figured it was time to see what kind of results I got. Nothing. No cooling at all. ZERO. The drier/accumulator which is usually freezing or even iced-up was just plain hot even after several minutes of running with the compressor on.
Now I have owned this car for all of the 16 years and 214k miles and I had to have the original compressor (and associated parts) replace after 7 and a half years back in September of 2008. The one in the car now is that one, so it is 8 and a half years old. When the original one died, it started to make a bad sound but always engaged. This one is not making any different sound and it is also still engaging, not not doing anything. Before I spent the $700 to have the original one replaced, I tried to use one of those $30 cans with a gauge you buy from Walmart and that lasted about 8 hours until it had all leaked right out. So a total waste.
My assumption is that there is no way of knowing if that will work without trying it, because there is no way to know how big the leak is - or has become. I've heard and read wildly conflicting reviews - and I guess it all depends on the size of the leak and rate of depletion. But for a car as old as mine is with so many other problems and as poor and terrible as my financial situation is - I feel like I almost have to give it a shot again.
You need to take it to a A/C repair shop. The system is filled according to weight, too little or too much R134a will cause the system to not run right. The system needs to be hooked up to a vacuum pump to pull all of the air out of it, air in the system will cause it not to cool properly. The dryer also needs to be replaced every time the system is opened up to air. Plus any decent shop will have special tools to find the leaks.
Agree with the above post.A shop that does AC work will want to spend as little time to narrow the problem for a quicker turn these days.Granted some shops are not so honest so maybe consider your actual local Chevrolet dealer as they might be actually be more cost effective than a outside shop (YES really).Just do your homework and make a few calls prior to any diagnostics.I will say my local Honda dealership has done right on 2 cars which my nephews drove,and was actually priced friendly and done correct with a warranty on the work.I will say the work done was either beyond my experience or time and have built a good relationship with the service advisors in the event of further need.We have saved $$.Just a idea.
Wanting to hear from someone who has used these r134a cans to recharge / add to their system. Did you (are you supposed to also) add PAG oil and if you did how? As far as I can tell, my car takes PAG 150. Can someone verify this who has experience using it / adding it? Walmart by far has the cheapest refrigerant cans but they only sell PAG 100 and the auto parts stores have cans of PAG 150 but they are 2x more and 2x more than the r134a. So not knowing if any of this will work - you can understand my questions.
IMHO, simply adding more r134a, regardless of any claims of its leak-sealing-capability, is just a waste of time, money, and damaging to the environment.
A few years ago, my wife's (1996 2.4L, ~117k-mile Cavalier) AC failed. The compressor wouldn't engage because compressors have a self-preservation feature, whereby they won't engage unless there is enough coolant & oil (otherwise it would seize up). I added r134a cans with oil/UV-dye, and it worked for a few days before it leaked out of the compressor (which I could easily determine by looking under the car with a black light).
Following my mechanic's money-saving advice, I bought the 3 required parts (all AC Delco) on Amazon.com ($150 compressor + $17 Accumulator + $3 Orifice Tube), and I had him install them. (Of course he vacuum-pumped the system dry, which is necessary and something I couldn't reasonably do myself.) He charged me $200 for labor & coolant (@ $90/hour here in expensive Silicon Valley). So the total repair cost me $370. Well worth it. And even as a do-it-yourself guy, well worth paying to have it done by a professional.
If its leaking it would be irresponsible to keep pouring refrigerant into the atmosphere. Plus it will just keep leaking unless the kit includes sealer that could clog up your expansion valve.
What I would suggest is you do some research on A/C systems. "Haynes Automotive Heating and Air Conditioning Systems Manual" is a pretty good auto A/C book you can get from the library or I downloaded it from somewhere. Once you get an idea how it works YOU replace all the stuff that needs it like the drier/accumulator, orifice tube/expansion valve & compressor. Clean out the lines, condenser & evaporator then put on the new parts. Go rent a vacuum pump from the auto parts store & evacuate the system. This will tell you if you still have a leak with the new parts in which case you can step back & regroup. There are charts that tell how much refrigerant & oil needs to go in the system so you could do it or take it down to a shop & have them add the refrigerant if it has no leaks.
My reasoning for replacing more than just the leaking compressor is you have the system opened, it is 16 years old , it has been opened once before & this will give you essentially a brand new system.
This is actually what I did to my wifes car when the compressor clutch went out although I only replace the compressor being only 5 YO & the system was never opened.
You did not say what made the noise in the old compressor, clutch or internal. If it was internal the system will need to be flush assuming they did not last time. You will need to see what that entails but when I checked it was several hundred dollars for me to buy the flushing kit. This was just a curiosity search since I did not need it so there may be cheaper alternatives. If yours does need to be flushed it may be cheaper to have someone do it. You need to find out how complete the system need to be.