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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This may be the end of my 12 Volt, sadly.

Just took car in for check of AC system because of some weird behavior -- sometimes very cold, sometimes not so much. Gurgling under dash. No codes or lights.

Verdict = AC Evaporator core is leaking as is the compressor. They added some Freon and cools well. First dealer howeever couldn't tell me where or how the compressor leaked and so I went to another one for a second opinion -- same verdict and told me the compressor was leaking where the halves of the shell come together and - of course -- it cant be opened and the seal replaced by the dealer... He said they have seen this problem before but there is no TSB on this.

Because the car is past the mileage warranty -- 125k -- GM may not help. If I have to pay, it will be about $3,600 total.

I cant easily afford or justify such an outrageous cost and I don't think an independent shop could deal with a Volt. I could replace the entire AC and furnace of my house for less money, frankly. This is a serious design defect. No electric compressor should fail like this, ever, for the life of a vehicle. I can understand a hose leak but not a compressor shell seal. Not for an $1,800 part. The evaporator coil too should never fail like this, ever. Its not a wear item. This is bad design and/or manufacturing, period, and GM should have caught this. Even a microchannel evaporator should hold for the life of the car.

Hopefully will learn if GM will help with out of warranty assistance today. Otherwise may end up looking. I love my Volt but each repair it has needed lately, a leaking water pump ($1,500) and now this are just too much to bear. I could have leased the car for less than this. Buyer beware. :(
 

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I suspect you're underestimating the cost of replacing your home A/C and furnace. Mine was $6,700 and that was 10 years ago. Unfortunately A/C units are expensive to replace because of all the regulations surrounding the capture and securing of the coolant. I would have the dealer show you the evidence of the leaks before doing anything else.

Your car is also 6 to 7 years old, depending on the actual manufacturing date. The initial age related failures tend to show up in the 6 to 7 year range and yes, they tend to be expensive when they occur. This is why most cars don't actually make it beyond 10 years for the initial owner - age related repairs start to add up.

How long ago was your water pump replaced (you don't have to answer in the forum). Now divide that by 3 (amortize the replacement over three months) and add the A/C repair, again amortized over 3 months. Is this more than you would pay for a new car? If not, I would get the repair done. If it is, then I'd start looking for a replacement car. I use this method to remove the emotion from the equation, and yes, the 3 month number addresses the emotion portion of this decision. I think the amortization of the repairs could be anywhere from 3 to 12 months, but don't go shorter than three or longer than the 12. The upper limit is the warranty on the repair, which for GM is 12 months or 12,000 miles. So it's really three months to however long it takes to drive 12,000 miles, maxed at 12 months. In your case I would set the upper limit to 6 months based on the 125K mileage number you gave.
 

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Well, if you moved up to a used '15, you'd be looking at $15k on average.
But I do have sympathy for the OP. I'm rushing to get my '13 (purchased used in 2015) paid off.
 

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OP: Sorry about your AC failure. I would ask more specific proof of WHERE the leak is occurring.

Also, is the HVAC system specific to the Volt/ELR, and therefore requires dealer repair? Can it be replaced for less by an indy shop?

I'm new to the GM world. The OP implies this is a serious design defect. Are there further opinions on this?

How many of these compressors are on the road? Does this design have a high failure rate, or are there random failures, within the normal parameters of manufacturing QC expectations?
 

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I'd just keeping adding refrigerant "freon" until the leakage rate gets excessive. You can buy 134a refrigerant cheaply at any autoparts store. Not the end of the world if you have to add some every few months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'd just keeping adding refrigerant "freon" until the leakage rate gets excessive. You can buy 134a refrigerant cheaply at any autoparts store. Not the end of the world if you have to add some every few months.

Possibly but not 100% sure -- the Volt mandates a special compressor/freon refrigerant (PAG???) that has something to do with high voltage electrical isolation. Dont know if off the shelf freon has that. Also the oil leaks may cause over or undercharge of lubricant in the system with just adding refrigerant periodically? How will you know how much is in the system with multiple top offs? Burn up compressor?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
OP: Sorry about your AC failure. I would ask more specific proof of WHERE the leak is occurring.

Also, is the HVAC system specific to the Volt/ELR, and therefore requires dealer repair? Can it be replaced for less by an indy shop?

I'm new to the GM world. The OP implies this is a serious design defect. Are there further opinions on this?

How many of these compressors are on the road? Does this design have a high failure rate, or are there random failures, within the normal parameters of manufacturing QC expectations?
Not 100% sure. Told at seal where the compressor is bolted together. If it was a hose connection that could be fixed but not this apparently. Dealer mechanic said he has seen it before.
 

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$3,000 is the average cost to repair A/C's were there is more than just a hose leak. When my Integra A/C failed (leaky matrix under dash) the quote to just take the dash apart to at A/C place was $1,000.
 

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Have an indy shop put in a used compressor.
 

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I'd just keeping adding refrigerant "freon" until the leakage rate gets excessive. You can buy 134a refrigerant cheaply at any autoparts store. Not the end of the world if you have to add some every few months.
NO... DO NOT PUT "REGULAR" 134A FROM AN AUTO PARTS STORE IN THE VOLT!

The Volt's A/C system requires a different lubricant to maintain electrical isolation. If you have a fully electric compressor, you can use ONLY straight refrigerant and ONLY approved hybrid vehicle lubricant. You cannot use any products which contain additives that have not been specifically formulated for use in hybrid vehicles.

Supposedly Advance Auto now carries the specific refrigerant/lubricant mix required for the Volt, but I don't have any other information about it.
 

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The "plain 134a" $4 a can at walmart works fine in a volt. No oil, or lube. A proper system comes with all the lube in the compressor you should ever need.

also I second just buying a used compressor. Do it before your compressor lets go internally and fills the system with shavings. Then it's a straight swap and fill and new dryer bag rather than new everything and stupidly expensive cleaning of the AC system that is NOTHING like a normal car due to how the AC system also does the batteries.

/source helped neighbor rebuild a salvage volt with 2 donor cars. been going for 2 years now rock solid. saved untold amounts of money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The "plain 134a" $4 a can at walmart works fine in a volt. No oil, or lube. A proper system comes with all the lube in the compressor you should ever need.

also I second just buying a used compressor. Do it before your compressor lets go internally and fills the system with shavings. Then it's a straight swap and fill and new dryer bag rather than new everything and stupidly expensive cleaning of the AC system that is NOTHING like a normal car due to how the AC system also does the batteries.

/source helped neighbor rebuild a salvage volt with 2 donor cars. been going for 2 years now rock solid. saved untold amounts of money.
Does a used compressor need to be specially handled or purged because of moisture? When a wrecker disconnects them, do they leave them open? Capped? Worried about moisture effects if been on a shelf for long time.

Also will a Chevy dealer even install a used part?
 

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Does a used compressor need to be specially handled or purged because of moisture? When a wrecker disconnects them, do they leave them open? Capped? Worried about moisture effects if been on a shelf for long time.

Also will a Chevy dealer even install a used part?
Whenever the AC loop is opened and exposed to the environment, the entire system needs to be purged of moisture. Any moisture within the compressor will evaporate and be purged when you put a vacuum on the whole system prior to refilling it. I don't think it would be an issue unless a ton of dirt or something got in there. Even dust should be vacuumed out, and the desiccant bag will trap most things left behind.

I'm pretty sure a Chevy dealer wouldn't install it used. Liability and such.
 

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Isn't there a "stop Leak" for 134 refrigerant. Would that help?
 

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Isn't there a "stop Leak" for 134 refrigerant. Would that help?
No. Please, whatever you do, do not add any sort of "stop leaks" or regular AC oil to the system. Since the compressor is driven electronically, the refrigerant and refrigerant oil inside the system MUST be specific to these kinds of systems for electrical isolation. You wouldn't want electricity going where it's not supposed to because it flowed through the oil inside of the AC system.

Stop leak works by causing the rubber O-rings that connect the various hoses and fittings to swell. While this may plug certain types of leaks, it will also gum up the rest of the system. Since OP has multiple leaks in both the compressor and evaporator, I highly doubt an O-ring is to blame. There really aren't shortcuts to doing AC work if you want it to work right and last.

Replacing the actual compressor and evaporator could be done DIY, but if you're unsure on how to properly evacuate and fill the system, have a shop handle that part.

/Source: I've been doing AC work on cars for a few years now. Not professionally, but I bought the necessary tools myself (gauge set and vacuum) and help out friends and family occasionally.
 

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Oh man, this is reminding me of the discussion about de-ionized vs distilled water in the coolant. The Volt is special in a lot of ways, but it uses normal r134a refrigerant. If you're concerned about the oil, make sure the can you buy doesn't include any oil charge (most don't and it will say on the can).

As for hurting the compressor by self-adding a charge, it sounds like his compressor and condenser are already shot. Can't really hurt things more.

It's not worth paying $3600 to fix, so might as well try self-charging with 134a and seeing how long it lasts.
 

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Oh man, this is reminding me of the discussion about de-ionized vs distilled water in the coolant. The Volt is special in a lot of ways, but it uses normal r134a refrigerant. If you're concerned about the oil, make sure the can you buy doesn't include any oil charge (most don't and it will say on the can).

As for hurting the compressor by self-adding a charge, it sounds like his compressor and condenser are already shot. Can't really hurt things more.

It's not worth paying $3600 to fix, so might as well try self-charging with 134a and seeing how long it lasts.
I agree. It's not the refrigerant, it's the oil. Stop leak, however, may cause more damage by gumming things up. Plain old R134A is fine.
 

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Does a used compressor need to be specially handled or purged because of moisture? When a wrecker disconnects them, do they leave them open? Capped? Worried about moisture effects if been on a shelf for long time.

Also will a Chevy dealer even install a used part?
You want the ports capped. Any reliable parts sourcing outfit should prepare it properly. I see several on ebay for $100. You do not want anything getting in there in the "good" compressor or your system. If you have any doubt you should clean and flush it thoroughly. You should ONLY use the oil made for the system to flush it. You then need to drain it ALL and add the proper amount into the compressor ( 3.5oz? don't remember )

Now, if you just crack the system open and pull the compressor and swap in another, you don't have to pull a vacuum, but you really really should. Both to evacuate the refrigerant properly and while at vacuum to ensure there are no leaks and to remove any moisture ( water boils at vacuum and becomes gas so it can be removed ). If either the new compressor or your system has been open for more than 2 hours ( general rule for POE is 2+ hours ) then it does need it. The desiccant dryer bag in the condensor can only handle trace amounts of moisture. A harbor freight vacuum pump and gauges will run you $100 tops. The compressor in the volt will possibly be damaged from moisture, so just pull the vacuum.

As far as the dealer, who knows? If it's non warranty work and you are paying shop rates they SHOULD do whatever you want since a dealer is probably charging you 2-4 times what any other mechanic that could do the same work would do. I'm spoiled now because I have a car lift and a hangar to work in.
 

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I can’t imagine going to all of the effort of changing the compressor and condenser without pulling a proper vacuum after. Non-condensibles (air/moisture) in the system will wreak havoc with the compressor and also become acidic over time. As others said, vacuum pumps and decent gauge sets are relatively inexpensive.

If if the compressor/condenser are going to be changed, the filter/dryer should also be done. You can usually find compressor replacement kits that also include the filter/dryer.
 

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If if the compressor/condenser are going to be changed, the filter/dryer should also be done. You can usually find compressor replacement kits that also include the filter/dryer.
ABSOLUTELY AGREE!!!! In fact, in nearly all cases the compressor is only covered by warranty if a new receiver dryer/accumulator is purchased at the same time.

As for the 134a refrigerant, IF it's pure 134a with no additives such as those designed for "high mileage", etc. it should work fine in the Volt system. You definitely don't want anything with PAG oil but rather POE (polyolester) is what is used. You also want to avoid anything with a gauge and hose attached as those are usually a blend of 134a, oil (PAG) and o-ring conditioners.
 
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