By on February 18, 2016

2008 Honda Civic Sedan and Civic Si Coupe

TTAC Regular David Holzman writes:


My here-to-fore bombproof 2008 Honda Civic (stick) with 84,000 miles just suffered an air conditioning failure. I’d planned to drive it until spring before getting the AC repaired — I drove my ’99 Accord for almost four years after the AC quit — but a clattering noise led me to contact my friend who owns a garage for advice. He told me that unlike my old 1999 Accord, the Civic and most other cars these days run the AC off of a serpentine belt that also powers the alternator and water pump (if any of the above info is wrong, it’s my fault, not Marc’s). In other words, I could get stranded, quickly. So, I was forced to get a new compressor to the tune of $1,300 due — in large part, I understand — to environmental regs and lousy refrigerant that meets such regs.

Among other things, the current refrigerant doesn’t interact well with lubrication, according to the guy where I took my Civic, thus slowly starving the bearings. That presumably led to my AC’s demise at (relatively) low mileage. Several questions:

  1. Is there anything a person can do to try to prolong the life of these crummy compressor-refrigerant combinations? How much additional life can we contemplate? And did I reduce the life of the AC — which I only use June, July, and August, and often not that much — by turning it on and off several times in a typical 10 mile drive?
  2. Are there are contemporary cars which keep the AC functionally separate from the other belt components so that one could keep driving after the AC goes?
  3. Are there AC systems in contemporary cars that are distinctly more durable and cheaper to replace? (In my case: $800 parts, $500 labor.) The guy at the shop I took the thing to gave me a long laundry list of cars that go through compressors quickly, including some of the more reliable makes.
  4. Is there anything better on the horizon? If I still have the car four years from now, I’d love to have something more reliable installed — before the new one goes bad on me.
  5. What other car parts are lousy because quality of technology hasn’t caught up with regulation?

Thanks Sajeev!

Sajeev answers:

I’m gonna try to distill this down to these discussion points.

  1. I doubt this question is relevant to most vehicles, as we’ve discussed before that Civics like yours have pretty crummy A/C systems and that’s not par for the course.
  2. As a proper Lincoln-Mercury Fanboi, I thought every car had a serpentine belt shortly after the Ford 5.0-liter V8 transitioned to sequential fuel injection. Having this technology for decades in a city that’s hard on A/C compressors means you need not fear being stranded from a bad compressor. (Especially if the A/C compressor clutch didn’t fail.) This is very much a non-issue, but do buy a spare belt and keep it with the spare tire!
  3. Finding data on which cars have more durable A/C systems is tough, as I doubt everything from Consumer Reports’ Harvey Balls to analyses that neglect to include improved parts with new part numbers solve a consumer’s concern. Though I was slammed for the latter previously, I believe in the phrase “past performance does not guarantee future results.” Nothing in life is guaranteed.
  4. Aside from smaller windshields (cab backward design), auto-tinting windows, or a new magic refrigerant coming to market, I doubt our HVAC systems can get any better. It’s unfortunate that your Civic is cursed with a mediocre system, but I reckon most of the B&B is fine with modern motoring’s climate control.
  5. You better help me out on that one, Best and Brightest.
  6. One thing you said raised a red flag: you paid how much to get a new compressor installed? Honda sells its parts for about $650 (full retail?). Your $800 parts/$500 labor cost stings a bit.

[Image: American Honda]

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry … but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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101 Comments on “Piston Slap: Condensing Honda’s Hot Air? (Part II)...”

  • avatar

    When the AC clutch died on my ’92 Saturn SL2, I just bought a shorter accessory belt and bypassed it altogether.

    Is that an option here?

    • 0 avatar

      Not usually. AC delete cars likely run a different configuration, relocating the PS pump or an idler pulley where the AC pump isn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        No they don’t move things like PS pumps. Yes it is common to put idler where the compressor would sit or a different configuration of idler pulleys. IF the vehicle was actually available without AC then the holes will almost always be there for that different configuration.

        • 0 avatar

          Actually some 8 / 9 / 10G Civics were (and are still made) without A/C: The Canadian DX Models. Maybe the shorter serpentine belt from that model would fit and bypass the (inexistent) A/C compressor if needed.

    • 0 avatar

      But what was the real issue here?

      If internal compressor failure was impending, it would only have been necessary to unplug the compressor clutch electrical connector to keep the compressor from engaging.

      If it was instead the clutch bearing on the nose of the compressor (which is spinning all the time along with the drive belt), that can also be replaced separately from the entire compressor (unless they have changed the design in recent years).

      A good mechanic would have known these things, but maybe the service writer just sold the customer a new compressor. The service writer’s job is to get the most money out of the customer.

  • avatar


    I sent you 2016 CHARGER HELLCAT for TTAC.
    If You want 2016 JEEP SRT content, let me know – I got one of those yesterday.

    • 0 avatar

      If I’ve ever run across anyone who needs to be forced into a Nissan Leaf (at gunpoint if necessary) its you.

      Sorry about the non-functionality of your reproductive organ.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey, now. BTSR may be a boor, but he’s mostly harmless and has legitimate opinions on certain vehicles. Lighten up, Francis.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry to hear about your obsession with other dudes’ dicks.

        • 0 avatar

          This is the point at which I try to lighten up things by inserting a joke…

          A mouse and an elephant are in a jungle near a site where a Hollywood crew has filmed a jungle pit rescue scene. They are packing up to leave, and the last vehicle left is a Mercedes TD wagon, idling as it is being loaded.

          The elephant wanders over curiously, and promptly falls into the pit. He yells for help from the mouse, who manages to tie a rope to the bumper and lower the other end into the pit, for the elephant to be able to get out when the mouse jumps on the shift lever, causing the M-B to creep forward, slowly pulling the elephant out of the pit.

          The mouse, jumping with joy, falls into the pit.

          The Mercedes has been caught by the owner, turned off, and the rope stowed in the rear of it. So the elephant instead of repeating what the mouse did, straddles the pit, lowers his dick into it, and the mouse is able to crawl out.

          THE MORAL OF THE STORY: When you have a big dick, you don’t need a Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar

        Syke – I think it was LIBERAL FEMINISTS that started the line about men overcompensating for small penises when they buy guns, Corvettes and “toys”.

        did it ever occur to any of these LIBERAL GREENER IDIOT MORONS that:

        #1 I work hard and play HARDER
        #2 I demand more out of life than a Prius, a frail wife and 2 underachieving children
        #3 I push my life as hard as it will go: travelling, flying, etc
        #4 I’m not content being a welfare case sitting at home waiting for government checks

        Insulting male genitalia?

        I’m not sure if you know this but I’m 6’7″ and Black.

        My girlfriend never complains.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      BTSR, please do not let the cheap-insult crowd run you out of here. There are days when you and CJinSD are the only people who keep this place from becoming one big “hybrids ‘n’ Google-pod-cars” circle jerk.

    • 0 avatar
      its me Dave


    • 0 avatar

      Yep, seems like this post is entirely pertinent to the topic at hand.

      At what point does this become spam?

    • 0 avatar

      Do a top speed run in the Hellcat.

      Also, BigTrucks and I now both own Torred V8 Chargers. MOPAR OR NO CAR!!!!

  • avatar

    I’ve been a refrigeration compressor/system engineer for 15 years; and am speaking as somebody with a solid theoretical background, substantial hands-on experience, and access to company internal data relating to failure rates and root cause analyses. In this one case, I’m not just some internet blowhard pulling things out of thin air.

    The short answer is that there’s nothing in “environmental regs” or “modern refrigerants” that inherently contributes to compressor failures on a competently designed system; and in fact compressor reliability/durability has trended upwards with time.

    Your Civic should have R-134a. This is not a new refrigerant, and has been widely used since the early 90’s. It does not have any inherent lubrication or oil transport issues, and a properly designed R-134a system can easily run for decades without appreciable bearing wear.

    I if a given make/model of car persistently fails compressors then that is because somebody at the OEM either bungled the design or cheaped out on sourcing the parts. Automakers all have to meet the same regs; so the fact that they’re not all bad WRT compressor reliability means that it can certainly be done well.

    If you don’t need AC can you unplug your compressor clutch solenoid and just let the pulley freewheel?

    • 0 avatar

      Great post – and to this point, “f a given make/model of car persistently fails compressors then that is because somebody at the OEM either bungled the design or cheaped out on sourcing the parts,” a search for this era Civic will quickly reveal that poor AC performance and premature failures are quite common. IIRC the ’08 in particular has been subject to more than half-a-dozen recalls (not AC related) and suffers from Claymore mines in the steering wheel.

      It seems like a Honda “not” to own as they approach the 10 year mark.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I think the Japanese brands in general don’t do a good job with air conditioning. When you compare them to the American brands or Europeans the systems always look lighter duty. Everything is smaller including the compressor, condenser and lines. I’m sure these systems are beneficial to fuel economy, buthe are probably taxed more than a heavier duty system. The compressor went out on my last impreza at just over the three year mark. Less than 27,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar

        Many don’t go a good job with cabin ventilation either apparently judging by how many badly fogged up windows I see during the Winter months. My Impala’s never have an issue with this or A/C compressors failing so it’s thankfully a non issue with me.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks bikegoesbaa. Good data there.

  • avatar

    Auto mechanics generally don’t know nearly as much as they think they do about automotive AC. I spent 20 years in design and manufacturing engineering for an automotive AC compressor manufacturer.

    1) Clutch bearings are unaffected by refrigerant. You do not say whether the bearings that failed were clutch or internal. It is certainly possible that the clutch bearings were underdesigned. It’s also certainly possible that a belt was overtensioned (if the tensioning device permits this) which can lead directly to failure.

    2) If it is the internal bearings that failed, the most likely culprit is overloading. The most common reason for this is poor condenser performance. All shrouds, etc., around the fan(s) have to be in place properly. The condenser has to be kept clean. The fans have to be operating properly. An overcharge of refrigerant can also cause this problem.

    3) The statement about interaction of refrigerant and lubricant is inaccurate. In the late 80s when R12 was planned for replacement by R134a, it was determined that the mineral oil used with R12 was not soluble in R134a. This is a problem because automotive AC systems generally rely on the refrigerant flow to carry lubricant to and from the compressor. New lubricants were developed which were miscible in R134a. The testing of these lubricants was extensive and far exceeded any testing that was ever done on the original R12/mineral oil combinations.

    In a 2008 model car you need have no concern about lubricant and refrigerant mixing properly. These vehicles and their AC systems will have had durability and performance testing that would boggle the lay person’s mind.

    4) There are two logical explanations for the problem: a) you may simply have had the bad one (there is a distribution of life on any population of any mechanical system, and the one with the shortest life could have a life of only 84,000 miles – disappointing, annoying, but not necessarily an indication that the entire population of these systems is any worse than the population of other automotive AC systems; b) some aspect of the AC system design for the 2008 Honda is lacking (usually due to cost-reduction activities). But whichever it is, the fact that your compressor failed at 84,000 miles does not indicate some kind of grand problem with current-production AC systems. Such is not the case. In fact, reliability of auto. AC systems is at an all time high, despite what auto mechanics think they know.

    5) Honestly, I would be very surprised if a 1999 Accord didn’t also use the poly-vee serpentine belt for front end accessory drive. This technology came in to use in the late 80s. However, Honda might have had on some engines a separate belt. That usually depends on how the engine FEAD packaging works out. At any rate, my own personal belief is that you should always carry a spare of each belt and hose for your vehicle, right next to the jumper cables.

    • 0 avatar

      I approve this message.

    • 0 avatar

      Most mechanics don’t know nearly as much as they think they do about *anything.* the industry is rife with “truthiness.”

      • 0 avatar

        Most *people* don’t know nearly as much as they think they do about *anything*. the *world* is rife with “truthiness.”


      • 0 avatar

        Folksy wisdom is often heavy on the folksy, light on the wisdom.

        I’m sure that the mechanic sincerely believes what he is saying, but it’s a load of tripe.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m sure that the mechanic sincerely believes what he is *billing*, but it’s a load of tripe.

          $1300 for a compressor replacement when the part is $650 from the dealer at list price? That’s eight hours of labor on top! If you considered this guy a friend, unfriend him yesterday.

          • 0 avatar

            No it is not. When a compressor fails it introduces shrapnel into the system. If that shrapnel is not removed the new compressor is likely to fail in short order. Because of this most compressors include a statement in the box that unless the expansion device and drier are replaced and the system flushed the warranty will be void. Because of that no decent tech will just replace a compressor they’ll replace those other parts as well. The system will also need oil and refrigerant to function.

            So in addition to the compressor the parts bill probably looked something like this.

            Compressor and clutch assembly.
            Thermal expansion valve
            Flush solvent

            Additionally it is normal to see

            Belt When compressors fail they can seize or require a lot of force to turn before they seize making the belt suspect and it would be off anyway.

            Service valves, they are a common leak point so many do it any time they service a system and Honda has had a reputation of them failing in the past. Plus there may be that bit of metal that gets stuck in them and causes them to leak even if they didn’t in the past.

            Also while I didn’t take the time to check but many times the factor sells the compressor w/o the clutch and the clutch is another $100. I did not check in this case.

            Now you’ve got to wrangle all those parts in and out which on many modern cars means things like tearing the front body apart to replace the drier or have access to the condenser fittings to properly flush it. Occasionally you’ll have to pull the dash apart to replace the expansion valve but that isn’t common.

            So while $1300 isn’t some killer deal it is far from the highway robbery you suggest if it was done right.

    • 0 avatar

      I always found that R-134 systems seemed to be more reliable than the old R-12 systems. I think a lot of mechanics had bad experiences with poorly thought out conversion kits for old R-12 systems that consisted of nothing more than oil and a couple of fittings.
      As far as the price of the repair, I’m just guessing but he may have had to replace other parts, lines or a dryer?

      • 0 avatar

        Some of the early OE R134a systems had some teething pains. There were a few that they missed on the oil, either quantity or viscosity. There were also some leakage failures due to R134a’s ability to squeeze through a smaller hole.

        As far as conversions go you would be surprised how well one a properly done one can work.

        My old Econoline has front and rear AC and when a tank of R12 cost me over $1200 no way was I pumping 4 lbs of it in to get it going.

        I did the conversion valves and replaced the drier. Took the compressor off and changed the oil, as it is the old school York 2cyl. Replaced the seals on connections I disturbed and called it good. Out of curiosity after 5 or 6 years I hooked it up to the machine and recovered something like 95% of what I had put in. Filled it back up and it can blow 38 degree air out of the outside vent on 80~90 degree days something like 15 years later.

        I’ve also seen them fail quickly too.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ll ask you me AC question, you seem to know about this stuff!

          My 93 Deville has the “Service AC” light come on when you try and use the AC. I’m assuming it’s low on R12, as seems to be the general consensus online. I know it has not been switched over because it has the old style threaded fittings as opposed to the newer style “plug in” or whatever the correct term is for the R134 fittings.

          My Q: Is there an R12 alternate product I can use without doing a system conversion (which is not worth it on such a car)? I have read some stuff on forums which indicates there are replacement products these days which are suitable. But there’s conflicting information, and the boards I was reading were older, 2009 or something.

          • 0 avatar

            Try R406A, aka Autofrost. Good miscibility with R12 lubricants (mineral oil), good performance. Needs modern “barrier” hoses (e.g. R134A hoses), but you need to avoid the green HNBR O-rings (use Neoprene).

          • 0 avatar

            I will have to save this info somewheres.

          • 0 avatar

            Your 93 Deville should have components designed to be compatible with R134a. So techincally you could probably do just fine with a fitting kit some proper oil and filling it up with R134a. A quick tweak of the clutch cycling switch and you’ll have nice cold air at a reasonable cost that should be good for several years assuming you don’t let is sit for long periods w/o use.

            R134a is the only way you want to convert your R12 system.

            Of course R12 is still available and legal to install. It is not cheap but it of course is a true drop in with no concerns other than an undiagnosed leak that could cost you $150 worth of refrigerant.

            Note it is even fully legal to sell a new car with a R12 system and you can thank Cadillac and that service AC light. IF you have your system set up so that it can infer if the system has leaks and then have it turn on the CEL then it is fully legal. Note I have not seen anyone that has taken the EPA up on that but the generic OBDII code for it exists.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks! My dad might know a source for some available cheap R12. I will end up waiting until warmer weather where it’s more pleasant to be outside and diagnose this.

          • 0 avatar

            Your cheapest bet will be R-134a. Remove the drier and the lines at the compressor. Run an A/C flush product through both lines, and drain the compressor. Blow the lines out with compressed air coming from a well filtered and dried source. Replenish the oil drained from the compressor with either ester oil or a pag oil designed for conversions. Replace the o-rings for the lines, and install a new drier. Add the rest of the systems oil capacity to the new drier. Add the conversion fittings. Run a vacuum on the system for at least an hour. Charge with R -134a. Use 85% of the R-12 capacity.

          • 0 avatar

            @Mbella GM’s spec for conversions is .8 x (X-1)+ 1.

    • 0 avatar

      Two thumbs up.

    • 0 avatar

      B&B comment of the week, maybe the month, maybe even for the year.

      Give this guy a job!

    • 0 avatar

      Turf3, thank you for a worthwhile post. It never ceases to amaze me that when something goes wrong, nonsense about regulations or whatever are fingered as the culprit. I guess the OP’s mechanic remembers when he screwed up a conversion from R12 to 134a. POE, PAG, whatever…use any ol’ lubricant and blame it on the new refrigerant. Now if we want to talk about the high head pressures of 410a and fractionalization as it leaks out, well that’s a legitimate beef with a “new” refrigerant…

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    AC failures differ a lot depending on where you live.
    You are more likely to have seized compressors in colder climates. Car living in hotter climates are more likely to wear-out their compressors.

    The advice back in the day was to run your AC at least 10 minutes a month, regardless of weather, to lubricate them. Most modern cars run the compressor when set to defrost, so that advice isn’t as relevant as it once was.

    • 0 avatar

      Most modern cars now automatically cycle the compressor when the HVAC system is set to defrost or a variant of defrost (defrost/feet – defrost/vent) to help dry out the air.

      In some cars (my ’05 Saturn Relay is an example of this) I can even push the button to turn the AC off, the light will go out, but if I’m on defrost the compressor is still running.

      I can’t speak for the ’08 Civic specifically, but basically the AC compressor is running in a lot of vehicles if the climate system is turned on in some way or another.

  • avatar

    I have an 09, and I can cosign that the A/C is horrible. I got both the compressor AND the condenser replaced within a year of purchase, and it was still only “just OK” down here in NC.

    One thing I would recommend… any work you get done, go to the dealer. Fly by night shops are a real crapshoot. Dealer will cost more but they will get the job done. If there is anything that gets me out of this car it will be the confounded A/C system. Aside from that I really enjoy it.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel like the A/C was something that was finally addressed on the otherwise maligned 9th gen (2012) cars. My A/C is absolutely frigid in the summer, something that could not be said of my dad’s ’07 Fit, which is inadequate even in not-so-brutally-hot Central NY. Who knows though, it might just need the refrigerant topped off, that stuff evaporates out from systems little by little over time!

  • avatar

    Re: the cost of this job—I had a reman compressor clutch/clutch installed in a ’92 Miata last year by my usual shop in Baltimore. The shop charged $350 for the install and conversion (R12 to 134A) of a unit I bought through Rock Auto for ~$250. Rock shows a range of units for your car ($175-$440), so it would appear your guy was heavy on the labor charge.

  • avatar

    The AC in my ’06 Subaru Legacy has been horrible since day one and is almost useless on the hottest days here in Iowa. One of the reasons why I am looking to replace it soon. The compressor cycles way too often going from cool to warm air off and on.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      That’s funny. I have an ’07 Legacy and when auto is turned on it nearly freezes my hands off. It blows on max for way longer than necessary and I typically have to turn it down to the lowest setting to keep from getting frost bite.
      It’s a tad annoying to have to monitor my auto climate control and over ride it whenever it gets hot.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    this entire piece must be a fabrication.

    I have owned a Honda for almost a year, my first one. I have been told since I was a teenager that if you want a car built by the hand of god that will never break, ever. Get a Honda. Period.

    P.S. Mine broke within 90 days of ownership…

  • avatar

    Any competent shop will insist on changing the accumulator and orifice tube when a compressor fails. Especially if there was an internal compressor failure which would also be accomodated with a flush. Hopefully this is part of the reason the bill was so high, but those parts are relatively cheap so the bill does seem high.

    One thing you can look into is an A/C delete belt, if your car was ever available without A/C.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. Thanks for bringing the other parts up.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually if a shop says they must replace the accumulator and orifice tube that is a tip off that they are incompetent. No vehicle has those items combined. If it has an accumulator then it has a thermal expansion valve and if it has an orifice tube then it has a receiver drier.

      • 0 avatar

        An orifice tube is usually fixed and floods the evaporator therefore the extra liquid “accumulates” in the accumulator until the switch in the accumulator shuts the compressor off. The expansion valve monitors pressure and temperature on the evaporator outlet and does not allow any liquid through the evaporator therefore the receiver dryer is on the pressure side of the system and no accumulator is needed

  • avatar

    “He told me that unlike my old 1999 Accord, the Civic and most other cars these days run the AC off of a serpentine belt that also powers the alternator and water pump (if any of the above info is wrong, it’s my fault, not Marc’s). In other words, I could get stranded, quickly. So, I was forced to get a new compressor to the tune of $1,300 due — in large part, I understand — to environmental regs and lousy refrigerant that meets such regs”

    1) all cars use serpentine belts; they can be automatically tensioned and subject the accessories to less of a radial/side load than V-belts used to

    2) the bearing for the compressor pulley is sealed

    3) the last part about “crummy refrigerant” and “environmental regs” is just nonsense.

    • 0 avatar

      Arguing semantics. When most people say serpentine belt they are referring to a belt that snakes through multiple accessories. His old Honda, as most of them used to, used a separate belt for each accessory. If the compressor failed, you just took that accessory belt off and continued to have alt and PS with their respective belts in place.

  • avatar

    Chevy charged me $800 to rebuild the whole AC back in 2010. Fortuantly they gave me a lifetime guarantee as it failed two more times. Piece of junk.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Ah the lovely Civic AC. I never did solve the problem with mine before selling it. I basically decided it was just a crap system and there was nothing actually wrong with it.

  • avatar

    As others are saying, if you want working A/C, you’ll need another car. I gave up on keeping mine functional long ago.

    By the way, the compressor failing can in fact strand you if the pulley bearing is what fails, thus seizing the whole thing and burning through your serpentine belt because you’re halfway through a long drive and out of AAA range to a good garage. Ask me how I know.

  • avatar

    On my 2003 Accord, the A/C failed at about 7 years, 70K miles. The dealer wanted $1800 to repair it. My local shop did the job for $800, including OEM parts. That was the only repair in the 9+ years I had the car. The A/C compressors and rear brakes seem to be (by unscientific rumor analysis) the least reliable parts of this generation of Accords. Probably the same suppliers for Civics.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      I bought my ’02 Accord brand new. All the original A/C stuff is still there. Absolutely no problems ever (yet). Fourteen model years old, 138,000 miles. Ice cold air with automatic climate control.

      My summers where I live are hot and humid. 100+ degrees for days or weeks are not uncommon. Winter are cool to cold and damp.

      A major reason I bought my wife a new Acura MDX last year was because of the cold Honda air I have enjoyed.

      Sold her black on black Cadillac STS. She never wants a black or dark colored car ever again.

  • avatar

    The “lousy” refrigerant is a big reason that the ozone hole has actually been able to make progress in regaining lost size in the past few years. Remember, air conditioning is a luxury, protection from our big bad son is a necessity. It really bugs me when people complain about the most minor compromises for the sake of the environment that that they are expected to make for the privilege of driving a motor vehicle.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Some great comments from @bikegoesbaa and @turf3. One of the reasons that this is a go to site.

    My experience with Honda A/C problems is from a previous generation, when Mr. Honda was still alive and due to his aversion to A/C system. you could only purchase (in Canada at least) A/C as a dealer installed option.

    Both my ’86 Accord and my ’87 Wagovan suffered premature A/C failure. Both repaired under warranty.

    When the system failed in the middle of the summer on my Accord, I was informed that one of the parts required was on back order, that there were none available in North America due to a ‘run on them’ and that I would have to wait for 3 to 5 weeks for it to arrive. Luckily I was doing business with Honda Canada, was able to get one of my senior contacts to call Head Office in Japan directly and 2 days later had my part delivered by air. When I showed up the next day at the dealers, with the part, still in its wrapping from Honda’s H.O. it created quite a stir. From that point on the service and attention that the dealer gave me was beyond anything in my past (or unfortunately future with other manufacturers/dealers) experience.

  • avatar

    One AC mod I saw on the Accord boards back in the day was insulating the line off of the compressor/expansion valve to the evaporator. I don’t know how quickly refrigerant moves through the lines, or how much of a danger that would be for freezing the coil, but dude said it worked and it seems sound in principle. I don’t think A/C lines are insulated either; I definitely remember seeing condensation/frost on that line when I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on with mine.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I think Honda has an issue with A/C. The compressor died at 55K miles in my 2002 CR-V. To Honda’s credit, they replaced it free of charge even though the car was out of warranty.

  • avatar

    I have my own old car AC question, but I don’t want to drag things off topic too soon in the day!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    When the compressor on my Taurus died, I did a DIY replacement in a few hours along with the orifice tube for $155 in parts and $18 worth of R-134. My friend with the same generation Taurus paid a well regarded indie mechanic $1000 for the same work. There seems to be a big margin built into this repair.
    Even amortizing the HF charging manifold ($35) and the vacuum pump ($90), I was way ahead. These tools now serve as a powerful talisman against AC system failure as no other AC failures have occurred in our other high mileage family vehicles.

  • avatar

    The 8th generation Civic uses a serpentine belt, so unlike your older Hondas, a shorter belt cannot be used nor can the compressor be bypassed AFAIK.

    However, if available for the R18a, you **may** be able to use a “dummy pulley.” As the name suggests, the dummy is essentially a pulley bolted on a bracket that serves only to take up the space of where your a/c compressor once sat. You’ll often see these on engines that use a single serpentine belt but were not factory equipped with air conditioning.

    If I had to guess, the chattering noise you described was likely a problem with the rotor and plate surfaces of the clutch. Disconnecting the coil, as suggested by Bike, could have potentially eliminated the chatter but as a consequence you would lose a/c. If not, checking the air gap between the clutching surfaces or simply replacing the entire clutch assembly could have potentially solved the chatter issue while keeping the a/c functional.

    If the chatter was accompanied by a rolling noise, audible whether the a/c was off or on, then it could of been the pulley bearing itself. This bearing is exposed to road debris, water, salt, etc. Most people who change the bearing will also replace the pulley and clutch assembly as well (still much cheaper than evacuating the system and RR the compressor).

    Working on the compressor on this car is STUPID easy, afterall it isn’t a POS Volkswagen. To be blunt, you got raped on the price! It happens to all of us at some point when sub’ing work out. Avoid that shop for anything other than warranty on their work as it relates to the compressor.

    P.S. The bearing on the pulley does not need oil, it is sealed. However, when the clutch is engaged the compressor absolutely needs oil to lubricate and cool. I’ve never seen an automotive a/c compressor that does not require it.

    • 0 avatar

      I see no reason why the correct length shorter belt cannot be fitted, unless it causes the belt to try to route through the middle of the disconnected A/C pulley, which would seem to be a pretty dense and unnecessary design.

  • avatar

    The AC issues on the Civic are well documented. I’m no fan of over zealous government regulation but the CFC/freon ban established by Reagan has reaped measurable positive results and I would believe that the Civic would be R-134A equipped in 2008.

    A quick search will find that it isn’t government regulators, but Honda engineers that are to blame for your AC woes.

    • 0 avatar

      If theres ever a problem with your Honda its pesky government changes, factory saboteurs, GM employee saboteurs, or bad owner maintenance at work, it is NEVER Hondas fault.

  • avatar

    Cool, the Si on the left, blue, looks like my exact car. I have a 2008. Have had no problems with it. Except for minor thing like the clutch pedal and brake pedals maybe needing lubrication bcause of a kind of mechanical sound coming from either of them when I push down, but that’s it. No problems with the A/C. When I start it up cold, though and the computer is setting the rpms it likes when cold, I’ll hear a brief kkkkkkkccchcccccchhhh sound from the engine (sounds like a very brief no-oil situation). Otherwise I still like the car. Has 147000 kms.

  • avatar
    George B

    “Is there anything a person can do to try to prolong the life of these crummy compressor-refrigerant combinations? How much additional life can we contemplate? And did I reduce the life of the AC — which I only use June, July, and August, and often not that much — by turning it on and off several times in a typical 10 mile drive?”

    David, I have a 1999 Honda Accord with the original AC compressor still running in Texas. It’s never been connected to an EPA mandated refrigerant recover, recycle, recharge machine because I was paranoid that some mechanic with a poorly maintained machine would introduce moisture and contaminants into my car air conditioning system. The main issue with R-134a/PAG oil is that the PAG oil is very hygroscopic, absorbing acid-causing moisture. Instead, I only add new refrigerant as needed using 12 oz cans and a short hose. When the compressor started making more noise 5 years ago, I added 2 oz of PAG oil. Googled the correct viscosity and bought a can from NAPA.

  • avatar

    use it or lose it. by making it sit 9 months a year, the oil is not getting circulated. seals dry out, metal parts start sticking together and wearing more. and constantly turning it off and on wears the clutch more. find a reason to use it at least one trip a month

    • 0 avatar

      The recommendation to use the AC at least once a month to prevent freezeup of the moving parts is a sound idea. That may well be why the AC is cycled on when running in Defrost mode, in addition to the fact that this would help dry the air. A short run of the AC means no binding of the parts over a nine month idle time.

      As a PS, it is also a good idea to force the hot/cold blendgate to cycle at least once every month, and ditto for the vent shutters.

      If the blendgate ever sticks, you will not be able to get the mix to change, and the repair will likely involve dropping the dashboard to replace a ten dollar part, always a painful procedure.

      I caught my “original owner” 97 Panther’s passenger side vent starting to bind up shortly after I acquired it. A bit of WD-40 and some gently pushing and pulling freed it. Now I make it a point to ride shotgun once a month at least, and to cycle the passenger side vents. And of course, I cycle the driver side more often.

      Those kind of binding failures can be some of the most expensive, annoying and totally preventable failures on an otherwise outstanding older vehicle.

      Panther love!

  • avatar

    Older Hondas especially CRV 2002-4 had black death. Compressor breaks and black crud would spread through the system and stick. Can not clean by flushing. Everything needs to be replaced. Some other brands allegedly fix by replacing only AC parts in front of firewall.

    Newer Hondas AC relay fails.
    SYMPTOM: the battery dies after the vehicle is parked for a short time or overnight, or the A/C system blows warm air, or both. Also, the A/C compressor may be noisy and may [ed: be] emitting refrigerant vapor from the relief valve.

    NOTE: if the only symptom is a dead battery, it may occur intermittently.

    PROBABLE CAUSE: the A/C compressor clutch relay may be stuck closed. If the relay sticks [ed: closed] when the ignition switch is turned to LOCK (0), and the compressor was running, it creates enough parasitic draw to discharge the battery. If the relay sticks [ed: closed] while the engine and A/C are running at a lower vehicle speed, the A/C pressure may spike, causing the compressor’s relief valve to open and lose refrigerant.

  • avatar

    It’s no help that due to the extremely sloped windshield (and the very long dashboard top) on these cars, the longer A/C ductwork is exposed to more hot sun, and takes a long time to cool down once the A/C is turned on. Honda may not have taken this into account, and undersized the compressor/system for cost reasons.

  • avatar

    I worked on automotive a/c systems for more than 3 decades. Hondas were known to be A/C problem children. They are not the only ones, just about every make has had a “grenade” A/C compressor.
    Certainly the smaller cars. As others have stated, if the compressor fails internally, if you want to avoid quick failure of the replacement, you need to replace a lot of other stuff. Expansion valve/orifice tube, filter-drier, and possibly hoses and the condenser. As mentioned by others it can be impossible to remove contamination from the condenser by flushing. That contamination will make its way into the new compressor ruining it.
    Some get away with minimal replacement, compressor-filter drier etc, for a while. Maybe even years. Then they crow about how they “saved a lot of money over those rip-off mechanics”.
    You may need to replace the evaporator, but since that is in the dash it will likely double the cost of repair. That’s one of the reasons that 15-20 year old vehicles are driving around with the windows open in hot weather, no A/C and too expensive to fix.
    BTW I think it was a stroke of genius on the part of auto engineers to use a single accessory belt. Although they likely did not do it for the following reason. I have seen many drivers destroy an engine by driving without a water pump/alternator belt, or in the old days a “fan belt”. Even though that warning light was on they would “take it in next week”.
    However with the single belt, if the belt fails the A/C no longer ‘cools’ and THAT needs to be fixed NOW.
    It was probably done for the usual reason, cost. Eliminating parts means less $.
    Hondas and some others have gone with minimal A/C systems. Small compressor, condenser, evaporator, etc. This means less cost of manufacture and slightly better fuel economy (CAFE?), but possible trouble for the owner when the system has a failure.
    Also most repair shops will not take the gamble that the system can be restored, long term, with minimal replacement of parts. If it fails within the warranty period they will end up paying the car owner to fix the car. As the margin on the original repair is nothing like most seem to think.
    BTW I am not quite sure how you “drop the dash” to get at the evaporator. Perhaps turn the car upside down. Remove the windshield and the dash bolts and it might “drop”.

  • avatar

    2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC‏ for sale

    Mileage: 30,116
    Body Style: SUV
    Exterior Color: Polar White
    Interior Color: Black
    Stock #: 4193

    Interested buyer should EMAIL : ( )

  • avatar

    Bypass the compressor clutch (pull the relay) and it won’t kill your belt and leave you stranded.

    AC should have pressor sensor inside to turn the thing off if the charge is too low or too high, and there should have been an on off button. Just don’t turn it on or use windshield defog and it shouldn’t go on even without pulling the compressor clutch relay.

    Most Japanese cars use Denso compressor, if I remember right, of the same model number but different gasket / seal to control pressure and flow. Have you check rock auto or other aftermarket source for a Denso compressor and dryer? I though it should be around $200 for compressor and $20 for dryer on rock auto. Labor to charge and vacuum was $100 when I craigslist about 10 years ago, swapping parts may add another 1-2 hours, that’ll probably make it about $600-800 ball park?

    $1300 is too much unless it is a weird defect that needs replacing everything in the system because you can’t find what’s wrong.

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