Air Conditioning Hose Replaced on my 2001 Chevy Venture

Air Conditioning Hose Replaced - February 24, 2005


The parts that were ordered on Feb. 18, 2005 (Air Conditioning Hose & two seals) arrived at the dealer on Feb. 23, 2004 and I picked them up around 2PM.  I called the repair shop and arranged to have it installed the next day. See Previous AC Event

I hung around the shop for a couple of hours until it was done.  At the end of the repair the van was idling in front of the shop with a bit of steam coming from the engine compartment.  It was explained to me that during the repair, some of the coolant was spilled on the exhaust manifold (from moving the overflow tank) and needed to burn off.  I let it run and watched the steam for a couple of minutes.  Then I said to the mechanic, "I guess I should turn on the air conditioner and check it out".  He said "Go for it."

Sure enough, the air was coming out nice & cold!  The air conditioner was working again.  He also gave me the old hose AND the two seals that were not needed for the repair.  I was later able to return them to the dealer and get my money back - about $18.50 with tax (Thanks Dave).

I moved the van so that another car could be put in the service bay, turned the AC & van off and went inside to pay the bill. Total cost, including R134, oil, dye, and labor - $145.


Leaking AC Condenser - 2001 Chevy Venture
Location of leak in AC Condenser

Close-up of Leaking AC Condenser Bracket - 2001 Chevy Venture
Close-up of leaking condenser (green dye)

When I came back outside I noticed some green fluid coming from the right front of the van. NOT GOOD!
I opened the hood and looked around.  The mechanic noticed that I had the hood up and came over.  We saw (and hear) that the refrigerant & dye was coming out of the AC condenser at the lower right attachment bracket.  BUMMER!  All that work gone to waste.  Well not really - the hose needed to be replaced and that was done. 

The mechanic said that he had the system "under vacuum" for at least 20 minutes and it held.  So what happened?  Not sure (yet - see below). 

He said that it MIGHT be possible to repair the condenser by having the attachment bracket welded again and fix the leak, but he was not sure.  He said he knows of a radiator shop a few miles away that may be able to do it & that they have done good work for other customers in the past.  AND he said that they would NOT rip me off.  This is important to me because I have heard of too many "$400 Charlie" mechanics. You know - get the AC serviced = $400, water pump replaced = $400, rotate the tires = $400, etc.  You get the idea.   The mechanic said he would call the radiator shop and ask them if repair would be possible (vs. condenser replacement).

I was somewhat depressed the rest of the day because of this new problem.  When I got home I started up my GM Service software and did a search for "condenser" to see what it would take to replace the condenser.  Guess what I found?  A TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) labeled Air Conditioning is Not Cold Enough (Replace Condenser).  The TSB is #02-01-38-004 dated 12/02/2002.  It basically described the condenser failure exactly

Some customers may comment that the HVAC system does not get cold enough.
Technicians may find that the condenser is cracked and leaking at the lower right attachment bracket.

It also says the new design condenser does not bolt through that bracket anymore.  I wonder why!

UPDATE - Feb. 25, 2005
I did a little research about the price of a replacement condenser and found the following:
New from dealer - $435
Internet lowest price - $205
eBay best price - $145 with shipping

I called the repair shop back and the mechanic said that the radiator shop COULD (probably) repair the condenser and they have done it before.  This is GOOD NEWS because when I looked at the procedure and the TSB, it said that they estimated about 2 hours of labor to remove & replace a condenser. 

I called the radiator shop and talked to a guy name Robert.  I explained the problem and he said that he had done a similar repair on his mother's van recently.  He said it would cost about $25 to do the condenser repair (welding) PLUS labor.  I asked if he could handle the entire job (remove, repair, test, replace, recharge AC) and he said YES!  He said to bring it down a day before I wanted it done to verify everything and then be ready to leave it there the next day.

Since this van can be hard to work on (when it involves the engine compartment), I would rather have the work done than do it myself.  Considering that if I get a new condenser (at $145), it would take just as much labor to install that as repair the one that is already in the van.  So getting the condenser I have repaired should be the least expensive choice.  So if my estimates are correct, it should cost somewhere between $250 & $300 to get it fixed (2 hours labor @ $75/hour + parts (new seals), + AC Charge).

Once again it is late in the week (Friday) and I have to go out of town next week, so getting it fixed right away is kind of hard.  I will do another page with actual totals when it is done (above is just my estimate).
See Next AC Event

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