September 7, 2015 by phicks2012
Some people have new cars with shiny paint jobs, gleaming chrome, and all sorts of bells and whistles. I have a 16-year old Ford Expedition with well over 200,000 miles on her (219K at last look) and nothing even remotely resembling a built-in GPS, a back-up camera, an MP3 Player, Satellite Radio, or automatic parking. What she HAS is a radio and CD-changer left over from a 1990 Chevy Astrovan (and technicians are still in total AWE that they continue to function perfectly), an oxidized paint job (just from time), dents and dings from various (mostly unobserved) parking lot altercations, an unreliable gas gauge, a gear indicator that is one gear off, an odometer that only occasionally lights up, and a “check engine” light that’s been on since 1999 despite numerous engine checks. Yep! The Beast has CHARACTER!
Well, in the early summer of 2014 when the temperatures starting rising, I turned on the air-conditioning and discovered to my dismay that while air was coming out of the vents it was not exactly “cool” air. Okay, so since I needed to get my oil changed anyway, I asked the guys at the quickie oil change place (my first mistake) if they’d check my freon levels, and they assured me that the freon was fine — but that the compressor was fried and needed replacing. ACKKK!!! Not good news.
Money being characteristically short, there was no way at the time that I could afford to replace a compressor — and I’ll admit that after a lifetime of attempted automative rip-offs, I’m just a tad bit skeptical when I’m advised my a mechanic to replace an expensive part. So when I got home I asked Jason to have a look under the old girl’s hood, and he told me the compressor was coming on just fine. That meant that if the freon levels were sufficient then something else (that I couldn’t presently afford to fix) had to be wrong. So I made do that summer by driving around with the windows open, figuring I’d get the repairs done eventually — only to find out when the weather started cooling off that the heat didn’t work either!
So, what, do you think, are the chances of both the heat and the a/c failing at the same time? Fairly remote, according to my research into the matter. The a/c requires a compressor and freon, but the heater — well that’s a much simpler system involving air passing over a heating coil. As a result, I found myself at a total loss to explain the confluence of failure, and I’m being told that “confluence” needs to be designated as my word-of-the day, meaning “a place where two rivers or streams join to become one” or “a situation in which two things come together or happen at the same time”.
Okay, so the most often suggested solution was that the “blend door” was stuck halfway between heat and cool, and that sounded simple enough, but I was assured by various mechanics that even THAT was an expensive fix because they practically had to remove the whole dashboard to get to it. Again ACKKK! Winter and no heat? Let me tell you, that tends to limit travel in January and February, and the car heater I so hopefully bought and plugged into the cigarette lighter –if aimed directly at the windshield — barely managed to de-FOG.
Summer again, and this time around I noticed that the air blowing out when the a/c was turned on was just slightly cooler than ambiant temperature air, so I thought maybe that blend door had vibrated its way closer to the cool side, but I knew that I had to get something done before another winter. HAD to, and I FINALLY found someone willing to have a look and try to diagnose the problem without charging me a diagnostic fee of $75-$90 –applicable to the repairs only if I got those repairs done at the same place as well, and within 30-60 days following the diagnosis. A free diagnoses? Hallellujah!!
So one sultry August morning at the crack of dawn — okay, at 7:30am — I took The Beast by to have her diagnosed, sat down in the waiting room with a book (I was prepared for a long wait) and 10 minutes later the tech came back and informed me that there were actually two problems. 1)the little plastic knob that adjusts the temperature from hot to cold was cracked and was slipping on the shaft that actually did the adjusting. Removing the knob and using a pair of pliers, he turned the shaft to heat, and Voila! Working Heat! Then he turned it all the way to cold, and Voila! Cool, if not cold, air! 2)I needed to add freon. Go figure.
So after 1.5 air-conditionless vehicular summers and one heatless winter it appeared that an $8 knob and a shot of freon was actually all it needed. You gotta love good mechanics! As for the other kind, I sort of think I’ll pass! Thank you! 😉
Unfortunately, it turned out that when I went, in early September, to get the freon recharged there really WAS something wrong with the compressor. It came on, but wasn’t circulating the freon, so my exultation was a bit premature. <headshake> However, with fall coming on I have until late spring rolls around again to save up for the repairs. I can deal with that — maybe. </headshake>. Hey! At least I have HEAT!!!
And The Beast Goes On!