Do I really need an evaporator replacement?

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Care, Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Maureen G., Sep 7, 2019.

  1. Maureen G.

    Maureen G. New Member

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    I just got a diagnosis of a bad evaporator on my 2005 Prius (105k miles, which I just bought just a few months ago) by a tech who had recharged the system with dye and saw it leaking from the tube behind the passenger-side mat.

    Is that a definitive diagnosis, or is there something less-expensive that might be the cause?

    The coolant leaked out quickly from the recharge, less than a month, which unfortunately happened while I was waiting on the hybrid battery repair.

    So now I have a new (refurbished through 2nd Life Battery in Oregon) and it seems I will need to replace the evaporator as well.

    The shop quoted 8 hours of labor, an $1800 job (including a new expansion valve). I would like to exhaust all reasonable options before committing that much to a repair.

    I sold a Gen 1 with 149k on it to buy this one. I'd had no AC problems at all with that one, just smaller jobs (plus the hybrid battery squeaking in just under the 100k warranty) but now wondering whether that car was especially good and this one is more typical? I'm wondering whether I made a mistake with this purchase.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  2. Skibob

    Skibob Senior Member

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    The dye doesn’t lie. If you can see it that’s where it’s leaking. Unfortunately buying a used car is the luck of the draw. It’s a lot of work to replace the evaporator, I would go with OEM brand for the evaporator and expansion valve as you have to take the entire dashboard out to replace them.
     
  3. Maureen G.

    Maureen G. New Member

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    Thanks ski Bob, though I wish you had told me of a secret way to fix it for less money.

    Is 8 hours a reasonable estimate for time?

    The shop did tell me to go with Toyota parts too, said they had had experience with some aftermarket parts that squealed so they have stopped installing them.
     
  4. Skibob

    Skibob Senior Member

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    Yes 8 hours sounds reasonable because of the large job of removing the dash. When I changed the evaporator on my 4 runner it was a separate unit just behind the glove box. I wish they still made them like that
     
  5. pasadena_commut

    pasadena_commut Junior Member

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    Where is that exactly?

    My A/C went out this weekend to the extent it would only blow warm air on "max cool". The car is currently in the shop (Toyota dealer) and they have been giving me quite a song and dance. Probably because it was in a couple of months ago while still under their used car warranty for the exact same problem, and they "fixed it" by just recharging the system. This time first they said there was nothing wrong with it. I insisted there was so they escalated the problem. (Apparently the first mechanic you get is not guaranteed to be competent.) Then they said it might be a hose, or the evaporator core. So they are going to replace the hose. Which for some reason they didn't have in stock so it is taking an extra day. And then they are going to determine if the core is bad too. I don't understand why the extra step is needed, but in any case, I want to figure out how to confirm that the core is not leaking once I get it back without having to wait a couple more months for all the refrigerant to leak out!
     
  6. Skibob

    Skibob Senior Member

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    It’s inside the ductwork that’s under the dashboard. You have to remove the entire dashboard to replace it so it’s a huge job. Figuring out if the core is leaking is quite easy. Turn the air conditioner on and put the proper halide detector (r134a) by a vent. If it detects r134a then your evaporator is leaking. That’s how I found the evaporator leak on my 4 runner. Couldn’t find the leak anywhere under the hood, but went off like crazy inside the truck.
     
  7. pasadena_commut

    pasadena_commut Junior Member

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    Not the core, the tube. Where is the tube that would have dye in it if there was an evaporator core leak?

    I'm hoping the dealer did exactly as you said with a halide detector, but given the run around so far, possibly not.
     
  8. Skibob

    Skibob Senior Member

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    Everything is under the hood except for the evaporator and metering valve. The OP said you could see the dye under the passenger side mat, so look there for this tube. Has anyone ever put dye in your system? It doesn’t come from the factory like that, usually someone puts it in the system looking for a leak.

    Don’t trust the dealer. Buy a halide detector and check yourself or go to an AC shop and have them check. Installing a new evaporator is a huge job. No dealer is going to want to pay that bill
     
  9. pasadena_commut

    pasadena_commut Junior Member

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    The dealer claims to have put dye in last time, which is why it was a little odd that they couldn't find the leak. Are there any good cheap halide detectors? Hopefully this isn't something I'm going to need again for a long time, so if a cheap one won't do it would make more sense to go to a shop. Thanks.
     
  10. Skibob

    Skibob Senior Member

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    When my 4 runner evaporator was leaking I never saw any dye, until I took the evaporator out that is. Then I saw it. From what I saw the Prius evaporator is connected to a metering valve that’s connected to the tubes that go thru the firewall. Like a sandwich. So the OPs leak was by the tubes but a leak could be anywhere, you might never see it.

    I bought my halide detector on Amazon a long time ago, but I own a few cars so it was cheaper for me just to buy everything rather than take 5 cars to the AC shop for everything. Paid for the tools with my first compressor replacement by myself.

    I would add if they could not see any dye anywhere under the hood then the only place the leak could be is where they can’t see. The evaporator fits that bill. A few spots on the condenser might too.
     
    #10 Skibob, Sep 10, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  11. SaxPriud

    SaxPriud New Member

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    Adding my two cents here for whoever reads this thread later.

    My 2006 Prius was leaking refrigerant. It started slowly, then accelerated. It now only holds the pressure for 6-8 weeks. I got a refrigerant leak detector from Harbor Freight for about $52 (plus tax); I used the 20% coupon. After returning from a 30 minute drive, and turning the car off, I tried to find the leak under the hood. I had no luck. Then I took detector inside, and as soon as I placed it near the vents it went off.

    I haven't replaced the evaporator yet. There are other things that need fixing first, but I will do it this coming spring.

    -Sax
     
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