Gen 3 AC Failure: $3,000 Repair Bill

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Main Forum' started by Synthetic, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. Synthetic

    Synthetic Junior Member

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    Our 2011 Four with 138,000 miles the AC failed to produce cold air, suddenly, while driving on the freeway. The AC system blower fans worked fine. The 50A fuse was fine. The car recently had the current recall completed. This car has always been dealer serviced and never needed any repair work.

    When I read through the priuschat discussions on AC failures I realized that the repair could be expensive at the dealership if the most common failure mode had happened (looked like $3000 to $4000 depending on the dealer). I also read that there is fairly high risk in having the work done at a non-dealer shop. So, when they quoted me $3,000, my mind was already prepared for that shock and I gave them the go-ahead.

    We picked up the car yesterday and it is fine, with a 12 month warranty.

    My concern is the cost, and the system design that would lead to such cost. Our Lexus LS400 AC failed at 190K miles and cost $1300. Our 2000 Mercedes ML320 failed at 140K and cost $1900 (both repairs done about 8-10 years ago).

    I remain high on Toyota and the Prius line of cars, but what necessitates such high cost on this car? Could the recall work have caused the failure (much seems interconnected on these cars)?

    We also have a 2012 v Five which recently completed the recall, so have some concern if they may be linked.

    I'll mention that our son is using this car and I did mention to him that it was good that he let us know about the failure right away because if one drives the car with a broken AC, the cabin heat could cause a traction battery failure. Hate to pay for two big repairs.

    Your thoughts and ideas? (or thoughts and prayers!)
     
    #1 Synthetic, Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  2. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

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    Try an aftermarket shop - one that specializes in AC. You can usually go to Yelp to see the kinds of reviews that these shops get. It could be something as minor as a refrigerant leak. If that's the case, you might just need a new fitting, piece of plumbing - or other minor aspect, rather than, say a condenser or compressor.
    And after you do that?
    ALWAYS get a 2nd opinion.
    .
     
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  3. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    The Prius A/C system isn't that strange. Plenty of independent shops and A/C specialists know how to deal with them by now. The biggest thing is knowing that you need a separate set of pressure gauges to prevent cross-contamination. The lubricants used in HV electric compressor systems are not compatible with those used in regular cars.

    An independent garage would have saved you money with a lower labor rate (almost universally true) and they have the option of performing the repair with used & reconditioned parts. Dealer repair shops are generally required to get everything brand new from the parts department down the hall.
     
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  4. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    sorry to hear it.
    the cost is due to the fact that the a/c compressor is driven by a high voltage motor powered from the hybrid battery.
    completely different from your gas vehicles, which are belt driven, powered by the engine.

    it is a very efficient system, but also required, because a belt driven a/c would shut down every time the engine shut off.
    which was a nassive faux pas on the second generation honda insight, which they corrected on the third.
    most people who don't want to pay for new find a salvage on eBay etc, and have it installed.

    but all this goes to show that buying a prius to save money is a false assumption.

    if mine went out, i would poly trade the car, which seems silly, but at 150k, it's only going to get worse.
     
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  5. Pluggo

    Pluggo Active Member

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    Another data point: $1,500 on a 2006 Subaru for a new compressor and condenser, 2 years ago at a local shop. Just a plain vanilla air conditioner.
     
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  6. fotomoto

    fotomoto Senior Member

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    If these were my experiences, I don't think I could remain so positive on them.

    Being in El Paso, I can see why this is a must do repair. The hybrid a/c compressor is not only electric; it's also high voltage so it's a rare bird and not something the cheap aftermarket parts industry would target to reproduce and thus be available at your local Autozone.

    It's too late for advice but if it were me I would have found an independent a/c shop with hybrid experience and bought a used compressor (assuming it is the issue) off ebay for $100.
     
  7. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    What was on the itemized repair bill?
     
  8. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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    They must have had to replace everything! Bummer. When the compressor on my PiP ate itself, I got a used one for $100 and an independent shop installed it for $200.
     
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  9. Synthetic

    Synthetic Junior Member

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    I'll get it from our son and post here.
     
  10. The Critic

    The Critic Resident Critic

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    The compressor is expensive because it is an electric a/c compressor. The part alone lists for $1723. Add in a bit of mark-up, several hours of labor and tax, and you can explain the $3K.
     
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  11. yiujai86

    yiujai86 Member

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    Here is my repair bill from 2014. Cost $2091 at Toyota Dealer.

    Edit. This was at 83k miles. My car is now at 225k so the replacement ac compressor is at 142k and counting.
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. yiujai86

    yiujai86 Member

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    Curious, where do you get your used parts?
     
  13. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Dealer list prices are marked up (substantially!). I'd be surprised at a dealer brazen enough to take the list price and mark it up further. The one in #11 didn't.
     
  14. jerrymildred

    jerrymildred Senior Member

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  15. The Critic

    The Critic Resident Critic

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    Not sure what you define as substantially. Dealer cost is usually around 60% of list price. 40% is not a significant mark up compared to some other industries.

    Marking up beyond list is common and sometimes necessary in order to achieve reasonable margins
     
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  16. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    That more or less jibes with my own experience. The Toyota dealers that sell parts online are typically discounting by around that much (recent McGeorge example showing 32% off at the time I write this). A 32% markdown is the inverse of a 47% markup, and McGeorge isn't operating as a charity; they are still happy to sell you the stuff.

    Necessary caveat: my brick and mortar dealer usually doesn't charge me for the shipping, which would be extra on an order online.

    There have been times in my earlier life when local dealers, on account of how often they saw me, had me on similar or better terms. Alas, these days I pay closer to list. Those local dealers weren't losing money on me, either.

    Well, maybe we differ here in that I'm not applying a curve. Show me other industries with prices being nearly doubled or more, and I'll be happy to say "yep, significant there too." I'm not here to say it's right or it's wrong, just that it's fair for a customer to understand "mm hmm, there's a markup baked in to that list price, all right."

    Hmm ... it just hasn't been in the places I've lived, and it wasn't done in the invoice shown in #11, and it would probably get a snort out of me if I saw it on an invoice offered to me....
     
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  17. ALS

    ALS Active Member

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    Just checked Advance Auto and they have a
    Nippondenso ES14C Electric Compressor w/o Clutch for $1130

    Lifetime warranty.

    They have a Santech for $1629.

    One year warranty.

    By it online you can get a 20% discount on your order.

    Nippondenso $904
    Santech $1303.

    Three years ago I needed a new AC compressor in my Volvo, $1600 at the dealer.

    Got it from Autozone with a online ordering discount, $360 with tax complete kit including dryer, oil and some orifice part. My mechanic charged me $320 to install it with the total charge $680.

    Definitely look on line at Rock Auto, Advance, Autozone, O'Reilly's including Toyota Dealers selling discount parts, for the best deal. My dealer matched another online Toyota dealer when I needed a new HV pack.
     
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  18. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Cool! I noticed the page says LIFETIME WARRANTY W/RELATED PARTS PURCH. The warranty applies if:

    • You buy and use the proper flush solvent to flush the entire system, or get a receipt showing it was professionally done.
    • You buy and replace the receiver/dryer.
    • You remove and clean/inspect the expansion valve (joy: the part around which the whole dash was assembled)
    • After completing reassembly, you save your receipts for evacuation and recharge with the proper amounts of refrigerant and oil.

    All good advice, so it looks reasonable to me.
     
  19. The Critic

    The Critic Resident Critic

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    It isn’t an issue about whether the dealers are making money, the issue is whether they are making enough to operate sustainably.


    Most online dealers are selling for 5-15% over their cost. Their online presence merely supplements the revenue stream. For most dealers, part sales to the service dept make up 2/3 to ¾ of their revenue. Wholesale, retail and internet make up a minority share of their revenue.


    If you get work done at the service department, the parts (unless it is a complete engine or trans) are usually sold at above MSRP prices. Even OEM warranty for many makes will pay cost + 40% for parts.


    Don’t get me started on price matrix’s either; a lot of dealers will now use a price-matrix so that their MSRP is not the true MSRP. For example, one of the dealers that I frequent will charge me $13 for a connector that has a list price of $8.XX.


    More than once, I have paid $1.00-$1.50 for a can of Coke from a Food Truck. Their cost on that can of Coke is probably between $0.35 to $0.40.
     
  20. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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