The shop just tested my non-working AC, and recharged the freon - so, for now, it's working. Cost $118 all in.
However, they tell me I have a leak in my evaporator core, and that it will take 16 hours to repair, at an estimated cost of $1800. (I'm in NYC, labor costs are pretty high.) He also said that my current freon charge might last me the rest of the summer.
Online research validates the repair estimate: http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f11/my-actual-evaporator-heater-core-removal-installation-thread-592844/ - and given how the AC slowly stopped working, and that this is a common point of failure for Jeeps - the diagnosis makes sense.
Bluebook retail value reported from the online tool is $8300 for my location, for this car. There are cosmetic issues, so knock that value down to $6k.
I plan to drive this car into the ground before I replace it, but, even so, paying 30% of the value of the car just to fix the A/C is hard to swallow. I don't drive it daily, so considering where I live, I'd wouldn't expect to use the A/C more than 30 days a year.
What if I just replace the freon intermittently, rather than repairing the leak to the evaporator core? Is it just that the leak will get worse and eventually I won't be able to get the A/C to work at all, without repairing it? Or are there other factors, side effects, such that other things might degrade faster, if the evaporator core isn't repaired?
What would you do, other than trade this car in for a new one?