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?

  • Update: I got through the balance of the 2011 summer, and the full summer of 2012, on a single charge each. I'll probably manage this (2013) summer on a single charge, as well. I still haven't spent half what it would have cost to repair the leak.
    – marfarma
    May 15, 2013 at 19:25

4 Answers 4


If it were mine and I could get by with one to two charges a season (3 - 4 months) I wouldn't do anything but that, and I can fix it myself. Once it gets worse than that I would fix it.

Get another shop to check it out, play dumb as if you don't already know. Because evaporator leaks can sometimes be tricky to diagnosis. Once more than one shop agrees it's the evaporator you can get multiple estimates. If you can't find someone to do it on the side.

This isn't something you want to tackle yourself if you haven't done under-dash work before, but before taking it to shop, find a tech that does side work. A lot of the technicians that work at shops and dealerships do side work at home. Over half the guys a the shops I have worked at including myself do this. Ask around, friends, coworkers etc. or check craigslist to find a professional technician that does side work.

When I do side-work it's between 1/3 and 1/2 the labor the shop charges.


The refrigerant in your Grand Cherokee is R-134a. It won't damage the ozone layer like the old R-12 would, but it's a potent greenhouse gas. See:


I'm not aware of any part of the car that will be harmed mechanically by ignoring the leak and simply recharging the A/C intermittently.

  • Thanks for the response. I'll keep the greenhouse impact in mind.
    – marfarma
    Jul 24, 2011 at 9:04
  • R-12 is actually a lot more environmentally friendly, since ozone is a major greenhouse gas. DuPont just wanted to get their product whose patent was about to expire banned so they could start the patent timer over again. May 11, 2013 at 4:13
  • R.., R-12 damages the ozone layer, so calling it "more environmentally friendly" is incorrect. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dichlorodifluoromethane May 14, 2013 at 16:31

The only real problem I see is damage to the compressor. The system has oil in it that keeps the part lubricated, and leaks sometimes allow for oil to escape. If you are recharging, and not planing on repairing, ask where the oil level indicator is. Ensuring that the system has oil is the key, because as the freon escapes air replaces it, so you are always compressing something and allowing oil to be pushed out.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Good advice on making sure to add oil, but it's a guess. A slow leak won't take much oil with it, and an oil overcharge will cause poor cooling and possible compressor damage. I would add about 0.5 oz of oil each recharge, if the compressor starts getting noisy then add a little more. Unfortunately there is no way to check the oil level in an automotive AC system short of taking the compressor off and measuring the amount of oil drained. Jul 29, 2011 at 16:33

Ask them how much to tighten all of the fittings on the system. My limited experience is that after time things become loose as opposed to failing. The exception being seals in the compressor itself....

  • Can you elaborate on your answer, please?
    – chilljeet
    May 6, 2015 at 5:29

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