A/C repair, was I scammed?

Ford Escort 1994 1.9-liter had the compressor replaced a year ago while on vacation. Recently I drove over a washboard dirt road and then the A/C then would cool only about ten degrees below ambient
temperature. The A/C compressor had fast clutch cycle time and very short on time with normal off time. Ford Escort Service Manual states condenser core, fixed A/C evaporator core orifice (aka orifice tube), or condenser to evaporator tube is partially restricted or plugged for these symptoms. A local garage stated the condenser was plugged and needed replacement. I requested they check the evaporator core orifice and showed them copies of the appropriate pages from the Ford Service Manual and they said they could also do a flush of the condenser and verbally said this would cost about $95. Well, this is a very small town I live in so usually a persons word has validity because if they lie, word gets around if you tell the right people and you are not in business after a while because people stop coming. They charged $204 including a new evaporator core orifice.
Two weeks later the exact same problem occurred. It seems to me that if the system had been flushed, the problem would not have reoccurred. They guaranteed their work so I took the car back and they said there was a hole up high in the condenser so it probably was not caused by a rock but by high pressure and it needed to be replaced. They sure want to sell me a condenser. I told them there was a high-pressure limit switch that cuts off the compressor, and that there is also a relief pressure valve so a catastrophic failure is very unlikely. They then said they did not want anything more to do with me and would not honor the guarantee. Well I then put a pressure gauge on the low side with the engine off which shows 75 psi at 80 degrees ambient temperature. With the engine running at fast idle and A/C on, pressure on low side varies between 45 psi and a few psis when the pump briefly comes on and cycles off. I read the Ford Service Manual some more today and see that a flush is not recommended. So, two questions: how long does it take to do a flush and replace the evaporator core orifice, and would it be standard practice to replace the condenser? Was I scammed? Also, what is the standard procedure for repair of this type of problem? The old evaporator core orifice screen is completely plugged with a material, which can be readably picked off the screen that feels slightly rubbery and is attracted to a magnet.
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Trying very hard not to be insulting.. I can't.... You appear to be the expert so in that light "physician, heal thyself"...
Rapid clutch cycling is "usually" due to low refrigerant charge.... and now we are coming up on a couple of very specific things....
First - it sounds like you have brow-beaten your tech... you are trying to be the diagnostician and (shame on him) he is allowing it....
Your orofice tube is plugged.... DUH!!!! What is it plugged with? After 14 years, where did this stuff magically appear from? Could it be desiccant? Could it be bits of compressor? You are trying to cheap out on a repair that I don't see being "cheapable".
Any of the Ford service manuals I can look at (and this is MANY) recommend flushing - to the point where my shop spent almost $4G on an AC flushing machine with all of the adapters. Now.. the flush chemical requires breathing aids, rubber gloves and the whole nine yards.... One gallon of flush agent is something over $25 in Canada.
IIRC, the flush and purge is something over one hour... but - you have crap in your system... it didn't materialize there by magic.... Bitch all you want, you are treating the symptom but not the cause...
Ford Escort 1994 1.9-liter had the compressor replaced a year ago while on vacation. Recently I drove over a washboard dirt road and then the A/C then would cool only about ten degrees below ambient temperature. The A/C compressor had fast clutch cycle time and very short on time with normal off time. Ford Escort Service Manual states condenser core, fixed A/C evaporator core orifice (aka orifice tube), or condenser to evaporator tube is partially restricted or plugged for these symptoms. A local garage stated the condenser was plugged and needed replacement. I requested they check the evaporator core orifice and showed them copies of the appropriate pages from the Ford Service Manual and they said they could also do a flush of the condenser and verbally said this would cost about $95. Well, this is a very small town I live in so usually a persons word has validity because if they lie, word gets around if you tell the right people and you are not in business after a while because people stop coming. They charged $204 including a new evaporator core orifice.
Two weeks later the exact same problem occurred. It seems to me that if the system had been flushed, the problem would not have reoccurred. They guaranteed their work so I took the car back and they said there was a hole up high in the condenser so it probably was not caused by a rock but by high pressure and it needed to be replaced. They sure want to sell me a condenser. I told them there was a high-pressure limit switch that cuts off the compressor, and that there is also a relief pressure valve so a catastrophic failure is very unlikely. They then said they did not want anything more to do with me and would not honor the guarantee. Well I then put a pressure gauge on the low side with the engine off which shows 75 psi at 80 degrees ambient temperature. With the engine running at fast idle and A/C on, pressure on low side varies between 45 psi and a few psis when the pump briefly comes on and cycles off. I read the Ford Service Manual some more today and see that a flush is not recommended. So, two questions: how long does it take to do a flush and replace the evaporator core orifice, and would it be standard practice to replace the condenser? Was I scammed? Also, what is the standard procedure for repair of this type of problem? The old evaporator core orifice screen is completely plugged with a material, which can be readably picked off the screen that feels slightly rubbery and is attracted to a magnet.
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I agree 100%.

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that
I also agree 100%. IMHO the entire system needs to be disassembled, the compressor & dryer need to be chucked out, all O-rings replaced, and everything flushed within an inch of it's life. If the condensor is indeed perforated, it is possible to get someone skilled in aluminum welding to repair it - I've had that done before and the repair held up fine - but you can get a condensor from a wrecker a heck of a lot cheaper.
Frankly, though, the garage that the OP took it to does have some culpability, however. The reason being is that the second they got the orifice tube out and saw the plugged screen, they should have stopped work and called the OP and told him that the system was shot, they were closing it up and refusing to do further work on it.
If there's crap in the orifice screen to the point the screen is plugged, then the compressor and dryer have crap in them. And you cannot flush these out. That screen is there to pick up the once-in-every-3-years a tiny metal burr comes lose out of something and gets into the refrigerant.

I've had no problem using plain ordinary mineral spirits to flush out a couple A/C systems. However, these were ordinary run-of-the-mill A/C compressor failures, and I didn't pull tricks like trying to stick in a "stop leak" product into the AC line. And I did it OUTSIDE of course in my driveway. I'm sure that OSHA would be all over a shop that did that in an enclosed area, such as where your flshing machine is likely intended to operate. And I can imagine the nastiness of chemicals needed to flush out the assortment of aftermarket CRAP that is sold to DIY'ers to put in the refrigerant lines to "fix" their A/C systems.
One last thing - if this is a '94, isn't it an R12 system? If it is, then forget it. You can drive with the windows rolled down the rest of this car's lifetime and still not lose in lower MPG what it would cost to properly fix the system.
Ted
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The garage must have done a decent job of flushing the A/C because I pulled the expansion tube and found the screen to be clean on the condenser side. The condenser does not leak. The system was charged and cools to specifications. The Schrader valve on the high-pressure side leaked badly when I took the cap off and there was very little charge in the system. Either the mechanic was deaf, or it was a high noise environment at the time because the noise from the leak was very noticeable. Maybe I should not attribute to dishonesty that which can be explained by stupidity, but I still wonder why they wanted to replace the condenser. This may be a case of black death where the Teflon from the compressor is deposited in the condenser and is very difficult to remove, but the local NAPA parts supplier told me that the garage in question has an excellent flushing system and rarely buys condensers.
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Jim,
You bring up a great point. Years ago I ran an electric motor repair shop. Many people would bring in electric motors and tell me what to do. One of the most common was, "I just want you to put in new brushes." Since most AC motors have no brushes, I kept a jar full of acid brushes close by. I would stuff a couple brushes in any hole in the motor and say, "That will be $5.00." Seeing the look on their faces made it worth the explanations.
Al
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to
AC
would
Heh. That won't be that true much longer, eh? With the move to electric and hybrid cars using traction motors, I would bet that in another decade the electric motor rewind shops are going to be seeing a lot of those coming through.
Ted
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