'95 Civic--intermittent A/C cooling problem

I have a 1995 Honda Civic with only 80,000 miles on it.
There's a mysterious intermittent cooling problem that two mechanics have so far failed to fix: The A/C just stops cooling after 15 minutes
or so. If I cycle the A/C off and on with the dashboard controls a few times, it seems to engage and start cooling again--only to stop cooling some time later.
So far, my mechanics have found that the clutch isn't engaging for some reason. They suspect an electrical problem of some kind. They have checked the refrigerant level, the compressor, the clutch, and the clutch relay. The clutch relay was just replaced. But the problem persists.
My mechanics have been reduced to a fishing expedition--keep replacing different parts. They don't know any other way to find the problem.
Any ideas what else could be causing this? Any way to track down the problem systematically? How many switches and relays are involved in a Honda Civic? Could it be a sensor of some kind?
Any advice would be most welcome!
--
Steven L.
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Steven L. wrote:

Hi, Wiring harnes bulkhead connector behind a/c control panelon the dash/ Some times it gets loose. I had problem like that on my brand new CRV.
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We all know the value of avoiding "stealership" service departments for tune-ups and oil-changes and such. But when a problem like this crops up, it really is worthwhile to go to the place that repairs only Hondas. Paying for their experience in your model and (hopefully) your particular problem can be very beneficial.
If I were you I'd have a conversation with the service manager and ask him about the likelihood that his most experienced electrical (or AC) guy will be able to discover the cause of the problem.
And tell him that if they're just going to do a "fishing expedition" that you'd rather have your guys (who, I presume are cheaper) do that.
If they do replace parts and charge for the "repair", if the problem resurfaces, I'd return the car and insist that since you're paying for the repair and not a "fishing expedition" that they fix the problem for no further charges, or if they can't find the cause, refund your $$ because they didn't fix anything. (And don't buy the "Oh, that part needed replacing anyway" excuse because you didn't bring your car to them to replace ANYTHING that "needed replacing anyway", but to fix the AC problem.)
I'd go to several dealerships in your area and have that conversation with the service manager of each and see which one you felt best understood your needs and felt was most honest.
Good luck,
--
John English


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I would cut the techs a little slack. Sometimes trial and error (a.k.a. "fishing expeditions") may often be the cheaper route to take. Much of good diagnosis necessarily is trial and error, albeit systematic, as the OP says. Especially when a system is very old, and labor, expensive, replacing parts that are generally known to be problematic and show signs of wear may be prudent. The question may be whether the guys at the shop have the time to note every observation that goes towards systematically analyzing the situation without charging the customer an arm and a leg. Which brings us to hard reality: How much is the OP willing to pay to diagnose this problem? Would maybe an order to, say, replace the whole A/C system be cheaper? Then we have to consider that a 95 Civic LX (auto tranny with 80k miles) is currently worth around $2500, according to Edmunds used car appraiser.
I do agree that A/C systems really need an A/C specialist for diagnosis, if only because working with refrigerant is tricky. Difficult situations are not for Do-It-Yourselfers. Still, for the ambitious DIYer, I recommend giving the free online factory service manual's troubleshooting guide for the 95 Civic linked at http://www.honda.co.uk/car/owner/workshop.html , a try. It does list a number of basic electrical checks that might help, for one. If nothing else, it will help the OP to understand the specifics of his Civic's A/C system, if he does not already.
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Elle wrote:

What I was asking, is whether there's some kind of checklist of all the relays, switches, etc., that need to be checked systematically. I had heard there is more than one relay involved.
Barring that, it really does degenerate into a fishing expedition.

The other poster has it right, I think: It's time to take it to an actual Honda dealer and let them struggle with it. I've already had the compressor and the clutch relay replaced, so I'm sort of halfway toward replacing the A/C system already. :-)

BTW, that's quite amazing.
I can remember when if you owned a 12 year old Chevy or Buick, you had to pay a junk dealer $50 just to haul it away. The depreciation on gas-powered Hondas is surprisingly slow.
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Sure. I agree a systematic approach is the right approach. Autozone's free online repair guide for the 95 Civic breaks the system down into something I think is manageable, especially with tests one can do on electrical parts. I think the factory service manual I cited earlier is better, though. Try both. For the autozone guide, see http://www.autozone.com/shopping/repairGuide.htm?pageId 00c152800619e5 .
If you poke around per the troubleshooting routine in the FS manual or the autozone guide, you might find simply that some of the electrical connections are corroded, loose, etc. With a car this old, it's to be expected, and this group gets a lot of reports of same: A loose wire.

Certainly a few electrical switches etc. deserve an examination, per the above.

I agree a Honda dealer might be able to nail this quickly and so about as cost efficiently as possible, considering the time it would take to either do it by one's self or find a mechanic with A/C experience.
But, ya know, if you're into this kind of stuff and can operate a multimeter, I'd give the online repair guides a chance.
Also, I'd really want to double check that the basics (and known problems for older systems) were covered properly, like the check for enough refrigerant in the system. Not to presume. Just going from afar on what we know.

Yes, it's pretty well established that Hondas (and a few other imports) do not depreciate nearly as quickly as other cars.
BTW, that estimate I provided is for private party exchange (not the retail used price nor trade in value), and obviously I made some assumptions about current condition of the car, auto or manual tranny, etc. So your car could go for more or less. It's a ballpark. kbb.com does an estimate of used cars also.
Not that you should sell your Civic. I am driving a 1991 and can't give it up because it runs so well and is easy to fix. Looking a little rough around the edges, but especially with gasoline prices headed up, I don't see the point in getting a new car.
Updates would be welcome. It's just about that time of year when folks's A/C systems are giving up the ghost right and left.
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Elle wrote:

i think edmunds are way out of touch on pricing. according to them, a 1990 crx is only worth $384 trade-in, $769 private or $1,411 dealer. that's just ridiculously low. a stock crx around these parts will fetch you $3000, maybe double that if it's a low mileage si in good original condition with a good original interior. seriously.
even ordinary civics have gone up in value substantially now that gas prices are so high.
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My 1987 Accord also had intermittent A/C. The cause was the dash-board switch w/ LED indicator. Third one from salvage($20, dealer new $80+!) finally held consistently.

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I had a similar problem with an old 1985 Civic. My mechanic replaced the electrical relays that engage the compressor clutch.

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Steven L. wrote:

==================== It's an air conditioner. It is supposed to shut off now and then. It has a sensor inside the heater box that tells the compressor to shut off if it gets too cold. It's there to prevent ICING. If you've ever stayed in a cheap motel you will understand.
Using recirc will make the system's job easier, and the time between 'rests' will change.
'Curly'
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motsco_ wrote:

I just drove the car for an hour, and the A/C didn't engage once at all, even though the temperature was quite high inside the car and warm outside.
When I said "intermittent," I meant that there are times when I can drive the car for a whole hour and the compressor won't engage.
And that ain't right.
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Steven L. wrote:

-------------------------
I think there's a cutout switch that detects low pressure as well as HIGH. If it's been 'topped up' by somebody who isn't familiar with Hondas, that could be your problem too. They are apparently easy to overcharge...
'Curly'
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intermittent electrical problems are most always bad connections
i second the suggestion about looking at the wiring harness behind the A/C panel on the dash. If there is a PCB, i would suggest an inspection and resolder of broken solder joints, similar to fixing the main relay intermittent problem.
good luck
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snipped-for-privacy@scn.org wrote:

I'll do that. Someone else already suggested to also check the A/C on/off button (the one that has the LED light indicator). The dash electricals are the one thing that the mechanics haven't checked yet.
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Steven L.
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You might want to sign in and do a search at www.honda-tech.com . It is becoming my preferred resource for anything specific. The good news is it yields many "hits." The bad news is that the problems are a miscellany.
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