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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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