A/C leak after accident?


Old 05-22-11, 10:36 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: MARYLAND
Posts: 167
A/C leak after accident?

I have a 2003 Chevy Malibu, V6, 110k, auto, A/C. Question - Is the metal tube from the condenser getting very cold a symptom of freon leaking out of a crimped spot in that tube? Problem - when we turned the a/c on nothing happened - the fan blows but no a/c. I checked the compressor and it was not engaging (not spinning). I tried one of those freon recharge cans from the local parts store and once I put the freon in, the compressor started and the a/c cold started to work (the psi gauge on the freon can read about 30psi). But I noticed that on one of the metal pipes leading from the a/c radiator (condensor?) there was frost forming on it and and it was VERY cold. The point of this question - this past winter someone hit the car and damaged the front severly. I noticed that there is now a "crimp" in that same "cold" metal tube right where it could have been smashed into the metal car frame during the accident - the crimp aligns right up to the frame if you would push on the tube as in an accident. Is this tube getting very cold "normal" (other parts of it are covered by insulation but right by the evaporator it is bare). Is the tube getting very cold a symptom of freon leaking out of that crimp? My thinking is that the freon is expanding at this point when it is escaping at the crimp causing it to get cold - but if this metal tube should be very cold, then my idea is shot. I've felt the tube with the a/c on and I don't feel anything escaping and no oily residue - would I feel something? I understand that the car could have a leak anywhere, but it is funny that once we get a crimp in this tube we have no freon and no a/c? If this is my problem, then so be it, but if this was caused by the accident, then I would like to know and I don't want to spend $60 just to find out that it is my problem - money IS an issue. Thanks.
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Old 05-22-11, 11:28 AM
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,051
It all sounds normal and it sounds like it was low on refrigerant therefore the clutch was not engaging as it was designed not to do in such a situation. That does however mean a leak whether a result from the accident, a leaking compressor, or pipe seal for example. The low refrigerant may not be related at all to the accident, but anyway a check needs to be made to find out where it is leaking unless you just want to use it as is and see how long the charge will last and also depending on how long you will keep the car. Often the leak anyway is not where you think it is. I know that on some of those GM products there are pipe seals that can fail. Compressor seals have a habit of doing that too after 100K.
Old 05-22-11, 02:47 PM
ukrbyk's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA/ Pacific NW
Posts: 3,302
actually, it is a normal DIY way to check if a/c works. one pipe is warm and one is very cold. frost forming along MOST OF THE PIPE is normal. if you have a very small area where this happens, prolly a leak.
make sure you have oil/freon mix added, or your compressor will seize.
for 2003, you have to have a specific weight of freon inside. new systems are very easy to overcharge, and then safety kicks in and shuts down a/c.

if i were you, i'd go to any place that works on a/c and ask them to test for leaks. they either introduce dye into the system, or have a "magic wand" that shows leaks.

i don't think you need to let that tube be as is. you should replace it. sorry.

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