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1991 LS400 with only 110,000 miles

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Old 05-14-11, 04:36 PM   #1
moodylu
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Default 1991 LS400 with only 110,000 miles

My 1991 LS400 was purchased new by my brother. Recently, the check engine light came on and I took it to the Lexus dealer who did some repairs that cost me about $1700 and then another $1600 a few weeks later.

The A/C stopped working when I received the car back from the Lexus dealer the second time.

Now they tell me the compressor is bad and they want $5,100 to fix it! Is the compressor in this car made of gold or something?????

They say the reason the cost is so high to fix the A/C is because the parts are all old that support the compressor.

I called the Lexus headquarters for help but they aren't going to help me at all.

I'm afraid I've been taken for a ride by this Lexus dealer.

The car rides beautifully and runs great and I would like to keep it because of the low mileage.

They loaned me a brand new IS250, a fun car, while my car was in the shop, but the ride was horrible compared to my LS400.

So, how do I find a good quality mechanic in Southern New Jersey to look at my car?

Do I take it to a Toyota dealer to get a better price? Will they have to get the parts from Lexus and charge me more?

I have no previous experience with this Lexus dealer. Any suggestions or recommendations will be helpful to me. Thank you in advance.

Moodylu
Mount Laurel, NJ
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Last edited by moodylu; 05-14-11 at 04:40 PM..
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Old 05-14-11, 05:34 PM   #2
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its not made from gold, just made from Lexus. The mechanic his probably right, if you put in a new pump it will probably push the other parts to die. Id say go to an auto recycler and get a used one, and install it. that would be cheaper than doing a new system. and a used pump wont want to cause the other parts to die. financially this would be the cheapest route.
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Old 05-14-11, 06:42 PM   #3
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For that price I would drive with the windows open.

Have you looked on ebay?

Personally, any mechanic I ever go to gets one chance only - if anything else goes wrong shortly afterward, or if the problem is not fixed properly, I find another mechanic. Some ******* just want a continual supply of business from you.
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Old 05-14-11, 06:53 PM   #4
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Do your windows still go down? Almost hate to say that, but A/C is a major money pit on most cars, and for how many weeks a year?
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Old 05-14-11, 07:15 PM   #5
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I just helped my brother-in-law buy a car with a non-working AC system and went through the process of learning how they work, what goes bad, and what all is involved in doing the repairs properly. I now have a much greater appreciation for why it is so expensive to have the system repaired. At first the shop told us it would cost $1200 to do a complete replacement of the AC system on his 2000 Honda civic. That sounded crazy to me and I thought "just buy a new compressor for $300 and install it myself, then have it evacuated and recharged by a shop, it can't be that expensive". Then I started researching it more and found out WHY most compressors fail and how most of the time there are tons of little metal shards thrown throughout the AC system after a pump failure. To fix the system correctly you will need to replace the compressor, the accumulator/dryer, O-rings, the expansion orifice, and at a minimum do a thorough flush of both the condenser and the evaporator. Then adapt the service ports for r134a, add PAG oil, and refrigerant. Since the condenser had extremely tight passageways I didn't want to chance failure after spending all the time and effort on the system, so I chose to replace the condenser also. I flushed the original evaporator and lines and left them in place. Borrowed a vacuum machine/manifold gauges from Autozone for free, then filled it with r134a myself, and the system works great. Total cost = $470. Much better than paying a shop $1200 to do the same thing. Check the following link for parts/education materials:

www.discountacparts.com

The compressor for the LS400 is a little bit more, and I would call them to talk to them about converting to r134a to ensure that all the new stuff listed on their website for the LS400 is what you need. Talk to them about getting the correct oil. Make sure you flush the system thoroughly. I would bet that you should be able to do the entire system yourself for under $800. If you just replace the compressor and evacuate/recharge, your new compressor will almost certainly fail immediately and you will be right back to square one.

Last edited by atropine; 05-14-11 at 07:19 PM..
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Old 05-16-11, 03:59 AM   #6
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Thanks to everyone for all your help and answers, I really appreciate it.

I think the dealership gave me an estimate for repair based on the fact that everything in the car relating to the A/C is bad because of its age. They did tell me that the put dye in the compressor and that is shown as leaking. Up until the time they worked on the car, the A/C was blowing perfectly well with very cold air but they won't admit that something they might have done may have caused the problem.

I asked them what diagnostic codes came up when they checked the A/C and got no response from the mechanic, although he said he had been familiar with the car having worked on it since 1991.

Someone on another thread I just found on this website showed how to check the codes. I am going to do that now and see what comes up.

I think I am going to take the car to the Toyota dealer and see if I can get a second opinion. Unfortunately, neither myself or my husband is mechanically inclined so we can't work on the car.

I really need to find a good private mechanic who will work on the car but I don't know how to find a good mechanic....sigh.

I offered to buy the parts discounted myself and asked Lexus to put them in, but Lexus wouldn't do that; I guess I don't blame them.

This car is in beautiful shape. It runs and rides like a dream. My brother kept in in the garage for part of its life, only taking it out once in awhile. My brother passed away last month so the car is sentimental to me.

I will keep the car. Lexus said it is in good shape. And I love it. Summers in NJ without A/C are brutal so I haven't given up on the A/C yet. I'll come back with the codes and maybe get some more advice.

They said the car had already been converted to 134 previously although I couldn't find a receipt for the work in my brother's records.

Yes, deanbrown3, I think perhaps the dealer is looking for more business from me. But to their credit, they did give me an estimate for other work that turned out to be twice as much as the actual work I ended up paying. It's hard for me to tell what is going on with them. They tell me one thing when I drop off the car and then another thing when I pick it up. Not sure if that's good or bad. I'm going for a second opinion for sure!

Atropine, I'm so glad that you were able to fix your A/C. Thank you for taking the time to tell all the details. Those details will help me to explain what I need when I talk with my next mechanic. Maybe someone other than Lexus will work with the discount parts to help me get the car fixed cheaper, I don't know but I can certainly try to find out.

Last edited by moodylu; 05-16-11 at 04:28 AM..
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Old 05-16-11, 04:38 AM   #7
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Default Independent mechanic

Start by finding a good independent mechanic, dealers are almost always charging top dollar but that's no guarantee of top shelf quality service. I asked all my friends even though none of them drive a Lexus and got two good recommendations. I ultimately went with a shop listed in the 'Car Talk' website's 'Mechanics Files' listing for my area, that shop did my timing belt/water pump replacement parts & labor for the same $$$ as my local dealer was going to charge for labor alone. You may also try to find a shop that specializes in A/C repair. Once had a '59 Ford with original factory air that needed a recharge, I'd only take it to one place that did A/C repair only, and when parts were needed I was allowed to bring my own.

Like the previous post said, when the compressor goes, the whole system can be contaminated and must be cleaned & purged.
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Old 05-16-11, 04:58 AM   #8
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Thank you Wanderson. I most definitely will check out Car Talk's mechanics files. I too asked my friends and most of them couldn't really recommend a private mechanic either.

Yeah, I'm getting the idea that the whole system needs to be cleaned and purged. But I guess a private mechanic's labor charge to do that has got to be better than the Lexus dealer's labor charge.

PS: My dad had a 1959 Ford Fairlane. It was cream and white. He kept it until 1972 and bought a volkswagen. Go figure!
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Old 05-23-11, 01:34 AM   #9
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Wanderson, I took your advice and found a local mechanic specialising in Lexus and air conditioning through Car Talk.

I am so glad I did! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. He inspected the problem and told me that the car is in very good shape for its age.

Guess what? There was no freon in it at all, even in the vaccuum, so he suspected that the local Lexus dealer had taken the freon out so it would not leak into the environment.

My newly found mechanic then put new dye into the system to check for leaks. He couldn't find any major leaks. Only a small area of concern that might be a missing bolt.

He topped it off with all new freon and I now have a working air conditioner, blowing cold air like before the Lexus dealer had the car.

He told me to bring the car back in 5 days so he can re-check for leaks. So far, so good, still cold air and it's been 5 days. I bring it back tomorrow.

I think I found an honest mechanic. If I need more freon if I have a slow leak, he said he will top it off again for free when I bring it back. He will be able to tell more about the intensity of the leak when he re-inspects the car tomorrow. But obviously, the car does not have a "bad compressor leak" like the dealer had lead me to believe.

So far, I saved myself $4,960 - the difference between what the Lexus dealer quoted me to fix this problem ($5,100) and what I paid the new mechanic (only $140).

I will report back when the mechanic sees the car again. If I do have a slow leak, I might be able to get away without a huge repair bill by just getting new freon each season.

I am so glad that I diligently pursued this issue. If I had not, I think I would have had a worse problem as I would have possibly caused damage to the A/C compressor by riding around with NO FREON whatsoever unbeknown to me. I think the Lexus dealer should have warned me about that and he didn't.

But the best part about finding this independent mechanic? He does Lexus transmission rebuilds. I still have the original transmission so I might need that someday, so I'm very glad I found him. He appears to have a good reputation from the reviews online.

Thanks to everyone here at the Lexus forum for all your help. I am glad I had the chance to share my experiences.

Moodylu

Last edited by moodylu; 05-23-11 at 01:38 AM.. Reason: clarity
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Old 05-23-11, 01:44 AM   #10
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That's great news,what did Lexus do to the car when you paid out $1700 and $1600 previously?
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Old 05-23-11, 03:02 AM   #11
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OK, I took out the two dealer service invoices, to answer your question as best as I can. I'm not mechanically inclined, so bear with me.

First bill - $1691.55. I brought it into the dealer because the Check engine light came on and I was having intermittent trouble it seemed with power steering (hard to turn).

The breakdown of the costs below include parts and labor and the comments from the dealer.

(1) $126.50 Check engine light - Code 71 stored, EGR malfunction, transducer diaphragm ruptured, VSV stuck.
(2) $700.10 - replaced EGR transducer and VSV, cleared code, test drove with vacuum gauge to confirm repair.
(3) $685.06 - replaced steering ECU and PPS solenoid, cause: open circuit of PPS computer. PPS solenoid started working after ECU replacement.
(4) $69.23 - Oil change to Penz Synthetic and replacement of a bulb
(5) Sales tax - $110.66

Second bill - $1700.65 - approximately 900 miles later - brake light was lit on the dash and brake light was also out. Air conditioning was working but did not appear to be as cold as usual so I had asked them to check it.

(1) $1035.33 - brake light is on dash, brake light is also out - Cause: P/B Switch Open Circuit, Float in Master Cylinder Level Sensor Float lost bouyancy - replaced parking brake warning lamp switch and master cylinder level sensor
(2) no charge - evacuated and recharged A/C with 2.2 lbs of R134A - they said no leaks at this time
(3) $119.95 - brake fluid system service (fluid flush)
(4) $355.65 - replaced coolant reservoir and sensor cracked, leaking
(5) $78.46 - replaced left outer stop light bulb
(6) sales tax - $111.26

After the first service, car was running great and no more problems with hard turning.

After the second service, car was still running great but the A/C was starting to blow intermittent hot air at times, then just hot air blowing. That's when I took it back and they told me that the compressor was leaking badly. To fix it "properly", they had estimated a replace of the entire A/C system due to age at a cost of $5,100. They said if I fixed just one part of the A/C system, it might cause another problem. Not wanting to put this much money into the car, I said, give me the car back.

They then suggested I call the Lexus headquarters and ask them for help with the repair bill since my family had brought this car to this dealer for almost 20 years. The Eastern Service Manager called to say they could not help me AT ALL with the cost of the A/C repair after talking with the dealer.

That's when I came looking for help at this forum and glad I did.

By the way, the car has a beautiful set of BBS wheels on it. It's a dark walnut brown color with tan leather interior. It is running and looking GREAT at this time - with nice cold air conditioning!

Moodylu

Last edited by moodylu; 05-23-11 at 03:08 AM.. Reason: clarity
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Old 05-23-11, 03:49 AM   #12
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Moodylu: It sounds like you found one of the good guys. Just in case anyone else in the northeast needs to find a good indie mechanic, could you possibly post the name and number of the mechanic you found?
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Old 05-23-11, 04:09 AM   #13
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Certainly, here's the information. This is a small shop in a small Southern NJ town. I found this shop via Car Talk:

Black's Auto Repair
108 W Nicholson Rd
Audubon, NJ 08106
(856) 546-3990

Features and Specialties: Specializes in Transmission Work ,Specializes in Air Conditioning work ,Specializes in Brakes & Mufflers ,Specializes in Radiator Work

Acura; Buick; Cadillac; Chevrolet; Chrysler; Datsun; Dodge; Eagle; Ford; Geo; GMC; Honda; Hyundai; Infiniti; Isuzu; Jeep; Lexus; Lincoln; Mazda; Mercury; Mitsubishi; Nissan; Oldsmobile; Plymouth; Pontiac; Saturn; Subaru; Suzuki; Toyota
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Old 05-23-11, 06:08 AM   #14
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Wow Moody, glad ya found a good (and honest) independant mechanic. People usually say the dealer will "rip you off". That's not true. There's alot more independant shops that will "rip you off". The dealer charges alot b/c they have specialists that are trained to work on one certain type of car and they use OEM parts, not generic. And if your A/C compresor is leaking, of course they're gonna tell you that you need a new one, b/c you do. Everything they charged seems fair for what they did, parts and labor are expensive on an expensive car. "You get what you pay for".
If ya want to save some money, it's well worth it to buy a service manual and learn how to DIY.
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Old 05-23-11, 08:49 AM   #15
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Hey deanshark, yes, I agree, anyone can get ripped off at an independent mechanic just as fast or faster than at a dealer.

And I do understand I will pay more money at the dealer and why. Believe me, I'm not a cheapskate and I am willing to pay for quality work by trained specialists. However, I feel I have to be careful about money and not just hand it over blindly without question.

I paid the money for other repairs at the dealer and didn't feel that I was being ripped off until I got to the air conditioner price. Putting out $3400 and then being asked to put out another $5100 all in the period of about 3 months is alot of money. What I didn't know was whether or not the dealer caused the problem inadvertently when they fixed something else. Of course, they aren't going to admit any guilt and they said they didn't, so I have to believe them. You have to trust your dealer.

I was disappointed that the Lexus headquarters refused to even help me a little by offering some type of solution (especially being a 20 year customer).

On the other hand, I love my Lexus LS400. It's a great car. I just came back from the auto repair shop and they confirmed that I do have a slow leak according to their dye test.

However, I have decided to have it repaired at the auto repair shop instead of the dealer. Why? Because they think it is not the compressor leaking but the seal. I will have it repaired when the air conditioner starts to blow warmer air because right now, it's really working well, very cold, so I am leaving it alone. I'll be sure to have it fixed before the freon runs completely out so nothing gets damaged.

I trust that the auto repair shop will do a good job. They have certainly helped me more than Lexus was willing to help me. I guess I don't blame the dealer for not wanting to do anything but replace everything having to do with the AC, but I wasn't sure if I needed all new parts and that was my objection.

It might turn out that I need a seal and a compressor, but only time will tell. In the meantime, now I have two places that I trust. Future repairs will be done at whoever makes the most sense to me. The Lexus dealer will lose out if they continue to not want to work with me in finding a solution.
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Old 05-23-11, 08:49 AM
 
 
 
 
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1991, ac, auto, blower, contaminated, diy, estimate, freon, lexus, ls400, motor, repair, sell, system, zone

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