Ask the Readers: Should We Fix the Air Conditioner in Our 1998 Jeep?

Earlier this year my husband and I purchased a 1998 Jeep Wrangler from one of my husband’s co-workers. The previous owner took unbelievably good care of the vehicle and upgraded quite a few of it’s features. When we took the jeep in for inspection the mechanic found a couple of items that were in need of replacement and repair including the air conditioner.

After spending nearly $7500 to buy the vehicle, we spent another $1000 fixing everything that was in need of repair including the air conditioner. A few weeks later while driving along on a hot summer day I noticed that cold air wasn’t blowing out of the vents. My husband took the jeep back to the mechanic and the mechanic made another small fix that lasted for a little while. The additional fix cost us roughly $200.

Now here we are a few weeks later and the air conditioner is not working again. The mechanic said it will cost $1700 to get the air conditioner back on line. Apparently the entire dash needs to be removed, which is quite labor intensive. Since the labor costs are so high the mechanic recommended replacing almost all of the air conditioning parts with new ones. That way we won’t pay a ton in labor costs to remove the dash and fix the air conditioner only to find out a few months later that another part is broken and the dash needs to be removed again.

My husband and I initially decided not to fix the jeep. After all, most of the time we ride around with the top off anyway. Even when the top is on, my husband only drives a short distance to and from work so at this point it doesn’t seem necessary to fix the air conditioner. We were happy with this decision until we drove the jeep down to NC this weekend and spent a long drive in a very hot vehicle. We couldn’t take the top off because we transported quite a few items with us to the beach and we didn’t want things flying out of the back of it.

I still think we shouldn’t fix the air conditioner, but now my husband is not quite so sure. What do you think? Do you think we should spend the money to fix the air conditioner in an eleven year old car?

6 thoughts on “Ask the Readers: Should We Fix the Air Conditioner in Our 1998 Jeep?”

  1. How hot will it get for the rest of the year? I'm guessing it won't be bad…why not wait and save money for it now, and look for the best price quote you can in the meantime? Then if you still want to, fix it in the spring, when air conditioning becomes much more important…

  2. @Cindy — That's actually a great suggestion. Why spend money today on something we won't need for another eight or nine months?

    @Anonymous — The mechanic claims the other work was necessary and still functional. It's just that another part broke in the mean time. In other words we're tough out of luck for the work he already performed and the previous work has no bearing on the future fixes.

  3. I had 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee where the whole dash had to be removed to fix the heat (It was a known defect in this model). I was quoted $1200 by a mechanic to fix it. A friend of my neighbor is a mechanic at a tire store and offered to do it for $500. He just comes by the house and does the work there and charges less since he doesn't have anyone else to pay. I talked to him the other day and this guy is trying to find as many people to do after hour work for as possible because of the economy. This may be something to ask around and see if you can find. (I never had the work done, I just bundled up, and I'm in Florida).

  4. I agree with Cindy; August is almost over and I doubt it will be hot for much longer.

    (I love Mike's suggestion to put the work out there but it may be tricky to get someone good/reliable. You'd be taking a risk. I'd at least get another quote.)

    However, if your husband is the one that has to drive in it every day, he should be the one to make the call. He'll have to live with it, after all!

  5. How often do you have a loaded car and drive several hours out of state? Once, twice per year? Plus it's almost fall/winter when you'll want heat more than anything.

    I'd say leave it, and save up money to get a better car or fix it next spring when it's hot again.


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