A reader writes:

I had the defroster unit replaced in my 07′ Toyota Rav 4 a few months ago. The dealership removed the entire front panel of the vehicle interior to replace the unit. It was very expensive, and just 3-4 weeks later on our first warm day AC is only blowing hot air out of the vents. I went back to the dealership to have them re-evaluate the issue and the service guy told me it was nothing that they did and that my AC compressor just “went.” He said that the compressor was not engaging properly and that “it could happen just like that.” I took it to a local AC expert mechanic for a second opinion.

When the same diagnosis came back that the AC compressor was not engaging, I bought a new compressor and a new condenser (I had to buy both). After these new parts were installed, the problem remained. The local mechanic is telling me that the problem has something to do with the controls, and that I need to have Toyota look at what they did again. What should I do?

This email illustrates just how difficult proper vehicle repair diagnosis can be. Despite all the tools and technology auto technicians have at their disposal, they’re still forced to guess a lot more than anyone would like.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • If the A/C controls are indeed the problem, than the most likely issue is that someone didn’t re-install the dash properly during your defroster repair. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to prove that for sure.
  • The fact that both the dealership and your local AC mechanic both mis-identified the problem means that it’s likely going to be hard to find.

Here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. It’s time to find another Toyota dealer. See what they recommend based on your experience, as the dealer you went to originally doesn’t seem like they know what they’re doing.
  2. When you get a diagnosis from this 2nd Toyota dealer, ask the local AC mechanic and the original Toyota dealer to review and confirm it.
  3. Depending on the issue, it may be that the defroster repair caused the follow-up issue. If so, I’d send a certified letter to the original dealership demanding reimbursement for all your expenses. While they probably won’t pay you for the new AC compressor and condenser, they might pay to fix the problem they caused when they did the defroster.

Good luck!

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