After-market air conditioning: good idea?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently bought a used 1990 Geo Prizm. It has every feature I want, except air conditioning. I just assumed I could have it put in later. Now a couple of auto mechanics have told me that it's a bad idea to put air conditioning in a car that came from the factory without it. They said the engine would lose power, and the car would be noiser because holes would be drilled. Is this true? I don't want to wreck my car.

TOM: No, it's not true, Rachel. In the old days, when my brother still had hair, most cars were made WITHOUT air conditioning. And when a customer wanted AC, the car would have to be modified and "holes would have to be drilled." But now the opposite is true. Most cars--including your Geo Prizm--are designed at the factory to accomodate air conditioning. And the engine the air conditioned models use is the same one you've got.

RAY: That's not to say it's easy to put it in later on. Even though it comes as a kit, it's a very complex and labor intensive job. And an easy one to screw up. I should know...I've done it several times.

TOM: And for that reason, the dealer is the place to go. There's a chance they may have even done one of these before. And even if not, they'll have better access to the manufacturer to get technical assistance when they can't figure out where, for example, Hose #116 connects to Clamp 48b.

RAY: You should also know that it's probably going to cost about $1,000 to do this. Remember, air conditioning costs $600-$700 when it's installed at the factory. Putting it in later is a lot more difficult.

TOM: I guess the other option is to get a small room air conditioner, and install it so it's sticking out the passenger window. But that might make it hard to get into tight parking spaces.

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