Dear Tom and Ray:
I own a 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser, which I purchased new. Since I live in Hawaii, air conditioning is a necessity. My PT has never given us any problems, and has had all scheduled maintenance. Last week, while driving in a fairly heavy rain, I turned on the air conditioner, and a white mist began pouring out of the vent in the cabin. I turned off the AC, waited a while and tried again. Once again, the mist came pouring out of the vents. Since that time, I have no air conditioning. The blower works, but it only blows warm air. Before I take the car in to have it looked at, I thought I would ask you what you think might have happened. I don't want to go in to get it fixed "blind," and I don't want to get taken advantage of. Can you help me get my "cool ride" back? Thanks!
Tom: Must have been a cold front moving in from the Marshall Islands.
Ray: I suspect your evaporator has met the Chrysler Corporation, Bobby -- its maker.
Tom: I'm guessing that what you experienced in the car was fog. As the evaporator was gasping its last breaths, it released a large blast of refrigerant. That supercooled the warm air near the vents and condensed it, resulting in fog. If you were listening very carefully, you might have heard Gordon Lightfoot singing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
Ray: Your shop can confirm that your refrigerant leaked out by putting a vacuum on your air-conditioning system to see if it'll still hold a vacuum. My guess is that it won't. Then they can put some dye in the system and pressurize it, and figure out where it's leaking from. But I'd bet my brother's paycheck that it's your evaporator.
Tom: To replace it, they'll have to take apart the dashboard. So you're looking at many hundreds of dollars to get your AC working again.
Ray: But on the bright side, you're living in Hawaii, Bobby.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)