2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Rear AC Evaporator Repair
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast and broadcast. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: Bernie, we're talking about a 2010 Grand Caravan. It had a rear AC evaporator issue this morning. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: The vehicle's air conditioning system had stopped working, and it actually had ... We serviced the vehicle a couple of times. We'd recharged it and done a diagnostic previously. Never found actually the cause of the leak, and it seemed to hold pressure fairly well, so we recharged it, and after several months it stopped working again. At this point, we put some UV dye in the system. We were able to find the leak, and it was coming from the rear evaporator.
Mark: Where's the rear evaporator located?
Bernie: Well, it is in the rear. Why don't we just get into some pictures, and we can have a closer look at it? 2010 Dodge Caravan. Classic Caravan in its more boxy format that it now looks like. As far as the evaporator, there is the ... This is the location of the rear evaporator. Now, this is taken through the back with the tailgate up, and this is the tailgate seal. This is the right hand side, so if you've ever looked at those big plastic covers that sit on the side and wondered what's underneath that cover, this is what you'll find if you pull the right hand side cover off. You can see the back area here where the seats are stowed away. So, what's in this piece here is this is a fan. It's got ... These pipes here are a heater pipes. So, there's a heater core in the rear, which is located here, so this is hot water that comes from the engine's cooling system that goes in the back here, and then inside this box, the evaporator core sits. It's hidden away inside here. So again, the question is how do we find it? UV dye is a good method and we'll talk some more about how we find some of these things in a minute, but this is where it's located. This box, this whole unit has to be dismantled and removed to get the evaporator out.
Mark: So, that sounds like a pretty difficult leak to find. Are some AC leaks like this? Are they generally pretty hard to find?
Bernie: They are. AC leaks can be extremely difficult to find and kind of frustrating. When we get a car in the shop and someone's got a problem, we want to find it as fast as we can and fix it, and air conditioning is one of those really tricky things where it can often take quite a few tries to fix it. I mean, if you just want to say, "Hey, I want you to fix it," and we can find a leak, I mean, we can take everything apart, but for thousands of dollars. Most people don't want to spend that. We don't really want to do that anyways because it's really a waste of your money. So, sometimes it takes a little time to find out where the leaks coming from it, but I'll just show you what we found when we looked at this evaporator core. UV dye is one of the items that we use to find the leak. So, this piece here, this is the expansion valve. It's bolted on the bottom of the evaporator core, and it actually pokes out from the bottom of the rear AC heater box, and so around here, we could see a sort of festering of greenish colour. Sorry, I'm going to get the picture back again. Sort of a greenish colour all around here, and that is the UV dye that's been seeping out around this unit here. So, right away we knew, okay, that's a definite problem because it shouldn't be here. This part is exposed to the environment, and it gets treated harshly. So, the evaporator is actually attached here. These are the pipes of the evaporator that bolts to the expansion valve, and then on this end of it, the pipes that go to the rear AC system that run right from the front of the vehicle from the engine compartment are attached here. So they run the length of the vehicle. And this is a rather cool picture. No, you haven't taken any strange psychedelic drugs. This is an interesting picture. This is what we see when we look for the leak. So we have a ... UV dye is sensitive to ultraviolet light, which is a kind of purple coloured light, and it works best if we put on yellow coloured glasses. So, I actually took this photograph through the yellow coloured glasses, and this is like absolute evidence of a leak here. This is the oil that's leaked out and stained green, so the purple is just from the light, the yellow is just from the glasses, and that's a leak, so very evident.
Mark: And that's the rear evaporator that you're showing there?
Bernie: That's the rear evaporator, yeah. It's like a heater core. It basically radiates out cold air is essentially what it does, so.
Mark: Sounds like a real pain. You used UV dye to find this one. Is that the typical method? Are there other things you use to find these leaks?
Bernie: We do, and there's several methods to finding leaks. I mean, first, of course, is a visual inspection to see whether you can actually see leaks because a lot of times a leak can be so bad it's visible. Now, like air conditioning and refrigerant in and of itself is sometimes liquid, sometimes gas, but it's the oil that's in the system that kind of gives it away. That'll leave a trace of something. So, when we put the UV dye in, that's in the oil and that's what leaves the trace of leakage, but there are a lot of components on AC that you can't see, like this rear evaporator core, for instance. It's buried. It's hidden. There's a front evaporator, as well. That's under the dash. Again, that can be $1,000 worth of labor or more to remove that to actually look at it. So, we want evidence before we take that apart that that's what you need, but there's a lot of pipes and fittings and hoses and even the compressor. These parts are all buried in different parts on the vehicle, so finding AC leaks can be difficult. So, dye is one way, and the second most common method we use is with an electronic refrigerant detector. So, this is an item, it has a little probe, and we can move it around to various parts, and when it detects refrigerant, it'll start making a beeping noise. The only thing about this piece that's annoying is that they often give a lot of false alarms. So, when you find a leak for certain it works, but sometimes it'll give little false alarms, so if it's a tiny, little, minute leak, we can never be 100% sure, so the dye is usually the best method, but between all of these things, we usually find a way, and sometimes it just takes time and patience, maybe sometimes one or two refills of the system in order for things to kind of push their way through and find the leak.
Mark: And how big of a job was the evaporator replacement on this 2010 Caravan?
Bernie: It's a fair bit of work but certainly not as bad as a front one. Just basically the side panel had to be removed, which is a fair bit of work. Side panel removed, the box out, and of course the AC system has to be evacuated and then recharged again after service. It's a few hours work to do this, but minute in comparison compared to the front evaporator. Much less complex.
Mark: And Caravans have been around for a long time now. How are they these days for reliability?
Bernie: I'd say a lot better than they used to be. I've been servicing Caravans since they first came out. They're almost an iconic minivan, but they're certainly a lot less popular than they used to be. There's just a lot more competition out there. I'd say, as I always say, Toyotas and Hondas are probably definitely more reliable, but Caravans are much better price, so overall you'd probably have a few more problems with them given a 10 year span or a little longer, but the price you pay is a lot lower, so it probably works out dollar wise, less money to have a Caravan, and things like transmissions don't seem to go as often as they used to, which was really a common problem on them, so definitely better than they used to be.
Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your Dodge Caravan, any year, in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're busy. Or check out their website, PawlikAutomotive.com. We have our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there, as well as hopefully you're listing on our new podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.