Cadillac Allante Forum Discussion, Need 5 year old service bulletin info/data in Past Cadillac Vehicle Discussion; A few days ago, my '93 Allante's CIC suddenly indicated "Low Refrigerant-Service A/C Soon". I drove it to my Cadillac ...
A few days ago, my '93 Allante's CIC suddenly indicated "Low Refrigerant-Service A/C Soon". I drove it to my Cadillac dealer (a/c was working fine) who diagnosed the problem as a bad compressor, which required replacement and a freon re-charge. I said go ahead, but when I picked the car up yesterday, paid the $1,500 bill, and drove it home, the same low refrigerant message flashed and stayed on. The dealer had closed for the weekend just after I left, so I'll take the car back this Monday, and will probably have a fight on my hands. Read on.
A few hours ago, I learned that Cadillac had issued a pertainant 2000 or 2001 service bulletin for the '93 Allante, and maybe Eldo and Seville also, since these three cars were stable mates for the introductory Northstar and new computer systems. The bulletin supposedly said that this year model could give a false CIC display message that there was a low refrigerant condition, and the fix was to install 2 EPPROMs that set a higher value in the computer for temperature shut-off, thus eliminating the false display. Naturally, the bulletin was issued well after the '93 warranty expiration.
So, guys, I'm after confirmation of the supposed bulletin information, and ideally, the date and number of the bulletin. Also, how I can obtain a copy of the bulletin.
What I believe has happened is a perfectly good compressor (37k miles on car) was replaced with a new $1,500 one simply because the tech didn't go any further than to verrify the CIC reading. I'm fairly certain there was no leak, and no pressure test to confirm a leak. And it's clear the supposed bulletin info played no part in the diagnosis.
Although this problem has been reported before, it is unlikely that your Allante has gone this long before displaying a software "error". The compressor replacement was probably needed, and all your are seeing now is a slight refrigerent charge error. Take it back to the Dealer and explain what you are seeing. The refrigerant charge will be below about a third of the proper quantity before the message is displayed, so the leakage, especially around the compressor seal, could have existed for a while.
Give the Dealer another chance to make things right.
Thanks for your response. And I will be taking the car back to my dealer to discuss the matter, not accuse him. My above comments were for this forum only to indicate what I feel. A few questions regarding your advice:
1) Assuming a replacement compressor was in fact needed, and it was installed, why does the same old message still display if the system was recharged, $249 worth of R-12? Something is missing here, particularly when you say it takes something less than one-third of recharge capacity to trigger a low refrigerant warning message.
2) Couldn't the "leaking compressor seal" have been replaced rather than the complete unit costing $600? Or are compressors with seal leaks non-repairable?
3) What became of the old R-12 refrigerant, however much was left? Isn't it supposed to be captured and reused per EPA rules?
4) You sugested (or implied) that I probably did have a leak, rather than a software problem because the passing of years would have caused the message to appear at some earlier date. However, this is the first time the message has flashed in the 5 months I've owned the car. That assumes that former owners merely had the system recharged periodically, rather than fixing the "root problem", a leaky seal. Or the seal became leaky just on my watch. Do I understand this correctly?
5) What about the bulletin that I mentioned? Is it not credible - and applicable in this matter, at least to the extent that it be considered in the diagnosis? This is the part that really bothers me. A possible $500 software fix rather than a $1,500 compressor replacement. Difficult to get out of my mind.
The repair description on my bill read: "Low refrigerant signal comes on. Replace the compressor assembly due to leaking freon. Check the a/c system to verify. Evacuate and recharge the a/c system and test OK (time 4.2 hrs)". I think my Monday discussion with the dealer will at some point include a review of the test results documentation.
Bob, I'm not trying to take you to task. I'm a little on edge. My '01 Eldo had a 30k mile check up and a few other things done a few days ago (coolant flush, allignment, fuel filter, brakes flushed, etc, and that was a $700 hit. Now, $1,500 more for the Allante, and it's not fixed yet. And that's not all, as I just bought a '96 300ZX to play with. The other two cars are show room quality, and get the very best of treatment to make sure everything works 100%. That's pride of ownership, but also so I can look the next prospective owners in the eye and say all they have to do is turn the key. And that'll apply to the Z, as well. Let me at it!
Sure would appreciate your comments to my above comments. And anybody else, too.
1) The Low Refrigerant Message is a calculated parameter, as the actual charge can't be measured directly. There are a number of situations that can trigger this, actual low charge being only the most common.
2) You really didn't want to replace only the seal. Your actual labor costs would have been a lot higher, the R-12 cost would have been the same, and you would still have had a 13 year old compressor.
3) Yeah, Jack, you have Al Gore to thank for this scam. You get no credit for the recycled R-12 because of "testing and recycling costs". Other than junk science, no real proof has been provided that shows CFCs eat the ozone layer. There are speculations that have not been proven in any Lab or by an acceptable formula. But I digress.
4) & 5) Probably. I have not been able to locate the Bullitin that mentions the software problem. But people that have claim to have seen it are pretty sure it applies only to the earlier models.
Anyone would be "on edge" after that kind of bill, but it could be worse. You could be paying Mercydees or Porch dealership prices.
Let us all know how this comes out.
Well, here's the latest, and hopefully the last update to what has turned out to be a saga regarding the Cadillac dealer's attempts to fix the Low-Refrigerant - Service a/c Soon message on the CIC screen:
When I took the Allante back the second time (with my 1993 service manual on the passenger seat), the dealer put it in the shop for 20 minutes, then brought it out, declaring they used the manual to re-set the codes, which the tech failed to do after installing the a/c compressor on my first visit. I drove the car home without any messages appearing on the screen. The next morning, however, I drove the car five miles and the low-refrigerant message appeared again. It was a cool morning, around 60 degrees.
So, back to the dealer again, but before that, I'd obtained personal, professional help in accessing the GM Service web site, and locating/printing the technical service bulletin I was looking for, #438768, dated 9/28/92, and titled: Intermit BCM Codes B446/B449/B450 (INSTALL BCM SERV. PROM) #93-8A-102. The bulletin indicated that some 1993 Allantes may intermittently exhibit the above three BCM diagnostic codes, my low-refrigerant message being code B446. This particular code could be displayed during mild temperatures, such as 45-65 degrees F. The fix for all three codes was to install two EPPROMS, part #16185967 and #16185968, which would eliminate the low refrigerant code, and correct the calibrations for the other two codes, which dealt with a/c and engine overheating false messages. In conjunction with the two EPPROMS, the minimum blower motor voltage is increased from 4 volts to 4.5 volts to increase air flow at low blower speed (Remember this, guys).
So, on my third trip back to the dealer, I discussed the TSB with the service writer, and he said he was aware of it, but would "need to check everything out", and would have their driver take me home. Before I left, I talked to their parts man who said the two EPPROMS were not in stock, but available from another dealer. The next day, the service writer called to say the car was ready, and he'd send the driver to pick me up.
When I got there, I was told that they had installed two relays under the hood, near the right side headlight, and this was to correct the operation of the two cooling fans, which weren't operating properly. He said the two EPPROMS ($200) weren't needed, and that he'd test driven the car without any low-refrigerant messages appearing. There was no charge to me for their installation of the relays. I drove the car home without incident.
So, I intend to drive the car several more days to see what happens and, in particular, if the low-refrigerant message appears again. Questions on my mind: 1) Did I really need a new compressor costing $1,500? 2) Why didn't they install the two EPPROMS, like the TSB instructed? They presumably took care of the low speed cooling fan setting by installing the two relays, but is that enough to correct the problem?
So, guys, what do you suggest I do if the low-refrigerant message comes up again?
Thanks for posting your update and the legendary bullitin number. Having put myself in the uncomfortable position of defending a Dealer's actions, I would like to propose the following scenario.
When you brought the car in for service, the technicians approached the troubleshooting by using techniques they are familier with. The "Low Refrigerent" message, and federal and local laws, required them to do a freon sniffer check. If you give them the benefit of the doubt, they probably found your compressor front seal was leaking beyond the very tight specs they are forced to use today. This is an acceptable result given the age of your Allante. They replaced the compressor and recharged the system. It would not be surprising if a new accumulator was included, but if the system charge was not completely depleted, this would be a judgement call on their part.
It would be unusual for a Dealer to check Bullitins and TSBs for a car well over a decade old, the thought being such problems would display themselves early in the vehicle's service life.
If the Dealership is a large one, you can take some comfort that your compressor most likely needed to be replaced, even if it possibly were not the direct cause of your message. Indeed, your particular Allante may already have the newer PROMs. The Bullitin does not give breakpoints or VINs. If your car was built after the Bullitin issue date, it probably has the newer level PROMs.
The fan relay problem they repaired was probably a failure you had not noticed symptoms of. Unless the fan relay was stuck ON, a fan relay failure could not cause the "Low Refrigerant" message.
The 16185968 PROM and the 16185967 PROM are about $56, each, in your hand. Since the information is from a TSB and not a Campaign, any replacement costs would be charged to you. Did the Dealer state the PROM replacement was not needed based on judgement, or by looking at the existing PROM numbers?
This hopefully will be my last update on the subject:
After the fan motor relays were installed to boost the voltage to 4.5, and the dealer saying that would take care of the false low-refrigerant message problem, and yes -- there was no need to install the two proms, I drove off under 75 degree temperature conditions, not feeling very confident as I headed home last week.
Last Thursday, I purposely drove the car when it was 55 degrees, and, sure enough, the low refrigerant message came on again after about five minutes. I then drove to the Cadillac dealership and demanded to speak to the service manager, not the service writer who had led me astray on three visits to solve the same problem. This was the 4th visit. We went to the service managers office, I explained what happened on the earlier visits, and, since I didn't have my copy with me, he pulled up the 9/92 TSB covering the need for the two EPPROMS to eliminate the false message. This is a software fix on the BCM, and it instructs the computer to accept a higher heat range on the refrigerant calibration. This, plus the fan motor 0.5 voltage increase eliminates the problem. The service manager completely agreed with what was discussed, and said he'd have GM overnight the two proms and install them in my car the next morning -- free of charge, since I had been put through much aggravation, as well as paid $1,500 for a new a/c compressor. He also said the service writer and tech believed that the replacement proms had been installed elsewhere, even though they never conveyed this erroneous information to me. If they had, the fix could have been done no later than the 3rd visit, maybe even the 2nd.
I hope that this little story is helpful to all those who read it. In my case, at least, it reinforces the need to ask pointed questions if you don't get meaningful, logical explanations, or worse -- no explanations at all regarding repairs to your car. It also helps to take your factory service manual with you to lend to the tech when repairs are contemplated. Some dealers keep the old ones, others do not. This particular dealer didn't have a '93 Allante factory service manual. They're generally available for all models on Ebay for $30-$40.
I appreciate that most folks would probably not understand even basic explanations. But, got to believe members of this forum are several cuts above that.
Best regards, and Bob, I appreciated your responses.
This is my absolute Final Report on the "low refrigerant message story".
I suppose someone else without a proper sense of ethics might have found a shop that would have recharged the refrigerant to the point that the low refrigerant message wouldn't flash on, at least not for awhile, and then sell the car, dumping the root problem on an unsuspecting buyer. In other words, spend a couple hundred dollors for a recharge rather than spend $1,500 to replace the compressor, 2 proms, and 2 relays. But, I have ethics and went the full route.
You see, I'd always planned on selling my beautiful black '93 Allante, basically because after six months of ownership, I found that convertibles weren't my cup of tea, plus I'd purchased a pristine 1996 Nissan 300ZX T-top sports car four months after buying the Allante. And I also had a showroom-condition '01 El Dorado ETC in the garage (my daily driver), and 3 cars don't go into a two car garage. One of them had to stay outside in the elements, and it was the Z-car. I told golfing buddies that it cried out every rainy night to be let into the garage with it's two step brothers.
With the help of our Houston area Allante Club head, a buyer was found for the Allante, and I had quoted a quick sale price of $17,000 even though this 37k miles beauty could have sold for a few thousand dollors more if I'd wanted to wait awhile. Remember? Three into two won't go. After the deal was firmed up, but before the final paperwork, the low refrigerant problem arose. And I'd promised the buyer that all he'd have to do was turn the key as the car was perfect in every way. So, going $1,500 out of my pocket for the repair, it still was perfect, and the buyer got maybe the best deal ever for a perfect '93 Northstar Allante, because I didn't try to increase the $17,000 sales price.
I get emails from the new owner from time to time, and he tells me how happy he and his family are with the car. In addition to the car, he got the factory service manual, the leather bound operating manual, the factory introduction CD, the factory music CD, Rick's two volume audio tape set on the Allante Story, a $200 front license plate bracket from the Allante Store, a factory black paint tube for covering up one microscopic dot on the car front, plus an inch high stack of internet research data I'd accumulated before and after my purchase of the car. He's an older, detail type guy, just like me, and could hardly wait to dive in on the research data and learn as much as possible about this truly ahead of its time, amazing automobile.
So, this is kinda the end of my little story. I thought there was a moral included in it that might be helpful in reinforcing anyone who possibly might be wavering out there. I also thought that it was a "mission accomplished" story, because my former baby is now in good hands, just as it was in good hands with me and the two other former owners who preceded me.
I'll come back to visit this forum from time to time, and maybe even offer a comment or two if I can help out on an open issue. After all, selling my Allante didn't cancel out the research info and experience I'd acquired, nor did it change my mind about the Allante being one of the best cars ever.