I own a 1993 Mercury Sable with more than 188,000 miles. Recently the air conditioning stopped working, and I brought the car into a repair shop that specializes in A/C work. They told me that the entire system, except for the evaporator, had to be replaced due to the compressor going bad and everything becoming plugged up and contaminated.
They called it "Black Death" because of a black residue found inside the hoses. This is really expensive. Is there any way around replacing everything?
To do the job correctly almost everything would have to be replaced. However, you should be able to save the A/C condenser along with the evaporator.
The evaporator is the heat exchanger located within the dash assembly which removes the heat from the passenger compartment. The condenser is the larger unit which is located in front of the radiator, and disburses the heat which was collected by the evaporator. The heat is delivered by the refrigerant traveling through the system which is pumped by the A/C compressor.
The items which are going to require replacement are the compressor, the receiver dryer (which filters moisture out of the system), the orifice tube (provides pressure drop) and the manifold hose assembly.
Before installing all these brand new expensive parts, a quality flushing of the remainder of the system should be performed. Ford recommends the use of the Rotunda Flushing Kit, and the directions need to be followed closely in order to do the job correctly.
I know you're looking for a cheap way out. So you might want to check a salvage yard for a clean, functioning system to provide you with low-priced parts.