National average cost of a AC Compressor Clutch Replacement for popular vehicles:
What is an AC compressor clutch and how does it work?
The AC compressor in your vehicle is part of the air conditioning (AC) system. It is a pump that compresses refrigerant in gaseous form and sends it to the condenser, its next destination in the system. The compressor is driven by the serpentine belt running around the compressor’s pulley. Since the serpentine belt is always moving whenever your engine is running, an electromagnetic clutch is employed in order to turn the compressor on and off.
The AC compressor clutch is energized by an electric current when you press the AC switch. If the AC is running, it is because the clutch is engaged. When the AC is switched off - or when the system is on, but additional cooling is not needed - the clutch disengages.
All the while, the serpentine belt continues to turn the compressor pulley and the internal shaft connected to it. With the clutch disengaged, the pulley essentially free-wheels, lessening the drag on the belt and increasing engine efficiency.
How do I know if my vehicle needs a new AC compressor clutch?
Many of the symptoms of a bad AC compressor clutch are the same as those related to other AC system components. For example, if the air coming from the vents is not sufficiently cool or is warm when the AC is switched on, your problem could be a lack of refrigerant. It could also be a bad AC compressor clutch. If you notice that the AC switch does not light up when switched on, or if an AC warning light shows up on the dashboard, the problem could be the clutch. Other signs include
A loud squeal or whine coming from under the hood that changes with engine speed or when you switch the AC system on or off
The serpentine belt comes off or breaks
The clutch will not disengage, even when the system is turned off
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Unlike many other AC system components, replacement of the compressor clutch often does not require that the refrigerant be evacuated and recharged in the system. While the procedure will depend on your specific vehicle make and model, a technician will take the following general steps to replace the AC compressor clutch
Disconnecting the negative terminal of the battery
Relieve tension on the serpentine belt and free the belt from the compressor pulley
Remove any other components necessary for access to the clutch
Holding the clutch fast, remove the retaining bolt fastened to the compressor shaft
Dislodge the outer portion of the clutch and remove it from the compressor, careful to note the location of any shims
Disassemble the inner section of the clutch by removing any snap rings or retainers
Pull the clutch off of the compressor shaft
Reassemble all components and reroute the serpentine belt
Some vehicles require that the AC compressor be removed entirely from the vehicle in order for the clutch to be replaced. When that is the case, the system will need to be evacuated and recharged according to federal regulations.
OTHER QUESTIONS CUSTOMERS ASK
Can you replace just the clutch on an AC compressor?
On many models, the AC compressor clutch can be replaced without replacing the entire compressor assembly. That said, when the clutch fails, sometimes the rest of the compressor is not far behind. And with some models, the compressor must be fully removed from the vehicle in order to swap out the clutch. When that is the case, it might be advantageous to replace the entire unit, since refrigerant recovery and recharging will be necessary anyways.
What causes AC compressor clutch failure?
An AC compressor clutch is relatively simple, however it does contain bearings that spin when the clutch is disengaged. The bearings inside the clutch are protected from dust, dirt, and moisture by a rubber seal. After thousands of miles and years of service, this seal can fail and allow contaminants into the clutch bearings. Then the bearings go bad, which often causes the pulley to run off track, ruining the electromagnet inside the clutch in the process.
Will the AC clutch engage with low Freon?
An AC compressor is designed with a safeguard, a low-pressure switch that prevents the clutch from engaging when the refrigerant runs low. While few vehicles on the road today feature AC systems that run on Freon, or “R-12” refrigerant, the same safety switch is built in no matter what refrigerant is used, be it R-134a or the latest R-1234yf.
What parts are related to a AC Compressor Clutch Replacement?