My car recently started making some pretty bad noises and smells, and the apparent source of the problems is the A/C compressor. I would appreciate any opinions and advice on the best approach to take with repairs.
First, the symptoms:
-there's a bad smell coming from the vicinity of the compressor. It smells sort of electrical, but I've checked all the wiring in the area and there's nothing apparently damaged. My best guess is the smell has something to do with the A/C clutch.
-When not engaged, the clutch has developed a really bad rattle. The outer portion of the clutch (the part mounted in a triangular shape) is loose and shaking around.
-When the clutch engages, the compressor and/or clutch starts making a loud squealing sound. It doesn't look like the clutch is slipping but I can't say for certain.
-There is also a fairly loud metal on metal noise coming from the compressor (not grinding, but more like a bearing is running dry) regardless of whether the A/C is on or not. It is often loudest when the car is first started, then gets quieter or louder at random intervals.
-The A/C works great (I had the evaporator, condenser, and all lines replaced last year at the cost of several thousand dollars). There's no refrigerant leaks or any other problems with the system.
So, now my questions:
-Do these symptoms sound like I need a whole new compressor, or just a new clutch?
-Can I replace the clutch without needing to drain the refrigerant?
-Any other advice or tips to offer?