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  1. #1
    TEAM Member
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    Sep 2000
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    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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    Default I need to replace my A/C clutch and/or compressor

    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?

    Thanks!
    2000 Twilight Blue ZX3
    2013 Performance Blue ST (CDN)

  2. #2
    Super Moderators GapBoyPCS's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    Location
    Waterloo/Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    11,222

    Default Re: I need to replace my A/C clutch and/or compressor

    My understanding is that you need to drain the refrigerant in order to get at the compressor and clutch.

    My compressor and clutch were replaced last year, and I know the feeling of spending a few grand on the system. At first, it was the lines right near the right underside of the car. Then, I had additional leaks around the condenser and the compressor (I had the same rattle that sounded like something in a coffee can), as well as bad O-rings. My clutch was also going at that time, and since they had to do the compressor, it was a "might-as-well" job I know I have a small leak somewhere else near the top of the system, but I was going to let it go until it became an issue.

    The only other metal noise I can think of is MAYBE the water pump pulley or possibly the alternator. I had some strange metal noises when both were starting to go.

    The only other things I can think of is maybe the serpentine belt and/or tensioner? I'm not sure when you had those done.
    Richard
    2002 ZTS | Sangria Red |
    Over 521,000 km and 323,000 miles
    2012 SE Sport | Red Candy | Over 53,000 km and 33,000 miles

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  3. #3
    TEAM Member
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    Sep 2000
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    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: I need to replace my A/C clutch and/or compressor

    I've done a bit of reading since my first post, and it would appear that I should in theory be able to replace the clutch without removing the compressor, but I've got a feeling that the compressor might be on it's way out as well.

    I've seen prices as low as $125US for the clutch, and $175US for the clutch and compressor (rebuilt). For the small increase in price (although there may be a core charge that I won't get back if I buy from the states...) I think I'll buy the compressor and clutch assembly and see if I can simply swap out clutches. If that doesn't work I'll have to take it to a shop, but at least all they'll have to charge is labour since I'll already have the part.

    Serpentine belt is new from when I had the rest of my AC system rebuilt last year. The tensioner is original and still functional, but I will be replacing it as part of this repair.

    I've had the car up on jackstands with the belt cover and wheel well removed, and been able to get my ear up close to all the pulleys. It's definitely the AC pulley/clutch that's making all the noise.

    I also have a small power steering fluid leak, but that's business as usual for a 10 year old daily driver in the land of salt and snow.
    2000 Twilight Blue ZX3
    2013 Performance Blue ST (CDN)

  4. #4
    TEAM Member
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    Sep 2000
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    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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    Default A/C clutch - Fixed! (Replaced)

    So the source of all my under hood noises was the clutch, which was basically falling apart. The burning electrical smell was the clutch coil, which turned out to be completely fried.

    I'd looked into ordering parts from Tousley, but it would take a while to clear canadian customs. I'd also looked at getting a non-ac belt for an interim solution. Buying a replacement belt would've cost me $50 at any of the local stores (vs. about $8 online). Since I needed my car back, I just swallowed my pride and brought it to the local dealership.

    $427 (parts/labor/taxes) and I've got a shiny new clutch on my AC. I kept the old one so if anyone wants to see a picture of a fried clutch coil I can put them up later.
    2000 Twilight Blue ZX3
    2013 Performance Blue ST (CDN)


 

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