Although the clutch of your car’s AC compressor is busted, you can still drive your car safely. Yet, the more you prolong the replacement of the AC compressor clutch, the more costly it would be. The damage may spread to other parts of your AC system. So, you will be required to foot a more costly bill afterward. Hence, if you know that it is the clutch of the AC compressor that is defective, you should be prompt in replacing it.
On the other hand, the cost of replacing the whole AC compressor may range from $180 to $700 for the unit itself. This amount, however, doesn’t include the labor cost and other individual parts that should be replaced. So, the abovementioned price may further go up to more than a thousand dollars. Moreover, your car model will also factor well in the calculation of the overall costs of the AC compressor’s replacement.
What You Should About The Different Components of AC System?
One of the essential components of your car is the air conditioning (AC) system. It is more often under-appreciated, especially if it is working well. Yet, the moment it malfunctions, you quickly realize how important it is for a comfortable driving experience.
The AC system has different components. These components include:
The AC compressor, however, is the most crucial part. It works like a pump to compresses the refrigerant and moves it to the evaporator. Furthermore, It also contains various moving parts. These parts should work in clockwork precision to keep your car cool.
Through wear and tear, these moving parts may often fail. If any part fails, the compressor stops functioning well. If its parts fall apart, they can cause the dispersal of debris throughout the AC system. So, if you are going to replace your AC compressor, you would more often be obliged to replace the dryer, receiver, and the orifice tube as well. This is because debris may accumulate in those areas.
The AC compressor functions like a mechanical pump that pressurizes the refrigerant. It also makes the refrigerant to circulate in the AC system of your car. As long as the AC compressor works, your car still feels comfortably cool. Thus, the AC compressor is very much important.
How Does the AC Compressor Clutch Work?
In the AC compressor, you will find the clutch that is activated electrically. This clutch engages every time it detects a lessening in the pressure inside the AC compressor. Moreover, two pistons are connected to the wobble plate inside the AC compressor.
These two pistons continuously work on the low-pressure refrigerant that enters the compressor. They pump the low-pressure refrigerant towards the high-pressure side. This cyclical process inside the AC compressor goes on every time the defogger is on or when the AC system is activated.
This clutch mechanism makes use of a bearing that may also bog down after continuous functioning. So, the clutch mechanism needs a bit of oiling for its moving components. Plus, any defects in the internal parts or any of its seals will manifest itself in the output of the AC system.
Most of the new cars, however, have no clutches in their AC compressors. These new AC compressors make use of displacement compressors. Hence, if you are using a new model of car, chances are, your car’s AC compressor doesn’t have a clutch.
Signs that the AC Compressor Clutch Needs to Be Replaced
You will not know precisely when your AC compressor will fail. So, the most that you can do is to watch out for symptoms that will be indicative of an impending failure. Here are some convincing signs that may indicate that you need to replace your car’s AC Compressor:
1) If the Clutch or Its Drive Belt Fails
A drive belt is found in the AC compressor. It powers the clutch. We all know that the clutch engages the compressor once the AC system is turned on. If the clutch or drive belt fails, you should replace the whole compressor. Replacing the entire compressor is cost-effective in this case.
2) Weird Noises Coming From the Compressor
Another symptom that you should be wary of is when you hear weird sounds coming from the compressor. Sounds are usually indicative of damage inside the compressor. So, you should inspect the different parts of the compressor and check where the noise is coming from. However, in such a case, you need to replace the whole compressor.
3) If the Compressor Clutch is Faulty
As mentioned above, the clutch plays the role of a regulator for the AC compressor. If it is damaged, chances are, the AC may tend to stay “off” or “on” permanently. So, be wary of this symptom. In such a case, you need to replace the whole compressor completely likewise.
4) Fixed Clutch
Another defect that the AC compressor may exhibit is a non-disengaging clutch. There are times when the clutch of the AC compressor doesn’t disengage. In such a case, the pressures inside build to a dangerously high level. This, in turn, may lead to critical damage to the AC compressor. In such a case, you need to replace the AC compressor completely.
5) Damaged Seals
The seals are usually affected once AC oil or refrigerant leaks from the compressor. This often leads to damages to seals. You must replace the whole compressor in such a case likewise.
6) Other Symptoms
Other symptoms that indicate that you need to replace your whole AC system include AC systems that:
The warm air that blows through the dash vents while the AC system is turned on, and broken serpentine belt.
Clunking noise once the clutch engages. For a normal well-functioned AC compressor, it only makes a very minimal click sound when the clutch is engaged.
How to Lessen & Save the Cost of AC compressor's Replacement?
As mentioned above, the cost of an AC compressor’s replacement may go up to more than a thousand dollars. So, you should prepare at least a thousand dollars or more for this repair. Yet, you can lessen the cost of replacement if you would buy it from direct sellers.
Of course, the auto repair shop will sell the replacement unit to you at a higher price. Walmart and Amazon, offer AC compressor replacement units at a lower price.
Moreover, if you know how to do it on your own, you can further save on the cost of replacement. Of course, the replacement process is complicated. Hence, if you don’t have any experience in such matters, you should not attempt to do it. Just leave the replacement process of your car’s AC compressor to the experts.
Tips on How to Diagnose Your Car's AC Problems
As a car owner, you should have an idea on how to diagnose the problem of your car’s AC system. Here are some simple tips on how to do it:
1) Check If Your AC is Cold
If you set your car’s AC system to max cool and it only gives off moderately cool air, then you should check if the condenser’s cooling fans are running when you turn the AC unit on. Check for any snags or restrictions inside like a bug, dirt, or leaves.
You should also check the cabin air filter to make sure that it isn’t clogged. Moreover, you should check the system’s pressure using different gauge sets. Read the repair manual to check for the recommended low-side and high-side pressures.
2) Check the AC Compressor
Turn the AC on to max cool. Then set the fans to high. Check if the clutch is engaging. If it is engaging and disengaging quickly, then it may be that it is low in the refrigerant. Yet, if it is not engaging, you should use a voltmeter to measure the voltage that gets into the compressor. If you get a voltage, then the clutch may be failing. If there is no voltage, however, it may be a faulty cycling switch. A fuse may have been busted.
3) Check for Any Possible Leakages
Many problems with AC systems are usually due to leaks. If you get low pressure, it may be because of a leak. You can use a UV AC leak-detection kit. Check also all fittings to ensure that they are secure. Check the host manifolds.
Check the front seal as well as the 0-rings that seal the pressure switch at the back of the compressors. Inspect the hoses and the Schrader valves. Moreover, check for any pinhole in the condenser. Lastly, check the evaporator.