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AC Compressor Clutch Replacement Cost

Know what price you should pay to get your vehicle fixed.

The average cost for an AC Compressor Clutch Replacement is between $396 and $892. Labor costs are estimated between $92 and $278 while parts are priced between $304 and $614. Estimate does not include taxes and fees.
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What is an Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly?

While many newer models of air conditioning compressors have moved away from the air conditioning compressor clutch, and simply meter the amount of refrigerant the air compressor can receive, most older models a a good number of newer vehicles use air conditioning compressor clutches to control the activity of the air conditioning compressor. The clutch allows the drive belt for the air conditioning compressor to remain on the compressor pulley at all times, while only driving the air conditioning compressor when needed.

How does an Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly work?

The air conditioning compressor clutch will be energized electronically, creating an electromagnet that closes the clutch. Since the clutch is bonded to the pulley on one side, and to the compressor on the other side, closing the clutch will result in the air conditioning compressor pulley driving the air conditioning compressor instead of spinning freely at engine speed. The clutch is normally connected to a switch inside the vehicle labeled 'A/C' by a relay which allows the low amperage switch to control the higher amperage compressor clutch.

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What are the symptoms of a bad Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly?

Many times the driver will notice the A/C button flashing when they attempt to turn on the air conditioner, but one of two other symptoms are always noted. If the clutch fails to release, or becomes seized, the compressor will turn at all times. This causes the air conditioner to run at all times, and can even lead to small ice particles blowing from the vents in the right environment. Eventually, the evaporator core is likely to become frozen, and the blower motor will not be able to pass air through the core and into the vents. If the compressor clutch fails to engage, the air conditioner will blow hot at all times, and pressure will equalize across the air conditioning system low side and high side service ports. Some vehicles may show a check engine light, or a service air conditioning warning lamp as well.

Can I drive with a bad Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly?

Vehicles with a air conditioner compressor clutch can be driven indefinitely, but the comfort and, depending on the climate, safety of passengers should be considered. In extremely hot climates such as deserts, not having an air conditioner in the vehicle could be considered a risk factor for children and seniors.

How often do Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assemblies need replacement?

Many vehicles will experience compressor clutch failure during their lifetime. In particular, air conditioning systems are less reliable than many systems on vehicles, and will at some point likely require service. It should be noted that the majority of compressor clutch failures are likely solved by replacing the entire air conditioner compressor as an assembly. This is due to the fact that few manufacturers produce replacement compressor clutches, and most are considered non-serviceable.

How are Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly issues diagnosed?

The first thing a technician will test is power going to the compressor clutch. If the clutch will not engage, there may just be a lack of power from the compressor relay, and repairing the circuit may solve the issue. However, modern vehicles may route function of the air conditioning compressor clutch through the body control module or the HVAC electronic control module. In these cases, it is necessary to test the complete circuit, scan the vehicle, and determine if the controller is restricting power to the compressor clutch, or if there is a failure with that circuit. If there is power to the clutch, but the clutch will not engage, the clutch or compressor must be replaced. However, if there is no power to the clutch, yet the clutch will not disengage, the clutch or compressor will be replaced as well.

How are air conditioning compressor clutch assemblies replaced?

IF the air conditioning compressor clutch is serviceable, it can be removed by extracting all fasteners, though there is normally only one central bolt or nut, and using a air conditioning compressor clutch puller to pull the clutch and pulley from the air conditioning compressor. Sometimes this can be accomplished on the vehicle, but others will require evacuation of the air conditioning system, removal of the compressor, and replacement of the receiver drier. In these cases, the air conditioning compressor will likely be replaced as a unit. Once the pulley and compressor clutch are removed, the new assembly can be pressed on, the compressor refitted if necessary, and the air conditioning system vacuum tested, evacuated, and refilled.

RepairPal Recommendations for Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly issues

We recommend avoiding the use of any off-the-shelf air conditioning repair additives, as these additives are only temporary fixes, if they work at all, and can cause damage to air conditioner refrigerant evacuation machines. Also, never attempt to vent refrigerant into the air, as this is harmful to the environment, and can cause chemical burns. If the system is overcharged, you will need the refrigerant to be recovered by a trained and certified technician.

What to look out for when dealing with Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly issues

Older vehicles were made with ozone-depleting, or non-environmental friendly refrigerants, and releasing any refrigerants into the atmosphere is illegal. Federal law requires contained evaporation and disposal of refrigerants, and this requires fairly expensive machinery/tooling. Federal law also states that the older types of refrigerant be replaced with a more environmentally friendly version when the air conditioner service is performed. This will likely require several components and seals to be replaced to ensure compatibility with the new refrigerant. Due to the nature of air conditioning systems, adding refrigerant is not advised without measuring the high pressure and low pressure side of the system simultaneously, as the pressures may not be affected on both sides of the system.

Can I replace the Air Conditioning Compressor Clutch Assembly myself?

Air conditioner repair is seldom achievable at home, and will require expensive evacuation equipment, a manifold and gauge set, creating a vacuum in the system, and charging the system. Aside from the lack of equipment that most DIYers will face, there is a danger of harm to person, equipment, and the vehicle when repairs or diagnostics are performed incorrectly. When it comes to servicing the air conditioner, it is best left to the pros.

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