Blog Car Care Advice How to Perform an A/C Clutch Replacement (+Costs)
Car Care Advice

How to Perform an A/C Clutch Replacement (+Costs)

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Wondering if it’s possible to replace the AC clutch without removing the compressor?
Well, yes. With the right tools and know-how, an A/C clutch replacement is possible. But you need to do the job promptly and well to avoid worsening the issue.

How can you get the job done?

Worry not!
We’ll explore the ins and outs of an AC compressor clutch replacement, including the associated costs, the urgency of getting it done, and more.

Let’s go!

This Article Contains

How to Perform an A/C Clutch Replacement

Before you get started on swapping out an A/C compressor clutch, here are some tools you’ll need:

  1. Phillips screwdriver
  2. Ratchet
  3. 10mm & 12mm sockets
  4. Snap ring pliers

But that’s not the hard part!

Performing an A/C clutch replacement requires you to be more than a DIY enthusiast.  You need to know how things under the hood work. So, if you’re uncomfortable handling the nuts and bolts of the process, it’s best to leave the replacement to a professional mechanic.

Here’s how a mechanic would replace an old clutch:

  1. Pop open the hood and disconnect the battery. Safety first!
  1. Use a screwdriver to remove the plastic engine cover. 
  1. Remove the v-belt or serpentine belt cover using the 10mm and 12mm sockets. This belt drives the alternator (AKA your battery charger), power steering pump, air conditioning compressor, and water pump.
  1. Loosen the serpentine belt to slide it off the A/C compressor pulley. This will keep it out of the way.
  1. Remove the bolt that secures the clutch to the compressor with a ratchet and 10mm socket. They’ll also secure the clutch so that it doesn’t spin while unwinding the bolt.
  1. Once the bolt is out, slide the outer clutch plate off while carefully removing the washers. 
  1. Use snap ring pliers to pull out the snap ring that holds the clutch pulley in place. 
  1. Slide the pulley and bearing assembly off the clutch. If they feel any resistance while sliding the clutch pulley off, the mechanic might use a pry bar to remove it. 
  1. Remove the next snap ring with snap ring pliers and slide the clutch coil (an electromagnet that engages the compressor) off the compressor shaft. 
  1. Install the new clutch and parts in reverse order. First, the clutch coil, then the pulley, and finally, the outer clutch plate with the washer(s). 

Note: If a mechanic installs a scrap clutch from another vehicle, they might reuse the washers and plate from your old clutch. They’ll put all washers back in their original configuration before installing the clutch plate.

Wondering how much a professional would charge to install a new compressor clutch?
Let’s find out.

How Much Does a New A/C Clutch Cost?

A professional AC compressor clutch replacement can cost between $595 and $650, depending on your vehicle model, location, and mechanic’s labor rate

A professional repair shop may recommend that you get an entire compressor replacement — which could cost around $1,100. That’s because a faulty clutch could lead to compressor issues. So, if one’s bad, the other will fail too. 

But if you’re attempting a DIY clutch replacement, you could purchase a new compressor clutch kit for around $45 to $290.

Next, let’s find out if an AC clutch replacement is a repair you can put off or if it’s a ticking time bomb.

Is an A/C Clutch Replacement Urgent?

Yes, you should replace a bad AC clutch as soon as possible. 

If your compressor clutch is seized, the serpentine belt around the AC compressor pulley may wear out, slip off, or even break. In addition to harming your AC system, this can lead to power steering issues, alternator failure, and engine overheating — all of which can compromise your safety.

So, it’s better to swap this small component out instead of waiting for catastrophic damages. 

Still have doubts about the AC clutch replacement?
Let’s get to them next.

4 FAQs about the A/C Clutch

Here are answers to common questions about an AC compressor clutch: 

1. What Is an A/C Compressor Clutch?

The AC clutch activates the compressor which regulates refrigerant flow to the AC system.

Here’s how:

2. Why Does an A/C Clutch Fail?

Here are some of the root causes behind AC clutch failure:

  1. Wear and tear due to debris, moisture, heat, or oil contamination can damage the friction material.
  2. The compressor clutch bearing assembly can wear out. 
  3. Improper belts, brackets, and tensioner installations can increase stress on the clutch assembly. 

3. What Are the Signs of A/C Clutch Failure?

When you have a failing AC clutch, you’ll notice:

  1. Reduced or no cooling since the AC clutch doesn’t engage the compressor.
  2. Grinding or rattling noises from the AC compressor when you turn on the air conditioning.
  3. AC compressor pulley feels loose or gritty when you remove the v-belt. 
  4. Burnt plastic or corroded wire terminals around the AC clutch.

4. How Can You Prevent A/C Clutch Issues?

Follow these tips to keep your AC clutch in good shape:

  1. Get a mechanic to clean dirt or contaminants off the clutch assembly components before you get AC or engine service.
  2. Stick to the recommended air conditioning maintenance schedule. This will include checking and lubricating the AC compressor clutch (and wiring). 
  3. Monitor and maintain refrigerant levels as per the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
  4. Avoid excessive air conditioner use in extreme weather conditions to reduce wear.

Resolve A/C Clutch Issues with AutoNation Mobile Service

AC compressor clutch issues can leave you soaked in sweat or, worse, with a broken serpentine belt — inviting expensive engine damage. So, it’s best not to risk driving with a faulty AC clutch.

Instead, let AutoNation Mobile Service come to you!
We’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance company that offers transparent pricing,  comprehensive care, and a 12-month, 12,000-mile repair warranty

Contact us to have a clutch or an entire compressor replacement done right from your driveway!