AC Clutch Replacement in Five Steps

What You'll Need
New air compressor
Refrigerant recovery machine

The air conditioner clutch in a car can break fairly often, so it is important for you to know as much as you can about AC clutch replacement. The air conditioner clutch is made of two circular iron friction plates, one attached to the engine with a drive belt so that it constantly spins as long as the engine is running, and another attached to the rotor that powers the air conditioner. There is an electromagnet near the two friction plates, and when it is activated it produces a magnetic field that magnetizes them, pulling them towards each other. While they are pressed tightly together, the plate attached to the engine can turn the plate attached to the air conditioner, which turns the air conditioner on. The following set of step by step instructions will give you all the information you need to replace the AC clutch in your car.

Step 1: Buy a New Compressor

To replace the electric clutch in any air conditioning system, the whole air compressor needs to be replaced. Find out what kind of air compressors are compatible with your vehicle and buy a replacement.

Step 2: Get Access to the Compressor

Open the hood and allow the engine to cool completely before you start working on the car. Disconnect the battery by first removing the black negative cable, then the red positive cable. Identify the air compressor; the clutch is located inside of it.

Step 3: Remove R134-a From the System

R134-a is a chemical similar to Freon that must be removed from the air conditioner system before the hoses can be unhooked. It is dangerous if touched or inhaled, so you will have to use a refrigerant recovery machine to get it out. If you don't have access to such a machine, take your car to an air conditioning mechanic to have the R134-a removed.

Step 4: Remove Air Compressor

Unhook any hoses attached to the air conditioning or heating system, as well as the wire that leads to the electromagnet in the AC clutch. If there are any other restraints that keep the air compressor in place, remove them. Take out the compressor and inspect it for damage.

Step 5: Install the New Clutch

Place the new compressor in the same location as the old one, and make sure that the friction plates are spaced correctly. Reconnect the hoses and wires in the same way that they were attached to the old compressor. Reconnect the car battery and start the car to make sure the new clutch is working properly. When you turn the A/C on, the fan behind the grate should be blowing and the friction plates should be pressed together and turning.

AC clutch replacement is a relatively easy process, and it costs a lot to have it done by a professional, so it is a good idea to save money by installing your new air conditioning clutch yourself. A worn out AC clutch can have a noticeable negative impact on the life and efficiency of your vehicle's entire air conditioning system.