How To Fix A Squeaky Car Air Conditioner

You know something is wrong when you hear a squeaky sound from your car's air conditioner. But what causes it? And how do you fix it? Here is what we discovered after searching the web for answers.

To know how to fix a squeaky car air conditioner properly, you must first diagnose the cause. So when your car's air conditioner produces that kind of noise, it can be because of: 

  • Defective Air Conditioner Compressor Clutch
  • Damaged Air Conditioner Compressor Pulley and Bearing
  • Torn Air Conditioner Belt

Now that we already got that out, let's dive deeper into the causes of the squeaky noise coming from your car's air conditioner. We'll also discuss other noises your car's air conditioner might produce and how to fix them. So stay with us and continue reading!

Car air conditioning unit photographed up close, How To Fix A Squeaky Car Air Conditioner

How To Fix A Squeaky Car Air Conditioner

So now let's jump into how to troubleshoot this problem according to its cause:

  • To fix a defective AC compressor clutch:
    1. Using a wrench, remove the AC belt.
    2. Disconnect the battery and remove the clutch.
    3. Clean up all of the parts you just removed.
    4. Install the new clutch after installing only one spacer on the shaft.
    5. Using a feeler gauge, measure the distance between the clutch and the pulley.
    6. Turn on the air conditioner and check to see if the clutch engages.  
  • To repair an AC compressor pulley and bearing:
    1. Find the AC Compressor.
    2. Remove the compressor clutch and the AC belt.
    3. Experiment with rotating the compressor pulley. If it does not rotate, the problem is with the compressor pulley. The bearing may be faulty if it rotates and creates screeching or knocking noises.
    4. Remove the compressor's pulley.
    5. Replace the compressor pulley (if needed).
    6. Replace the bearing (if needed).
    7. Connect the pulley to the coil.
    8. After installing the new pulley and bearing, rotate it to see if you can hear any screeching noises.
  • To replace a torn AC belt:
    1. Find the AC belt.
    2. Check the type of AC belt your AC has.
    3. With a wrench, unscrew the bolt on the AC belt tensioner.
    4. With your hands, remove the AC belt.
    5. Tighten the AC belt tensioner after installing the replacement belt.
    6. Try out the new air conditioning belt.

What Causes A Car's AC Compressor Clutch To Fail?

You'll know that your AC compressor clutch is defective when you hear a squeaky noise and your AC is not blowing cold air. When you switch on and off the air conditioner, the compressor clutch also turns on and off. The AC compressor clutch to fail is high due to its high engagement.

Car mechanic checking the compressor clutch

Here are some possible reasons why this happened: 

Your Car Has Low AC Refrigerant

One of the causes is low amounts of AC refrigerant. The AC system features sensors that will determine whether the system is properly pressured. The AC clutch will not engage if there is a problem with the pressure.

If you run out of refrigerant, your compressor will have to work twice as hard to cool the air.

The Components Are Worn Out

Bearings, brackets, and tensioners are all part of the AC compressor clutch. Most car owners drive with the air conditioner on practically all the time, putting a strain on the AC clutch.

These components will wear down over time, and the AC compressor clutch will fail. In addition, dust, grease, and moisture build-up on the AC compressor clutch over time, causing it to fail.

Improper Installation Of Parts

An improper installation has always been a great bane regarding HVACs. That is why it is recommended that you hire a professional to install your HVACs, especially if you lack the technical know-how. A simple uninstalled or improperly installed bolt can lead to a world of problems.

What Triggers Pulley and Bearing Damage in Car Air Conditioners?

When the engine is operating, the AC compressor pulley is linked by a drive belt and turns at all times. The AC compressor shaft does not rotate, but the pulley does. When you turn on the air conditioner, the compressor shaft revolves.

Crankshaft pulley in the engine

This part can wear down over time and generate screeching noises because it rotates all the time when the engine is turned on. Here are some factors that can contribute to the premature failure of this part: 

Too Much Heat

Heat is the number one enemy of all automotive air conditioning components. While the AC compressor pulley rotates with the bearing, it generates excessive heat causing damage to the pulley and bearing seal.

The revolution generates heat that can exceed 1,200 °F. This heat will dry out the grease in the bearing, which will result in a squealing noise.

There Is A Refrigerant Leak

The refrigerant would leak if the AC refrigerant lines were broken. There is another issue in addition to the low refrigerant level. The compressor will work twice as hard to compensate for the low refrigerant level, generating even more heat.

The Compressor Shaft Seal Is Leaking

When the seal on the compressor shaft fails, it spills into the bearing grease, contaminating it. Bearing grease and shaft seal grease have different characteristics.

The grease inside the bearing would be unable to lubricate the bearing as it should, resulting in failure.

Worn out parts due to use

The AC compressor, like other spinning parts, wears down and stops working properly. The bearing is the same way. The seal they have inside may dry out with time, resulting in squeaking noises.

What Are The Sign Of A Broken AC Belt?

When you switch on your air conditioner, the compressor clutch engages, and the compressor pulley and bearing rotate. This increases the tension on the AC belt, which can crack or even break over time.

Up close image of car air conditioning unit

The following are the most noticeable symptoms that your air conditioning belt is failing:

Produces Squeaking Noise When Turned On

This is the most common symptom that your air conditioner belt is deteriorating. You might hear a squealing noise as soon as you turn on your air conditioner.

The belt could be screeching because it is unfastened or if water or oil gets on it. The belt squeals in most situations because it is highly worn and can't gain enough grip to rotate the pulley.

There Are Many Cracks In The AC Belt

The AC belt heats up as it spins, and we all know how bad heat is for AC components. The AC belt begins to crack over time as a result of the heat and dryness. You can visually inspect your AC belt to see whether it has cracks.

If this is the case, you should replace it right away.

Worn Car AC Belt

This is a clear indication. If your AC belt is broken when you open the hood, you'll need to replace it. The air conditioner will not operate without the AC belt.

What Are Other Noises That A Car AC Might Produce? 

Up close photo of a car steering wheel and the car air conditioning unit

Aside from squeaking, here are some other noises your car air conditioner might make, what causes them, and what you need to do: 

Hissing Noise

A valve or tube separates the two sides of your car's air conditioning system. These sides have either a high or low pressure of the refrigerant. When you shut off your car, the refrigerant from the high-pressure side leaks into the low-pressure side, resulting in a hissing sound.

Buzzing Noise

A buzzing sound indicates that your AC compressor is starting to fail. This usually indicates overcharging in the system, which means that there is too much refrigerant in the system. When this happens, too much liquid refrigerant enters the compressor intake port, causing it to vibrate.

The first step should be to remove the extra refrigerant. As much as possible, avoid replacing the compressor because it is so expensive

Rattling Noise

There could be various concerns if you hear a continual rattling when you turn on your air conditioner. It could indicate that:

  • a compressor is failing, or
  • the serpentine belt or compressor pulley is wearing out.

If the compressor clutch begins to wear out, it may make a rattling sound under certain conditions. Because the compressor clutch wears down more frequently than other sections of the AC system, have a professional evaluate the system to see whether this is the problem.

Clicking And Knocking Noises

If the mounting nuts that keep AC components in place are too loose, or if the compressor is in terrible health internally, knocking and clicking noises can develop.

If the cause of the noise is an external issue, tightening the bolts and using a thread-locking compound should solve the problem. It's a relatively straightforward and inexpensive remedy.

In Conclusion

Car air conditioning unit photographed up close

To give the proper repair method for your squeaking car AC needs, you must first correctly diagnose its cause. Your best choice is to let a professional handle this problem, especially if it involves your car's AC compressor. 

Before you leave, if you want to know how to stay warm in your car during your sleep, you can check out this article: "How To Stay Warm Sleeping In A Car."

And if you're wondering if it's normal for your car to leak water, you can check out this article to learn more: "Should My Car Air Conditioner Be Leaking Water?"

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