Can You Replace Just The Clutch On An AC Compressor? Should You?

Your AC compressor's clutch is vital to your vehicle's air conditioning system. That's why when it breaks off, you wonder if it's fine to only replace it or if it requires replacing the whole AC compressor. Wonder no more! We researched this topic thoroughly to help you bring the answer you seek. 

You can only replace the clutch without removing the entire AC compressor system. However, some automotive parts centers only sell an AC compressor set with clutch.

You should take that into account because it might still require you to replace the whole system. Besides, replacing only your clutch is fine as long as you find a spare clutch before the replacement period.

The AC compressor's clutch serves a critical role in the operation of your car's AC compressor system. Don't just skip yet! We will continue to tackle some other vital queries in this regard. The causes why AC compressor clutches fail and what this means to your car engines, all of this information waiting for you below. So keep reading!

How Does An AC Compressor Clutch Function?

close-mechanics-hand-that-giving-special, Can You Replace Just The Clutch On An AC Compressor? Should You?

An AC compressor clutch enables the pump to freewheel within a compressor when the air conditioner is off. The compressor clutch receives a signal electrically when the AC compressor kicks on. This result energizes the coil, engaging the clutch to connect the pulley to the pump through a drive belt.

Your vehicle's air conditioning system consists of four main components, these include the following:

  • Condenser
  • Evaporator
  • Compressor
  • Receiver/dryer

What Causes An AC Compressor Clutch To Fail?

The clutch in the AC compressor is a mechanical part that pumps and pressurizes the refrigerant gas into the entire AC system. It functions almost constantly when you start your car's air conditioner. Over time, it is subject to all sorts of deterioration, and it's inevitable to prevent failure throughout its service life.

Here are the common causes of a faulty car clutch:

Freon Is At A Critical Level

Your air conditioner will unavoidably leak its freon if the tubes carrying the refrigerant break or develop a hole. Your fluid will eventually freeze up since the compressor is stressed.

This will cause the compressor to work harder to push the necessary freon through the system to chill your space. If the freon gets critically low due to leaking, the compressor clutch may eventually malfunction because of the strain.


Not Following The Right Recharging Guidelines

This is usually the result of a lack of knowledge in recharging the freon in your car's AC system. The average car can contain between 28 and 32 ounces of freon.

This is roughly two to three 12-ounce cans, but bigger vehicles and those with rear air conditioning can probably carry more. You can refer to your user manual to get an accurate amount of freon recharge in your vehicle's AC system.

Parts Like Hub, Pulley, And Coil Are All Blown Up

An insufficient voltage being provided to the coil, hub, or pulley could result in a clutch breakdown in the AC compressor. The interior AC component will overheat from consuming too much power, which will cause the clutch to slide away against the pulley.

Slipping can result in a clutch fracture if the compressor lacks lubrication or is overworked under extremely hot conditions. Damage occurs quickly and is probably too late before you even know it.

Severely Dirty Coils

Dust and filth will accumulate on the condenser coil every time you drive your car and use its air conditioner. The air conditioner can no longer remove heat from the system and chill your car when enough grime accumulates.

The compressor could overheat and stop working as a result of excessive pressure and temperature. Cleaning the coils in your car's AC compressor annually or twice a year will avoid this occurrence.

Recharging Not Ideal Kind Of Freon

In most servicing centers, this can be avoided easily, however, if you opt to recharge your freon yourself, you must ensure to use the ideal freon only.

Presently, an R-134a, a Suva-based, is technically not a freon, but it is the new replacement for R-12. Remember, this new freon replacement will require you to clean your coils annually or semi-annual for better performance.

Improper Suction And Discharge Pipe Size

This issue might be straightforward yet quite serious. A sudden car AC compressor failure can occur from a line that is not within its standard size. Having a standard size suction pipe will ensure it provides an ideal pressure drop.

It is standard practice to size the suction and discharge pipe so that the total pressure drop is properly served.

What Else Should I Replace When Replacing The AC Compressor?

Besides always recharging the latest standard freon for today's car AC system consumption. You will maybe need to at least repair or replace the following components:

  • Receiver drier
  • Expansion valve
  • Compressor assembly and clutch

close-mechanics-hand-that-giving-special, Can You Replace Just The Clutch On An AC Compressor? Should You?

If somehow you're still using the type R-12 freon, your system needs to be flushed. We advise having a professional examine your car to determine whether any additional parts need further evaluation and replacement.

How Do You Tell If The AC Compressor Is Bad?

The clutch that connects to your compressor pulley should engage when you turn on the air conditioning. When checking your compressor's condition, you'll see the clutch looks like a disk next to the pulley's front.

The clutch will not spin when the AC is off. Furthermore, you'll hear a "click" sound when you switch on the AC before the belt and pulley begin to spin.

In this case, your compressor needs thorough maintenance, if the clutch fails to engage or if either a grinding or squealing sound is present.

Is It Ok To Drive My Car With A Bad AC Compressor Clutch?

In essence, there's no good impact driving your car with a bad AC compressor clutch. This will certainly create a negative effect on the engine. The AC compressor clutch's operation is the only concern to watch out for.

Driving with a damaged AC clutch causes the belt to create friction across the AC pulley until it tears and ceases up completely. This could seriously harm the other parts of the system and cause the engine to stop right away.

Because of this, we highly suggest you fix this first by your mechanic before driving your car again.

How Long Does A Car AC Compressor Last?

Your car's air conditioning compressor plays a vital purpose in circulating the system's freon between the evaporator and condenser coils. Since it is constantly exposed to extreme heat, you can expect it to survive eight and ten years on average.

Some drivers will claim that they won't ever need to replace their AC compressor because this figure represents the vehicle's lifespan. Of course, as we just discussed, the age and usage of an AC compressor will affect how long it lasts. It is undoubtedly challenging to predict with any degree of accuracy how long an AC compressor will survive.

The following factors can significantly affect your car's AC compressor:

  • Frequency of operation
  • Compressor's cycle age
  • Applying proper regular maintenance

How Much Does Replacing The AC Compressor Clutch In The Car Cost?


Knowing the possible expenses for a car AC compressor clutch replacement will help you weigh your budget and prepare for it. Given that most AC repairs are relatively expensive, even so, it is essential to have it fixed.

The total replacement cost will always vary on the type of car that you're using. Nonetheless, the set for AC compressor with clutch replacement alone will cost around $500-$700. Including the labor, the charges will go up to $228-$289.

Get this AC compressor replacement kit on Amazon.

To Wrap Things Up


Be mindful of deciding when to replace both your clutch and AC compressor systems. Don't forget to consider taking into account the other factors that may affect the entire performance of your air conditioning.

It is always a great idea to replace both the clutch and AC compressor at the same time during repair, especially if your AC compressor is notably too old and a loss of its efficiency is practically demands to replace it. We hope that you can now set off and drive again safely and comfortably with your fully functional AC compressor clutch.

If you want to learn more relating to this post, kindly visit our other article below!

Can A Car AC Compressor Leak Freon?

Car AC Works In Back But Not Front – What To Do?

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