Air Conditioning Clutch and Compressor

Climate Control


The air conditioning (A/C) electro-magnetic clutch mounts to the front of the air conditioning compressor and electrically engages and disengages according to commands from the A/C system. Compressor designs may vary from one manufacturer to the next as to internal design and components. The A/C system is divided into two sides: high-pressure and low-pressure. The low-pressure side connects to the inlet of the compressor and the high-pressure side connects to the outlet, or discharge, of the compressor.


Upon command, the A/C clutch energizes and locks the clutch to the compressor. Once engaged, a serpentine belt or V-belt from the engine drives the A/C compressor. The compressor's main job is to pump refrigerant through the system so it can remove heat from the interior of the vehicle. Circulation of refrigerant also provides a secondary benefit -- it moves refrigerant oil throughout the system, providing lubrication to key parts of the system.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions

Symptoms of a bad compressor or compressor clutch include poor or no cooling, and a noisy or seized compressor. Have your vehicle's air conditioning system checked yearly by a professional technician. The A/C system also operates when the climate control system is in the defroster mode to remove moisture from the interior, so A/C is more than a summertime creature comfort. Operating an A/C system low on refrigerant not only results in poor cooling, it can also damage the system due to poor lubrication flow. Make sure that the technician servicing your car uses the correct refrigerant and refrigerant oil. Use of the wrong refrigerant or oil can reduce system performance or even cause damage.

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