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A/C Doesn’t work then belt begins to squeal and creates burnt rubber smell. Compressor?

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  • #442783

      I get into my car today and I start it up and turn the a/c on. I drive off and the a/c doesn’t get cold after driving it for a few minutes, but I assume that’s because it’s simply too hot outside (108 today here in Bakersfield, CA) but as i drive around more and more i begin to notice that the car makes a strange sucking sound as I accelerate that it has never made before, (the a/c STILL isn’t cold at this point, and i’m about 20 min into my drive) and as I pull away from a stop sign, I hear a strange squeal and the smell of burning rubber comes through the vents. Immediately I assume that the compressor is seized up and I turn the a/c off. Does anyone here have any idea what this could be? I’d like to know what you guys think it may be before I take it to my mechanic to get repaired. Oh and I recently had the a/c charged about 3 or 4 months ago.

      (By the way car of reference is a 1990 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with 80,000 original miles w/ the 3800 V6)

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    • #442784

        Welcome to the forums!

        I would recommend running the vehicle and doing a visual inspection of the A/C compressor and belt. You may indeed have an issue with the compressor or clutch that is seized. On most vehicles, if the clutch is the issue, it can be replaced.

        I would start there first.

        Keep us posted.


          Thanks! And alright, I will do that. I’ll turn the car on and take a look at the compressor and belts and observe what it’s doing.

          I’ll keep everyone posted here. Thanks for the advice!


            Okay, well I did what dreamer2335 suggested and turned the car and a/c on and observed the compressor. The compressor moved freely, however it did not come on and off like a normal compressor does, so I have concluded that the compressor needs to be replaced. With the belt looking strange, (obvious sign of some sort of distress) and its not functioning properly it’s the only conclusion I can come to. I have all of the service records for the car and the compressor in this car has never been replaced from what I can tell. I’d say it did a pretty good job lasting 22+ years in the Bakersfield heat. Anyway the compressor will be replaced by my mechanic sometime next week. Thanks again for the help.

            John B KobberstadJohn B Kobberstad

              Does the belt run freely when the compressor is not on? If not then you probably need a new clutch bearing. If the belt does not turn the pulley when the A/C is turned on and the compressor clutch is engaged then the compressor has seized and needs to be replaced. If this is the case the whole system needs to be flushed and cleaned and checked to see that the compressor debris has not clogged any of the passageways through the system. This failure of the compressor is known as a catastrophic failure and requires a system cleaning and inspection. The clutch may still be good and you may be able to get away with just a new compressor and reuse the old clutch. I would get a new clutch if it were me. Also I’m assuming that this is an R 12 system and has not been converted so you will probably have to have it converted so make sure your mechanic knows what he’s doing and uses the proper oil that matches what comes in the new compressor.

              EricTheCarGuy 1EricTheCarGuy

                I agree that it’s a good possibility that the compressor is bad based on your description however keep in mind that if it did go bad it could have filled the system with debris so the system may need to be flushed out in addition to replacing the orifice tube when a new compressor is installed. Compressor replacement can get expensive so be prepared just in case. It could also just be a faulty compressor clutch which would be much less expensive to replace.


                  Upon further inspection before taking it to my mechanic this morning I saw that the compressor does not move freely all the time. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m pretty sure that the compressor itself threw a bearing which resulted in the belt grinding around the compressor “wheel” (whatever you want to call it) which resulted in it burning and creating that burnt smell. I’m just glad no damage was done to my engine as it looks like the belt tweaked the compressor a bit causing it to lean a little. Anyway, I dropped it off at my mechanic this morning and it should be repaired within the next day or two. I will post here when the repair is completed to let you guys know. Thanks again!

                  college mancollege man

                    keep us posted

                    John B KobberstadJohn B Kobberstad

                      The pulley which the belt goes around has a bearing in it and it is turned all the time by the belt. When the A/C is turned on the clutch plate is drawn into the bearing and clutch assembly by an electromagnet which is mounted on the compressor shaft. That in turn turns the compressor shaft to make the pump work. There are probably other bearings in the compressor but the main bearing for the belt is in the clutch assembly.


                        Just wanted to let you guys know that I got my car back today. My mechanic (which also happens to be a good friend of mine) told me that it was indeed the compressor and that when it malfunctioned it got a bunch of small metal pieces within the a/c lines. Said it was pretty gnarly to get out of there but he succeeded. Now I have a brand new compressor and my air is blowing cold as ever. He said that everything should be fine and if it begins to not get cold again, he said bring it back to him because there might be some leaks in the lines. Anyway, I’m happy and glad that it’s repaired (even though it came out to be just a little over $800) (ouch)

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