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Old 05-03-2009, 02:31 PM   #1
JerryHughes
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1997 SL
Default Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Hey,

Well, I think I have been making some wrong assumptions on one way to tell that your A/C compressor's clutch has gone bad. When my old clutch went bad I assumed that the gap at the clutch was not uniform, pulling "in" towards the compressor where the three securing bolts were on the clutch plate. (Please see following video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FRyIqSOAVE

But today I went to the junk yard, looking for a replacement compressor and the majority of the compressors I saw there had the same clutch appearance as my old. The clutch plate gap on many were also pulled in at the three securing bolts while the area at the edge of the clutch that was not by the bolts was further away from the compressor. In other words, the clutch gap varied as I turned the clutch.

Anyone know if that condition is, in fact, one way of telling that your clutch is either about to go bad or is bad? I thought that that gap was supposed to be uniform, all the way around the clutch plate. And on a 97 SL does anyone know what the gap is supposed to be? While looking for a "good" compressor at the junk yard, I'll bring my spark plug feeler gage to measure it. (For some reason I thought it was supposed to be at least .018" ???)

Thanks for any info.
Jerry

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Old 05-03-2009, 02:51 PM   #2
1994Saturn
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1994 SL1
Happy Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

I just went out and looked at my 94 Sl2 with A/C, and the space is perfect, even while turning it. So in other words, the gap is uniform, all the way around the clutch plate...

...
Current:
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Old 05-03-2009, 02:54 PM   #3
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Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1994Saturn View Post
I just went out and looked at my 94 Sl2 with A/C, and the space is perfect, even while turning it. So in other words, the gap is uniform, all the way around the clutch plate...
Thanks for checking, 1994Saturn!

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Old 05-03-2009, 03:15 PM   #4
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Happy Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Here is a video.


...
Current:
1998 SL2 Auto issues 112K
1995 Eagle Vision 3.5L TSI 117K
Past:
98 SL1 254k miles Valves Burnt.
94 SL2 125K miles Diff Pin Blew!
94 SL1 Sold @134K.

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Old 05-03-2009, 03:46 PM   #5
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

The clutch gap and wear distance has hardly anything to do with when a clutch wears out. Its one of the least issues to worry about. In other words, have you or anyone ever read anywhere of the clutch wearing away sufficiently to stop the compressor from working? If so, please post a link. Its more likely that the clutch coil burns out by excessive heat or a short that blows the internal fuse that renders a clutch inoperable. A member here was able to determine that his clutch coil opened (thermal fuses are not replaceable) and attempted removing this clutch and coil from his compressor with no follow-up posting. Most likely because this is not a normal replacement procedure for the DIYer, requiring special clutch pullers. A one time repair with an expensive clutch puller isn't cost effective. It can be done if the clutch assembly is fully understood as to how its assembled onto the compressor and what's required to remove it otherwise its an exercise in futility resulting in destroying a perfectly good compressor without the proper tools. Disassembling a junk yard compressor was another way to figure out how these go together to find a replacement clutch/coil assembly. All things being the same, most compressor damage results from poor to nonexistent improper repairs when the majority problems can be traced to damage resulting from a leak. I've only read of one clutch coil shorted out with no follow-up, two or three for diode replacement (fuses shorting immediately upon power-up) and no clutches wearing out physically from excessive gap distance. The diode replacement immediately solved those two problems with returning the a/c system back into operation.

Gap distance is established to minimize the travel required as the three 'flexure' straps flex a certain amount to allow the clutch to contact the rotating steel pulley. The center portion of the clutch hub is bolted to the compressor, the clutch is riveted to the three flexure plates and the inner ends of the three flexure plates are riveted to the clutch hub. The clutch is allowed to flex inward/outward from the pulley face it makes contact with. Google an exploded diagram for any auto a/c compressor. Directly behind the pulley is the electric coil that's powered up to attract the clutch and make contact with the pulley. Theoretically, the larger the gap between the clutch and pulley face the higher the magnetic force needed to maintain positive contact. A larger gap may allow clutch slippage and clutch slippage results in wear of the two parts, the clutch and pulley. The majority if not every clutch never wears out throughout a compressor's lifetime. Usually leaks or other issues occur long before a worn out clutch appears.

The video shows a perfect example of a hardly used compressor with gap spacing well within specs. When a clutch is first mated is when the proper spacers are used to set the initial gap. Once set the gap becomes wider as wear rubs away the metal to metal contact from engaging each time the a/c is turned on. As long as there's a small gap there won't be any wear taking place with the a/c off and very little wear takes place when powering up. A non -issue in most cases.

...
*The CPS is the heart of the entire EFI system. No cps = dead EFI system*
*There's more to a/c than just a few cans of refrigerant*
*There's more to brakes than just replacing parts*

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Old 05-03-2009, 04:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1994Saturn View Post
Here is a video.

Man, yours is perfect. Looks like a lot of miles left! Thank you for the video!

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
The clutch gap and wear distance has hardly anything to do with when a clutch wears out. As long as there's a small gap there won't be any wear taking place with the a/c off and very little wear takes place when powering up. A non -issue in most cases.
So even if mine or others I've seen at the junk yard have a clutch plate that has varying distances as the plate is turned, that does not matter? As long at the closest distance (at the three bolts) of the rotating clutch "disc" is within the proper spec distance, it's okay? And yes, I didn't have trouble with my clutch until I ran low on pressure!

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:28 PM   #8
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

If you look at the actual mechanical engineering of compressor clutch design you'll see how simple in design it really is and the simpler the better. Slop in the varying gap from a wobbly clutch plate is a very minor issue as it has nothing to do with actual clutch engagement, the slapping together of clutch to pulley. There will be slight wear as in all clutches until positive physical contact is made and the non-moving clutch is accelerated to pulley speed. The wobbling is just one of the three flex plates being a little stiffer than the other two. A non-issue.

I would be more concerned of the compressor internals than the clutch itself. A simple resistance test with a multimeter to read resistance of the coil is all that's necessary to ensure a clutch coil, not the clutch, is viable.

...
*The CPS is the heart of the entire EFI system. No cps = dead EFI system*
*There's more to a/c than just a few cans of refrigerant*
*There's more to brakes than just replacing parts*

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:31 PM   #9
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1997 SL
Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
If you look at the actual mechanical engineering of compressor clutch design you'll see how simple in design it really is and the simpler the better. Slop in the varying gap from a wobbly clutch plate is a very minor issue as it has nothing to do with actual clutch engagement, the slapping together of clutch to pulley. There will be slight wear as in all clutches until positive physical contact is made and the non-moving clutch is accelerated to pulley speed. The wobbling is just one of the three flex plates being a little stiffer than the other two. A non-issue.
That's good news because now I have all the more compressors to pick from at the junk yard! So when I take my feeler gauge to the junk yard, to make sure the clutch is set at the proper distance, I should measure the closest distance I can find? And would you happen to know what the specs on that distance would be for a SL? Thanks for the info.

Oh, by-the-way, I read your post about the cause of the speedometer needle being "jumpy" and not uniform, etc. and will look into my battery terminals soon. I did, in fact, clean the corrosion off, when I washed the engine a while ago but will go back and see if there is any damage. I'm due for a new battery after the summer anyway.
Jerry

Last edited by JerryHughes; 05-03-2009 at 05:36 PM..

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:47 PM   #10
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Nope, not a clue as I would be more concerned about the internals and whether they're contaminated. My L-series FSM, however, states (to be used as a general guideline only) a gap between 0.012 to 0.024 in.(0.3 - 0.6mm) is measured otherwise shims used to alter the gap. These are just thin washers on the compressor shaft before bolting the clutch plate onto the shaft.

...
*The CPS is the heart of the entire EFI system. No cps = dead EFI system*
*There's more to a/c than just a few cans of refrigerant*
*There's more to brakes than just replacing parts*

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Old 05-03-2009, 05:54 PM   #11
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Default Re: Sign of bad A/C clutch???

Quote:
Originally Posted by fdryer View Post
Nope, not a clue as I would be more concerned about the internals and whether they're contaminated. My L-series FSM, however, states (to be used as a general guideline only) a gap between 0.012 to 0.024 in.(0.3 - 0.6mm) is measured otherwise shims used to alter the gap. These are just thin washers on the compressor shaft before bolting the clutch plate onto the shaft.

I found it a long time ago but haven't been able to find the gap measurements now. I'll keep checking. Thanks for the info!

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