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Old 12-25-2012, 01:49 PM   #1
2003vue
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Default AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

My Vue has a small front engine oil leak which I believe is from the AC compressor. It is a light weight oil that evaporates in a few days. It is not engine oil.

Until I fix it:
If the compressor loses all of its oil, could the compressor seize up and its drive pulley lock up against the serpentine belt? Or, if I leave the AC switched off, will the pulley continue to free rotate in neutral?

Thanks for all help.
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Old 12-25-2012, 02:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Search this (Vue) forum for pics of compressors inadvertently shown with the underside displaying compressor oil leaks along with greenish yellow dye as a tell tale. Dye will glow with a small uv light. If this is from the compressor then you have time to decide on what to do. Leaks have been shown to come from a rear diamond shaped cover on the compressor.

The compressor idler pulley/clutch assembly is always free running when the a/c system isn't used. In other words, the a/c compressor pulley will be fine and is not affected by any refrigerant leak. Its designed as an idler pulley, the same as the belt tensioner pulley; both are idler pulleys. When a/c cooling is needed the a/c idler pulley/clutch will power up and engage the compressor. Powered off, the pulley continues to operate as an idler to allow the belt to run as if the compressor were never there. If you feel it necessary to disable the compressor from running then you can simply disconnect the power right on the compressor. This will prevent the a/c system from running even when defrost used in cold weather; above 40F the defroster will turn on the a/c system to help with window fogging. Disconnecting power at the compressor will allow the HVAC system to operate but without any a/c use. You can decide on when to fix any leak of the a/c system.

If this is the first signs of a compressor oil leak then you may have caught it early and no harm is done. Leaks of compressor oil is always accompanied with refrigerant that evaporates immediately, leaving oil and dye as markers. Lose enough refrigerant and a/c cooling is lost - at this point the a/c system will disable itself to prevent the compressor from running. If your a/c system still cools then you're at the beginning of a/c troubles. Disconnecting the power wire(s) to the compressor will minimize/halt any a/c use until repairs are done.

The compressor idler pulley will continue to work even if all the compressor oil and refrigerant is lost.
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Old 12-25-2012, 03:55 PM   #3
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Oil does not evaporate.

What colour is the leaking fluid?
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Old 12-25-2012, 04:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Thanks to Fdryer & Ssicarman for quick replies.
The fluid is yellow, similar color to new motor oil. But it evaporates down to a sticky residue, so it seems like an alcohol. I thought the brake caliper might be leaking but I have no loss from the brake master cylinder, and the brakes operate okay.
I do see some minor dampness around the AC compressor.
Could I be leaking AC refrigerant instead of compressor oil?
Thanks
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Old 12-25-2012, 04:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

What color is your coolant? If coolant is yellow then this may be a leak from hoses/water pump, whatever. Perhaps cleaning off the area completely and then see what leaks will help.

R134a is normally a gas and colorless/odorless. A/c systems are sealed with pressures mimicking outside temperatures when not used. Under higher pressure, when operating, its a liquid with oil and dye circulating throughout. Anywhere on the a/c system is a candidate for a leak to begin. The lowest pressure may be around 50 psi while highest pressures can exceed 250 psi in HOT and HUMID weather when a/c is used.

Liquids used in our cars; transmission, engine, compressor, power steering, brake oil. Each oil has its own color.
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Old 12-25-2012, 06:34 PM   #6
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

My 03 had a similar problem. It was the water pump.

Changing a water pump in the V6 (L81) engine is somewhat involved. You have to take a lot of parts off the engine to get down that far.

If you have not done the 100,000 service, this would be a good time. Change the timing belt, plugs, gasket covers, and the water pump.
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Thanks to all. I will clean off engine and dig deeper a few days after Christmas. A water/coolant leak sounds more likely since the liquid does semi-evaporate in the drain pan that is catching it right now.
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Old 12-31-2012, 04:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

I had the same experience, my AC compressor was leaking a fine oil and was not working properly. I found out when I went to have the timing belt replaced at a shop. However, once they completed the timing belt I decided to wait to replace the AC unit. I drove home and the next day my engine made a horrible noise when I started it so I shut it off and called the shop. They showed up at my home with their tow truck and told me "oh yea, your AC siezed and it caused the timing belt to tear apart". Well long story short, they had to remachine the head, install a new valve and put a new AC compressor on. Total cost $3600...I tild them I would pay for the AC compressor but the rest is on them. There is no way for an AC compressor siezing up to cause the serpentine belt to lock up and cause the timing belt to rip apart. At least that is my opinion from what I know about...am I wrong?
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Old 12-31-2012, 05:36 PM   #9
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cw2899 View Post
....... There is no way for an AC compressor siezing up to cause the serpentine belt to lock up and cause the timing belt to rip apart. At least that is my opinion from what I know about...am I wrong?
You are absolutely right! The a/c compressor is driven by the serpentine belt that's visible and drives the water pump, power steering pump, and alternator. The timing belt is buried behind the cam cover (pressed sheet steel) and only drives the four camshafts, idlers and tensioner - absolutely nothing to do with the a/c compressor or serpentine belt. If the timing belt broke there's a good chance for valves to crash into pistons and thoroughly ruin your day with a major repair bill. The serpentine belt has no timing references and drives the accessory items; if it were to break then you lose power steering immediately while driving and if this is ignored then the battery light will turn on immediately - all electrical demands are being used to drain the battery since the alternator no longer supplies all the electrical needs of the car. This would be obvious on the instrument panel/steering wheel feel. The screeching may be an oversight if the serp belt/tensioner wasn't replaced or someone allowed some oil/grease to coat part of the belt. A/c oil leaking out from the compressor can soak into the belt and cause squealing but not wreck an engine unless it was a major rupture spewing oil all over the engine. Dye would be spewed out and be visible as it glows in the shade and more so with a uv light. Seen any greenish yellow dye stains anywhere?

Is there a possibility that this shop is trying to pad the bill for work not done? How is it possible to drive away from the shop after a timing belt replacement, all the way home without any incident and then suddenly the next day major issues? Maybe this shop didn't do all the work correctly the first time and is trying to blame the leaking a/c compressor for more damage? Why didn't they see this from the beginning? Any major work requiring timing belt replacement usually opens a can of worms as things are removed and if there are more issues than a timing belt a shop would usually call you in to see and verify additional issues while removing things. Not after a full repair was done and then saying the compressor was the fault and attempting to pass another bill to you...........................
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Last edited by fdryer; 12-31-2012 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 01-24-2013, 04:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Yea, the problem started actually from the moment I started the car at the shop actually. I a noise (rattle) that I never ever had, so I shut off the vehicle and asked them about it. They said "oh yea, the ac compressor is making noise". To me this was odd as it never did this and I told them it did not sound like the compressor but like the timing belt was not under tension. I know a bit about cars (restored a few in my life). So I was worried driving home but all seemed ok. But the next morning all heck broke loose when I started it up. I spoke to a ex-saturn mechanic and he sid they probably did not installl the tensioner properly. well, now I also have a slight ratlle at low speed from behind the dash area and some mornings when I start up there is a loud valve noise (like when lifters used to not get enough oil).
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Old 01-24-2013, 05:54 PM   #11
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Default Re: AC compressor oil leak = compressor seize?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cw2899 View Post
Yea, the problem started actually from the moment I started the car at the shop actually. I a noise (rattle) that I never ever had, so I shut off the vehicle and asked them about it. They said "oh yea, the ac compressor is making noise". To me this was odd as it never did this and I told them it did not sound like the compressor but like the timing belt was not under tension. I know a bit about cars (restored a few in my life). So I was worried driving home but all seemed ok. But the next morning all heck broke loose when I started it up. I spoke to a ex-saturn mechanic and he sid they probably did not installl the tensioner properly. well, now I also have a slight ratlle at low speed from behind the dash area and some mornings when I start up there is a loud valve noise (like when lifters used to not get enough oil).
Does the 3.0L have the same grenade pin that the 3.5L tensioner has? In the 3.5L you have to remember to remove your drill bit/nail/etc that you used to restrain the tensioner while timing the engine. When you remove it, the tensioner takes up slack. I wonder if they could have forgotten to pull the pin.

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