1997 Cavilier Squealing Air Conditioner



Hi there

My air conditoner in my 1997 Cavilier is squealing whenever I turn it on, goes away after I shut it off. I am hoping this is just needing a new belt.

My car is getting cooled and I have an appt tomorrow to have it looked into. Just want to make sure I don’t get taken to the cleaners. I have health problems so I need air conditioning especially since it feels like 100 here in Iowa.

Thanks for any answers.

I am the only and one owner of my car and it has 35,000 miles on it.


Where is this bearing you mentioned located and is that costly?


The squealing is from the clutch plate which is turning all the time via the belt. The clutch plate engages when you turn the AC on which turns the compressor.
If the bearings are cause of squeal, you can prolong the life by adding a lubricant, but eventually the bearing will fail. If the AC is not working, providing cold air I suggest to replace the belt and bypass the AC all together.
If the AC still provides cold air, you have to decide how long and how often adding lubrication you want to deal with.
When the squealing occurs while running the AC, then it’s time to bypass. I have seen where the clutch plate freezes up preventing the engine from turning.
Also, installing a belt which bypasses the AC is far less $$ than having someone remove the compressor. You are charged for the removal of the refrigerant as well.


How old is the serpentine belt? When I got my 93 Caprice in 2002 the original belt was 9 years old and in bad shape. When I turned on the AC, it made all sorts of unpleasant noises. A new belt and the AC was fine after that. I replace the serpentine belts on my cars every 3 or 4 years regardless of mileage.

Good luck,

Ed B.


They replaced a belt this Feb or March. I am hoping it is a bad belt? They mentioned something about the fan for the radiator possibly not working and that would make the air conditioning work harder. But I am not showing hot on my indicator and I am still getting cool air at this point. The squealing gets louder and softer as it runs but does not quit. Also if you get new bearing(s) shouldn’t you just get a new unit altogether? I can’t afford a new car and I have knowen this car almost since it was “born”. The only car I could afford is used and I have seen too many people trade 1 sort of trouble for another when they buy used. My car sits in the garage at least 4-5 days a week. Would that cause the belt(s) to crack sooner since they are doing nothing. USe it or loose therory?


Okay, I have no clue how to unplug anything other, than check the oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze checking. Oh and the tire pressure. The service station I take this to at 8 AM should try that right? Should I suggest it or think they know enough to do this? GRanted this service station is known to be honest,(but I have seem so many showes where places actually break things and then charge you to repair them.)Should I have my Dad meet me there? (my husbanded passed a few years ago).
Thanks again.


If the belt is only a few months old, it is probably fine. The poster who referred to the compressor clutch seems to be on the mark. Even with the low miles the car is 10 years old and parts do wear out or fail. If the repair estimate is high, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

Good luck,

Ed B.

Ed B.


Yes, the shop should be able to locate the source of the squeak without much trouble. It is most likely to be the belt, but as others have said it could be a compressor bearing. If they tell you it’s anything more complex (and expensive), you may want to have someone who’s familiar with auto repairs talk to them on the phone and make sure it’s legitimate,


If the belt is squealing then you have one of two possible problems.

First… it could be the compressor clutch bearing that is failing.

Second… the compressor itself is seizing causing the belt to squeal.

You are doing the right thing in having it checked out. The clutch bearing is not that expensive of a repair and can be done without opening the system. The compressor on the other hand is not a easy or inexpensive repair. Someone with experience in A/C repair needs to perform a compressor replacement.

By the way you would be smart to ignore any of STARs advice as he has no knowledge of automotive A/C repair.


Exactly how many bearings do you think are in a automotive A/C application?


I was hoping the Star problem was taken care of; guess not. Ignore him.

Hopefully the belt is the problem. If that’s the original belt on there that is more than likely the cause.

Also make sure the cooling fan on the radiator is running when the A/C is on. If the fan is inoperative the high side pressure can climb a bit too much and cause the belt to slip.


There is no air handler or dampners in a automotive application.


Hi Lorrie, I myself have a 1995 chevy cavalier that has had the exact same problem that you described. The other posts are correct in saying it is the clutch plate on the air compressor. Mine started doing this after driving in heavy rain one day but only when I turned it on. Being a backyard mechanic the last 20 years here is what I did. I removed the passenger tire and the entire plastic wheel well shield just to gain access and to see the compressor. I released the tensioner on the serpentine belt and just took off the belt. Now with the compressor able to spin freely I sprayed some white lithium grease in between the clutch plate and housing. Awesome and no more noise. Just trying to help you…Greg