98 Accord AC died and left burnt chemical smell in it's wake

any ideas what happened?

my first thought is - the freon leaked out

Not much detail to go on but some possibilities could be:

Major leak and what you’re smelling is refrigerant oil. (Freon is a misnomer. It’s actually refrigerant.)

Leak leading to refrigerant oil being sprayed onto a hot engine part and the oil burning.

Overheated compressor due to loss of refrigerant oil. (Generally due to a leak.)

Burning belt due to age/slippage or from a compressor clutch trying (or did) seize, a tensioner pulley trying to seize, etc.

In most cases the belt scenario is the comparatively cheap fix. Everything else often runs into more serious money. Hope that helps.

thanks. is there anything I could easily test myself to gain any insight into the problem?

The bad news–probably not.

The good news–it’s almost November!

mliech - LOL!!!

sweatyk, There are a couple of things.

The drive belt is shared with the alternator, so unless you’re getting horrible sounds under the hood and/or the battery light is on, the belt should be OK to drive with.

The other thing to check is the refrigerant pressure. Locate the low-side service port under the hood. It should have a black cap. The high side should have a larger red cap. Take a small screwdriver and just depress the valve slightly for a quick shot test. If the release is strong, the refrigerant levels may be decent and the compressor is most likely shot. If the release is weak or not at all, you have a big leak somewhere and the compressor may be OK.

After that, it is off to the shop to do the rest. A/C work is highly specialized and requires expensive equipment to do a good job.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t find the area you described but I did see black “stuff” that looks like it melted and resolidified into a crispy substance sprayed all around the alternator belt both inside and out. The belt seems to be running smoothly and I do notice that the engine revs up when I turn the AC on.

In case you don’t read the hamster comment I posted. I am a homeowner who bought a home{we absolutely loved} that stunk of animal waste, so this comment is addressing the odor, assuming the car specialists have found the source. Zero Odor 800-526-2967 or ZeroOdor.com. If your nose is as good as mine you won’t leave home without it. And I have no affiliation with the product except that I have sprayed only once and the stench was solved.

took it to the shop andthe mechanic believes the compressor clutch melted. the question is- should I replace the cluth only or the entire compressor unit? clutch alone costs 200 and 150 for labor. entire compressor unit costs 350 and 200 for labor.