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Changing a belt wouldn't suddenly cause the A\C clutch to fail would it?

This is a strange one to me. Here is the summary:

2003 Chevy Tracker (same as Suzuki Gran Vitara) v6 2.5L

For about a year, it has had belt squeal on starting, which lasts about 5 minutes…it’s louder when AC was on…would go away with higher RPMs. Once the car was warmed though, no squeal.

A\c has been working very well and blowing cold whole time. Finally it around to replacing belt, which was a huge pain.

Tightened with an idler pulley type system(not spring loaded). Started it up, squealed a little on start, but went away…turned on AC and the squeal is horribly loud now and constant…high rpms only make it louder. Noticed that clutch engages fine, but spins inconsistently…like we’ll the belt is slipping. It spins slow, fast, slow…etc. I can’t tighten anymore as the tightening bolt is at the end of the channel, don’t want to strip it. Also noted that it is about a bolt head width more tight than its previous position.

Surely changing the belt wouldn’t cause the clutch to bite it would it?

Other notes…drives great when ac is not on. This is an acc only belt…ac,idler,power steering. Also, during the repair, antifreeze got on the pulleys…I cleaned them all around with generous spray of brake cleaner…they look clean.

Any suggestions? I’m going to try to loosen it tomorrow to see if that is an issues, but seems far fetched.



The bearings in the compressor are bad and trying to seize. If you let it go, the seized bearings will fry your new belt and may strand you if it is a serpentine system where one belt drives everything, including the water pump. Either fix it now or don’t run the A/C to nurse ot.

Wow, first off sorry for no spaces…not sure what happened, I put them in on my phone!

I agree that your response is one theory (and possibly the answer) however, what makes me question it is the fact that the a.c. was working fine before the belt change and the squeal was light and only when cold…now there is a huge major difference in the sound, volume, and the way the compressor turned. I question such a drastic change happening just from a belt change. Just want to be sure (within reason) it’s the compressor before I drop the money on it.

Btw, it’s not serpentine, luckily…accessory fan only.

Remove the belt. Then try wiggling the pulley on the compressor. If the pulley wiggles the bearing for compressor pulley is bad.

This will sometimes happen when replacing a drive belt. The tension is removed from the bearing for the pulley, and if the bearing/pulley rotates without the belt, and then when the belt is reinstalled and the tension is reapplied to the bearing/pulley the bearing can start making noise.

We in the auto repair business call this, “The bearing is no longer at its happy position”.


You said the tensioner was at the end if the channel, is sounds like the belt is too long or not routed correctly. Did you compare the old and new belt to confirm proper length? If the noise is now worse after only changing the belt I would bet you were given the wrong belt.


Try turning the AC compressor by hand (engine off, of course).

Does sound like a too long belt. Poly-V belts have to be pretty tight to not slip.

Had this happen once with an 79 Mustang with the small docile 302 ( with auto ) with about 70k on it. Changed the serpentine belt myself as I saw some frayed edges on it… Took car out and about 15 miles later stopped at a light and noticed smoke from under the hood.
Popped hood and the power steering pump pulley was wiggling. Seems the bearing went along with the pump seal and spewed PS fluid all over the place. Luckily it did not set on fire…This car had the automatic spring tensioner which showed in the normal range after belt change…Luckily I had the extended warranty and the Ford Dealer replaced the pump for 50.00 ( my co-pay ) for repairs. Drove it there the next day without PS. No other problems until I traded the car with 120k on it for an 85 GT ( what a difference with an H.O 4BBL and stick ) Was it a fluke or a bearing ready to go in the pump…Will never know. I did not tell the dealer I changed the belt and they never said anything, just that the bearing failed in the pump. They also put a new belt on due to being oil soaked.

With all the belts being changed every day, some will be coincident with associated bearing failures.

Thanks for all the responses thus far. For the most part, it is in line with what I have been thinking.

My plan tomorrow is to 1) loosen the belt some to see if that helps. 2) if not, take the belt off and do an inspection of the pulley as suggested, clean I well with dawn, water and a brush 3.) If Ok, then I am actually going to put the old factory belt back on and tighten back to the original spot and see what I get. It is not in horrible shape and is good enough for a test since I knew exactly what it did with this belt on. 4.)If still the same result, then things won’t be looking too good. 5.)If the old belt does fix the issue, then I will purchase a new belt from a different store and a better brand.

One final note, and not sure it matters one bit, but the pulley on the AC compressor is smooth as silk without it being engaged, but the extra load causes issues.

Thanks again!

Side question…if it does look like the issue is NOT the belt, do I need a whole new compressor? If so, I probably won’t tackle this myself…ideas on what is reasonable for labor on the replacement?

If you find the compressor pulley moves, then the pulley bearing has failed.

When this bearing fails it can spin on the bearing journal casted on the front of the compressor. And if the bearing spun on the journal, the compressor requires replacement.


May be a dumb question, but by moves you mean “wiggling” right? Not moves as in spins…bc I know it should do that.

Edit…Nm…went back and read your post so I am understanding what you are saying…on a side note, I am positive the noise isn’t from the pulley itself per se, it is clearly from the belt sliding along the pully at spots.

On that not is there any acceptable amount of play at all or should it be completely tight?


Are you using an aftermarket belt?

I’ve had quite a few noise problems with aftermarket belts over the years

Yeah, it’s aftermarket and I had heard the same but his is more than just noise…I can see the belt either slipping or the compressor having issues.

OK, I woke up this morning and had an epiphany - I was not noticing one important thing - I thought that the tensioner was as far tight in the channel as possible, which is not true - in fact the opposite. I realized that as I tighten the bolt should move closer to the top of the channel (which is the direction the old bold head spot is located) - this is just still at the bottom of the channel (at its loosest point) even though it gets TIGHT.

So the question is am I just being too conservative and really need to put a little more into it to get it tight (was being very careful to not overtighten) or is the tensioner or something messed up?

On a side note - even with the belt “tightened” as I had it, I could turn the compressor pulley by hand…it was tight, but I could do it - that tells me this belt is definately loose. It does not wiggle and there is no grinding. There is a teeny bit of play in it, but I chalk that up to just having 138,000 miles on it and normal wear.

Going back to try to tighten further, but I really hope I dont sear the bolt…that would suck.

By the way, this is the part I am referring to. It sits in the engine with the channel on the left.

Go to Chevy and get a new belt. Take belt quality out of the equation.

it should be tight. if you took care to not over tighten it, its probably too loose

I fixed it…it was the tension on the belt…it was as loose as it could get. The way the manual told me to tighten it was completely wrong. There is a 10 mm hex hole in the center of the pulley. Kept thinking…why is that there? Then it hit me…I put a 10mm socket on the end of the tensioner ba, pulled it counter clockwise and it tightened way up. This fixed the issue…sort of…it fixed the horrible squeal at all times, but now it is back to the original problem. It chirps at idle and acceleration…but stops after that. I can live with that. Could be the beginning of bearings going in the compressor. Will keep an eye on it. Thanks for all the help.


good job. I always pull them pretty tight , as the belt may stretch a bit with use

Well, I probably will but a belt from the dealer in a few weeks and put that on. Doing it the right way only takes about to minutes, including the fan removal.

I understand that compressor replacement is an expensive proposition, but I think it’s time to accept that it’s the source of your problems, not the belt.

You should be able to twist the belt 3/4 of the way around, and there are really inexpensive belt tension measuring tools available in the $20 to $30 range, but it sounds to me like the belt was never the problem in the first place.