Mechanic disconnected my working AC to fix serp. squeak

Thanks for reading! First let me say I am not a car expert by any means. I drive. And that’s about it. I really need some advice on how to handle a bind a repair shop has put me in.

I drive an 08 Caliber I bought second hand 4 years ago. Great car so far, no major issues.

on Nov 11, $587: new alternator, power steering pump, serp belt. all is good

Jan 26(friday) I brought it back for a screaming serpentine.
$270 later: serpentine belt and new pullies

Picked it up, 12 miles later, the belt is knocking and screeching. It started shredding and I bring it back in (saturday ). The mechanic says its “cheap belts from china”

i went back 4 times, same issue

This past Thursday (15) I brought it back up. Friday morning I got a call saying it was done. I asked what they changed this time to get it to stop. The owner said “nothing.” I replied that they must have done something or else I would still have a squeak. He suggested that my problems were from an accident my car was in that I didnt mention. The accident happened 6 years ago, before I owned my car and has caused me no issues in the 4 Ive had it. Then he just said " we put a smaller belt"

I went up to the shop and the mechanic asked if everything was explained, and when I said no, he said much more than his boss.
The mechanic explained that the belt and the pulleys werent the problem, that the problem was a pully attached to my AC compressor and that it was loose and causing the squeak. Then he told me that in order to fix the squeak, they had to disconnect my AC, telling me “it probably didnt work anyway.”

SO now I’m feeling robbed. They got the real problem wrong so many times and when they found the real problem, they basically rigged my car to run smoothly…now without AC. They told me to “come back in the summer and Ill give you a great deal on the AC.”

What would you do???

Can I demand they fix the original problem??
I paid to have it fixed and now I’m left with another issue!

I have no idea what AC compressors cost. Why wouldnt they call me before they disconnected something else to make something work??

I’m so lost for words in this situtation and I need some folks with experience to weigh in.

Thank You

Yes, you were robbed.
And the guy that disconnected the AC compressor to fix the squeak is, if he actually said what you related, and idiot. Perhaps even a lazy idiot.

You’ll never get your money back for all the unnecessary work that was done, but you should definitely try to find a new shop. I wouldn’t even stop at the one you’ve been going to for free coffee. Consider the lost money to be the cost of an education. The lesson? This guy’s a crook, and don’t keep going back to someone who keeps taking your money without fixing your car.

You’re probably going to end up replacing the compressor clutch assembly, so be prepared. If the entire compressor needs changing that’ll mean opening the lines in the AC system, and the repair will be more expensive, but at least the car will be fixed properly.


I believe I know what happened here, and it probably has nothing to do with any accident

the ac compressor’s on the way out, or to be more specific, the clutch and pulley are on the way out, and that’s what’s causing the belt noise. In my opinion, it would be best to bite the bullet and install a complete ac compressor

The shop didn’t simply “disconnect” the ac. When they mentioned installing a shorter belt, they installed a “bypass” belt, which was shorter and thus bypassed the faulty ac compressor, while still driving all the other accessories. It obviously is a shorter belt, but the shop should have offered up a better explanation, in my opinion.

Unless the previous accident somehow caused some component to contact the ac compressor pulley, thus damaging it, I’d say it is irrelevant

I believe it boils down to incompetent diagnosis and lousy communications, on the part of the shop. The shop bears all the blame. Why should the owner mention an accident which happened before they owned the car, and they probably weren’t even aware of it. And even if they were, it’s not a crime to forget, especially since it happened years ago.

I agree with mountainbike. Find someplace more reputable for any future repairs and services.


You could, but who knows what they’d do next. My guess is that they’d rob you again.
There’s an old axiom I like: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result.
Me? I’d look elsewhere.

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IMO the shop should have given you the option to repair the AC problem or to disable (bypass) the AC compressor. Rather than just bypassing the AC and not consulting you first. Whether they did you a bad turn or not depends on what exactly the conversation was between you and them prior.

If I had that problem I’d be thankful there’s no squeaking at least now, and this summer have an AC specialty shop repair the AC back to new condition. Whether you should use this shop again or find a new one for you ongoing non-AC needs depends like I say on the content of the communications you had w/the shop prior to them bypassing the AC. If you said anything to them like “I just need this squeal fixed”, then what happened was at least partly your responsibility.

And in addition to all the good stuff from the others:

“So why the hell are you installing cheap belts from China then?”


Gates is the brand I’ve heard recommended here for belts.

Gates is all I’ll use.
And for my car they make two grades; I get the higher grade.

I would recommend never letting the MASTERS OF DISASTER at that shop open the hood again. When they eventually get down to pulling your engine out they will congratulate themselves for their success in eliminating the noise and you will get a bill for their work.

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Thank you all for your replies. Your points of view were very helpful.

I’ve always heard that the way to go is to a dealership garage, so it looks like its time to bite the bullet and get better services.

Thanks again everyone

I don’t think anyone said that you need to go to a dealership garage - you just need to avoid this particular garage. You need to find a competent, trustworthy shop - dealership, independent, or chain. Unless you’re in a tiny, tiny town, I’m positive you will find one. You can find incompetent, dishonest dealership service departments, just like you can find incompetent, dishonest independent and chain shops.

In addition to a faulty compressor, an overcharged system or a non functioning condenser fan can cause high head pressure leading to belt slippage.


this shop should have caught the a/c issue the first time you took the squeaky belt in there.

I agree with everyone else- do not go back there.

I do auto repair in my workshop for extra money on the side. It does happen that the actual cause of a problem isn’t obvious at first but an AC compressor’s clutch going bad and causing a squeal is very common. It sounds like they milked you for everything they could while they had it in there because you didn’t know too much about cars. This sort of story pizzes me off big time because it gives honest mechanics like me a bad name. I work cheap so sometime they come to me first but often they hear about me after they’ve been ripped off 6 ways from Sunday and even though I have an impeccable reputation for being honest, some, after being ripped off enough assume all mechanics are crooks and I’ve just not been caught yet. If there’s ever a dispute over whether they needed what I did, I tell them, “hey, if you think I’m ripping you off, just pay for the parts and be on your way”. Your best bet, learn more about cars. A serpentine belt is one of the easiest repair jobs you can do. When you know what they’re talking about you’ll pick up on wording that doesn’t quite jive. I started working on cars because I grew up poor and couldn’t afford to have anyone else do the work for me. Later I realized I couldn’t trust the shops because in a situation where commission is involved, even if 9 of the techs are honest, at least one will rape you.

Good luck,