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Slow and painful AC failure

So I am trying to figure out where my AC system has failed in my car.

The back story is: While I was on a road trip down to southern Utah in the middle of summer (you know, painfully hot desert area), my whole AC system felt the need to blow up in my face.

It all started when I pulled over for gas and noticed a giant puddle of water under my car. Then when I got back on the road, the system was still blowing air, but it was no longer cold (yes the AC was still on). A few miles later the fan stopped blowing all together. Then windows down, riding through the desert, a passerby shouted through my window that my car was smoking, I pulled over to find my AC compressor belt lying on the road under my car.

Now I would love to repair it but I don’t know where to start. I have replaced the fuses to no avail (at least the interior ones labeled “blower”, but they also seemed to be intact upon a visual inspection).

I have noticed that while on the highway the vents will produce air (not blow it though) of the temperature the gauge is set on (I assume that matters). Also, the AC button under the vent control (air speed) does not appear to light up.

Any thoughts or help would be great!

It sounds like your compressor has seized. This will not be a cheap fix.


How car savvy are you?

There seems to be a couple of things going on here:
1-No cold a/c
2-Broken a/c belt
3-blower motor not working

The first two are most certainly related, the third- I wouldn’t think so (zero experience with a Subaru here.)
The first issue could be as simple as replacing the broken belt. Has this been done yet? I am assuming that this vehicle has a separate belt for a/c, which is different than the main serpentine belt. Is this accurate?

If you feel comfortable doing so: with the engine off, find the a/c compressor and try to turn the middle of the pulley that the belt goes on. There are two pieces here: the pulley for the belt (which should spin freely when the a/c compressor is off,) and the clutch- which should only spin when the a/c is on. But you should be able to spin the clutch by hand. It shouldn’t be super easy to spin, but it shouldn’t be super hard either. If the belt is off, you can try to spin the belt pulley too.

If they spin, your compressor isn’t locked up, and there is another reason the belt came off (old age? idler or tensioner pulley bad?)

If you can’t spin the belt pulley with the belt off, your clutch is bad. If you can’t spin the clutch, then the compressor is likely bad.

can we assume you replaced the belt? Like other have said, we don’t know whether or not you wish to fix this yourself or not. I not, then just take it in to a repair shop.
Otherwise, I would first start with a look at the a/c clutch and see if it is turning when the a/c is switched to on. If it turns the compressor is likely still OK unless one of the cylinder rods broke, but that should make a pretty good noise to hear.
If the clutch does not turn it might be seized to the coil and compressor and likely it is time to get a new one.

I don’t think you have an electrical problem or blower motor issue since you told us about the broken belt. Belts can break quickly if the clutch pulley seized.

If the compressor failed catastrophically, shooting metal into the ac system . . . and it sounds like it very well may have . . . this is going to get EXTREMELY expensive

Replace ac compressor
replace expansion valve
replace ac drive belt
replace ac condenser . . . I believe these can NOT be effectively flushed . . . and it is very likely metal got into it
may as well replace the suction hose from the evaporator to the condenser, and the discharge hose, from the compressor to the condenser

There may even be metal in the evaporator and/or suction hose

The right thing to do would be to install a screen/mesh on the inlet of the compressor. There are kits available to do this

If your ac compressor catastrophically failed, as described, and you only replace it and the belt, and don’t do any of that other stuff, there is a very good chance it will have a very short life, because that debris will ruin it

Could be expensive to fix, but maybe not. Knock on wood. Many newer cars AC systems are computer monitored and if something fails – like one of the pressures goes out of bounds – the computer will notice it and shut the AC system down rather than allowing it to fail further and cause damage to the rest of the system.

If replacing the broken belt and verifying the compressor clutch is working doesn’t fix the problem, suggest a visit to an AC specialist shop is the next step. DIY repairs are sometimes possible, but if you aren’t equipped with the tooling and expertise you can inadvertently damage something which isn’t yet damaged. And that process can get expensive fast.

BTW: Before this happened, was the system’s refrigerant recently topped off? Overfilling is a common cause of problems like this. Newer AC systems take very little refrigerant compared to those in the past.