What to do when your AC pump locks up

I returned home from work and was greeted by my wife with the words: “Honey something in the car is smoking” I opened the hood of our faithful '92 Plymouth Voyager and discovered that the AC pump was completely seized up and not turning at all.

What to do? If only there was some way to take the pump out and run a shorter serpentine belt. The AC on this car has not worked for years, and I knew that a new pump would run around $600. I figured that if I replaced the pump, the AC still would not work because of other components that were likely to be bad. I certainly did not want to spend that much money on this car as the blue book is less than $800. None the less, it is good transportation and most important it is PAID FOR!

Asking a couple of repair shops I was told my plan of taking out the pump and using a shorter belt would not work. One guy was able to tell me that some high performance applications had a "AC By-Pass pulley. Just a pulley to take the place of the AC pump, but this car was not high performance so he did not think that this would be available for my old Voyager.

In desperation I called a good parts store, they quickly informed me that not only was there indeed a pulley made for the car, he had one at another store and could get it for me in a couple of hours. FANTASTIC, outside I go, remove the old pump, (pain in the tukas but doable), cut away some the old tubing I would not be needing. The Freon had long since leaked out. At the part store they hand me this new jewel. An aluminum plate with a pulley on it. It just bolts up to where the old compressor sat. A spacer for behind the pulley was included if needed to ensure proper alignment. (I needed it). I put this pulley in, put on a new belt, and bingo the old Voyager rides again.

$45 dollars for the pulley, $60 dollars for a belt and we were back in business. Priceless! I thought that folks might want to know that this option was out there for cars where the AC repairs would be more than the vehicle was worth.

Excellent! Thanks for posting the information.

One thing I would recommend is to have the old coolant removed at a shop before you remove the old pump. If it was freon, that is more O-zone layer damage. In some places, if search diligently, you can rent a tool for draining the old coolant from the AC.

I have many times seen customers pay more than they could sell the car for to get the AC fixed, not so unusual in places where AC to them is like heat to others.

Thanks for the info. I just added my last can of R12 to my 1993 Caprice and am hoping for another 3 years of AC. Eventually I’m going to have to bypass the AC. After reading your post I did a quick check and Dorman has a bypass pulley for the Caprice.

Ed B.

This is nothing new. These substitute pulleys for a defunct AC compressor have been around for quite some time.


There are some models that don’t even require the pulley. Just buy a smaller belt and by-pass the compressor altogether. Depends on the engine layout. Simply ask the parts chucker at the local parts store, and the computer will tell you if you need the pulley or not.

Welcome to the old world, there are some people that will DIE if they do not have AC, then I think of the pioneers crossing death valley in a covered wagon and think how spoiled people have become. YES You can live without AC!
Before I get off my soap box I had a 80+ lady, Mary who I took care of grass and snow and trimming etc, who had no AC, and 2 windows with screens, she was a sweet old lady pinching her pennies, sitting in front of her fan watching tv most of the time. Then came the ruling it was considered cruel and unusual punishment to have a prison without Air Conditioning, so we spent millions providing AC for the bad guys, and nothing for Mary.

The A/C is primarily for the guards while THEY watch TV…

I Was On A Vacation In Our 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado (4,700 Pound, 2-Door, 455 C.I.D. Engine, Less Than 250 Mile Range, Behemoth) And I Noticed Smoke Billowing Behind The Car When I glanced In My Rear View Mirror.

I miss that car. Anyhow, my wife and young son fell silent as I declared an emergency and headed for the shoulder of the Expressway (Freeway) that hot day. I was quite concerned, but kept my cool.

I popped the hood, fanned the smoke, assessed the situation (a seized compressor), casually took out my pocket knife, cut the hot V-belt (one of two or three) that ran only the A/C, got back in the car, opened the windows and continued driving as if I had planned the whole thing. The A/C never ran again.


Those bypass pulleys have been around for years, but few people use them because so many people consider air conditioning to be an absolute necessity. I have seen people come into the shop for a/c work, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars to get it working again, saying “we need to get this a/c fixed. The wife and kids are taking a trip up to Chicago today.” The same cars will have bald tires, grinding brakes, and loose tie rod ends, but they will decline that work in favor of having air conditioning! Somehow makes sense these days, where personal comfort trumps safety and common sense.

Why don’t you just convert it over to R134a?