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Changing the ac clutch and taking out the pully

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04/11/09 2000
Chevy Cavalier Air Conditioning Clutch replacement
Just finished it. I am an novice. Use safety glasses, Dust and dirt will get in you eyes even with the protection.

Pop and raise the hood.
Loosen the left front lug nuts. Jack up car the higher the better. Install jack stands! Remove left front wheel. Place wheel under car to act as a last chance stand in case your jack stands fail.
Using 9/32 nut driver remove screws that hold plastic shielding to the inner fender well so as to expose AC compressor.
You will also have to pullout the Plastic snap things with needle nose pliers so get the plastic covers away from you work area ( I didn’t remove ALL of the plastic completely, just enough to swing it out of the way. There is a box of electrical stuff right there (wires) but the screws that were holding it to the inside wheel well had rusted away so it moved with the plastic when pulled out and away.
Pull down on the belt tensioner to loosen the serpentine belt (its hard to do) and slip the belt off of the AC compressor pulley.
Disconnect the AC Electromagnetic clutch power wires, (it is facing the front of the vehicle) the connector has little "Wings" that must be "Slightly pried apart" in order to remove the plastic connector from the compressor.
Using a 1/2" socket remove the nut that is in the center of the clutch assembly (to remove- turn it counter clockwise), I used a pry bar against the upper control arm and a notch in the Outer clutch plate to hold the A/C outer clutch plate from turning as I turned and removed the nut.

IMPORTANT! This nut that you are removing is threaded on to the A/C compressor shaft. DO NOT DAMAGE the A/C compressor shaft or the threads on which the nut is threaded.

NOTE: Be aware there is a "KEY", a small rectangular piece of metal that is on the shaft of the compressor, it will either stick to the outer clutch components or to the A/C shaft. This key is what transfers the belt energy onto the Compressor shaft (do not misplace).

This outer clutch plate is to pull straight out to leave exposed the inner clutch plate.
I suppose a few screwdrivers or chisels may do the trick but this part must come off of the compressor to get to the important next part.
I used a TIE ROD End Puller to slide the outer clutch plate out and off of the compressor shaft.
By driving the tie rod tool between the outer and inner clutch surfaces the outer clutch slid from the compressor shaft. Any wedge type device should be able to do this.

IMPORTANT! There is a "Hidden" C clip (snap ring) behind the outer clutch plate! ( I did not know this until I broke the end of the compressor nose off by pulling the pulley off with a pulley puller). Please read on...

The "C" Clip. This clip uses snap ring pliers to be removed. This clip holds the inner clutch assembly onto the compressor. The snap ring is holding onto the "Nose" of the compressor.
This clip is now "closed" you must "open" the clip so that it can be pulled off of the nose of the A/C compressor.
I used "Snap Ring Pliers" but I suppose a "Ground-to-a-point" Needle Nose Pliers "May" work.
Once you have removed the retaining ring the next thing that comes off is the inner assembly.
I used a pulley puller to remove the pulley but the Auto parts store in which I purchased the new A/C clutch would let me "Borrow" the AC clutch puller tool. This is the way to go if you are doing this on a budget. The A/C clutch puller grasps the A/C pulley on two sides and pushes against the compressor shaft, thereby sliding the inner clutch assembly EVENLY out and away from the A/C compressor "Nose".

IMPORTANT! DO NOT DAMAGE the A/C compressor shaft you will not be able to repair it if you do!
With the inner clutch assembly removed, the last thing to come off is the fragile A/C electromagnet, If you need to replace it.

The "Electromagnet":
This is a plastic coated coil of fine wire that electrical current flows through when the A/C is turned "ON" inside the car. When the current flows through it, it creates a strong magnetic field and this magnetic field pulls the outer A/C clutch parts into contact with the inner A/C clutch parts until they touch. This force is strong enough to transfer the spinning energy of the serpentine belt through the clutch onto the compressor shaft (by way of the "Key") and turn the insides of the A/C compressor to compress the liquid coolant and send it on its way through the A/C hoses.

This electromagnet came with the new clutch assembly I purchased so I changed mine. (I broke the connector off with a screwdriver earlier so I'm glad I got a new one).

NOTE: Notice where the magnet electrical connection is facing (forward- you'll need to remember).
I used several screwdrivers to evenly force the "Magnet" off of the Compressor "Nose".
It must move about 2" before it falls off, so I ended up using some "wedge like" chisels and screwdrivers to force it off by driving them between the A/C case and the back of the electromagnet (it took about 3 minutes).

Congratulations IT IS APART! Now to put the new parts back on.

New parts: Electromagnet, Inner clutch, Outer clutch
Parts to re-install: the "Snap Ring" ("C" clip), the "KEY" taken from the old outer clutch assembly (or "off of the compressor shaft" wherever it ended up being).

Position and install the new electromagnet onto the A/C compressor "Nose". Be aware of the position of the electrical connector is to face "forward" (like the way the old one was positioned).
I used the old electromagnet to be a sacrificial part when I used a small hammer to drive the new part back onto the "nose" of the Compressor. I drove it until it was almost touching the compressor bolts. (The same position as the old one was before I drove it "Evenly OFF of the Nose" with my wedges and screwdrivers).
Position and install the inner clutch assembly onto the compressor. Apply pressure evenly so the part does not "****" sideways and become stuck. I gently tapped around and around until it bottomed out.
NOW install the Snap ring using the tool you got it off with (It should just about "Push on") until it "Snaps" (locks) back into the slot that you removed it from.
I applied an anti-seize agent on the inside and outside of the shaft of the new outer clutch before I lined it up with the compressor shaft. Remember to install the Shaft "KEY" between the shaft and the notch of the outer clutch component.
Press the new outer clutch back onto the compressor. (I used a small hammer and "Gently" tapped it to where it should be.
Install the 1/2" nut you removed from the center shaft and turn it Clockwise (Tighten) until it bottoms out.
If necessary tap the outer clutch assembly until you are sure it is back to where it should be. There should be a small gap (postcard thickness or so) between the inner clutch and outer clutch surfaces.
Using your 1/2" socket be sure the nut is TIGHT ( I have no idea what the torque specification is or how to hold the outer clutch assembly from turning so I held it with my hands until I couldn’t stop it from turning).
Plug in the electrical connection.
Re-install the plastic panels using the 9/32" nut driver on the mounting screws. Snap back in the plastic fasteners into the holes from once they came.
Re install the left front tire into the car and tighten the lug nuts to the specified torque.
Carefully remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle to the ground.
Inspect your work clean and put your tools away.
Start the car, with the AC Button (Switch) "OFF" inspect the outer A/C Compressor Clutch "not turning". Listen for problematic sounds.
Turn on the A/C, with the AC Button (Switch) "ON" inspect outer A/C Compressor Clutch is "engaged" and turning the shaft of the compressor. After a few minutes the cabin air should start to cool.
This is how it should work.
With mine, the clutch did not engage, Probably because there is no refrigerant in the system so the compressor will not engage until I install at least one can of refrigerant into the A/C System (that's when a pressure sensing switch figures out that there is refrigerant in the system and it will be "OK" to run the compressor). You cant run the compressor without it's lubrication it wont let you.
So now I'm off to the parts store for a couple of cans of Freon (or what ever its called now).
I hope this helps - Good Luck!

Posted on Apr 12, 2009

  • sydney3631 May 14, 2011

    Most of your information is good but on most Cavaliers the A/C compressor is on the RIGHT(passenger side). So if you take of the RIGHT tire and proceed as mentioned you should be okay. One other thing, I don't think you should use a wedge to remove the outer clutch plate. the air gap is important after reassembly and you may bend or warp the outer plate. Get the right puller!! Done this all my life.


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  • 283 Answers

If you had to go through all that trouble to get to the compressor why didn't you just replace it? If the clutch has worn out chances are the compressor will be next.

Posted on Jul 29, 2016

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Posted on Jan 02, 2017

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SOURCE: changing the ac clutch and

There is a special puller to remove the a/c clutch hub it screws into hub and pulls off the pulley is just held on with a snap ring

Posted on Nov 19, 2008

  • 1066 Answers

SOURCE: ac compresor clutch

this isn't easy and you will need special tools.  You will most likely need to have the compressor on a work bench.  

Posted on Mar 23, 2009

  • 11 Answers

SOURCE: how do i change the ac clutch pully on a 1999

u will have to take it off to do it i have done that befor n its hard to do that is on most of the cars

Posted on Sep 21, 2009

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SOURCE: Hear bearing noise from engine

use a long handled screwdriver as a listening device. Put the metal end on the item to be checked and then put your ear on the plastic end of the screwdriver-BE CAREFUL AND BE MINDFUL OF MOVING PARTS AND LOOSE CLOTHING!!!!!

Posted on Oct 04, 2010

Testimonial: "thanks, have tried that. still can't pinpoint noise"

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SOURCE: what does it take to

the ac clutch and pulley are best done with the compressor removed-there is a truarc ring that holds the clutch to the front of the compressor, and the pulley is held on by a bolt, then the pulley is removed by use of a puller. It is probably easier to just remove the compressor as a unit and install a rebuilt one, about 1 1/2 hours of labor and a vacuum and charge of the system-total around $350 at a private shop.

Posted on Aug 23, 2011

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The other thing to you may want to check is the Serpentine belt tensioner. The tensioner then to break apart and or when the clutch activate put's more pressure on the system and the idler pully bearing could alsy be the problem. 
Spray some water on the fan belt whale the engine is running and see if the noise goes away and comes back as the water dry's. If the noise goes away then it's just a worn belt and need to be changed or you may want to do the quick fix and buy Fan belt dressing. 
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