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AC clutch toast, quick & dirty fix?


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31 replies to this topic

#1 psychocandy

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 06:57 PM

OK, so my AC clutch is toast. I'm less concerned right now with having the AC running (r/r AC compressor in the future seems like the best option). I'm just wondering what the best thing to do for my car ('98 Outback Sport, EJ22) is right now. The sound is awful but pretty much only happens between about 1200-200 rpm. Can I just run the car as usual with the AC turned off?

With a fried clutch, could I cause catastrophic damage to my car? What happens if it freezes? Will the belt just slip? Or will it keep trying to turn the compressor and burn something out? Should I just cut the AC compressor belt? That seems like the easiest and fastest option (besides, belts are cheap and it's raining right now, this'd take 5 minutes). It seems like the alternator and compressor both need to be in there for the belts to all be aligned properly.

I removed the AC compressor from my old Saab and it looked much easier. It was mounted independently of pretty much anything so I removed it and just cut the belt off. For the EJ22, I gotta remove the alternator and belt to remove the compressor and belt, and it looks like I still need to keep the compressor in there to keep the alternator where it needs to be.

#2 psychocandy

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:48 PM

another unknown sound from my EJ22

goes away once warmed up, only happens between 1K-2K rpm. seems to be coming from under the TB covers. any help?

#3 89Ru

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 11:18 PM

it does sound like its coming from under the tb covers, a hollow sound.

Put your hand on the outer tb covers, see if you can feel where the vibration is biggest, then dive under the cover and take a look. if the noise follows the belt, it may go away once the covers are off. if the noise is a piece of belt flaying off, you'll see it while one cover is off while running. or just spin the crankshaft (22 mm bolt) with the car in neutral. removing accessory belt covers make it easier to do this. some cars have small ports in the covers that can be taken off to see the belt.

outer tb covers come off with three bolts each, 10 mm socket. take them off slowly, they can seize and spin out the captive nut in the rear cover. center tb cover takes more work (crank pulley has to come off).

how many miles since the tb was replaced?

assuming there is no rubbing on the accessory belt covers? (which can be taken off and kept off by removing 10 mm bolts plus one 12 mm on the alternator)

alt and p/s belt are tensioned by the alternator pivoting (separate bolt).
a/c belt is tensioned by the pulley next to the crank pulley.
both belts are independent and driven by the crank
if you suspect the a/c clutch, you could cut the a/c belt off.

if the a/c belt fails, its not a big deal unless the alt and p/s belt get hung up by a loose belt flopping around...

#4 Fairtax4me

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 12:52 AM

Get the timing belt cover off NOW and check the lower cogged timing idler. They like to fail, and they can flap around and toss bearings out all over the place as they chew through the water pump housing right before snapping the timing belt. A broken timing belt on that engine will result in bent valves that end up costing you days of work and thousands of dollars to repair.
A new timing belt kit now (with water pump and all idlers) will cost you about $200 on eBay.
DO NOT drive the car until you find the source of that noise.

The good news is you will probably find the suspected compressor noise is the timing idler.

#5 psychocandy

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 01:25 PM

I did the TB not long ago, torqued everything to spec. I will definitely check under the TB covers.

As far as diagnosing goes, one thing to remember: the noise goes away after car warms up a bit and only occurs between 1200-2000 rpm. That's what makes me wonder if it's not just some random thing that is not potentially catastrophic. The car sounds and runs great EXCEPT when cold at those rpms.

This was NOT occurring before I recently changed plugs, wires, & coil pack. However, can't see ANY way those things could be related.

#6 grossgary

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 02:07 PM

easy test: remove the a/c belt and run the car without it for one minute. if the noise goes away it's the A/C. if the noise remains it's not. yes you can cut it and replace it later, athough it's actually really easy to remove. it takes like 5 minutes to remove the alternator belt and then the a/c belt comes off next, very easy and don't really have to remove much of anything...NO the a/c belt does not at all need to be in place, remove it.

I did the TB not long ago

that is almost meaningless.

did you replace both timing idlers and the lower sprocket? they loose grease (at this age few are in great shape), bearings fail, pulley separates or seizes, and takes your timing belt out no matter how new or old it is. a brand new belt means nothing if the pulleys it rides on fails.

a mechanics stethoscope is nice - you can put it on the a/c right by the pulley, at the base, on the block, on the tbelt covers and quickly narrow down the source. $3.99:
http://www.harborfre...cope-41966.html

#7 psychocandy

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 02:13 PM

Thanks all, going to take everything apart now. Shoulda been clearer though, when I said I did the TB, I mean I did the TB, all idlers, and water pump. No half-assing! :)

#8 grossgary

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 02:35 PM

great. it's not impossible for a new part to fail, just unlikely.

hopefully just the a/c. there is a bearing in/under the clutches that is known to fail on those.

#9 psychocandy

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:52 PM

HOLY EFFING SH*TBALLZ! The bolt holding the tensioner idler backed out and snapped! I need an emergency screw extraction & threads recut!!!

Northern California Bay Area Subie peops, any recommendations? I usually go to Automasters, but need this is more something for a shop with a good machining capabilities!

#10 lmdew

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 06:21 PM

The bracket it screws to bolts to the engine with 3 12 mm bolts. Do you have the old or new style tensioner? You can replace the new with the old one.

I have the parts if you need them. Larry Colorado Springs.

#11 Fairtax4me

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 06:23 PM

The bracket that holds the tensioner is replaceable.
If the bolt was already loose you may be able to cut a notch in it and back it out with a screwdriver.

#12 psychocandy

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:30 AM

old style tensioner. i'll upload a pic in moment. it broke inside. i need to take it to a shop. my hope is, since it backed out, it can't be under a lot of tension. hopefully, an easy out and a professional can take care of it. it's not the tensioner, it's the idler pulley.

can a new style replace the old style? i guess it doesn't matter since the new style will still use the same bolt to hold the pulley, right?

Posted Image

Posted Image

Edited by psychocandy, 17 December 2012 - 11:23 AM.


#13 lmdew

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 06:28 AM

No they are not interchangable unless you repalce the bracket that holds it.

#14 Fairtax4me

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 10:29 AM

The new style is entirely different. The bracket can be swapped to make it work but the old style is a much better design.

Two bolts hold that bracket to the block. Take the bracket off and you can take it to a machine shop to have what's left of the bolt extracted.

#15 psychocandy

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 11:15 AM

yeah, moot point, like I said, broken bolt is the one that holds the tensioner idler.

seriously though, anyone in the Oakland, CA area with a recommendation for a machine shop?

Edited by psychocandy, 17 December 2012 - 12:08 PM.


#16 grossgary

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:05 PM

i've seen this before, with the new style tensioners, i'd like to know what causes it. anyway...

you do know that, as folks have mentioned, the bracket comes off the engine and has the broken bolt inside of it? the bolt is broken in a bracket, not the block.

any machine shop or even mechanics can get this out, this is a really easy fix. don't over think this, it looks awful to a first timer seeing broken bits in a block, but trust those of us that have done this before this is actually a really easy task. look up any machine shop or close mechanic and ask them.

you can even just get another bracket.

#17 psychocandy

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 01:33 PM

OK, so I'm at work right now and can't look at my car, but I want to be extra super duper idiot proof clear (for my own benefit).

Forget about the actual tensioner. I have removed that already. There are NO problems there. The tensioner idler pulley bolts into a bracket? Are you effing kidding me? If that's the case, OMG that's effing great! Please confirm or deny this. I'm looking at the pics I posted above, and it DOES look like there are a bunch of bolts holding something on, but I thought the tensioner idler pulley bolted directly into the block.

Is that what this is:
Posted Image

#18 Fairtax4me

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 05:59 PM

That's the one. I said two bolts before but I think it's actually three, and another small one that attaches the timing cover on that side. Either way, it comes off.

#19 psychocandy

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 01:51 AM

Yeah, I came home and pulled it off. That's exciting news. Unfortunately, I tried extracting the bolt. I SUCK AT BOLT EXTRACTION! AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

The part's still usable, I just need someone else to extract the bolt. Here's a question though, mine doesn't have that little ear on the bottom right that attaches to the TB cover. Is my cover and that cover interchangeable? Most of the ones I'm finding on ebay have that little ear. And I can't for the life of me get a straight answer on the internet whether a) the parts are interchangeable, and B) whether there's a different part number for the one I have vs. the one shown above.

#20 grossgary

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 08:12 AM

awesome - yes that is it, just a simple bracket. the lower left larger hole is the one for the tensioner idler pulley and it's associated 14mm bolt.

if the bolt isn't close to the surface where you can cut a slot in it for a screw driver then it's going to be annoying to remove without experience or good tools.

take it to any shop or mechanic even - i bet even a basic oil change place will be able to get it out.

if you have a drill and drill bits - drill it FROM THE BACK SIDE. use a bit a little smaller than the diameter of the hole so you don't hit the threads. a right handed drill bit from the back end will essentially be grabbing/twisting and pushing it to "unthread" from the other way - the way it normally threads in and may very well back out. put some oil/grease on the threads it would walk out on to help it along the way.

once you get somewhat of a hole drilled or started, if it hasn't moved, let it cool down and you may be able to jab a tool/driver/chisel in there and use that to turn it out. probably again easiest from the back side (engine side) and "tighten" it or turn it clockwise so it backs out the way it was originally installed.

i've done tons of EJ stuff and i don't ever recall a difference in those brackets, i wouldn't worry about it, if you get one it'll work. remove the tab if you have to it's benign and not necessary.

#21 psychocandy

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 04:02 PM

Spent a good chunk of last night trying to extract the bolt. The bolt is hardened steel. I was able to drill into it, but I blunted a few bits and still wasn't able to get it out. So, I went to the Pick and Pull today and pulled one out of the same year/color/trim level as my car. LOL!

The donor car had a new style tensioner. So I pulled the bracket and the tensioner from the car. Looking at it all, I can sort of see why people might prefer the old style tensioner. The old style DOES seem to be higher quality all around.

Anyway, I've re-installed the TB. I do have a question about the tension on the TB. How much give should there be? Pressing on the TB to the right of the tensioner (if you're standing in front of the engine looking at it), the tensioner has some up & down play. However, when I actually try to lift the tensioner with my bare hands (compressing the hydraulic tensioner piston), there's quite a bit of resistance.

I'll take some advice on the above and see if the tensioner firms up when I get home tonight and spin the engine (with a ratchet). If all goes OK, I should have this buttoned up tomorrow morning.

#22 Fairtax4me

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 07:49 PM

The reason people often swap to the older style is the new style tensioner a are more easily damaged when compressing the piston.
The belt should not be tight, but the tensioner should not move up which would allow the belt to flap around.
I would go back and get the old style bracket. Look for any 90-95 Subaru wih an EJ engine.

#23 psychocandy

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 10:18 PM

UGH. Came home, tensioner still has play in it. :( Looks like I'm gonna find a machine shop to fix the the old tensioner bracket tomorrow morning. Shoulda done that in the first place, I guess. The only 2 Subies at the Pick And Pull were the one I took the new style tensioner off of and an old Loyale or something.

Edited by psychocandy, 18 December 2012 - 10:21 PM.


#24 grossgary

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 11:18 PM

you could also buy a new tensioner for $100, Subaru would have them in stock. they aren't as reliable so I replace them with every timing belt change or every other if you have a 120k change interval....assuming the car is worth it.

#25 psychocandy

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 11:40 PM

$100? Where are you at! $160 from the stealership 'round here.

If I can't get a machine shop to take care of this first thing in the AM, I guess I'll hafta bite the bullet with the $160 new part.




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