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The A/C compressor on my '89 RX has started to make a groaning noise when the clutch is engaged. When the A/C is off, there is no noise. It sounds like the bearing needs lubrication. When the engine revs the groaning increases. What is the easiest way to fix this? Should I add more R12 (I don't think it was ever converted to 134 previously and I have never touched it) or is there another way to relubricate the compressor? Could it be a belt tension issue? Understandably, I would like to avoid replacing the compressor. 

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The internal bearings are lubricated by the oil in the system.  If you have no reason to think that there is too little oil (a blown hose for example) then it's likely the compressor is bad.  Running with a bad compressor can send metal shavings throughout the entire system which makes it a nightmare to clean, aka "Black Death".

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A/C oil is required to keep the compressor running without strange noises.  R134 compatible oil is available at most auto parts stores.  You might as well convert to R134, since that is the only recharge that you will likely be able to find.  The A/C system and compressor helps the defroster remove humidity from the air, before it blows it on the inside of your windshield.  So it is a good idea to keep it working.

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I was doing some work on the car this weekend and replaced the accessory belts. The A/C compressor now runs without making a groaning noise. Must have been a belt tension problem. I should still have the system topped off with R12 because the car did not cool off much driving around this afternoon with air temps around 107F. The air was cold, but not cold enough, IMO.

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So it looks like the compressor bearing is done for. I noticed a strange smell the past couple days when driving, with the AC on or off. It's unlike any smell I have experienced with a car before. Almost like cigarette smoke. Yesterday there was a constant rubbing noise when I was driving. I opened the hood when I stopped and noticed a little bit of smoke coming out of the three holes on the front of the compressor clutch plate. I took the belt off so the pulley no longer rotates. I didn't see a fuse labeled specifically for the AC in the fuse box. Is there one?

 

I am moving from Tucson to St. Louis later this week so I don't have time to fix it or look for parts at a pull-a-part. I am considering just having the system evacuated and working on it in St. Louis. I found on RockAuto that I can buy a new bearing for the AC compressor. This would be an inexpensive alternative to replacing the whole thing. Is it worth trying? I would then convert it to an R134a system. Besides seals and O-rings, anything else I should replace?

 

Edit: I had planned a few weeks ago to use a trailer and tow the car to STL. Now I won't have to drive through the desert in the summer with no AC.

 

The pulley is also more difficult to spin now. When I replaced the belts a couple weeks ago, it spun easily, and now it does not.

Edited by PlaneDriver

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There are two relays up behind the passenger strut tower; one of these two is the a/c system relay. But I would (as you've already done) remove the belt anyhow for safety, especially since you say the pulley is harder to turn by hand now.

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I haven't done much on this recently because I was in the process of moving from Tucson to St. Louis. Before I left Tucson, I had the R12 evacuated from the system. 

 

Yesterday I took the AC compressor apart. The front armature came off without trouble because there is only the one hex screw. At this point I saw that the cover for the sealed pulley bearing was no longer attached to the bearing and I could take it out. Turning the armature around, I saw streaks of bearing grease that must have come out when the cover came off. With the cover off and the lubricating grease coming out, it was only a matter of time before the bearing seized. When I rotated the pulley, the ball bearings moved with the pulley and did not rotate themselves; they were just dragged along. I removed the snap ring and it took some hammering to get the pulley off. 

 

There are some indentations around the back side of the pulley at the outer diameter of the bearing. I don't have access to a press so I don't think I will be able to get the bearing out. There also appears to be damage to the magnetic coil that was behind the pulley.

 

This is a Panasonic AC compressor. Were these compressors used with all EA-82 engines? A pull-a-part store in STL has a 92 Loyale. I am going to go this weekend and see if it has its compressor still.

 

9256654087_94bd8223e5_z.jpg
Damage behind pulley
 
9256653751_2abf5859d4_z.jpg
Bearing sealing piece
 
9259429362_dc3de85414_z.jpg
Indentations behind bearing

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Hope that's not what's happening to my compressor!

Oh and,

 

Edit: I had planned a few weeks ago to use a trailer and tow the car to
STL. Now I won't have to drive through the desert in the summer with no
AC.


I drove through the desert in my 87 GL in August with no AC and with my heater on full blast to keep it from over-heating. :o

That was fun. =P

As far as I know, there are two brands of compressor in the L-series cars. Panasonic ones (uncommon) and Hitachis (common).
I think the way to tell them apart easily is how they were mounted. Facing the front of the car; outboard with the alternator to the left (panasonics) and inboard with the alternator to the right (Hitachis).

Somebody will correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's the way it went down.
 

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