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Solved A/C compressor clutch not engaging

Mr. Alligator

Elite Explorer
November 30, 2014
Reaction score
City, State
Tampa, Florida
Year, Model & Trim Level
1997 XLT Explorer
After returning to Florida from the Rocky Mountain Winter, it became clear that my air conditioner was no longer functioning…. inspection showed that the air conditioner clutch was not engaging.


Easy fix, I hoped, it just needed a little refrigerant. But after hooking the simple recharge can gauge to the low pressure fitting, the gauge showed there was way too much pressure. A quick squirt of refrigerant did not resolve the problem, and it was clear that the compressor was not functioning and that the compressor clutch was not engaging…. The instructions on the recharge can, as I recall, cautioned that a non functioning compressor would result in an “over pressure” reading.

I could see that the air conditioner compressor clutch was not engaging the compressor, and hoped that this was the only problem.

First step: quick squirt of refrigerant, which did not help.

Second step: measure the air gap between the clutch and compressor. At .025, it was well within specs. Maybe the engagement system was weak from age…. But removing the OEM shim to reduce the air gap further did not resolve the issue. Also tried carefully pushing on the clutch plate with a wooden rake handle, while the engine was running. Still did not work.

Third step: check fuses and relays. Fuses were good. After swapping relays, it could be seen that the relays were good also. Wiring all looked good.

Fourth step: check for 12 volt power at the final clutch connector. Got it, and power went on and off with the ac control with the key in the engine run position.

Also, tried jumping the battery directly to the clutch side of the connector. Jumping the clutch had no effect. Now, it appeared the issue was isolated to the compressor clutch and/or coil assembly….if 12 volt switched power went all the way to the compressor clutch, it could not get any better than that.

REPAIR AND REPLACE Clutch, Pulley and Coil kit.

Removed the clutch from the compressor with an 8mm socket. I had the specialized loaner tool to hold the plate, BUT did not have really adequate room to use it. Perhaps if I removed the radiator shroud and the radiator fan, I would have had better work space… but I had removed the radiator fan for other projects with somewhat of a struggle and without a good tool because the loaner wrenches were either bent open or were already bent open, such that they did not fit the radiator fan retaining nut. So decided to leave the radiator shroud in place.

Large channel lock pliers were used to secure the clutch plate, and the clutch plate was removed. The clutch plate and pulley surfaces were covered with carbon and oily residue. Unfortunately, cleaning and sanding these surfaces did not help the clutch to engage.

Now I was fully committed to replacing the entire clutch and coil assembly. There are several helpful YouTube videos addressing the clutch and coil assembly. And I had the specialized loaner tool to remove the ac pulley, but limited workspace also prevented its use. Fortunately, I was able to remove the ac pulley by gently prying it and rotating it to keep even pressure and avoid bindings. No problem. The coil unit was easy to pry from its location.

Reassemby was a little more diffiicult. The coil is unit had to be aligned with slots for the connector, but with tight space, it was tough to tap it back into its seated position. The ac pulley was similarly tough to tap back into place. Just not much room to tap it with a hammer. But time and patience prevailed. Finally, the clutch plate was tapped back on. This was easier, and the same OEM amount of shim/spacers were used. The air gap was within specificstions (.013 to .034).

All done. Took a few hours. And then, upon starting the engine, the ac compressor clutch clicked over, whirled, and spun the ac compressor. Yay!!! Fixed.

Just wanted to share my thoughts and ideas. Drive safe.