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Honda CR-V A/C Compressor and Clutch

Because of the importance of a properly working air conditioner, understanding the basics of how the system works and some of the signs of impending failure can be very helpful. Because of the way that the A/C is laid out, any problems that crop up should be dealt with quickly in order to avoid increased damage. The biggest risk would likely be a failure of the Honda CR-V A/C compressor and clutch.

How does an automotive A/C compressor work?

While it might seem complex, the role of the A/C compressor in the workings of the air conditioning system is actually pretty simple. In order for the A/C to function, the refrigerant must be put under high pressure, enough to force it into a liquid state. The compressor takes in gaseous refrigerant and stores it in an internal buffer tank where it does the compressing via a pump. The energy that the compressor needs to do this work is taken directly from the car's engine via a belt connection that connects straight to the compressor's rotor. Because of this setup, the rotor itself is always spinning when the car is on, so there needs to be an alternate way to shut down the compressor, or the A/C would always be on. The mechanism that handles the on/off switching is the clutch that is built into the compressor.

How does a Honda's compressor clutch work?

The compressor clutch on the CR-V works by utilizing a simple principle of magnetism to easily and reliably start and stop the air conditioner. There are two friction plates that are located within the clutch, one connected to the main rotor and the other connected to the pump. Using an electromagnet placed nearby, the compressor clutch is able to magnetize them when necessary, which creates a connection between the rotor driven by the engine and the pump that is responsible for compressing the cooling fluid in the air conditioning system. When the A/C is switched off, the electromagnet shuts off and the friction plates are no longer magnetized. Once this happens, a spring that is attached to one of them is able to pull it back away from the other, thus severing the connection that allowed the pump to run.

What are some signs of a bad compressor?

There are a number of signs that could point to this problem, and if your Honda vehicle is exhibiting these symptoms, get your A/C system checked out. A failed clutch could lead to significant damage to anything in the vicinity.

  • Stuck on/off - If the A/C is unable to switch between on and off states, then there is a chance that the clutch is to blame. If stuck on, then the clutch may have seized; if it's stuck off, it may have broken and not be able to start the pump. In the event that the A/C is stuck on, it is more likely that the clutch has failed since in that case there are fewer options for what could be causing the problem.
  • Excessive noise - Normally, there shouldn't be too much noise coming out of the CR-V's A/C system. If you hear a lot of noise coming when you turn on the A/C, then one of the bearings may have started to fail. This is usually caused by some other problem that is creating excessive heat.