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post #1 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:05 PM Thread Starter
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Auto help needed, stranded

I'm in Corning California on my way home. Our air compressor went out. It sounds as though the bearing is toast. The a/c started dying then nothing. I got off the freeway and checked with a place about re-charging it, they were technically closed. Upon re-starting the car I heard the godawful noise. It's a 2002 Saturn L200. The nearest Saturn dealer is 100 miles away. If I can't get it fixed locally. Anyone know if I can drive it that far without totally screwing up my car? Thinking if it seizes I'm in deep trouble, it's about 110 here, can't have my family trapped on the side of the road. I'm in a hotel now but this can get costly.
It's too late to get ideas from local mechanics, I'm hoping one of you are well versed in the area of a/c compressors. I can't imagine it makes that horrible noise if it runs out of freon, I'm guessing the bearing went out which destroyed the seal which leaked the freon. It sounded fine and worked fine until about 20 miles before we got off the freeway. We've driven about 450 miles or so today.

Thanks for any help you might be able to provide.
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post #2 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:27 PM
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I'm unfamiliar with the compressors used in Saturns, however, in the GM/Chevy trucks I've owned or worked on, even if the compressor was toast, turning off the AC (thus removing the power to the compressor clutch) allows the pulley on the front of the compressor to freewheel.

If for some reason turning off the AC doesn't disengage the clutch, it may also be possible to unplug the clutch altogether and see what happens then. If the clutch is stuck, it won't make a difference either way.

Depending on how much room you have, and this is a big IF, you may be able to procure a shorter belt and bypass the AC compressor totally. 4x60 AC is better than being stuck.

Hopefully somebody with more (any) experience with a Saturn can provide more direct help.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:27 PM
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I had the compressor go in my Dakota, awful grinding noise, like metal being chewed up - which was exactly what it was - one of the blades in the compressor failed and spat bits of metal through the whole system. $1200 later and a new compressor. Chances are recharging is not going to help. Damp cloths to cool your kids and drive with the windows open. You can minimise the time to repair (cleaning metal out of the system) by ensuring A/C is off - I had to pull the wire off mine. Good luck
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post #4 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:40 PM
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Definitely make sure the AC is off and if you can reach it, unplug the wire harness going to the compressor. It should actually be quiet if the problem is in the compressor itself, and the clutch is disengaged. I have occasionally seen a few where the problem is actually in the clutch and pulley/input shaft assembly, and they won't be quiet no matter what you do. But you would need to rack up a lot of miles (many hundred or more) before it could cause a problem that could leave you stranded. If it seized up completely, you would probably end up breaking a belt. Not sure how the Saturn motor is set up - on a couple of my vehicles, the AC compressor is on it's own belt, so it is easy to bypass. On others, there is one big serpentine belt, or it is tied in with the power steering pump or water pump.

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post #5 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Rosamond CA
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The compressor grinds even when off, so it's free wheeling on a bad bearing. I checked and it's 500 bucks to tow to the nearest Saturn facility. There are no car rentals in town. I thought about renting a car, putting my wife and daughter into that and having them follow me in the event it fails we aren't totally stranded. It's looking like I'm going to have to hang my hopes on the local mechanic. Just like to weigh my options. I thought about shortening the belt also, but I have no tools and of course no belt, it's tight in there. The compressor clutch appears to be disengaged. This is so annoying. I was going to renew my GWRRA membership but with my wife out of work tried to save, didn't work obviously. GWRRA offers 100 miles of towing which only last month expired. Gads.
Fiero, my belt does run the whole gammut. I was worried if it seized it would split the belt as you've stated. I can't be sure how long things were going. However, when I first noticed the a/c going warm it wasn't but about 30 miles. Think I stand a chance of about another 125 if they can't fix it here?

Last edited by svid; 07-28-2009 at 11:45 PM.
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post #6 of 26 Old 07-28-2009, 11:54 PM
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SVID, your problem is the same as my brother's earlier this year. If the compressor is driven by a serpentine belt (which usually operates all the car's accessories with the single belt), if the bearings sieze the belt will snap and you will get only as far as the battery can keep operating your ignition.

If the compressor is driven by a standard v belt, you might be lucky enough that the belt operates only the compressor. If so, disconnect the belt, which will both stop the noise and prevent the air conditioning from working, but you will be able to drive on until you can find a good mechanic or you can't stand the heat any longer (yeah, kind of a Hobson's Choice).

Either way, it sounds as if your compressor bearings are shot, which means replacing the compressor--probably a $1,000 job with a rebuilt compressor, or somewhat less if your mechanic can find a used one in a junk yard.

If the expense of a full repair is too much to bear right now, a mechanic can usually find a shorter replacement belt that will take the compressor out of the system and let you operate the car normally except there will be no A/C. With temps in the 105-110 range right now, you might have to consider driving morning, evenings and nights until you get home.

Sorry to hear of your misfortune. Good luck!

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post #7 of 26 Old 07-29-2009, 01:51 AM
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someone told me they rented a car in california . they mentioned they would like a model with a/c . the lady looked him like he was from another planet .

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post #8 of 26 Old 07-29-2009, 02:13 AM Thread Starter
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I admit we don't use a/c often but we are in a bit of a heat wave right now. It was 111 in the last town we passed. However, a seized pump would not be in my best or my family's best interest.
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post #9 of 26 Old 07-29-2009, 03:32 AM
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there maybe an autowrecker near by with a used pump

swann strom
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post #10 of 26 Old 07-29-2009, 05:37 AM
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You can get a shorter Accessory Belt that will delete out the use of you AC system. Look under the hood at the accessory belt routing sticker/decal and it will show you how the routing goes. At least that way you can drive it until you have the cash to get it fixed.

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