Can you replace an AC clutch without removing the compressor?

The clutch in my air conditioner just kicked the bucket, unfortunately. I want to replace it, but I keep reading you need to replace the compressor too. Is this true or can you replace an AC clutch without removing the compressor?

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Answer provided by
Matt Terzi
Answered on Apr 15, 2022
We’re sorry to hear about your AC troubles. We know how frustrating it is to be stuck in a boiling hot car with no air conditioning, and the window doing little more than letting in scorching radiant pavement heat. Yuck. But let’s help you get this done the DIY way!
Yes, you can technically replace the clutch without removing the compressor. The reason people suggest doing them together is that when one fails, the other usually isn’t too far behind it. It’s just a matter of convenience to replace them both since you’re already doing most of the same steps anyway.
You’ll also find that most OEM and aftermarket air conditioning compressors sold on the market today include a clutch, too. It’s uncommon (but not entirely rare) to find compressors sold without clutches, which isn’t true the other way around.
You can buy a standalone clutch, of course—it’s usually about half the price of a compressor, or thereabouts—but unless you’re on a really tight budget, we recommend buying the compressor and clutch together and just replacing the whole unit at once. It might save you some money and headaches down the road.
Another thing to take into consideration here is that a seized-up pulley bearing can cause damage to the compressor itself. So even if you find the clutch isn’t spinning properly, you might replace it only to find the compressor itself is damaged or blown. This can lead to the old clutch not coming off, or even a new one not seating properly.
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