Something just fell out of the car

VW Jetta - AC Clutch

A few days ago, my wife called me at work and said that her car was making a loud noise. She went on to tell me that she left the house for work, started her car, and allowed it time to warm up. Before pulling out and heading off to work, she flipped on the air conditioner and the car started making all kinds of noise.

I asked her to describe the noise to me, which she did, and I got the impression that a belt needed to be replaced as it was slipping and making a racket. I told her until I could fix it, she needed to keep the air conditioner off and she should be fine, since it wasn’t making any noise otherwise.

The next day my wife and I went out for dinner and drinks. At the last minute we decided to take her car. After pulling out of the parking spot and reaching the end of our road, I turned on the turn-signal. After flashing a couple of times it simply stopped. Rather than turn around and get my car, we decieded to just drive the two-miles and worry about the problem later.

When we got home, I picked up the phone to call my father. Over the years he has forgotten more about cars that I have learned and I wanted to get his thoughts on the turn signal problem. After talking for a few minutes, we made plans to get together at my parents house that weekend to take a look at the AC problem and try and fix the turn-signal issue.

Since I hadn’t heard the noise first-hand, I simply assumed that I was correct in thinking that the problem with the air conditioner was a belt in need of replacing. After talking with my father, he reasoned that the flasher relay was my problem with the turn-signal.

When we met up, we briefly went over the problem with the turn signal and figured that I was going to need to buy a flasher relay from the auto parts store. The air conditioner, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery as I couldn’t reproduce the problem my wife was having.

I told my father that we could take my wife’s car to the auto parts store to see if I couldn’t get the belt to start slipping, just to be sure that was my problem. As we got onto the highway, the car started making a horrendous noise that I knew was not a belt. The confused look on my fathers face told me he was sure what he was hearing was not simply a belt slipping. After turning off the air conditioner, the loud noise and vibration stopped.

At the store, I picked up a replacement turn-signal bulb and purchased the flasher unit which was specified in their in-store catalog. Knowing a belt wasn’t the problem with the air conditioner, I skipped buying a new one and planned on trouble shooting it when we got back to the house.

Rather than taking the highway back home, I pulled out of the auto parts store and drove through the city. Along the way I stopped at a traffic light and waited to make my left hand turn. As I was making the turn, my father and I were in mid conversation when we head a bang, a clunk, and then a thump.

Looking over at my father, I said something just fell out of the car and I ran it over. He shook his head in confirmation and told me to swing around and try to find the part. I pulled into an unpaved lot and we got out of the car to start our search.

In the middle of the road I spotted what looked like might be my missing part. I headed out into the street to grab it and showed it to my father. As soon as he looked at it, he determined that it was the clutch to the air conditioner condenser and that it was definitely what was making the noise and vibration.

When we got back to the house, I learned that the flasher unit that I purchased was not the correct one. After some research online it seems that the 1999 Volkswagen Jetta has the flasher integrated into the hazard lights and does not use a conventional flasher relay. Seems that I should have consulted the internet before relying on the store catalog for replacement parts.

In this bout with car trouble, I have learned two things:

  • Ensure that I am correct and not assume a problem is as simple as it seems (belt replacement)
  • Consult the internet to make sure the car doesn’t need something non-standard (flasher relay)

1 comments On Something just fell out of the car

  • Walt, the part is an A/C clutch. It is usually held on by a nut some cars have left hand threads. The electronic clutch pushes outward on it if you are lucky, you can probably get just the clutch and reinstall it with a new nut of course, and use locktite. it will require an air rachet to get it into place. if the shaft is scored up, well, big bucks and you have to get a new compressor. I had the nut back off on my Trooper, and it sounded like I was torturing cats every time I turned it on, and it comes on with the defrosters too.
    BSD

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