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2004 Forester
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I have an 04 Forester with over 100k miles, automatic transmission, base model. The air conditioner had been running fine, then one day it started blowing warm air when I was in stop and go traffic. Once I got going, seemed to be fine again. Now, the air conditioner comes on and runs cold for awhile then the air stops running cold but the blower is still on. If I leave it as is and keep driving, it eventually turns cold again for a little while. If I shut off the car and wait 1 minute the air comes back on cold and eventually stops. I am not very knowledgeable about cars.

Last year, I had a local shop empty and recharge it. No leaks detected. Still had the problem. My mechanic said there seemed to be some wear on the clutch, but he wasn't sure if that was it and it's a $600 job to replace and it might not work.

Found some other people reporting similar problems with 04's but didn't see any firm suggestions re fixing problem.

This is the latest info - Seems to run best when the fan is in the 4 position - I can get all the way to work (35miles) in hot humid weather and it stays on ... I freeze, but it's on! The minute I turn the fan down, the cooling stops.


Called my local dealer and they want to do the recharge again - said no known issues with 04's.

Any help would be appreciated,
Pat
 

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1998 Forester
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213 Posts
The most common problem I see is the discharge hose from the Compressor to the condenser it will leak around the crimps. If it is leaking you should see oil on the hose by the crimps
 

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2004 Forester
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I have the same problem. I get cold air for 5 minutes and then the air is warm in a hot day. I will check the hose from the compresor to the condenser.
My Subaru is also a 2004 Forester with 111,000 miles.

thanks

Juan
 

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2004 Subaru
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10 Posts
Yeah same exact thing.

2004 - XS manual trans, almost 115k.

A couple of other posts mentioned the AC Relay. Others mention the clutch. I'm still trying to troubleshoot mine and see if I can tell if it's either the relay or the clutch.

What I've been trying lately is to get it not working (usually by the time I get home from work on a hot day - same issue like you said it works initially and then doesn't especially when it's warm.) Then I unplug the little wire going to the compressor and try to measure the voltage from it. Does anyone know what it should be reading? I'm not getting much at all if I'm using my meter correctly. Then I plug it back it and it always starts to work again. I've been real busy lately and not had a lot of time to think or work on this but I'm beginning to think it must be the relay since I'm not getting >1 volts? When I put the meter down to like 20 microvolts I do see some reading however.

Does that sound right? Would plugging it back in provide any reason for the relay to kick in at that point?

Seems like a lot easier to replace the relay than to try and either replace the clutch or remove some kind of shim that I've seen on other posts. Is there more information on how to remove that shim?
 

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2004 Forester XT
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I have the same problem... 2004 Forester XT ... AC will work fine most of the time but will cut out sporadically so the air is no longer cold. It will start working again on its own sometimes, but if I restart the car it seems always start working again.

The compressor was just replaced 2 yrs ago. I may try replacing the relay since that sounds like an easy fix, but if there are any other suggestions that would be great.
 

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2010 FXT Limited 4EAT Sport Shift
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1,461 Posts
Hmmmmm....
Noticed a new knocking kind of sound, irregular, only in mornings when starting up, and only for a minute or so. Thought at first it had something to do with fan belt (tensioner?).
Then I started it one morning with hood up, and watched for anything untoward. The inner mechanism of the air conditioner compressor (clutch I presume) was not all on, or all off, but intermittently spinning and stopping.
Looking further, I noticed a little oil/dirt around the crimp fitting/hose interface.
Sounds like I've got an expensive repair coming up...:icon_frown:
Living in Alaska, I could do without AC (guess I'd miss the drying function it provides the defroster) during the summer...can I take the AC out of the belt loop without impacting the other drive units?
 

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2004 FORESTER
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14 Posts
I have the same issue with my '04 Forester XS. Just had it diagnosed- intermittent clutch failure. The compressor was fine. Aside from the $125.00 diagnosis fee the cost for repair is $500.00... whoa!
 

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2014 Impreza Ltd CVT
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3,319 Posts
Yes .... the clutch is NOT a separate part for the Zexel compressor. Here's a reply I posted on a different board over a year ago:
I have come across this recently on 2000 and up Subaru's.

First check/replace the A/C relay. In Legacy/Outback/Impreza/Forester it's in the underhood power/fuse box by the battery. You can usually swap it with one of the radiator fans relays just to test it. The A/C relay, if you open it up, usually had burnt contacts.

Now to the other I have seen. A/C seems to work, but on VERY HOT days, or after using it for a while, it just stops. What's happening here is the CLUTCH is no longer engaging. ( usually the ZEXEL Compressors ). The clutch IS getting the 12v to engage, but with the heat, AND PREVIOUS WEAR, the clutch gap had increased and will no longer engage. Let it cool off and like magic, it works again.
When failing and at an idle, you may try to 'carefully' pushing the front plate with a piece of wood ( my choice ) and CLANK, the compressor engages.

2 options here, Replace the compressor. I suggest NEW, I would not use a Used one because the clutch on these DOES wear and like buying a used tire, a used compressor already has wear on it. This option also requires vacuum/charge of the system.

Please Note, Zexel supplies to its vendors ( Subaru included ) the compressor/clutch as an assembly. They do not supply clutch replacement parts.

The other, is buying/borrowing a clutch removal kit ( usually $50 and up ). Remove the clutch. Clean both sides of the clutch surface. DON'T SAND OR ROUGHEN them. Remove a shim or 2 from under the center bolt mount to get the .0011 to .0015 clearance between the clutch face and pulley. I really suggest getting the tool for this. By just removing the 10mm center bolt, the clutch is pressed on and does not easily come off. Prying on the edges of the clutch will bend and destroy it resulting in replacing the entire compressor.
 

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2004 Subaru
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10 Posts
Thanks ferret for all this info and past posts.

Any place you know of for that clutch removal kit/tool? Seems like replacing the compressor would be a diy job.. I see a re-manufactured compressor on ebay (item#160441751671), and they mention this:
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Additional Parts You will Need To Have Replaced:

* CONDENSER - This vehicle is equipped with a parallel flow design condenser. This type of condenser can not be properly flushed and needs to be replaced. Failure to replace the condenser when replacing this compressor will void the warranty. Most mechanics are not up to date on their A/C training and will not know this condenser can not be properly flushed.
* ACCUMULATOR or DRIER
* EXPANSION VALVE or ORIFICE TUBE
-----


You mention getting a new compressor, would this be equivalent or would getting a brand new one be a better bet. I've had my car for less than 6 years in a 4-season climate - I wasn't really expecting a $600 replacement every six years to keep the ac running.

Thanks again for any help!
 

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2014 Impreza Ltd CVT
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3,319 Posts
That looks like it has a new clutch on it, so the price is not too bad. If evacuated and replaced properly, you stand a good change that ONLY the compressor needs to be replaced. Unless you have the tools and knowledge, I would take call around for someone to evacuate, replace and charge your system.

I DO question the years they state, IIRC 2006 and 2007 CHANGED the mounting AND high pressure attachment. The compressors are different part numbers because of this. 2003-2005 are definitely the same.

RE: A/C clutch/plate removal tool .... too bad you were not closer, you could stop by and we could try to adjust the clearance.
 

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2004 Forester XS
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1 Posts
Thanks Ferret for all of the information you've provided on this post. I am having the same AC issues with my '04 Forester. I tested the AC relay, and it is not the source of the problem. Rather than spend $580+ for a new compressor, I want to try the clutch fix you suggest. I need a clutch removal tool, so can you provide a name or link to a recommended removal tool? I've seen a kit advertised online at Amazon (Alltrade 648995 Kit 65), but my local AutoZone store advertises a simpler (and less expensive) option that just looks like a threaded bolt-like device (Part Number:
59516). I just want something that's best for the '04 Forester application. Thanks.
 

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2014 Impreza Ltd CVT
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3,319 Posts
Find one that will remove a Zexel clutch. Many of those kits do not include the plate and countersink bolt to remove it.

Some are on Ebay for $55 or there abouts shipped. They will do more than a Zexel.

Here's a link to a MAC tool instruction sheet that explains which of their adapters to use, and the adjustment gap on various compressors including the Zexel used in Subarus.

http://www.cpsproducts.com/site/elements/download/PDFs/#73-007 AC10868A.pdf
 

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2004 Forester 2.5XT
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15 Posts
easy way to check...

I too have an 04 XT that is having the same problem with the a/c. I had not read everything above when I tried this on my own. I got it in my head there must be an easy way to check this.
Here is how I did it (very much like Ferret):

Step #1: the a/c must quit working under the conditions as described in the posts above. Using a voltmeter (or test light if you don't have one), first disconnect the supply wire to the clutch coil (the single wire connector on the top of the compressor). Check the voltage on the male end, there should be battery voltage present. If there is go to next step. If not, you have an unrelated problem.

Step #2: re-connect the plug. SAFE METHOD: Have an assistant turn the a/c on and off at the dash while watching the clutch gap. Each time it is turned on, the clutch should move inward slightly. COWBOY METHOD: Using a pry bar or suitable long device while keeping one's fingers away from the belt area.... push quickly and lightly on the outer face of the compressor clutch face. If it engages, the gap due to wear on the clutch surface has increased beyond acceptable tolerance. The correct fix is to remove the clutch face and remove a shim (washer).
I hope this helps...
 

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2010 FXT Limited 4EAT Sport Shift
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Not being terribly handy with tools I don't even have, and with a 5000 mile 5 month journey ahead in two weeks, I've taken my 04FXT to dealer, with whom I have good rapport with straight shooting mechanic. From what I've heard from him, Ferret is pretty much right. My mechanic is first checking for over/under refrigerant charge, checking for right parts (half a dozen changes occuring in too few years to make sense of easily) availability, checking for proper clearance/shim. If that's the problem then relatively cheap fix (low parts/high labor (2 hours)).
Journey will be to very northern Canada, and air conditioning won't be essential (desirable for defrost system but not essential), so we don't have to replace the whole unit just yet.
-Quick
 

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2010 FXT Limited 4EAT Sport Shift
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Just back from dealer with a properly running air conditioning unit...my mechanic did a performance test (guaged both inlet and output lines), determined that charge was too high, causing belt to be on edge of traction until compressor kicks in. This mimicked a faulty clutch at first. My mechanic vacuumed the refrigerant, and refilled it with new formulation, in the proper amount. A thermometer stuck in the vent before read 40 degrees, after above R and R it was 33 degrees.
Bill? $181...no clutch necessary, no compressor necessary...mechanic didn't see any reason why it won't go another couple of years before needing replacement. Having expected a 600-1100 dollar bill, I left pleased ready to hit the road!
 

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2004 Subaru
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Hi, I'm back again... Same 2004 Forester XS with about 115k.

I just wanted to try and make sure I've eliminated all possibilities here. Problem in review:
** AC works fine but then cuts out after a while, think it's related to it being hotter after working (also it works for a longer time if I keep it on full blast constantly but still it will eventually cut out.) When I'm able to pop the hood and have a look at it, clutch isn't engaged - by tapping clutch plate it engages and starts working again.

I also just got a feeler gauge and with the car off and having rested for a few hours, it comes in at .035", which seems so much higher than the gap range given.

So, it is 99% sure that my clutch has worn and I either need to remove clutch shims or replace the compressor?

How difficult & expensive is it to replace the compressor? Would any clutch tool that references zexel work (like this one: NEI-20719A at arizonatools.com )?

Thanks!

Any recommendation on two choices?
1) going with a $210 reman compressor plus any replacement costs that I can't do myself (help with info if you have it.)
2) trying the shim removal still and need to buy a tool
 

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Well, in case this might help other total newbies...

This is on my 2004 Forester XS. Problem is when the AC doesn't work as it gets hot, but you can tap on the clutch plate and it engages and starts to work again.

I believe I was able to remove that shim and adjust my AC compressor's clutch air gap. My TSM (I finally checked) said the clearance should be
.3mm-.6mm which would be about .0118" - .0236"

If you look at the pictures you'll see the special tools needed. I went to an AutoZone and an Oreilly Auto store to look through their loaner tools and found this set at the Oreilly place. While the set wasn't 100% what I needed, I was able to hack the rest and being able to borrow for free in the end is awesome. :icon_razz:

The thing with this compressor is there are 3 holes that you can attach the circular plate to using a M5 bolt. Mine was M5x30 and a phillips head but having a hex head would be better.

So, this plate has a threaded center and special bolts with a long skinny attachment, the attachment pushes against the compressor which pushes the plate away, and since the plate is screwed into the clutch, it detaches from the compressor. It's really on there. Once you get it off you see the little SOB shim that's been keeping you from sweet AC coldness. To re-attach the clutch, I got a longer M6 bolt and put a large washer on it to hold the clutch - my picture shows my first attempt, which failed. You really need a hex head on the M6 bolt so you can get a ratchet on it. You can see my jerryrigged clutch holder, but they also loan these out at Autozone/Oreilly.

Anyhow, I need to do a full days test before I'll feel more confident but I was definitely able to close the gap when I checked it on the feeler gauge! :woohoo: It feels great to avoid paying $500 for a new compressor for the time being! Thanks to everyone on here, especially Ferret and TexasForester on this issue!!

Let me know if these pictures don't work!
Picasa Web Albums - Jonathan - Forester AC C...
 

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2014 Impreza Ltd CVT
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3,319 Posts
Thanks for posting back Jim ..... there will be MANY with this issue as their cars get older. Many, including some techs, don't realize by it's design, the clutch is a wear item ...... and may require adjustment from time to time. As you found, this can be done by just removing the Overflow bottle. The belts don't even have to come off.

Note, many do not realize these small R-134 systems cycle off /on frequently. On an older R-12 system, this would have been called short cycling. But on the R-134, it is normal.

Also I have never suggested charging a system unless you have a set of gauges to install and see what the status of the system currently is. There are many threads here and on other boards of people charging an already properly charged system and causing more problems. Diagnosing these is not difficult, but as you have found, sometimes requires tools not found in the average owners garage. Great that you can rent them !
 
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