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· Registered
2002 Forester automatic
46 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm looking for advice from anyone who has been there...
The AC compressor on my daughter's '03 recently seized up internally for lack of oil.

The car is away at college, during which time the AC belt shredded itself. When I actually got to see the car, I found green oil "Slimer-ed" all around the high-side port on the compressor. Now without any belt and with the clutch unpowered, the compressor pulley spins freely (though not super well), but the compressor shaft itself is impossible to turn by hand. So before you ask, yeah - I'm pretty sure it's not a clutch issue nor a pulley issue.

[Side Note: I'm super proud that my daughter had the road-side skills to recognize and remove the beat-up ribbed belt, and to notice and patch-up the cooling fan's electrical line that got injured presumably in the belt's flailing death throes.]

At this point, having a shop replace the compressor is more than the car's bluebook and more than a college student can handle. Besides, our rescuing this car has been a labor of DIY love since day one (HG, bearings, struts, etc.). The question now is where reasonably to draw the line in deciding how much to include in the upcoming job of replacing the compressor.

I can have a shop evacuate the system (assuming there's anything left to recover when next I see the car). With the system empty I can buy and install a reman compressor for a more reasonable amount, along with a new dryer and new o-rings. (Manifold gauges and vacuum pump are available locally for loan to pull a vacuum and recharge the system.) So far this seems within my comfort zone. How much further do I go?

Since the compressor failed internally, metal debris is a concern, but how significant is this really? I don't (yet) own an air compressor with which to flush the lines and the evaporator -- if I look at buying one, what kind of PSI or CF/M are appropriate to do the job? I'm not even sure whether the OEM condenser on an '03 is something that can be flushed, and in any case, an aftermarket condenser is probably cheap enough to swap out for new -- if debris really is a serious concern.

Maybe it's worth having a shop do the flushing with what I assume is their stronger/drier air. If so, would it save labor to have the expansion valve out first in order for them to flush the evaporator in-place?

If you've read this far, maybe you can answer a few curiosity questions that none of my homework has answered so far:
1. When one flushes an AC system, what's the proper way to dispose of the waste?
2. Does the dryer act as a filter on these systems, potentially to catch debris?

Any advice and past experiences would be appreciated. It's not about knowing what the Gold-high standard would be, it's more about deciding what's the most good I can do with the reasonable amount of money it's worth putting towards it.

· Premium Member
2022 Forester Limited 2018 Forester XT
16,736 Posts
Unless you have experience in A/C work you are biting off more than you can chew IMHO. Make sure you replace the idler. I forget. What else is on that belt.

· Registered
2003 Forester X
1 Posts
If my belts are tight, and I have belt squeal under acceleration, is it a pullley thing? My AC works, car shows 186k miles, but I got it post head gasket issue and put a JDM low mile crate engine (2.0L) and radiator in it. I'm bit of a newb to Subie, but not cars in general.
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