Are you having air conditioning problems with your Chrysler PT Cruiser? You’re not alone. Many 2001 PT, 2002 PT Cruiser, and 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser owners troubleshoot such issues when the AC is not working properly, especially as these vehicles age.
Even newer models can suffer the same fate. When you turn on the AC and get blasts of warm air, it likely means the AC compressor is not engaging. The 2003 PT Cruiser air conditioning compressor is the heart of your Cruiser’s air conditioning system. It pressurizes refrigerant gas to initiate the chemical reaction that makes cold air blow through the vents.
A faulty compressor clutch can stem from multiple issues like problems with fuses, relays, pressure switches, clutch failure, low refrigerant, and general air conditioner compressor failure. Diagnosing the root cause takes some testing and troubleshooting of the AC system.
In our guide, you can learn more about repairing the issue, such as – replacing bad relays, low-pressure switches, unable to pressurize the low pressure side, and even the clutch itself. By the end, you’ll see that everything works without too much effort and is much cheaper than installing a whole new compressor. (Learn How To Replace Front Seal In Transmission)
What Does the AC Compressor Do?
The AC compressor is the heart of your Pt Cruiser’s air conditioning system. It pressurizes refrigerant gas, starting the chemical process that makes the AC blow cold air. When you turn on the AC, a clutch engages the compressor pulley to begin this process. If the clutch won’t engage and turn the compressor on, you’ll just get warm air blowing through the vents.
Why Won’t My PT Cruiser AC Compressor Turn On?
There are a few common reasons the AC compressor clutch is not engaging in a Pt Cruiser:
- Faulty AC relay or fuse: Like any electrical component, the compressor clutch needs power to activate. A blown fuse or bad relay can prevent power from reaching the clutch.
- Problems with the AC pressure switches: The AC system has high and low-pressure switches that disengage the compressor at pressure extremes to prevent damage. If these switches malfunction, they’ll shut off the compressor.
- Issues with the compressor clutch: The clutch mechanisms inside the compressor can fail or seize up over time, preventing the pulley from engaging.
- Low refrigerant levels: The AC compressor will shut off if refrigerant levels get too low to protect the system. Low refrigerant could indicate a leak.
- Compressor failure: In some cases, the compressor itself may be bad and need replacement. This is more common on older 2003 Pt Cruiser 2.4 non turbo or other models with high mileage.
Next, let’s go through how to diagnose the root cause and fix your Cruiser’s AC compressor problem.
Step 1: Check Chrysler PT Cruiser Fuses and Relay
The first thing to check is the simplest – verify the compressor is actually getting power. Locate the AC relay and fuse in the under-hood fuse box. The fuse will likely be labeled “AC” or “A/C.” Check for blown fuses and ensure the relay is securely plugged in. Replace any blown fuses and try the AC again.
Warning Signs of a Faulty Relay or Fuse
- Compressor doesn’t turn on at all when AC is activated
- Other electrical issues happening simultaneously, like blinking lights
Replacing a fuse or relay is cheap and easy. If this fixes your AC, you’re done! If not, move on to the next steps.
Step 2: Examine PT Cruiser AC Switches
Your 2004 Pt Cruiser has high and low pressure switches connected to the AC lines. Their job is to disengage the compressor clutch if refrigerant pressure gets too high or low. Malfunctioning switches can shut off the compressor unnecessarily.
Check both switches visually for any damaged wiring. Use a voltmeter to check for continuity between terminals. Switches should show continuity at normal pressures and “open” at pressure extremes. If either switch is stuck open, you will need a new switch. (Read Ac Compressor Wont Stay On)
Signs of Bad Pressure Switches:
- The compressor cycles on and off rapidly because of a faulty cycling switch.
- The low side feels cold, while the high side is warm inside the car.
Replacing faulty pressure switches often resolves intermittent compressor operation.
Step 3: Test the Compressor Clutch
The compressor clutch is an electromagnetic coil that engages the pulley when energized. If it fails, you’ll find the compressor not turning. To test the air compressor clutch:
- Turn the AC on max and listen for a “click” from the clutch engaging. No click could indicate a bad coil.
- Check for power to the clutch with a voltmeter when the AC is on. No power means an electrical issue is preventing activation.
- Ensure the pulley and clutch can spin freely by hand when disengaged. Friction can prevent engagement.
- Use an ammeter to check the clutch coil resistance. It should match factory spec (usually around 3 ohms).
A faulty clutch will need to be replaced. Thankfully, compressor clutches are relatively inexpensive. Replacing the clutch is far cheaper than a whole new compressor.
Step 4: Check AC Refrigerant Levels and Look for Leaks
If the AC system is low on refrigerant, the compressor will shut off to avoid damage. You’ll need a mechanic’s set of AC gauges to check the high and low side pressures. If pressures are very low, add a refrigerant recharge to bring it up to spec.
Then, use an electronic leak detector and dye to check for leaks. The condenser, hoses, and fittings are common leak points. Any leaks will need to be repaired, and a mechanic evacuated and recharged the system.
Clues pointing to a refrigerant leak:
- Low side pressure very low while the high side is normal
- AC performance gradually got worse over time
- No cold air comes from vents when the compressor is on
Step 5: Make Sure the Compressor is Actually Bad
Sometimes, the 2006 Pt Cruiser AC compressor itself just goes bad. Symptoms of a failed compressor include:
- Loud noise, grinding, or squealing coming from the compressor
- Leaking oil around compressor seals
- The clutch engages, but the compressor doesn’t spin after changing the timing belt
Have a mechanic test a compressor function to verify failure before replacing it. AC compressors can be expensive, so you want to make absolutely sure it’s bad before buying a new one.
When to Replace a Compressor:
- The compressor clutch engages, but the pulley doesn’t spin
- Loud bearing noises even after adding oil
- Evidence of cracked housing or damaged pulley
Fixing a PT Cruiser Air Conditioning Seized Compressor
Sometimes, the Pt Cruiser compressor will seize due to sitting unused for too long. This locks up the pulley. Before replacing it, you can try freeing up a seized compressor:
- Remove the serpentine belt and clutch to access the pulley bolt.
- Use penetrating oil on the bolt and let it soak for 15 minutes.
- Try slowly turning the pulley by hand. If it won’t budge, lightly tap it with a hammer.
- Once the pulley spins freely, reinstall the clutch and test the compressor.
Freeing up a seized pulley can get the compressor working perfectly and save you money. But the compressor may still fail down the road.
Remember, compressors are used for many things, and such a fault doesn’t just mean your AC works, but you’ll have brakes working properly. (Learn How To Reset Service Suspension System Cadillac Escalade)
Comparing Rebuilt vs. New AC Compressors
If you do need a compressor replacement, you have two main options:
- New AC compressors: More expensive, but come with a warranty. OEM compressors match the factory perfectly. Aftermarket units are cheaper but may have fitment issues, and the AC doesn’t work like OEM equipment.
- Rebuilt AC compressors: A more affordable fix. The compressor is disassembled, worn parts replaced, and tested. It usually includes a warranty. However, the core unit is still old.
For most people, a quality rebuilt compressor is the best value replacement. But a new OEM unit may be worth the cost if you plan to keep the Cruiser long-term.
Common Chrysler Pt Cruiser AC Compressor Problems
On certain models, the Chrysler Pt Cruiser AC compressor has problems. Being aware of these can help troubleshoot issues when outside the Chrysler Warnty:
- 2001 models: Compressor failures because of faulty AC clutch bearings
- 2002-2005 models: Compressor was mainly seized because of infrequent AC use on 04 PT Cruiser.
- 2006 limited convertible models: Leaking compressor shaft seals common on 06 PT Cruiser
- 2007 PT Cruiser Convertible -2010 models: Clutch not engaging and causing premature clutch coil failure.
So check your Pt Cruiser’s model year and mileage to help determine compressor problems. Higher mileage vehicles are more prone to failure.
Preventing Future AC Compressor Problems
To maximize the life of your new or rebuilt AC compressor and avoid repeat failures, make a habit of:
- Start the car and run the AC weekly to see if the compressor works, even in cold weather. This keeps seals lubricated.
- Have your AC system serviced annually before summer. Check refrigerant levels and lubricate the clutch; summer without the AC will be horrible.
- Using the AC recirculate mode whenever possible. It switches the AC into economy mode, reducing system strain.
- Addressing strange noises or performance issues quickly to prevent more significant problems down the road.
A little preventative maintenance goes a long way for bulky AC system components! When diagnosing your AC system, check components like the evaporator for potential leaks or blockages preventing proper refrigerant flow.
Examine the AC vents at the dash and pay attention to the passenger side cooling performance, not just the driver side.
Notice if you lose cold air at stop, it can point to low refrigerant or a compressor issue. So, turn off the AC and then back on to test if the compressor clutch engages.
Conclusion: Fix 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Air Conditioner
Getting your Pt Cruiser’s air conditioning blowing cold again may seem daunting, but have hope! With methodical troubleshooting and a little DIY spirit, you can likely fix your AC compressor issues affordably.
Start by checking for simple problems like blown fuses, faulty fan relays, or bad pressure switches. Test the compressor clutch engagement. Add refrigerant if low. And consider a clutch or full compressor replacement only if necessary.
Applying some mechanical know-how and targeted repairs will have you cruising cool and comfortable in your Chrysler once again.
Be sure to run the AC routinely and check you have cold, not hot, air coming from the vents, and get an annual service from a verified Chrysler mechanic to prevent future compressor problems or to diagnose the problem you have.
With the correct diagnosis and fix, your PT Cruiser’s air conditioning system can blow ice cold air for years of driving enjoyment. (Read Spider Fuel Injector)
FAQs: Why Pt Cruiser AC Is Not Working
Why does my Cruiser AC only work sometimes?
Faulty pressure switches or a bad compressor clutch coil usually cause intermittent operation. The clutch may engage partially when cold and then overheat.
What should high pressure and low-side AC pressures be on a PT Cruiser?
Normal specs are Low side between 25-40 PSI, high side pressure around 200 PSI at idle on a 75-90 degree day.
Is it safe to drive with the AC compressor engaged?
The compressor clutch automatically disengages above certain RPMs to prevent damage from high pulley speeds. Driving with the AC on is fine.
Do I need to replace the whole compressor or just the clutch?
In many cases, just replacing the clutch coil, pulley bearing, or front seal will fix the issue at a lower cost. But confirm the compressor itself still pumps properly.
What happens if you turn AC on with low refrigerant?
The low-pressure switch will shut off the compressor to avoid damage. You’ll just be blowing warm air. Adding refrigerant may allow the compressor to turn on again.
Can a bad condenser cause compressor issues?
A clogged condenser can restrict refrigerant flow, leading to high head pressure and compressor shut-off. Condenser cleaning or replacement may be needed.