Broken AC in my Civic

I’m posting this here for anyone who runs into the same problem on their Civic Hybrid and doesn’t feel like shelling out the $600+ to fix the AC.

Over the past few weeks my 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid has started making a horrible squealing sound, stalling, making a burning smell and the AC has been intermittent. My first thought was that the belt had just come loose or something, but the problem turned out to be much more expensive. After replacing the original belt (with the help of my wife’s small hands) with one purchased from the dealership (Part 38920-PZA-505) the squealing continued. Doing a little bit of research online it sounded like this could be due to the AC Compressor seizing up. I removed the belt, reached in and tried to turn all the pulleys by hand while the car was off, two moved and two didn’t, this confirmed for me that the AC compressor was locked up. Since I don’t have enough cash to get this repaired and I still need my car, I decided to bypass the AC compressor for now with a smaller belt. As I have never done anything like this before, I called on my dad’s auto expertise. We measured the new belt route with a string and found a part at Advance Auto Parts that would fit (Dayco Part #Β  3290040). Since I couldn’t find much documentation about doing this, I am providing a crude diagram of the belt routing for anyone else that might need it:

By drunnells at 2010-09-22

I hope this helps someone! Someday I’ll get the AC fixed.. but for now this seems to be working.

About Dustin

Married 39 year old father of three software developer in Rochester, NY.
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67 Responses to Broken AC in my Civic

  1. A. Brasser says:

    Thanks for the info, anyone who is interested this also works for the 2003 Hybrid Honda Civic. Its still hot as hell outside without AC but was able to get the belt replaced for under $45.00 and it allows me to still have my car so i can afford to get the overall repair done which is estimated at $1250.00 .

  2. J Campbell says:

    Thanks for posting this, I am going to try it today, the mechanic I took it to this morning said it was not possible to do this.

  3. Blake says:

    Thank You! My wife just had the same thing happen to her 2004 HCH and because of this blog I was able to fix her up with the bypass belt.

  4. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi! I’m trying to do this on my 2004 Civic IMA (UK name for Civic Hybrid), but I can’t figure out how to release the belt tension. I thought it would just be a matter of loosening the bolt on the top of the tensioner so that the pulley would drop down. However, I’ve now removed that bolt completely and the pulley is not budging. Can’t find any clues online either πŸ™ Can you remember what you had to do? Appreciate your help!

    • Ian Shepherd says:

      Figured it out – it was me being a dumbass and not slackening off the pulley bolt, not realising that it grips the tensioner bracket! Hope this helps other dumbasses! πŸ˜‰

  5. Alex Andreotti says:

    How many more miles did that gave you? It’s usually not recommended to have too little surface area of the belt driving a pulley (the water pump one in this case), so I was curious how well this worked for you.

    I have a 2003 civic hybrid with many issues, the latest being a seized up AC. I might junk the car if this doesn’t work.

    • Dustin says:

      Still running with the new belt, I’m afraid that I haven’t been keeping track of miles though. Driving roughly 350 miles a week since i did this 1.5 years ago. Aside from the AC, I haven’t had any other problems with this vehicle.

  6. Alex Andreotti says:

    Just in case others find this while googling the right combination of “honda civic hybrid seized up ac belt” or similar. The dayco belt number is changed (I think). Neither Advanced Auto Parts nor OReilly had 3290040 as a valid Dayco part number.

    You need a 40 inch, 4 groove belt. I’m thinking that something slightly shorter might be even be better, since that would keep the tensioner lower, and thus more contact of belt with water pump gear.

  7. christian spriggs says:

    This does work. A $10.50 fix. Saved me over $500 in parts and labor. Thanks. As a side note I have a 2003 civic hybrid and I used 39.75 in 4 groove belt. So far so good!

  8. Nathan Krump says:

    Thanks! I’m going ot do this in my 04 HCH with the same problem (2nd time it has happened in less than 2 years). This time I’ll save the huge repair bill and skip the AC as it’s the beginning of fall. Nathan

  9. James Robinson says:

    Thanks for this post Runnells Family, and to everyone else that has kept updating it. My friend’s daughter has an ’04 HCH with the AC making alot of noise. I will try to find a belt from 39.75 – 40″.
    Advanced had another belt I use due to the one mentioned was out of stock.
    Part# 400K40

  10. mark hudson says:

    I was able to fix mine in my garage for $220, compressor, belt, and r134a. took a total of two hours. I also was not working that fast. There are two wheel well body clips that need to be removed from the wheel well, two bolts on the AC compressor, a wire harness clip, and the air conditioner lines. That’s it… Super easy job. It took me more time to find this diagram to re-route through the original belt path…

  11. Dave Fritz says:

    I have a 05 HCH and the ac compressor was making the grinding noise (ball bearings went I think). That was right as I hit the 200,000 mile mark. About 500 miles later the compressor seized up and melted the belt to its pulley. No alternator movement and the engine stopped running. I was able to get about 40 miles out of it before it totally died on me. I live in Maine and I was not about to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, so I drove it until it stopped. I only had to be towed 9 miles to the shop. I will be picking up the belt today and hopefully it will work.
    On another note, this car is the best that I have ever owned. Still has the original brakes, original CVT battery, the rear wheels have 90,000+ miles (fronts had to be changed out at 85,000) and I still get 51.4 mpg over the last 110,000 miles. I drive it through any weather I see and I have yet to get stuck enough where I need a tow truck. I plan to drive this thing for another 200,000+ miles.

    Great Car!!!

  12. AAron Godwin says:

    I have a 2004 Civic Hybrid with manual transmission and successfully bypassed the AC compressor. I believe the method is the same for the auto. A couple of notes that may help others: The belt to use is a 398k4, also marked 4pk1010. any four groove belt from 39″ to 40″ could work. Many folks have asked about the belt tensioner location. It is actually at the very top closest to the front of the car. It may be confusing, as it doesn’t look like or function like a standard tensioner. It is actually easier, once you realize it is what you are looking for. No special torque bar needed. It has two bolts on the top 10mm. One holds a guard and one is used to raise and lower the pulley on the tensioner. You also need to loosen the one that holds the pulley on 12mm enough to allow movement and then retighten when you are done. Other than it take some small hands or perseverance to guide the belt on, this is all very easy. It took me about 10 minutes and ten bucks. It may also be worth noting, I discovered the locked AC compressor issue by noting the car was overheating and then discovered the shredded belt. The water pump is driven by the same belt. Hope this helps.

  13. James zarlinga says:

    Did the AC still make a funny noise after the AC compressor was by passed? I have 2003 honda civic hybrid and my AC compressor is seized up.

  14. Stephen says:

    anyone give any advice on how to best get back to the actual tensioner? I’m new at this and attempting the same thing but having a hard time getting to the tensioner to remove the old belt.

  15. A. Carrano says:

    Great post, thanks. My 2005 civic hybrid started making the same noise and lasted a month before the compressor locked up and the belt went. The dealer did not want to fix it given the amount of rust around the compressor base (car was driven in upstate NY for 8 years) so I was ready to donate it until I saw this post. It only has 106k miles so I am not ready to say god bye to a great vehicle otherwise. An $11 belt (I used the 398K4 drive rite from Advanced Auto Parts) and 2- 3 hours of work and this car is working great and as quiet as it was when I drove it out of the dealer. Couple of things not mentioned here that helped me: (1) you will have to loosen the tensioner as much as possible with this belt length and, (2) if you have a second pair of hands helping you to route and hold the belt around the crankshaft by accessing from behind the front right wheel, it makes a huge difference. Thanks again, this was very useful.

    • Kuli says:

      Had the same problem. Did the same thing. Works like new πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot for sharing the info. I was almost ready to trade the car…
      Took ~30min to replace the belt from the top. Idle RPMs are constant now, no subsidence. Motor won’t stall on the parking lot. No burning smell. No squealing sound.
      Before that visited 2 greedy repair shops, one charged $130 to tell me what I already guessed/knew, 2nd – $70 to replace the belt. The issue was still there.
      It is better to do things by your own if possible. These damn repair shops only take money for nothing or propose $1700 repair for the car which costs $2000…

  16. Josh D says:

    Just what I was looking for! Thanks for all the info. Buys me a week till it gets fixed and not worrying my belt will snap.

  17. Tom N says:

    Just in case you want to continue using the OEM belt, here’s an alternative that costs approximate $50 (an Air Conditioning Compressor Bypass Pulley – 1AEPM00027) – This pulley goes in place of your A/C and act as the A/C pulley but no A/C πŸ™‚

  18. Steven Ybarra says:

    Dude your a fucking savior really appreciate the blog!!

  19. Ryan says:

    i have same problem right now and i think the bearings seized up and the belt broke because the aweful noise went away but the car overheats. I want to do the shorter belt and leave out the A/c unit. anyone know know a good video or step by step instructions for removing and installing a new belt?

    • Ryan says:

      update.. found the shredded belt at the bottom of engine compartment last night. its a 2005 Civic Hybrid. the awful noise went away but engine gets hot after 5 minutes of driving. Gonna attempt the shorter belt option this weekend. Thanks for this post as I was ready to scrap the car as its wasn’t worth enough to sink $1,500 into as that’s what dealer wanted for new compressor. Car was running great but I can do without the AC to save money. Thanks!

  20. Lowell Kloth says:

    Thanks for all the great info. I just completed this belt swap on my 2004 Civic Hybrid.. It had a screaming AC pulley. Like everyone else I didn’t want to shell out $1200 to the dealer. I bought the DRIVE RITE belt, part # 398k4 or 4pk1010 at Advance Auto for $10.50. It works good. Nice and quiet now. Easy job. Two 10mm bolts on top of the tension-er. The one to the firewall side holds on the plastic shield. Loosen it and remove the shield. There is a hose clipped to the shield, just unclip it. The bolt to the radiator side moves the tension-er but you have to loosen the 12 mm bolt on the pulley first. Then loosen the tension-er bolt by turning it counter clockwise. Loosen it alot so the new belt will fit. The dealer got me for $275 for a “triple flush of the cvt trans fluid to try to fix the car’s judder. They call it” burnishing ” It helped some but it is not all gone. Any body else have this judder issue. If so how did you fix it. I would appreciate any info you may have. Thanks

  21. Ryan says:

    car has been running fine with a shorter belt bypassing the a/c compressor. Today was the first day i tried to use the heat in the car and it never got warmer after about 5 mins of diving and the engine seemed warmed up. I wouldn’t think the a/c compressor affected the heat? Air blows out fine but is not any warmer than air outside. any thoughts?

  22. tim says:

    awesome! thanks for the help… saved me 1200 bucks. you’re the coolest

  23. Fred Wilson says:

    Dustin –

    My AC compressor seized up a few years ago and I limped into a Honda dealer and had them put a short belt on too, bypassing the AC like you did. I never had the AC fixed because its too expensive and I figured the car wasn’t worth a $1500 fix. Well, I am at 302,000 miles now. Last week I noticed the lights dimming when i stepped on the gas so figured the alternator belt was slipping. I used your diagram and the comments from others to your post to replace the belt today – THANK YOU. My car is a 5 speed, not sure if that helps it last but its a typical honda (still on the original hybrid battery, IMA light has been on for a couple years, but it works fine). ]
    I am shooting for 500,000, have to watch out for rust in the engine compartment, etc, but otherwise, it is an amazing little car, still gets 35 – 40 mpg at least and has plenty of power. Is yours a manual?

    Best Regards – will never buy anything new but Honda…

    • Dustin says:

      Fred, I agree! I’ve had very good luck with this vehicle! My IMA light has been on and off again for the past couple of years as well. I lucked out last year and it happened to be off when my state inspection was due and I was able to pass. This year however, I’m concerned that it won’t turn off in time for my inspection in January. The car seems fine, but the check engine light and IMA are on. I don’t think that they will even look at a vehicle in NY unless these lights are off. Did you have to do any tricks to pass the inspection where you live? I think that if I detach the battery and reattach it I will have a few days before the IMA and Check Engine lights turn back on. Maybe I will give that a try. I am also considering looking around for someone local who might have refurbished IMA batteries.

      • ED says:

        Here’s a trick I learned to restart the IMA. Drive the car down a deserted street at about 25 miles an hour. Put trans into neutral. Turn off ignition. Coast for three seconds. Turn on ignition and put car in drive to restart engine on compression. This method reboots the IMA computer.

    • ED says:

      Fred – there is no alternator associated with the serpentine belt. In fact, these hybrids do not have an alternator. It is replaced by the electric motor.

  24. Fred Wilson says:

    p.s. thanks to Lowell for the belt i.d. Bought that one and it works fine.

  25. R.F. Reyes says:

    Thanks for the tip! I have 105K miles on my 2004 Civic Hybrid and how to get a couple 100K more. Just did the fix today and car runs great . Silly question, is this pulley config. charging the alternator? Also, will the “Economy mode” still work? In other words, will the engine turn off at a stop?

    • Dustin says:

      This shouldn’t change how your alternator charges. The Economy Mode still works for me after making this change. The only thing that doesn’t work anymore is the AC.

    • R.F. Reyes says:

      Thank you, Dustin. Also, is the IMA battery just sitting unused now? The economy mode isn’t workong for me. Did I something on the pulley bypass install? I followed the diagram exactly.

  26. Andy says:

    Has anyone tried replacing the AC Compressor “pully & clutch”? I spent a week waiting for the parts ($95), then another week (of evenings) replacing them. I thought I might have to lift the engine out to do this. (No room for your hands when disconnecting and reconnecting the magnet wires!) I just got the new pully on and it still wobbles the same as the old one did!! Very bummed that I can’t figure this out. After all the time I spent on the car I should have just purchased the smaller belt and bypassed the AC! It appears to me that something is missing in order to make the pully & bearing fit properly. I didn’t lose any parts, so I don’t know whats going on?

    My daughter’s Hybrid also has the “studder/judder” in the transmission when she accelerates forward and in reverse. My understanding is that it’s normal for a Constant Velocity Transmission (CVT), at least for the older models. I hope the people who told me that aren’t wrong!

    • George Hollen says:

      I found the Judder to be caused by broken transmission mount. Replaced it and al l went away

      • Val Masek says:

        Can you please specify how to locate the transmission mount which you replaced? Our 2011 HCH (automatic) makes the judder when accelerating from a stop. Thought we may need to replace the automatic clutch if there is one.

  27. Daniel Shearer says:

    This was a huge save for us. Your post allowed me to get a heads up on what was coming and to buy the parts before I left on a trip from Maine to Vermont last night (hoping to make it home). When the belt snapped (indicated by the high engine temp), I pulled over to change it. I had a 39 3/8″ belt that I bought from NAPA for $20, which turned out to be too small. Luckily, I was 7 miles from an Auto Zone and was able to drive (much with the engine off) in to get a 40″ belt for $8. That was perfect. I already had the 10 and 12 mm wrenches and that’s all I needed to get it on. That completely resolved it all. THANKS!

  28. Marc says:

    Thank you for creating this post! My local mechanic recommended replacing the compressor for $1200. I did a quick Google search, found your post, and showed the mechanic your diagram and notes. He was reluctant but installed the shorter belt. The total bill was $47! After picking the car up, I headed out of town and had no trouble. In fact, I’ve recorded my best MPG in years at 52.2. I’m now at 430,000! Obviously, the Honda Civic Hybrid is the best investment I’ve ever made!

  29. Brian Inman says:

    thanks for the tip. Advance Auto did not have that size belt so I went to the next size down a Dayco 5040398 carQuest belt. Wow I couldn’t believe how easy it was to replace. Took about 10 minutes.

  30. Steven Meigs says:

    Here we are in April 2016 and your blog entry is still helping people! Thank you!!!
    I am using this temporary fix on my 2003 Hybrid today until I can get the new compressor clutch.

  31. jay says:

    Does any of the you here who had issues with Hybrid AC, did get to refill the refrigerant? I’m being told use of regular R134a cans in autozone / Walmart, would plug the AC compressor. So how do we refill the refrigerant?

  32. Bertil Axelsson says:

    I had a belt go out (2003 HCH) and my mechanic said it went out because the the compressor froze up. Original belt and about 200,000 miles. Got a new compressor at a reasonable cost, but probably lacking in quality as the compressor clutch went out about 30,000 miles later. Contributing factor may have been too much cycling on and off, due to other problem, who knows, Still running but starting to make the noise so many are describing. With the problem on hand the belt did go out even that the compressor pulley works, but probably poorly. Now realizing this and and thinking about this vulnerability, I also thought about getting a shorter belt and somehow bypassing the compressor. Did a search and found all this helpful information confirming what to do and what size belt to get. Thank you so much for the blog and to the contributors as well.

  33. Randy says:

    Hello and thankfully i found this blog. My girlfriend also has a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid and as a result endured thebsame problem. I am a mechanic and was already figuring out the problem and considered bypassing with a shorter belt. Since fall is coming, and the necessary funds are procuring over the time till next spring/summer, she can replace the a/c. Much cheaper on ebay or amazon btw.
    Anyway, the shorter belt does work (398k4 from duralast-Autozone). Everyone was worried if there was going to be enough tension to operate the water pump pulley. There is plenty of connection for the pump to function properly. The amount of play the actual tensioner provides (the two 12mm adjuster bolts and 10mm pulley bolt) was more than enough to make the job a success.
    It took less than 10 minutes for this bypass. And the vehicle is running smooth, minus the a/c. The fan does still work from cool/heat, but until the compressorwith recharge of 134 is replaced as well as the belt, there unfortunately will be no air conditioning. Thats a project (easy} for next time. Thank you again for the information and so forth.

  34. TIFFANY E DOWSE says:

    I recently did this exact same thing. After 20mins of driving the imb and check engine light came on. Could by passing the compressor like this cause something to go wrong with my battery?

  35. Bryan S says:

    I am so thankful I came across this blog. And thanks to Dustin Runnells and his family for investigating this issue and starting this blog!!

    I just purchased a 2005 Civic Hybrid for $800 in December of 2016.with 205,000 miles on it. When I took the car for a test drive I felt the notorious “shudder” experienced by most vehicles with the CVT (especially the Honda civic and fit) Ok I fixed this problem by doing some Internet research: It turns out that doing a transmission flush (replacing the fluid with Honda brand CVT fluid) and adding this product,which has an unheard of TBN (Total Base Number) of 320, fixed the shudder problem within 5min of driving. The higher an oil’s total base number (TBN), the better its ability to neutralize contaminants such as combustion by-products and acidic materials. Just to give you a comparison example, most conventional oils have a TBN of 8-10. And even AMSOIL synthetic lubricants have a TBN of 13-14. Haha ok enough of me rambling…

    3 weeks after purchasing the car, I started hearing some grinding and rattling noise. Well the rattling noise was a rusted heat shield over the mid portion of the exhaust (just used a metal coat hanger to fix that problem). But last night the grinding noise started getting louder and more frequent. I could even smell burnt rubber (probably the belt). Sure enough it turned out to be the A/C bearing/pulley. And just as Dustin mentioned, I don’t have much money and I need to make my vehicles last as long as they can. Being that I don’t have much time or interest working on the car in the cold, this little trick saved me a lot of time and money, until i can get a new compressor. I see them listed on ebay for $120 plus about $10 for PAG46 oil. The fix took about 40 minutes total and the only cost was a $10.99 belt.. .Thanks again Dustin!

  36. steve says:

    post is still help people out, about to do this but having issue loosing the tensioner. Am I to understand that by loosing the bolt the pulley should move up and down? If so then mine is stuck, otherwise I’ve completely missed how to get the tensioner loose.

    • steve says:

      Just to follow up I did finally figure this out by carefully going over each post here, where it was explained and I had missed it. Works great, picked up a car for next to nothing and fixed it with this, now getting 48mpg. Thank you, thank you , thank you

  37. RD94 says:

    Unplug the electrical connector to the AC compressor, as the car will occasionally engage the compressor without you switching on the AC. There’s a possibility it may mess up the magnet, a very small one, but if you want to salvage your AC to fix later…

  38. Patrick says:

    Have to say this was an amazing fix after being told that I had to replace the air conditioner compressor pump for $900. I bought a Dayco 5040398 for $18 and spent 1 hour to fix and the result was amazing. Thank you so much for the information. πŸ™‚

  39. Steve says:

    Just did this fix on my 2004 HCH. Works like a charm. Took a bit to figure out loosing the tensioner correctly and a bit of help from the wife to get hands down around the crankshaft. Started it up and and no noise. Now just to figure out where the connector is to disconnect the compressor. Thanks for the original post way back in 2010!

  40. Adrian martinez says:

    Tanks people like you make believe in humanity again good bless you

  41. Jeff Sommer says:

    Thanks so much for this information. Dayco 3290040 is now Dayco 5040400 (also K040400). We can use our car now while waiting for my AC parts to get shipped to my house. I took off the front passenger side wheel to get easy access to the crankshaft and water pump pulleys. Simple and only took about 20 minutes to do.

  42. Alex Austin says:

    Did you ever have any cooling or water pump problems with this?

  43. Ian says:

    Thanks for the details about how to route around a seized AC compressor! Eight years later and your post is still helping folk out. πŸ™‚

  44. R. Campbell says:

    Thank you thank you thank you dustin!!! I was in the same position, wife’s car broke down and can’t afford to take it in to be fixed. 2005 hch, started off with a noise I thought was the heater fan as it got louder when used. Then the noise switched to the loud grinding noise exactly like in the videos. I noticed the a.c. pulley was only turning sometimes. While I was looking at it, the pulley stopped completely and the belt starred smoking, After hearing the cost to fix a.c. compressor I was going to junk the car. Sunk enough money into it. Instead with this thread, I went to auto zone and bought belt
    398k4 duralast belt, 10 dollars. Removed the front passenger tire, heat shield and was able to access the pulley a lot easier! I was a little confused how to loosen the tensioner but after looking at it for a while I remember reading that you have to remove the long bolt, then the tensioner bolt can be loosened. The tensioner pulley bracket does not move like other tensioners I have seen so if anyone else is having that problem, you probable forgot the other bolt removal like I did. Anyway, I am no mechanic and know very little about vehicles but this was a easy and cheap fix and saved me big time. Great thread! Helping out civic owners 8 years after the original post! Kudos!!

  45. JOSE says:

    Great fix. Thank You so much. I used the Oreillys part number K040390 which is 9/16 x 39 3/4″ outside diameter, which is probably the minimum size you can use for the bypass. Its harder to install cause you have to remove the tensioner pulley and pre-install the belt around the pulley in order to make it fit. But it gives more contact around the water pump pulley, which gives a little extra peace of mind, until I fix it before next PHX AZ summer. THXS

  46. Alan says:

    2005 HCH, CVT. Replaced the original belt with a Dayco 5040400 from Advance today. No more grinding noise, no more burnt rubber smell, and I still have heat, with the engine at normal operating temperature according to the dash guage. Thanks!

  47. chrisdehaas says:

    2012, Civic Hybrid. Success with the 40″ belt. A pain to install alone (another set of hands would be good). Definitely take the front passenger side tire off to get access to crankshaft. The tension/surface area on the Water pump looks good. So far so good. Thanks to everyone who reported back.

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