2003 Forester AC compressor. Do I need the belt?


Asked by Nov 14, 2015 at 07:44 PM about the 2003 Subaru Forester

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

My AC compressor started whining today, and I was wondering if I could
take the belt off and run it safely without the belt until summer. A new
compressor is anywhere from 4-700 bucks here, and I dont have the cash
right now to buy one.
All I can find is that the defroster might not work. But is that all? There are
two belts. One for the alternator etc, and one for the AC belt.

12 Answers


As long as the ac is the only thing on that belt,then yes,but if there is power steering or any thing else running off it then no.


Don't know where you live, but, the defroster can be a show stopper. My cars defrost the windshield much faster with the air on. Your call, how much is safety worth?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

I agree with mark,all so,


Need the AC for the defroster to work properly, otherwise you'll get a lot of condensation on the window in addition to slower defrosting. Question: are you sure it's the compressor and not a belt tensioner or the AC pulley? Does it whine all the time or only when the AC is on? The AC pulley has a sealed bearing. (link to some stuff on ac pulley: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-ac-pulley.htm)


As TST said, as long as the a/c compressor is the only thing on that belt you can safely remove it. Your defroster will work just fine. There was actually a time when vehicles were not equipped with air conditioning! As long as the heater is working correctly, the defroster will too. HTH. -Jim


Js08016- it's not that the defroster won't work, although, it won't be that EFFECTIVE, and that's the key point. If there's a lot of humidity, you need something to dry out the air and refrigerated air conditioning does this elegantly. Think water cooling vs. refrigeraton which removes moisture from air and cools it. I understand that the original poster does not want to spend the money now, but, they're planning on getting this fixed in 5 or 6 months. Depending upon their environment, and regional weather, they may find this situation difficult. Look, this winter in California and elsewhere El Nino is coming and it's going to be a deluge. The rainy season will be much greater than normal. Finally, my 1995 Honda Accord EX required that you turn on the air conditioning when using the defroster, it was in the owners manual. Just put the expense on a credit card or something. As far as I'm concerned, it's an insurance risk management issue, and not having your car's systems running properly especially in poor weather is a decision of poor judgment.


I hear you Mark. However, the poster stated that they don't have the money to get it fixed right now. If it's a choice between buying food for their family or maybe fuel oil to heat their home the a/c can wait. Not everyone has the credit card option in this economy. This person is driving an older model vehicle to begin with. Maybe they need this vehicle to find a job or to keep the job they have. We don't know their situation other than they can't afford to fix it now. If the blower motor, wipers, lights, etc. were not working, those are serious safety issues. Air conditioning not working isn't. Even with the defroster involved. The radiant heat given off by the heater core removes some moisture from the air as it enters the passenger's compartment. Not as much as the a/c system, I agree. But the a/c system shuts down when the outside air temperature drops below 35°F anyhow. HTH. -Jim


Js08016- I think it's a matter of timing... if you carefully examine what the original poster said, "they don't have the cash ", and I understand that they would prefer not to put this on a credit card, I get that, but, putting yourself and others in harms way or taking unnecessary risks is not a good idea. If they were to get involved in an accident, the savings from trying to save money would be gone. That's what credit cards are there for, unplanned expenses. Look, they say that they're planning on doing this in summer anyway. And, a 2003 vehicle is really not that old.


It's a good idea to keep your power up and systems running to stay on the road.


Yes, the ac compressor is the only thing on the belt. I was curious if taking the belt off would throw the drive pulley out of whack at all, maybe, or if I need the AC comoressor itself for heat. I gather the defroster wont work as well, if at all, but I can deal with that for a little while. I just had other work done on the car which depleted my resources. The car has 185,000 on it. So, Im at a point where Im wondering how much more money I should put into repairs. This is my first Subaru, and Ive heard that they're good for 250,000, but Im finding it hard to believe just HOW good people say they are for that long.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

The compressor has nothing to do with the heat and your defrost will work just fine once the car is warmed up. If the car runs good and the head gaskets are not leaking I would say it is worth fixing. My 2003 has 200,000 on it and it runs better than my 2015 Forester.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

rick3po- Yes, I understand your point, and can only say that there's legions of folks out there in the Subaru high mileage club, people with 250,000 to 300,000 miles and more on their cars. Recently, I did a comparable price analysis on a 2000 BMW 528i to a 2000 Subaru Legacy both with 265,000 miles, and discovered on NADA that the Subaru Legacy was actually worth more than the BMW. My point here is even after 265,000 miles, the Subaru cars hold their value and are solid cars! Can your car go the distance? Well, that's entirely up to you. It's always about care and maintenance, listen, I keep my cars a very long time, my last car for 19 years was a 1995 Honda Accord EX station wagon and I maintain my cars like an airplane. I make every effort not to break down and get stranded. When you purchase a car, pay it off, and have no car payments, it's easier and less expensive to just keep maintaining the car. It's just simple arithmetic, no matter how much money you spend on actual repairs, it will never reach the cost of the average car payments , $400 per month for 60 months. I saved a lot of money, driving for 14 years without car payments, it's very significant savings. So, at the end of the day, is your car in immaculate condition? Do you like your car well enough to keep it and continue to save money? The only reason to purchase a new car is , if the does not meet your needs, you want added safety equipment or want much better mileage. In my case, the only reason I sold my Honda Accord EX station wagon was that it was too low to the ground to tow my teardrop trailer. I needed a car with a higher ground clearance and the Subaru Outback with an 8.7 inches compared to the 5 inch clearance did the trick. If you have 185,000 miles on this car and you have not had major issues with head gaskets, transmission or other major repairs, good for you! There's no way to predict what might happen, but, it's certainly less than the new car payments and the sales tax alone on a new or late model car is not insignificant. I decided to purchase a late model certified pre-owned vehicle and take out an extended warranty to 100,000 miles. If you decide to buy a replacement vehicle, you're going to save money getting a lease return, just make sure that you get the car from a new car dealership. They have the best cars. Here's a picture of my rig,

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