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When you don’t know about clutch wires

By Richard Hawkins, MACS contributor

Three hundred sixty-two days and counting. Yes, in three more days 2022 will be staring at us through the windshield, and then 2021 will soon be in the rearview mirror.

We will close out 2021 on something of a light note. While writing the series of articles about the electronically controlled compressors, I recalled a couple of conversations from around 2010 about one compressor in particular — this was when vehicles equipped with these units were first starting to show up in shops for service.

The conversation involved a clutchless compressor unit. A CSR who had sold one to a shop contacted me and said his customer (who was both the shop owner and technician working on the car) had just called him. There was a concern that the compressor didn’t have a clutch wire. I checked the application data to make sure he had sent the correct compressor, and it was what I had suspected, a vehicle that used a clutchless electronically controlled compressor. He had the VIN, so I double checked it. The application and compressor listing checked out.

Next, I described the design of clutchless compressors so that the CSR could contact his customer and explain it to him. About 30 minutes later, the CSR called me back and said he had talked to the customer and explained that this compressor didn’t use a clutch, and, as a result, it did not have a clutch wire. Unfortunately, that did not go over too well.  

The customer’s response was: “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard of and if you don’t want to lose this sale and my business you had better hurry up and send me a compressor with a clutch wire.” Then the customer hung up on him. The CSR said this customer had a “short fuse,” and he knew if he called him back to try to explain further, it was only going to make matters worse. As a result, he asked if I would call him.

The Conversation

I called him a few minutes later, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello, this is Richard with A/C tech support. I spoke with Matt, the CSR who sold you the compressor for the Toyota you are working on… (And was cut off before being able to complete the sentence.)

Technician: Yeah, why are you wasting my time calling me? I told Matt to send me a compressor with a clutch wire, or he was going to lose a sale on this compressor and all my other business too!  I’m a busy man, and I don’t have time to waste on stupid stuff like this!

Me: I know you are busy, and I’m sure you want to get that car fixed as soon as possible. I’m calling to help you make that happen. Can you give me about two minutes of your time?

Technician: Yeah, I guess so. I’ve already wasted about thirty minutes messing with Matt. I guess I can afford to waste another two minutes.

Me: OK. Thanks. Please don’t take this wrong, but have you looked at the compressor on the vehicle to make sure it has a clutch wire.

Technician: No, there was no need to look at it. I knew as soon as I took that compressor out of the box that they had messed up at the factory and forgot to install the clutch coil. There was no need to look at it.  Matt asked me to look at it too. He said it wasn’t supposed to have a clutch wire. I told him that was one of the stupidest things I had ever heard.

Me: I understand your thoughts, but, please, trust me. There are some compressors that do not use clutch wires because they do not have clutches. This is one of those units. Could you please take a moment and look at the compressor on the car and see if it has a clutch wire. While you are at it, could you also get the numbers from the label on the compressor and provide them to me so I can interchange them.

Technician: But if the compressor doesn’t have a clutch, how can it turn on and off?

Me: It will take a bit of time to explain that, and we are already into about 30 seconds of that two minutes you allotted me. If it is OK with you, let’s wait to discuss that after you look at the compressor on the car and we get the numbers from it.

Technician: (With a somewhat sarcastic chuckle) OK, I’ll go look at it. It’s buried, so I might have to put it on the lift to get a good look at it.

Me: Please take your time.

Technician: (About 3 or 4 minutes later) Well you were right. I looked at it, and it doesn’t have a clutch wire. It has a couple of wires going to a connector on the rear of the compressor. I’ve already started wiping some egg off my face. (Laughing) Here are the numbers.

Me: I’m 99%  sure that is the correct compressor, but I’ll interchange the numbers to be sure.

Technician: Thanks

Me: Yes, that is the correct unit. (I then proceeded to explain about the design and operation of the electronically controlled clutchless compressors and emailed him a MACS Service Report that provided some additional information.

And with that, we will bring the curtain down on 2021.

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