97 Caravan Air Conditioner Squeal

I have a 1997 Dodge Caravan with the 3.0 litre engine. A few years ago a problem developed with the air conditioner. Every now and then it would
give out a little 'chirp'. The chirp gradually increased to a screech, especially during acceleration.
I expected that this was an isolated case until one day while waiting at a red light the Caravan beside me made the same screeching noise when accelerating after the light turned green. This led me to think that maybe it was a common problem.
I was going to put off fixing it until spring but the other day I started the van to let it idle for a few minutes to warm up. I went outside a few minutes later to find a 'rattling' noise under the hood. I suspected that it was part of the air conditioner problem so I removed the drive belt, which stopped the rattling.
My first thought was that it might be the clutch in the compressor, although I have not ruled out the possibility of the idler pulley.
Has anyone else run across this? And if so, if it was the compressor, can it be repaired on the vehicle or does the compressor have to be removed for repair?
Thanks for all thoughts.
Ed
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<<<< have a 1997 Dodge Caravan with the 3.0 litre engine. A few years ago a problem developed with the air conditioner. Every now and then it would give out a little 'chirp'. The chirp gradually increased to a screech,
especially during acceleration.
I expected that this was an isolated case until one day while waiting at a red light the Caravan beside me made the same screeching noise when accelerating after the light turned green. This led me to think that maybe it was a common problem. <<<
Our '96 used to squeal loudly on occasion. Mostly at idle, though. It was the compressor clutch, and at that time there were no reasonably priced replacements. Some timely and well-placed applications of WD-40 kept it reasonably quiet for several years. Still worked fine last month when we sold it. Your results may vary.
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Ok, thanks for that. It's certainly worth a try.
Ed

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maybe
drive belt? Isn't that a serpentine belt?

although
for
Sounds merely like the serpentine belt is loose, which is caused by the tensioner being worn out.
The A/C compressor easily puts the heaviest load on the belt, so if the belt has lost tension the compressor is going to be the first to slip.
Ted
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No, it's not the serpentine belt. The air compressor has it's own drive belt with an adjustable idler pulley, not a spring-loaded idler. I've tightened the belt as much as I thought it should be tightened and it didn't seem to help. It seems more like a metal screech than a belt screech.
Ed

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You're right about that. I had the same problem on another brand of car. The screech initiated after I got the car back from some service work where the belts were removed and replaced. I though it might be slipping belts and so I used belt dressing and inched up the tension. Turns out that it was the compressor clutch and the act of tensioning the belt made it worse.
Frank

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