AC problem

Aug 27, 2016
Las Vegas
Wife's car is a 2007 Honda Odyssey. Lately, and I mean for awhile, like months, the AC has only been working intermittently. It hasn't been a big deal because it hasn't been hot. This morning, I went down the road a couple miles to the store real quick in her car right before she needed to leave to somewhere else less than 10 miles away. When I got back to the car in the parking lot at the store, I smelled something burning. I thought it was the truck that just pulled next to me. 15 minutes later, after she had gotten in and drove off, she's on the road to her meeting and calls me saying the car smells like something is burning. It was like that moment when everyone keeps smelling poop and you finally realize you're the one that stepped in it. By the time I got to her it was almost 2 hours later and the smell was completely gone. Nothing visible could have been causing the smell. No melted bags on the exhaust, no brakes stuck and overheated, nothing at all. I thought for sure the compressor seized up, because when I smelled it, it smelled like a burnt clutch. (Not that I know what a burnt clutch smells like) So I drove it home with AC off and there was no smell at all. Once I got home, I turned to AC on full blast for about 15 minutes to see if I could replicate the problem, but the clutch never engaged.

The compressor looks ok on the outside, no oil coming out and the belt isn't melted at all. I pulled the serpentine belt off and was able to turn both the pulley and the clutch assembly by hand. As a last ditch effort, I just went and looked at the fuse box and found the relay for the stator. Luckily, there were two other matching relays. So I popped one out and swapped them. Fired up the car and saw the clutch was engaged, went in the cab and felt cold air blowing.

So now I have at least found the culprit and I know what to buy tomorrow. But what I'm not sure about is the burning smell. I don't know if I had the AC on when I smelled the toast because I just went down the road with the windows down. She said she thought she had it on for part of the time, but I don't know what that means because she only went like 10 minutes away and I don't know if she smelled it before or after turning it on. If the relay went bad, could it be that somehow it was engaging the clutch when the AC wasn't turned on and it caused it to burn up? I just don't know exactly how AC systems work. It does work fine now, but I'd like to know what was burning so I can at least know what to look for first if any problems come up in the near future.
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