It is common for a fan clutch stuck engaged in the engine compartment of a car. This can happen when the fan is not spinning at all or when it is spinning too fast. Either way there is no air flow and this will cause your car’s temperature to rise quickly. The only solution to this problem is to take your car into an auto shop and let them remove the fan clutch from under the hood.
Why is the fan clutch stuck engaged in the car?
There are a number of reasons why a car’s fan clutch could become “stuck” or inoperative. The most common reason is that there is no longer any lubricant in the bearing assembly between the outer and inner halves of the fan clutch. This will quickly cause it to seize, resulting in no airflow through your vehicle’s radiator when you need it most. In this situation, the best thing to do is to take your car in for service as soon as possible. Keep reading: How to tell if you have variable assist power steering?
Your fan clutch is stuck engaged and you need a quick fix?
If you experience overheating when driving or see warning lights on the instrument panel indicating that the engine is overheating, pull over immediately and shut off the engine. If you need to get to a safe place, leave the car running and put it in the park or neutral to avoid overheating the brakes.
In many vehicles, this will mean removing the air intake hose from the throttle body of your engine. Locate this hose at either end of the air box that sits above your vehicle’s engine compartment.
There are often two clips or retaining pins that need to be removed to get the hose off. Once it is loose, pull the hose off of its connection and place it safely out of the way on top of your engine compartment. If you have a cloth cover around your driver’s side headlight, this would also make an excellent “safe place” to place it.
If you are driving an older model car without the “comfort” of air conditioning, use this opportunity to refill your radiator with water before trying the next steps. If you have recently completed a long trip or live in an area that frequently experiences high ambient temperatures, be sure to check your coolant levels regularly anyhow.
The next step is to remove the air box and take a look inside. Some vehicles like Toyota and Nissan use an aluminum or plastic accordion style hose between the throttle body and the radiator. This will need to be removed before you can get down into your engine compartment. Remove the bolts that secure the accordion section of this hose to either end and set it aside for later.
The mechanics of your vehicle may vary, but there is a cooling fan mounted to a metal frame underneath the accordion hose. The bolts that secure this frame/motor assembly do not need to be removed to get the fan out of the way. Simply take a socket wrench with an extension and loosen these bolts until they no longer secure the fan. If all bolts are fastened securely, then you may need to remove one or more of them and re-tighten with an extension after this step is complete.
You should be able to pull your metal cooling fan/frame assembly out from under the accordion hose now. This will give you easy access to the fan clutch. There are two types of fan clutches, one has fins or blades that look similar to a radiator or heater core and the other is flat metal without any additional features.
Both styles work roughly the same way with an inner hub that spins inside of an outer housing by means of either oil pressure (on models with fins) or a viscous fluid that heats up and causes them to glue together essentially. The fan clutch will have a small “pin” sticking out of it near the center on most models. This pin either protrudes from both sides or can be removed so you can slide the fan clutch off of its mount.
If removing the pins doesn’t work, another option is to use an impact wrench or breaker bar to simply break the bolts that retain it. This method should be your last resort unless you have access to a heavy duty impact wrench. An impact wrench has its own power source and can deliver the necessary torque needed to remove stubborn bolts like this one with less chance of slipping off or damaging the bolt/bolt head.
Once you have your fan clutch free from the engine block, find a suitable place to let it sit and cool down. A large metal pan or a bucket of water would make an ideal spot for this job. You can also just leave it inside your engine compartment if that works better for you. Be sure to allow any residual fluid inside of it to drain completely too.
Once the fan clutch is allowed to cool, reinstallation is simply a reversal of removal. Ensure that any O-rings or seals are in place and not damaged before you slide your fan clutch over its mount on the engine block. Tighten all bolts securely and then reattach the accordion hose to the throttle body using the bolts you removed earlier.
The last step is to reattach your air box and ensure that all hoses are secure and undamaged. Reinstallation of this assembly varies, but it will likely be an “upward” motion similar to removal. Do not attempt reinstallation until you are certain that the fan is clear of any obstructions that may keep it from moving freely.