How to know fridge compressor is not working

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Find out how to know fridge compressor is not working in this guide

The compressor is the “heart” of the refrigerator as it is responsible for pumping the refrigerant around the fridge.

And so your fridge will have issues if the compressor has stopped working.

In this article, I will take you through a number of ways of identifying whether your compressor is damaged or not.

You should read till the end as I will also take you through several most common causes for a malfunctioning compressor and how to fix it if it is faulty.

Let’s dive in.

How to know fridge compressor is not working

The below signs will help you know if your refrigerator’s compressor is malfunctioning.


Compressor produces unusual or loud noise no sound at all

I am sure that you are familiar with that distinct faint humming sound your fridge makes when it is running.

Now, with time, you will get used to this faint humming sound that you will not even notice it anymore. This sound is usually made by the compressor.

But here is the thing: if you hear your compressor suddenly produce some unusual sounds -other than the faint humming- then it could be a clear indication that your compressor is faulty.

Keep in mind that if you note that your compressor is not making any sound at all, it may not necessarily point to its failure- It might be that the refrigerator is in the defrosting cycle.

However, if this persists for more than 1 hour, then your compressor might be bad(remember the defrosting cycle never takes more than 1 hour).


Compressor turns on and off frequently or prematurely

This points to an issue with the start relay…don’t forget that when working normally, the relay provides power to the compressor.

For that reason, if the relay has developed problems, the compressor will subsequently have trouble functioning(the compressor works sometimes but the fridge will not cool completely or it fails to cool at all).

So when you hear your compressor kicking on and off more frequently than its norm, a troubled relay could be the culprit.

The good news is that you can easily replace a faulty start relay and resolve the above-mentioned compressor problems.

How to check refrigerator start relay

First, disconnect your fridge and remove the rear access panel.

Locate the start relay- it is normally located next to the compressor(your manual will be helpful here)..

Next, remove the relay and shake it close to your ear.

You want to replace the start relay if you hear some rattling noise(it means the part is defective).

Shop compatible refrigerator compressor start relay on Amazon


How to know fridge compressor is not working – more signs

Compressor overheats

Now, depending on the age and model of your compressor, it will have varying temperatures when it is heated.

However, if you note that it is overheating frequently, then it can be a sign that something is not right.

It is worth mentioning that overheating is caused by too little / too much refrigerant (This causes the compressor to work harder and for longer periods of time).

If this is the case, I will tell you how you can fix it at the tail end of the article.


Higher than normal electricity bills

When your compressor is damaged, it tends to consume much more electricity than is normal(that’s because a malfunctioning compressor has to work harder and for longer to keep the fridge cool).

So if your energy bills start to get higher and you have also noted some of the signs above, it could be due to a broken compressor and you may need to have it checked.


What causes a refrigerator compressor to fail

Now that you have a good idea about how to know fridge compressor is not working, let us turn our attention to what can lead to your compressor failing

Below, we will briefly look at the most likely causes.

Constantly overloading your refrigerator

If you’re constantly overloading your refrigerator, this makes the compressor work much harder and for longer to completely cool the refrigerating chamber.

This increases the rate of wear and tear of your refrigerator over time and it may eventually fail.  


Dirty or frozen coils

Believe it or not, dirty condenser coils can lead to your compressor failing(recall the condenser coils are on the outside).

To be clear, accumulated dirt will make the coil unable to disperse the heat collected, causing overheating.

On the same token, if your fridge requires manual defrosting, be sure to defrost it at least once each day otherwise the evaporator coil freezes up, preventing it from absorbing heat.

Overall, the above effects can force the compressor to work much harder and for longer just to cool the refrigerating chamber, which again quickens wear and tear.


Refrigerant problems

The compressor compresses the refrigerant before pumping it to cool the fridge.

Now, if the refrigerant is contaminated, too much or too little, the compressor will be unable to effectively do its job.

To be specific, too much refrigerant causes some refrigerant to return into the compressor in liquid form.

This means that the compressor will be handling refrigerant that is in liquid and vapor form.

However, it is not designed to handle such a mixture and this will damage it.

On the other hand, too little or contaminated refrigerant will lead to your compressor overworking as it tries to cool the fridge.


General wear and tear

Compressors are typically built to last a long time – usually 15 or more years.

Therefore, if your compressor is more than 15 years when it fails, this is simply natural wear and tear taking place.

If this happens to be the case with your compressor, it will continue working to some degree for years even after it begins to fail.

However, the tradeoff will be that your refrigerator may be noisy, inefficient or both.


How to fix refrigerator compressor issues

While some refrigerator parts can be fixed as a DIY project, it is not the same for the compressor.

Remember that the purpose of the compressor is to compress and pump the refrigerant.

That being so, it may be best to reach out to a qualified technician to handle the job.

Of course, if the refrigerant leaks, it will be dangerous both to you and the environment.


How to know refrigerator compressor is not working – wrapping it up

We have seen that there are several causes that may lead to your compressor failing.

We have also seen that there are a number of ways to identify if your compressor is working.

As we wrap it up, I would lack to emphasize that you should let a qualified technician fix your compressor if it has issues.


As mentioned, the refrigerant that goes through the compressor is very dangerous to you and the environment if it leaks.


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