Portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off: Here’s Why

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Read on to discover why your portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off and how you can troubleshoot the issue

The compressor in your portable A/C plays a crucial role in the cooling cycle- it usually drives the entire heat-transfer cycle from high-temperature areas to lower temperature areas and vice versa.

For this reason, its failure means your A/C won’t keep you cool during the scorching summer heat.

And while some of the common issues are easy to fix for ardent DIYers, it’s best to leave the complicated problems to an experienced HVAC repair technician.

This guide outlines a couple of solutions for one of the most stubborn mobile air conditioner faults: that of a portable air conditioner compressor repeatedly shutting off for no apparent reason.

Read on to discover why your portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off and how you can troubleshoot the issue (some of the fixes are easy enough for ordinary owners while others will need you to call a pro).

Portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off issue- what is causing it and practical troubleshooting ideas

Before we get into causes and solutions, it’s good to mention that the compressor in a portable A/C is engineered to cycle on/off as necessary to make your room cool.

In short, you should be aware that the compressor will normally shut down and not switch back on until your A/C detects elevated temperature in the room once the desired temp has been set.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the reasons that could be making it to shut off every couple of minutes and your options…

If your portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off, it could be due to overheating, low refrigerant, faulty thermostat or other issues. Learn how to troubleshoot and fix the problem below.

Your portable air conditioner compressor is overheating

There are a few issues that could be making your A/C run extremely hot and shut down. They include:

High compression ratio

This could be caused by factors such as low suction pressure. I should add that low suction may occur due to:

  • Loss of refrigerant
  • Improperly fitted parts
  • Pressure drop

Old or clogged components

As the parts of the air condition compressor wear down (with age), the whole unit tends to work harder to achieve its basic functions.

This, in turn, makes it generate excess heat during the process.

Don’t forget that dirt may also contribute to the condenser coils getting hot, ultimately causing overheating.


Problem with the venting process

If your portable AC is not able to vent the heat produced by its compressor, it could build up inside and make the compressor stop running.

Troubleshooting ideas

If you suspect that this is the issue, try to straighten the hose and be sure to remove any blockages.

In addition, position the A/C further away from your window. This is important because the hose may sag, restricting airflow if the unit is too close to a window.

Perhaps this might help it resume normal operation.


Insufficient Refrigerant

The next possible reason is the compressor not receiving enough refrigerant from the system during the cycle.

You see, the primary role of the compressor in your portable A/C is to “compress” then release refrigerant (in gas form) to allow the other elements of the appliance to produce cool air.

For this reason, if the system is running low on refrigerant- perhaps due to a leak- there will be no continuous flow of refrigerant as required to the compressor so it might stop running since there’s inadequate refrigerant to “squeeze” and output.

Troubleshooting ideas

The best approach here is to have an HVAC technician inspect the unit for a possible refrigerant leak- for the most part, issues related to refrigerant should be left to professionals.


The condenser coils have become dirty

If condenser coils progressively get dirty, they could start to malfunction.

For example, the chemical reaction that usually occurs inside them could be affected meaning that the refrigerant might not return to the compressor.

Subsequently, the compressor may shut down.

Quick Tip: Make it a habit to examine this item for grime and gunk and try to clean it using a coil cleaning solution (here is our recommended AC coil cleaning solution).


There might be a more advanced problem

If there is no evidence of all the above, the issue may be caused by more advanced problems.

These include:

  • Defective wiring.
  • A condenser coil that’s malfunctioning.
  • The compressor may itself have developed a serious problem somewhere. For instance, an electrical failure may be occurring after it has run for a couple of minutes resulting in it being forced to shut down to prevent further damage.

Needless to say, these issues are beyond the average DIYer and you may need to call a professional for proper diagnosis and repair.

That said, it is better to contact the manufacturer if you’re struggling with these kinds of problems (and any other major issue) and your unit is still under warranty.


Basic Troubleshooting

Before you give up and call a pro, it is important to check the basics- the issue could be originating from lack of maintenance or other simpler errors.

Here are some of the steps you should have taken before anything else:

  • Cleaning the filters- ensure the filter is squeaky clean. Plus, be sure to use good quality filters (not cheap ones).
  • Checking that it is not freezing up- sometimes this fault is caused by the lines freezing up.
  • Verifying that you’re using the correct settings- Don’t overlook this. For example, your unit could be turning off because the energy saver mode is activated.


Portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off – Recap

If your portable air conditioner compressor keeps shutting off, it might be because:

  • The compressor is overheating
  • There is insufficient refrigerant in the unit
  • Condenser coils have become dirty
  • There is a problem with the venting process

If it is not any of these, the issue may be a result of a more advanced problem. It might, for example, be due to defective wiring or even a serious problem in the parts making up the compressor.

Finally, it might mean that the compressor is itself dying.

Remember that it’s best to call a certified repairman to help you diagnose and get rid of the problem, unless you know what you’re doing.

Alternatively, consider reaching out to the manufacturer if your A/C is still under warranty for help.


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