What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like?

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What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like? How do I silence a noisy compressor?

Well, these are some of the questions we shall be answering in this article. 

Let us dive in – you’ll be surprised that it is easy to silence a noisy compressor…


What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like?

Typically, there are several sounds that a bad compressor will make.

They are:


Loud humming noises

You might hear a humming sound.

Now, this means that your refrigerator is running at high speeds just to maintain normal cooling.

Also, it will begin overheating as it is not meant to constantly run at such high speeds.

On one hand, this will result in your electricity bill rising as the compressor will use more power to cool the unit.

Additionally, you might also note that the refrigerator is having trouble cooling.

As regards how you can eliminate the noise, stay tuned as we shall be covering it shortly.


It could have loud knocking/banging/thumping noises

Compressors have internal springs (mostly three or four) that hold the piston.

Now, these springs not only hold the piston in place but they also muffle the noise made by the piston.

And at times, one or more of these springs may get damaged.

Also, the piston may jump off one of the springs.

When this occurs, the insides of your compressor will begin knocking against the shell hence the loud knocking noise you are hearing.

Nonetheless, your refrigerator will cool as usual. In fact, it might even continue cooling for years to come save for the annoying noise.

Quick tip: This noise might become louder with time. You see, once the piston becomes unbalanced, it is highly likely to jump off from another spring. Again we shall be looking at how to get rid of the noise in a little while..


ALSO READ: Why does my refrigerator make a knocking noise? (and how can you fix it)


What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like – more noises explained

Moving on…

It can make loud buzzing noises

A bad compressor will make loud consistent buzzing noises to indicate that one of the seals in the compressor has failed.

Usually, this results in the refrigerant leaking into parts of the pumps that it is not supposed to.

With that being said, this is a sound that should worry you.

So, be sure to read on as we shall also guide you on what you can do to fix your compressor.


It might make a loud clicking noise

The clicking noise might sound as if it is coming from the compressor but it isn’t.

Usually, it is coming from the start relay located on the side of the compressor.

The relay clicks the compressor on and off to achieve the cooling needs of the refrigerator.

Ordinarily, this will be accompanied by issues with cooling – the fridge will not cool since the start relay can’t turn on the compressor.

Having said that, if you were to disconnect this relay and gently shake it, it would rattle. This is just more evidence that it is faulty and you will need to replace it.

ALSO READ: Refrigerator makes clicking noises? Read this

My start relay doesn’t rattle. Is it faulty?

If that is what is giving you sleepless nights, hang in there because you may not need to get a replacement(I know most folks order a replacement only to get disappointed).


It won’t sound at all

Yes! You heard that right.

The truth is that it is not at all times that a bad compressor will make noise- on occasion, it could be dead hence no noise.

This results in the start relay clicking to start the compressor every few minutes but nothing happens.

Also, you will note that your refrigerator is not cooling and the freezer isn’t getting cold.

That is because the refrigerant is not being pumped around.

But before we crucify the compressor, you will want to confirm that the lack of noise is not being caused by another part/problem.

Here are some two articles we wrote about what the issue could be (and what to try)- read them and see if the tips there will help:

Refrigerator stopped running no sound – Causes and potential solutions

Fridge not making sound but light on- What you need to check

Alternatively, you may opt to test the compressor.

If that is the route you’d like to take, watch the video below to see how it is done.

Don’t forget that if the compressor is faulty, you might need to get a replacement compressor.


What does a bad compressor sound like – what else to know


How to quiet a noisy refrigerator compressor

So, what can you do to eliminate the annoying noise?

Well, for the loud humming noise, you will want to make sure that you are not storing warm/hot food.

Instead, let the food sit till it’s cold before you put it inside the refrigerator.

Also, be sure that you are not leaving your door open for long periods.

Speaking of the door, be sure that you are opening your refrigerator only when necessary.

These measures will reduce the internal temperatures inside your refrigerator.

In turn, the compressor will not have to run faster to achieve the set temperatures.

Still on eliminating the clicking noise, all you will need to do is get a replacement start relay.

Fortunately, they do come cheap and are easy to replace.

To point you in the right direction, we have compiled a list of OEM start relays for some common refrigerator brands:

Refrigerator brand Compressor start relay replacement
GE Get it on Amazon
LG Get it on Amazon
Samsung Get it on Amazon
Whirlpool Get it on Amazon
Frigidaire Get it on Amazon
Amana, Kenmore, KitchenAid Get it on Amazon
Maytag Get it on Amazon

As regards installation, simply get an instructional video from YouTube and you should be done in less than ten minutes.


How to quiet a noisy compressor – additional solutions

To eliminate the buzzing sounds, your best bet is getting a compressor replacement.

This is because the refrigerant typically ends up damaging the internals of the compressor as it might condense inside the pump hence the damage.

Recall that compressors are designed to handle the refrigerant only in its gaseous form


When it comes to the loud knocking/banging sounds, there isn’t much you can do to stop the noise.

Yeah, you might hear that covering your compressor with rubber material insulates the noise.

However, this can be risky as the compressor might overheat and lead to further issues.

Note: EPA only approves licensed technicians to replace refrigerator compressors. This is because the refrigerant that runs through the compressor is highly toxic both to you and to the environment.

That being so, purchasing a new compressor (they don’t come cheap) plus the labor costs for its installation can leave a huge dent in your pocket.

Therefore, you will want to factor in the cost of getting a compressor replacement and the cost of getting a new refrigerator before making a decision.

So, to make the knocking noise disappear, you likely need to get a replacement compressor.

Alternatively, you can let the compressor run its course and then replace the entire fridge.


Now that we have seen what a bad compressor sounds like, it is only fair for us to also look at what a healthy compressor should sound like.

What does a fridge compressor sound like when normal?

Usually, a normal compressor will not run silently.

As the compressor starts, you will hear a click. This originates from the start relay as it clicks the compressor on.

Now, as the compressor runs, it will hum softly.

Nonetheless, it might hum a bit loudly once in a while more so if it is a variable-speed compressor.

This will occur when the compressor is running at a higher speed to cool.

And it will be more prominent if you have recently put warm/hot food inside your fridge or you had the door opened for a significant amount of time.

With that being said, this should not last for more than an hour.

As the refrigerator comes to a stop (especially the standard compressors), you might hear it sputter.

That is not that audible and it usually takes less than ten seconds.

Keep in mind that at times, the sputtering might also be accompanied by a gentle rattle that will also occur for less than ten seconds.


What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like – additional info

What happens when refrigerator compressor goes bad?

Once your refrigerator compressor goes bad, you will experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Refrigerator will not cool at all or it will cool but not to the set temperature.
  • The refrigerator will turn on and off frequently.
  • Start relay will click on and off often.
  • The compressor may overheat.
  • Your electricity bill will go up.
  • The compressor will make loud unusual sounds or no sound at all.


What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like? – frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is a noisy fridge compressor dangerous?

Well, it boils down to the kind of noise it is making.

To start with, if you’re hearing knocking noises, there’s no need to worry- they are not dangerous.

In fact, the compressor may continue running for years without anything ever happening to it.

Turning to a loud humming noise, this results(for the most part) in the compressor overheating.

The good news is that the loud humming should dwindle with time(frequently).


It is because the noise is due to either an overstocked fridge or high temperatures inside the unit.

As regards buzzing noises, they are definitely bad for the compressor.  

This is because the refrigerant might have flown into parts of the compressor that it shouldn’t and it might end up condensing in there.

Finally, when it comes to a clicking noise, it might pose a danger to the compressor (as it means the fridge is frequently turning the compressor on and off).

That being so, be sure to replace the start relay as soon as you note it has gone bad.


Why is my fridge compressor making noise?

It again depends on the kind of noise it is making.

For clicking noises, the compressor is having trouble starting.

And as for knocking/banging noises, the piston inside your compressor has bounced off from one of the springs.

And if it is humming softly, this is pretty normal and you should not be worried.

In contrast, if the humming is loud, it traditionally means your compressor is running at a higher speed than it should.

And finally, if it is making a buzzing noise, it often indicates that the refrigerant has flown into parts of the pump that it shouldn’t.


Why is my fridge so loud all of a sudden?

There are a couple of factors that may make your fridge loud all of a sudden.

Is it a knocking sound? Grinding sound, perhaps? Maybe a popping?

For a comprehensive guide on why your fridge is so loud all of a sudden, be sure to check out our previous article: why refrigerators make noises (and how to eliminate them)


What does a bad refrigerator compressor sound like? – final words

By now, we are sure that you can identify what a bad compressor sounds like and how you can fix it.

Just remember that replacing a compressor is a risky task due to the refrigerant that flows through it.

Therefore, be sure to call in an EPA-licensed technician to handle the replacement.



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