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What to Do When Your Commercial Refrigerator’s Compressor Stops Working

compressor not working on refrigerator

In the hustle and bustle of running a restaurant, grocery store, or bakery, the last thing you want is for your refrigerator to stop running. The compressor is the heart of your refrigeration system, keeping everything cool and fresh. But what happens when it gives out? Don’t sweat it. We’re here to guide you through the ins and outs of diagnosing and fixing your refrigerator compressor issues.

Unity Cooling Systems Inc. walk in cooler compressor

Howdy Y’all

Commercial refrigeration is crucial in many businesses, especially those dealing with perishable goods. A well-functioning refrigerator ensures that your produce, beverages, and other perishables stay fresh and safe. But, when the compressor stops working, it can spell trouble. Knowing how to troubleshoot and repair these issues can save you time and money. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the importance of the compressor, common causes of its failure, and how to get it back up and running.

Understanding the Compressor’s Role

Unity Cooling Systems Inc. Walk In Refrigerator Compressor Is Not Running

What Does a Compressor Do?

The compressor is essential, circulating refrigerant throughout the system. It compresses the refrigerant, raising its temperature and pressure before sending it to the condenser coils. [1]

Types of Compressors

There are several types of compressors used in commercial refrigeration:

  • Reciprocating Compressors – These use pistons driven by a crankshaft to deliver refrigerant.
  • Screw Compressors – These use two meshing screws to compress refrigerant.
  • Centrifugal Compressors – These use centrifugal force to move and compress refrigerant. [2]

Signs of a Failing Compressor

Common signs that your compressor might be failing include:

  • Loud or unusual noises.
  • Warm air instead of cold.
  • Frost buildup on the coils.
  • The refrigerator compressor clicks but won’t turn on.

Common Causes of Compressor Failure

How to Check a Compressor on a Refrigerator 4

Electrical Issues

  • Faulty Wiring or Electrical Connections – Loose or damaged wires can prevent the compressor start relay from working.
  • Blown Fuses or Circuit Breakers – These can shut down the entire system.

Mechanical Problems

  • Wear and Tear – Over time, parts like valves and pistons can wear out.
  • Internal Component Issues – Problems with internal parts can cause the compressor to fail, including issues with the compressor start relay.

Refrigerant Issues

  • Low Refrigerant Levels – Inadequate refrigerant can lead to inefficient cooling.
  • Refrigerant Leaks – Leaks can diminish the system’s cooling performance.

External Factors

  • Poor Ventilation – Overheating due to insufficient ventilation can be problematic.
  • Dirty Condenser Coils – Dust and debris can impede heat exchange. Make sure to clean the side of the compressor to avoid buildup.

Control System Failures

  • Malfunctioning Thermostats – If the thermostat isn’t working, the compressor won’t get the signal to turn on.
  • Control Board Issues – Faulty control boards can disrupt the entire cooling cycle.

Diagnosing the Problem

refrigerator compressor not running

Initial Troubleshooting

When you suspect a compressor issue, start with these steps: unplug the refrigerator and inspect the compressor start relay.

  1. Check the Power Supply – Ensure the refrigerator is plugged in and receiving power.
  2. Inspect the Control Board – Look for any obvious signs of damage or malfunction.
  3. Examine the Condenser Coils – Clean any dirt or debris that may be obstructing them. [3]

Tools Needed for Diagnosis

You’ll need a few basic tools:

  • Multi-meter.
  • Screwdrivers.
  • Wrenches.

When to Call a Professional Technician

If your initial troubleshooting doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s best to call in a professional. They have the expertise and equipment to handle more complex problems.

Possible Solutions and Repairs

How to Check a Compressor on a Refrigerator 2

Electrical Fixes

  • Replacing Fuses or Circuit Breakers – Swap out any blown fuses or tripped breakers.
  • Repairing or Replacing Wiring – Fix any faulty wiring connections.

Mechanical Repairs

  • Replacing Worn Out Parts – Swap out old parts like valves and pistons.
  • Professional Mechanical Refurbishing – In some cases, a full refurbish might be necessary.

Refrigerant Solutions

  • Recharging the Refrigerant – Add more refrigerant to reach the appropriate levels.
  • Fixing Leaks – Seal any leaks to prevent future issues.

Maintenance Practices

  • Regular Cleaning of Condenser Coils – Keep them free of dust and debris.
  • Ensuring Adequate Ventilation – Make sure the unit has proper airflow to prevent overheating.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance

Regular Inspection Schedules

Set up a regular inspection routine to catch potential issues early. Check all components and clean them as necessary, including the side of the compressor.

Cleaning Tips

  • Condenser Coils – Clean every three months.
  • Fans and Vents – Ensure they are free from blockages.

Monitoring Refrigerant Levels

Keep an eye on refrigerant levels and top them up as needed. This can prevent many cooling issues.

Best Practices

  • Use High-Quality Parts – Invest in good-quality components to extend the lifespan of your unit.
  • Schedule Professional Checks – Regularly have a professional inspect your system.

The Importance of Professional Help

Helpful tips

  • When and Why to Call a Professional: Some issues require professional expertise. If you’re unsure or unable to fix the problem, don’t hesitate to call a technician.
  • Benefits of Professional Maintenance Services: Professionals can provide thorough maintenance, ensuring all parts are in good working order and preventing future breakdowns, including the compressor start.
  • How to Choose a Qualified Technician: Look for technicians with good reviews, proper certification, and experience with commercial refrigeration systems. [4]

How Knowing “Compressor Not Working on Refrigerator” Can Save Your Business

Close up view of people friends hands taking food from catering table during party

Y’all, let’s dive into a real-life scenario that shows why understanding “compressor not working on refrigerator” is crucial for businesses here in Houston.

Imagine this: Letitia runs “Bayou Bites,” a bustling catering business in H-Town. On a blazing August afternoon, she finds out her fridge stopped cooling. Panic sets in as her perishable inventory’s at risk. She needs a quick fix to avoid a major loss.

Identifying the Issue

Letitia checks her fridge model, a Kenmore. After some research, she learns that issues with the electronic control board or cold control might be causing the compressor to stop working. She notices the compressor gets hot but won’t start—could be problems with the motor windings or the start winding.

Using a multimeter, she measures the voltage to the compressor and the ohm readings of the windings. These steps help her figure out that the problem might be with the power supplied to the compressor or the compressor itself.

Quick and Effective Action

She calls up a local appliance repair service, explaining that her fridge stopped working and the compressor gets hot but won’t start. The technician appreciates her detailed explanation, which speeds up the diagnostic process. Turns out, the PTC relay on the control panel was faulty, preventing the compressor from getting up to speed.

The technician swiftly replaces the faulty parts, and Letitia’s fridge is back to optimal temperature before her next big catering event.

Calculating the Savings

Now, let’s crunch some numbers. If the fridge repair had taken another day, Letitia would’ve lost about $2,500 worth of perishable ingredients. Plus, her reputation for timely and quality service could suffer, impacting future business. Instead, she spent $300 on the appliance repair, avoiding a big financial loss and keeping her clients happy.

Lessons Learned

For businesses in Houston, whether you’re running a catering service like Bayou Bites, a convenience store, or an ice cream shop, understanding compressor problems can save you from major setbacks. It’s not just about fixing an appliance; it’s about protecting your livelihood.

Knowing terms like refrigerator stopped working, compressor gets hot, and control panel can turn a potential disaster into something manageable. Being proactive and informed ensures that your equipment stays reliable, your products stay fresh, and your customers stay satisfied.

By mastering these key concepts, you can turn potential crises into opportunities to keep your business running smoothly and even boost its performance.

Wrappin’ It Up

Selective focus paper clipboard written final thoughts with pen and eye glasses.

A well-functioning refrigerator is key to running a successful business, be it a restaurant, grocery store, or bakery. Addressing compressor issues promptly can save you time, money, and headaches. Regular maintenance is crucial in preventing these problems in the first place.

If you’re in Houston and need help with your commercial refrigeration systems, contact Unity Cooling Systems Inc. at 3213 Penn St, Houston, TX 77093. We partner with Carrier and Turbo Air to provide top-notch products and services. Don’t wait until it’s too late—get your refrigeration problems fixed by the pros today!


Paper clipboard with text FAQ or frequently asked question and magnifying glass.

What does a refrigerator relay capacitor do?

The refrigerator relay capacitor helps the compressor motor to start running by providing an initial boost of electrical current. If you’re hearing clicking sounds but the compressor isn’t starting, this little gadget might be the culprit.

How do I know if my refrigerator compressor overload is tripping?

If your refrigerator compressor keeps shutting down and starting back up, it might be due to the compressor overload protection tripping. This could be happening because of excessive temperature or a malfunctioning compressor motor.

How does the temperature control affect my refrigerator’s performance?

The temperature control, also known as the cold control, regulates the internal temperature of your refrigerator. If your fridge isn’t cooling properly, it might be due to a faulty temperature control thermostat that isn’t signaling the compressor to kick in.

How do I troubleshoot issues with the control board in my refrigerator?

The control board is the brain of your refrigerator, managing everything from cooling cycles to defrosting. If your unit is acting up, a faulty electronic control board could be to blame. Signs of trouble may include irregular defrost cycles or the compressor not running consistently.

What is a start capacitor and why is it important?

A start capacitor provides the necessary voltage to get the compressor motor up and running. If your fridge isn’t cooling and the compressor isn’t starting, it’s worth checking the start capacitor for faults.

Why does my refrigerator not cool after replacing the compressor?

Even after replacing the compressor, other factors like a faulty electronic control board or defrost system issues can keep your refrigerator from cooling. An issue with the compressor start relay can also prevent the refrigerator from functioning properly. Make sure all components are functioning correctly.

How do I diagnose if my refrigerator compressor is not working?

If your refrigerator isn’t cooling, but you hear clicking or buzzing sounds, the compressor might be the issue. Start by checking the relay start and the overload relay to ensure they’re in good shape. If in doubt, give the experts at Unity Cooling Systems Inc. a call.

Where can I find repair guide articles and videos?

For all you DIY enthusiasts, we recommend looking up repair guide articles and videos online. These resources can provide step-by-step guidance on how to troubleshoot and fix common problems with your refrigerator.

How do I identify the part number for a replacement?

The part number can usually be found on the original part or in your refrigerator’s user manual. If you’re having trouble locating it, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Unity Cooling Systems Inc. for help.

Remember, if things get too dicey, or you’re not sure what’s wrong, it’s always best to call in the pros. Better to be safe than sorry! Unplug the refrigerator before troubleshooting.

Get in Touch with Us Today! 🌟

Contact us concept with wood block and symbols

If your compressor isn’t working on your refrigerator, don’t sweat it, Houston! We’ve got your back. Whether you need a quick fix, some guidance, or a full check-up, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact us for expert assistance. You can also follow us on LinkedIn for more handy tips and updates. For those who like to dive deep, check out our YouTube channel for easy-to-follow video guides. Give us a call at +1 (281) 818-5959 and let’s get that appliance back on track! 🤝🔧


[1] F. Alsouda, N.S. Bennett, S.C. Saha, F. Salehi, et al., “Vapor compression cycle: a state-of-the-art review on cycle improvements, water and other natural refrigerants,” Clean Technologies, vol. 2023,, 2023.

[2] VE Shcherba, EA Pavlyuchenko, EY Nosov, “Approximation of the compression process to isothermal in a reciprocating compressor with a liquid piston,” Applied Thermal Engineering, Elsevier, 2022. [HTML]

[3] AAM Omara, AAM Mohammedali, “Thermal management and performance enhancement of domestic refrigerators and freezers via phase change materials: A review,” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, Elsevier, 2020.

[4] A. Palange and P. Dhatrak, “Lean manufacturing a vital tool to enhance productivity in manufacturing,” Materials Today: Proceedings, 2021. [HTML]

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