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How to Troubleshoot a Refrigerator Compressor Not Running

refrigerator compressor not running

When your “refrigerator compressor not running“, it can throw a wrench in your day. Without the compressor, your fridge can’t cool, and that means trouble for your food and drink. For appliance repair professionals, knowing how to troubleshoot these issues quickly can save time and keep customers happy.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through understanding the role of the compressor, diagnosing common issues, and provide you with actionable steps to get that fridge running again. Plus, you’ll get some preventative maintenance tips to keep those compressors humming.

Understanding the Role of the Compressor

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  • Function of the Compressor in the Refrigeration Cycle: The compressor is the heart of your refrigerator’s cooling system. It compresses the refrigerant and pushes it through the coils, releasing heat outside and cooling the inside. Without this critical component, the whole refrigeration cycle comes to a halt.
  • Symptoms of a Malfunctioning Compressor: When a compressor starts acting up, you might notice a few tell-tale signs. The fridge will stop cooling effectively, you might hear strange noises, or the compressor won’t kick on at all. These symptoms can lead to spoiled food and an unhappy customer.
  • Potential Consequences of a Non-Running Compressor: A non-running compressor can lead to a myriad of problems, from food spoilage to higher energy bills. The longer it takes to fix the problem, the more inconvenient and costly it becomes. [1]

Preliminary Checks

Maintenance Engineer with checking list

  • Ensuring the Refrigerator is Plugged In and Receiving Power: Before jumping to conclusions, check if the refrigerator is plugged in and receiving power. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a loose plug or a tripped circuit breaker.
  • Checking the Circuit Breaker and Fuse: If the fridge is plugged in but still not running, inspect the circuit breaker and fuse. Resetting a tripped breaker or replacing a blown fuse can sometimes solve the issue instantly.
  • Making Sure the Temperature Settings are Correct: Incorrect temperature settings can sometimes mimic compressor issues. Verify that the settings are appropriately adjusted to avoid unnecessary troubleshooting steps.
  • Inspecting the Refrigerator Door Gaskets and Seals: Faulty door gaskets and seals can cause the fridge to work harder than necessary, leading to problems. Check for any gaps or tears and replace them if needed. [2]

Common Reasons for Compressor Failure

How to Check a Compressor on a Refrigerator 2

  • Electrical Issues: Electrical problems are a common culprit for compressor failures. Faulty wiring, a bad capacitor, or a failed start relay can prevent the compressor from running.
  • Mechanical Problems: Mechanical issues, such as a motor failure or internal blockages, can also cause the compressor to stop working. These problems often require professional intervention.
  • Thermostat Failure or Issues with the Control Board: The thermostat and control board play crucial roles in regulating the fridge’s temperature. If these components fail, the compressor won’t receive the signal to start.
  • Overheating Due to Dirty Condenser Coils: Dirty condenser coils can cause the compressor to overheat and shut down. Regular cleaning can prevent this common issue. [3]

DIY Troubleshooting Steps

How to Check a Compressor on a Refrigerator 7

  • Testing the Power Supply and Electrical Components: Use a multimeter to test the power supply and ensure the electrical components are functioning correctly. Start with the basics before moving on to more complex diagnostics.
  • Cleaning Condenser Coils: Dirty condenser coils can cause overheating and compressor failure. Clean the coils regularly to maintain efficient operation.
  • Resetting the Thermostat and Refrigerator Controls: Sometimes a simple reset can fix the problem. Turn the thermostat and controls off, wait a few minutes, and then turn them back on.
  • Using a Multimeter to Check the Compressor Motor and Start Relay: A multimeter can help you check the compressor motor and start relay for continuity. If these components are faulty, they will need to be replaced. [2]

When to Call a Professional

How to Check a Compressor on a Refrigerator 4

  • Identifying Signs That Indicate the Need for Professional Repair: If your troubleshooting efforts don’t solve the problem, it may be time to call in a professional. Complex electrical issues and mechanical failures require expert attention.
  • Risks Associated with DIY Repairs on Complex Electrical Components: DIY repairs can be risky, especially when dealing with electrical components. It’s essential to know your limits and seek professional help when necessary.
  • Cost Considerations for Professional Diagnosis and Repair: While professional repairs can be costly, they often save money in the long run by preventing further damage and ensuring a proper fix.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

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  • Regular Cleaning of Condenser Coils: Keep those condenser coils clean! Regular cleaning prevents overheating and keeps your fridge running efficiently.
  • Ensuring Proper Airflow Around the Refrigerator: Proper airflow around the fridge is crucial for its performance. Make sure there’s enough space for air to circulate and avoid placing the fridge in tight, enclosed spaces.
  • Periodic Inspection of Electrical Connections and Components: Regularly inspect electrical connections and components for signs of wear or damage. Early detection can prevent major issues down the line.
  • Consistent Checking and Setting of Temperature Controls: Regularly check and set the temperature controls to ensure they’re working correctly. This simple step can prevent many common issues.

How a Faulty Compressor Can Affect Your Business

Commercial Refrigeration Service

Real-Life Example: The Impact of a Faulty Refrigerator Compressor on a Local Houston Restaurant

Alright folks, let’s dive into a story that hits close to home. Ever thought about how something as simple as a busted refrigerator compressor can send your business into a tailspin? Here’s a true-blue Houston example, with a little twist of fiction, featuring “Bayou Bistro.”

The Problem: One scorching summer day, the team at Bayou Bistro noticed their walk-in cooler was warmer than a July afternoon in Houston. Food supplies were going bad fast. Turns out, the refrigerator compressor decided to take a vacation.

Immediate Impact:

  • Food Loss: They had $5,000 worth of perishable goods in that cooler. Before they knew it, most of it had to be trashed.
  • Lost Revenue: With their main cooling system down, Bayou Bistro had to close up shop for the day to avoid serving spoiled food, costing them about $3,000 in lost revenue.

Diagnosing the Issue: They called a technician who quickly pinpointed the problem—a failed compressor start relay and a dirty condenser. He also checked out the start capacitor, control board, and overload relay to make sure no other gremlins were lurking.

Cost of Repairs:

  • Parts: Compressor start relay ($60), start capacitor ($45), new control board ($150).
  • Labor: Technician charged $200 for diagnostics and repairs.
  • Total Repair Cost: $455

Additional Costs:

  • Temporary Solutions: To save some supplies, they rented portable refrigeration units at $200 per day for two days.
  • Lost Business: Two days of being closed racked up $6,000 in lost revenue.
  • Total Additional Costs: $6,400

Total Financial Impact:

  • Food Loss: $5,000
  • Lost Revenue: $9,000
  • Repair and Rental Costs: $655
  • Total: $14,655

Preventive Measures: Regular maintenance could’ve saved Bayou Bistro a heap of trouble. Cleaning the condenser coils, checking the defrost system, and ensuring the compressor circuit and control board are in top shape are key. Don’t forget about those fans!

Takeaway: For businesses like restaurants, catering services, and grocery stores here in Houston, keeping your fridge’s compressor in check is crucial. Regular upkeep and prompt repairs can prevent massive losses and keep your operation humming smoothly. If you hear any odd noises or notice your refrigerator’s temperature is off, don’t wait—get it checked out pronto!


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

Troubleshooting a refrigerator compressor that’s not running requires a systematic approach and understanding of various components. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can diagnose and fix many common issues, ensuring the fridge is back to keeping things cool in no time. Remember, timely action is crucial to avoid further damage and costly repairs.

For more detailed assistance or if you’re unsure about any step, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Unity Cooling Systems Inc.. We’re here to help you keep those refrigerators running smoothly!


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

What should I do if my refrigerator won’t cool?

If your refrigerator isn’t cooling, the first step is to unplug the refrigerator to reset the system. Then, check the start relay to make sure it’s functioning properly. This small but crucial device helps initiate the compressor. If the start relay capacitor or start device is faulty, you may need a replacement.

How can I tell if my compressor is not working?

There are a few signs that your compressor may not be working. If you hear the compressor making unusual noises or not running at all, check the terminal and the start capacitor. Remember, the compressor gets the refrigerator started cooling, so any issues with it will affect the overall function.

What are the signs of a control board failure?

A control board failure typically involves the refrigerator not cooling properly or stopping entirely. The control board manages the various components of your refrigerator, including temperature control. If you notice the refrigerator stopped functioning, it might be time to check the electronic control board for issues.

Why might my condenser fan stop working?

The condenser fan plays a role in dissipating heat from the compressor and coils. If the fan stops working, it could be due to a dirty condenser or a defective control board. Make sure to clean the condenser coils regularly to prevent overheating and ensure the fan runs smoothly.

What should I check if my compressor won’t start?

If your compressor won’t start, inspect the start relay, overload relay, and start winding. Sometimes, the compressor may have a defective component that needs replacement. Routine maintenance and timely checks can prevent major issues.

What steps should I take if the refrigerator won’t cool?

When your refrigerator won’t cool and you’ve ruled out electrical issues, the culprit could be a problem with the compressor. Check if the compressor problems are coming from the start relay or the start capacitor. In some cases, you might have to replace the compressor entirely.

How do I maintain the defrost system?

To keep your defrost system in good shape, ensure regular inspection of the defrost thermostat and defrost timer. Regular defrosting prevents ice buildup which can hinder the cooling efficiency of your appliance.

How can I ensure my fridge and freezer stay operative?

Consistent checking and setting of temperature controls are key to keeping your fridge and freezer running efficiently. If your refrigerator temperature is off, it may affect the compressor circuit. Regular cleaning and maintenance of condenser coils and condenser fans also play a significant role.

What if my compressor won’t start?

If you experience issues where your compressor won’t start, first check the start relay and capacitor. Should these components be in good shape, but the issue persists, you might have to start the compressor manually, or in some cases, a replacement may be necessary.

Let’s Stay Connected! 🌟

Walk In Cooler Repair

We’d love to keep the conversation going and help out with any of your cooling system needs. If you have questions about your refrigerator compressor not running or need expert advice, reach out to us directly.

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Need immediate assistance? Give us a call at +1 (281) 818-5959. We’re here to make sure your refrigerator runs smoothly so you can focus on what you do best.

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