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How To Identify and Replace A Faulty Refrigerator Compressor with Parts

You Are Here:   Home > How To Identify and Replace A Faulty Refrigerator Compressor with Parts > How To Identify and Replace A Faulty Refrigerator Compressor with Parts

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The compressor is a crucial refrigerator component, often considered the heart of the appliance. Without it, the fridge cannot function properly. It's essential to recognize signs of a faulty compressor so that you can purchase a new one and schedule a replacement as soon as possible to ensure the smooth functioning of your refrigerator.

What Is a Refrigerator Compressor

The compressor is a vital component in the refrigeration cycle, compressing the refrigerant from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure gas. The high-pressure gas then moves into the condenser, returning to liquid form to begin the cooling cycle. The low-pressure liquid passes into the expansion valve, which controls refrigerant flow into the evaporator. The evaporator converts the liquid refrigerant back to a low-pressure gas and sends it to the compressor to repeat the cycle.

Signs of a Faulty Refrigerator Compressor

Keep an eye out for potential signs of trouble with your refrigerator. Below are some key indicators that you may need to purchase a replacement compressor.

Noisy Operation

You may be able to hear the compressor any time it turns on, but this component should be relatively quiet. If you notice your refrigerator making more noise than usual, this may indicate that the compressor's wearing out. As components age, they may create more friction with surrounding parts, resulting in noisier overall operation.


The compressor will run hot as it wears out, which can create an oily, burning smell. If there's an electrical problem with the compressor, this creates an electrical burning odor. Both issues are associated with a failing component.

Warmer Temperatures in the Fridge

If your refrigerator has a thermometer reading that's too hot, or you notice that your food and beverages aren't getting chilled, you must address the issue as soon as possible. Make sure your refrigerator is set to the correct temperature first. If turning the temperature down doesn't help, you may have a problem with the compressor.

Water Around the Base of the Fridge

Water around the bottom of the fridge may indicate that it's sweating. This is another consequence of a refrigerant system that isn't working correctly. If the compressor doesn't move the refrigerant through the cooling system quickly enough, condensation will build up. While some condensation is normal, the moisture should not be so excessive that it leaks out around the bottom of the refrigerator. Water around the fridge can also indicate that the defrost line is blocked.

Continuous Operation

The compressor should only run for a few minutes at a time. If the fridge is humming constantly, it indicates that the compressor can't achieve the desired temperature. Your fridge will keep running to cool down, even if it can no longer reach the right temperature. This continuous operation puts excess strain on every part of the cooling system, so you should address the problem immediately to avoid doing more damage.

Frequent Cycling

Like the issue of continuous operation, frequent cycling is an indicator of a failing compressor. If your fridge sounds like it's constantly turning on and off, it's probably struggling to stay cold; your energy efficiency will suffer, affecting food quality.

Frequently Tripped Circuit Breaker

If there's an electrical issue with your compressor, it's likely to trip the circuit breaker. If your refrigerator doesn't come back on after you turn the circuit breaker back on, or you notice the breaker tripping repeatedly, then you probably need to replace your compressor.

Unusually High Energy Bills

If your energy bills suddenly increase for no apparent reason, your appliances should be one of the first places you look. High energy bills are often the result of a problem with your furnace, air conditioner, or refrigerator. If you see any of the other signs listed above, you can identify your fridge as the cause.

Related Issues

The refrigerator compressor is part of a complex system. If other components in that system aren't working right, they can cause the compressor to malfunction even if it's otherwise in fine condition.

Compressor Start Relay

The compressor start relay delivers power to the compressor, making it a key component. If the start relay isn't working properly, the compressor may turn off before it should and struggle to restart. If the start relay is faulty, you'll hear a rattling noise inside it. Remove and shake the start relay to determine whether this is the issue. Replacing the start relay is much easier than replacing the whole compressor, so this is a welcome fix to your compressor issues.

Refrigerant Problems

Your compressor uses refrigerant to keep the appliance cold. The compressor can't function properly if your refrigerant level is too high or too low. The compressor will also struggle if moisture gets into the refrigerant, contaminating it. If there's an issue with the refrigerant, you'll need to diagnose the problem, determine how it occurred, and decide whether a qualified technician is required or you need a replacement.

How To Replace a Refrigerator Compressor

Replacing the refrigerator compressor is a complex job that involves handling refrigerant and injecting nitrogen gas into the system. If you're not familiar with appliance repair, consider calling a professional. If you are comfortable with this type of job, use your refrigerator manual to locate the appropriate parts and follow the manufacturer's instructions for compressor replacement. While performing the job, you must disconnect the refrigerator and store your food elsewhere.

Finding the Right Part

You can find a compressor for nearly any refrigerator at our Automatic Appliance Parts Corporation Chicago area locations or website. We'll help you identify the appropriate component for your appliance and schedule fast shipping so you can immediately begin your repair. Contact us with all your appliance questions and concerns. Our expert team members will help you get to the bottom of the problem and order the items that you need.