Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Start [Solutions]

A refrigerator cannot run without a compressor. So if a refrigerator compressor does not start, it is vital to fix the issue immediately.

Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Start

Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Start – How to Fix

If you find that the compressor in your refrigerator does not start, check the following:

1. Start Relay/Capacitor

You will find the relay or relay/capacitor device attached to the compressor’s side. Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and pull out the relay to see if it is rattling. Replace the relay if it is or if there is a burnt smell coming from it.

But if the relay seems to be working fine, check for continuity between its terminals using a multimeter. If the start relay registers no continuity, you must replace it.

The start relay/capacitor keeps the compressor from an overload of power. It keeps acting as a connector between the motor windings of the compressor and the capacitor. So, if the relay fails, the compressor may overload with power or click on and off. In some cases, the compressor won’t start at all.

2. Thermostat

Find the temperature control housing inside the refrigerator. Turn its dial to the highest setting and wait for the compressor. If it does not start, remove the panel over the housing, and pull out the terminals from the thermostat. Test for continuity just as you move the dial to a lower spot. If the switch does not close, replace the component.

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The thermostat should be set at the correct point for the compressor to start and run. If the thermostat is set too high or too low, the compressor may go off. Adjusting the thermostat should get the compressor up and running again in this case.

3. Control Board

The board governs the functions of the refrigerator, including how the compressor runs. If you find the compressor not starting, check the control board if other components are in good working condition. If you are not sure the board is the problem, hire a professional to check it and determine whether or not you need a new board.

4. Compressor

The compressor may have failed and ceased working. Testing the compressor will confirm it, but the test is a bit complicated. If you have the technical know-how, you may be able to test the refrigerator compressor. Otherwise, let a qualified technician run the test.

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Start Refrigerator Compressor without Relay

If you want to start a refrigerator compressor without a start relay, begin by disconnecting the refrigerator from electric power or tripping the circuit breaker. Continue by moving the refrigerator to separate it from the surrounding surfaces. Remove the cover over the compressor and look to the bottom right of the compartment. You will see a metal box.

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Remove the box to gain access to the relay system. Now, apply a little force to the gap between the casing of the start relay and the start relay itself. Do this with a flat-head screwdriver. Then, remove the relay from the unit.

Next, remove the connector that attaches the relay to the system. After that, slide out the wire from the start relay to make it accessible. Using a pair of pliers, strip off a part of the wire on the sides. Then, connect the stripped wire ends to the housing. That way, the compressor bypasses the relay, and the circuit becomes closed.

Now, fix the relay system back in place and replace the cover over the compressor housing. Reconnect the refrigerator to power or turn on the circuit breaker. Allow the refrigerator to run for a few hours while you monitor it. If the compressor starts and runs, the old relay was malfunctioning. Otherwise, consider replacing the compressor.

Be aware that the bypass will only be effective temporarily. If you leave the compressor on relay bypass for too long, the compressor will be overloaded and may get damaged.

Note: The process to start a refrigerator compressor without a start relay also applies if you want to jumpstart the compressor. And you can use the same steps for freezers, mini-fridges, and coolers.


If your refrigerator compressor does not start, don’t be quick to replace it. Check the thermostat setting, start relay/capacitor, and the control board. Finally, check the compressor if all else is in good working condition.

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Testing a compressor is a complicated process. Therefore, hire a professional to check the compressor and determine the fault. Sometimes, you may not need a new compressor; adding refrigerant fixes the problem.

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