Finding that your refrigerator compressor is hot can be unsettling if you do not know how a compressor functions. Let us explore the world of compressors in this article.
Should a Refrigerator Compressor Be Hot?
A refrigerator compressor should be hot while running normally. The motor generates some heat that you will feel under or behind the refrigerator. And if you touch the compressor, it should feel hot, but the heat should not be excessive.
Note that while a refrigerator is running, it is not recommended to touch the compressor or other electrical parts. The reason is that it is dangerous and may cause electrocution.
Refrigerator Compressor Hot and Clicking – Solved
If you find that your refrigerator compressor is hot and clicking, the compressor may have pulled more power than it needed. When it does this, it tends to overheat and begin to click as it shuts itself off in self-protection. You will probably hear it click again as it turns itself back on when it cools down enough.
To prevent a future occurrence of an overload or overheating, check the following parts:
1. Start Relay
If the compressor clicks within short intervals, turn off the refrigerator by unplugging it. Then, go to the bottom back and pull off the small black device by the side of the compressor. That is the start relay.
Shake it a little once you pull it off. If the relay rattles, it is faulty and needs to be replaced. While checking for a rattle, smell it. A burnt odor means the relay is damaged and should be replaced.
But if none of these applies, take a multimeter and run a continuity test on the relay between the two terminal points. If there is no continuity, replace the relay.
The relay has the job of turning the compressor on by providing a boost of power. If the compressor has a hard time starting and is clicking because of it, the relay is likely the cause of the problem.
2. Condenser Coils
Inspect the condenser coils, usually behind or under the refrigerator. If they have a significant amount of dust and other debris covering them, take a vacuum cleaner and blow all the dirt Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power before cleaning them. Go a step further to wipe them with a rag until they are clean. That is if you can reach the coils. If you have a condenser coil cleaning brush, it will better clean the coils.
Typically, the compressor overloads with heat due to dirty condenser coils. Because of their location, the coils tend to gather dust and other debris quickly. And if they remain significantly dirty, the coils won’t be able to dissipate heat from the refrigerant during the compression process.
As a result, the refrigerator works harder to maintain a cool temperature, and the compressor becomes too hot. Therefore, it is crucial to clean the coils every six months and more often if you have pets that shed hair. Clean less frequently, once a year, if you live in a significantly clean area.
3. Condenser Fan
Examine the blades and motor of the fan. Clean the blades and ensure nothing is keeping them from turning freely. Then, spin them with your hand; if they are stiff, it may mean that the motor bearings are worn. And if this is the case, you may need to replace the motor.
If the blades and shaft are in good working condition, run a continuity test on the motor using a multimeter. If the motor registers no continuity, replace the motor.
The condenser fan draws air over the condenser coils to ensure the refrigerant flowing through them is not too hot. If the fan stops working while the compressor continues to run, the compressor will become too hot and click on and off. Replacing the fan or just the motor fixes the problem.
However, if these fixes don’t stop the clicking sound from the compressor, it may be a more serious issue. The compressor may be failing, so you will need the services of a licensed technician to check the compressor and determine the right solution.
Refrigerator Compressor Hot and Not Cooling – How to Fix
Do the following if a refrigerator compressor is hot and not cooling:
1. Check the Temperature Setting
Check the temperature control dial inside the refrigerator and set it to mid-point if lower than 4. If your refrigerator has a digital temperature control system, set the temperature for the refrigerator to 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be set to 0 degrees if there is a freezer compartment.
But if the temperature setting is correct yet the refrigerator is not cooling, a faulty component may be causing the temperature rise. Otherwise, replace the cold control thermostat or check the door gasket and hinges.
If the refrigerator’s temperature is set too high, the refrigerator will have a hard time cooling. As the temperature rises, the compressor will kick into action and constantly run to cool the unit. As a result, it will become too hot while the refrigerator won’t be cold enough.
2. Check the Door Gasket
Ensure the gasket is sealing correctly. It helps if the refrigerator is leveled correctly so the door can close fully. Level the refrigerator if it is not balanced. Consult the user manual for your refrigerator for instructions on proper leveling.
But if it is leveled, check the gasket. First, make sure it is not dirty. Food crumbs and spills can reduce its ability to seal, so clean it thoroughly. However, if the gasket does not seal even when clean, open and close the door on a dollar bill or piece of paper. Pull the bill or paper, and see if you can pull it out. If the gasket does not keep you from pulling the bill out, replace the gasket.
Warm air enters and replaces the cold air that escapes when the gasket is weak or dirty. Consequently, the cooling capacity of the refrigerator reduces, and the compressor works harder to lower the temperature. Over time, you will find the compressor hot due to constant running without cooling the refrigerator.
You can also check the door hinges, especially if you had to remove the doors recently. Make sure they are correctly fitted and tight, and the doors are aligned. Otherwise, you will find cold air leaking out from the gaps between the doors and the cabinet.
3. Check Food Arrangement
Poor food arrangement restricts the free flow of cold air inside the refrigerator. Food items block the air vents and keep cold air from flowing into the compartment. If you have many things inside the refrigerator, reduce the content and rearrange the remaining to make for good airflow.
4. Check the Evaporator Coils
Unscrew the screws holding the inside back panel of the freezer section in place and remove the panel. You will see whether or not the coils are frozen. If they are, the defrost system is not functioning well if the refrigerator has a self-defrost system.
Use a dryer or steamer to thaw the coils; the process may take some time, depending on the level of frost accumulation. If you have the time, unplug the refrigerator, store frozen food in another refrigerator or ice-packed cooler, and leave the doors open so the unit can defrost manually.
After the ice melts, clean the water and make sure the refrigerator is dry. Then, plug it back to electric power, and allow it to cool considerably before storing food. Afterward, check the defrost system.
Start with the defrost timer. The location of the timer will depend on the refrigerator you own. But you may find it on the control housing inside the refrigerator, at the back, or behind the bottom grille.
Using a flat-head screwdriver, turn the timer clockwise to advance it into a defrost cycle. If the compressor goes off and the defrost heater turns on, wait for the timer to advance the system out of the cycle within thirty minutes. And if the timer does not advance out, it is faulty and should be replaced.
But if the timer works yet, the coils have an accumulation of ice, check the defrost heater. Run a continuity test on it using a multimeter. If the heater does not register continuity, replace the component.
The timer should time the defrost cycle and alert the system by advancing it into a cycle. The defrost thermostat should close its contacts and allow power to flow to the heater. If the heater does not turn on, it may be defective.
However, if the heater is in good working condition, check the defrost thermostat. Your user manual will direct you to where the thermostat is. As with the heater, run a continuity test on it using a multimeter. If the thermostat shows no continuity within its lowest temperature operating range, replace it.
If all else fails, check the defrost control board. Since it governs the defrost system, it may have caused the failure to run a defrost cycle. Replace the board if all the other components are working well.
Finally, run a test on the main control board, but that will be after determining that the defrost control board is not faulty.
The evaporator coils should have only a light frost coating during normal operations. But if there is a heavy coating, the defrost system has failed. And the frost will prevent the coils from cooling the air in the refrigerator. Consequently, the refrigerator will stop cooling, and the compressor will overheat from cooling the unit.
5. Check the Condenser Coils
The refrigerator will not cool to the right temperature if the condenser coils are considerably dirty. Inspect them and use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust. Using a condenser coil cleaning brush also works, mainly because it is made specifically for cleaning condenser coils.
The compressor also tends to overheat if the coils are noticeably dirty. And the refrigerator is adversely affected if the compressor is too hot.
6. Check the Evaporator Fan
If the evaporator coils are not heavily frosted, check the fan in the same compartment. Turn the blades with your hand to check how well they spin. If they spin well and nothing is obstructing them, check the motor windings for continuity using a multimeter. If the motor does not have continuity, replace it.
The fan circulates cold air in the freezer and refrigerator after passing the air over the evaporator coils. If the fan blades or motor malfunction, the refrigerator will have no cold air and stop cooling. The compressor will pick up and run in a bid to cool the unit and become hot in the process.
7. Check the Condenser Fan
Make sure the fan is still connected to the refrigerator. Then, turn the blades with your hand to check if they spin well. If they don’t, the bearings of the motor are likely worn, and you should replace the motor.
But if the blades spin well and have no obstruction, check the continuity of the motor with a multimeter. If you find no continuity in the motor, replace it.
The condenser fan cools the condenser coils, so they don’t overheat while carrying the refrigerant. If the fan becomes faulty, the coils will overheat, cause the compressor to become hot from constant running, and reduce the cooling capacity of the refrigerator.
8. Check the Start Relay
While a failure of the start relay is not high on the list of reasons a refrigerator won’t cool and the compressor is hot, it is still a possibility. So, when other likely causes are in good working condition, check the start relay.
Shaking it for a rattle is one of the easiest ways to test the start relay. Detach it from where it is mounted on the compressor and shake it to see if it rattles. If you hear a rattle, consider replacing the component.
But if it does not rattle, check it for continuity using a multimeter. If the multimeter registers no continuity, replace the start relay.
The relay helps the compressor to start and run when it is time to cool the refrigerator. So you may find the unit not cooling if the relay is faulty. And the compressor may run hot as it tries hard to start and fails.
9. Check the Thermistor
Check the resistance of the thermistor using a multimeter. The resistance should change as long as the refrigerator’s temperature is changing. If you cannot use the unit’s temperature, remove the thermistor and put it in a bowl of water.
Heat the water and while it is getting warm, rerun the test. If the thermistor’s resistance does not change or you find no continuity, replace the component.
The control board can supply power to the cooling system based on the temperature readings from the thermistor. If the thermistor fails, the compressor and fan may not run as the refrigerator needs or may run too much.
You may also want to test the compressor to see whether or not it is in good working condition. If the compressor is failing, replace it yourself or hire a licensed technician to replace it.
Contact your refrigerator manufacturer if none of the above fixes works for your refrigerator and compressor.
Note: These steps also apply if a freezer is not cooling and the compressor is hot.
Check out these other articles…
Fridge Compressor Hot and Buzzing – Quick Fix
Contact a qualified technician to check the compressor if it is hot and making a buzzing noise. The most likely cause is low refrigerant, and only a licensed agent can fix it.
Refrigerator Compressor Hot to the Touch – What to Do
Typically, a refrigerator’s compressor should be hot but not excessively so. You should feel some warmth coming from the compressor area when the unit is running.
But when the heat becomes too much, and the compressor is too hot, here are steps to take:
1. Test the Thermostat
Find the thermostat inside the refrigerator and turn its dial from low to high. The high-temperature setting triggers an audible click as the compressor kicks into action to lower the temperature. If you hear the click, the thermostat may not be the origin of the problem.
However, if you hear no click, run a continuity test on the thermostat using a multimeter. If you don’t find continuity in the thermostat eve in the lowest temperature within the component’s operating range, replace the thermostat.
The thermostat’s job is to turn on the compressor once it senses that the refrigerator’s internal temperature is high. If the thermostat fails, it may keep the compressor constantly running even when it is unnecessary.
2. Check the Condenser Fan
Ensure the fan blades are not obstructed by debris. Clean the blades and the area around the fan to be sure. Then, turn the blades by hand to check their functionality. They should spin freely, but if they don’t, it may mean the motor’s bearings have worn out. The only fix is to replace the motor.
But if the blades spin well, take a multimeter and test the motor for continuity. If the motor has no continuity, replace it.
The condenser fan cools the compressor and keeps the refrigerant from overheating the system. If the fan becomes defective, it is crucial to replace it. But be aware that keeping the fan, compressor, and condenser coils clean keeps the fan in optimum shape.
3. Relocate the Refrigerator
The location of the refrigerator may be affecting the temperature of the compressor. If the unit is directly in the path of a heat source, it will cause the refrigerator’s temperature to rise. And if the temperature rises, the compressor begins to work extra to lower it.
Check for direct sunlight hitting the cabinet or the compressor and other heat sources such as a radiator around the refrigerator. If you cannot relocate the unit, consider lowering the set temperature by a few degrees.
4. Test the Compressor
Testing the compressor of a refrigerator is a little complex, so that you may need the help of a professional. But when the compressor is failing, it may begin to run constantly and getting hot. The cause of the failure will determine the solution.
If the compressor is failing due to age, the only fix is to replace it. And if the compressor is failing due to refrigerant, a technician will determine whether to reduce or top up the gas.
5. Check the Sealed System
A leak in the sealed system will cause a rise in the refrigerator’s internal temperature because there won’t be enough gas to cool it. The loss of refrigerant, in turn, will cause the compressor to overwork itself and begin to overheat.
To determine whether or not the refrigerator is leaking gas, check the evaporator coils. An even coating of frost means the system is likely not leaking. But if only one section has frost on it, the system may have sprung a leak. Another way to verify is to check if only one shelf in the freezer is cooling.
You may not be able to add the refrigerant yourself. Therefore, hire a licensed and qualified technician to fix the issue if it stems from a lack of refrigerant.
Note: These steps also apply to hot freezer and ice maker compressors.
Fridge Compressor Hot and Noisy – Solved
Typically, a compressor is noisy but in a quiet way. It makes a low buzz or hum as it operates. When it shuts off, you can tell by the absence of the hum or buzz. However, if the noise becomes too loud, hire a licensed technician to check the compressor and recommend a permanent fix.
Keeping the compressor and fan clean reduces the chances of a compressor failing early. Also, run maintenance checks on the refrigerator regularly to keep the unit running optimally.