Refrigerator Compressor Shuts Off [How to Fix]

A refrigerator compressor shuts off from time to time in a day to allow for defrost cycles and rest. But if the compressor frequently shuts off or does not shut off at all, there is a problem.

Refrigerator Compressor Shuts Off

When Does a Refrigerator Compressor Shut Off?

It depends on the type of refrigerator. For some, the compressor runs about eight hours before shutting off. Others have compressors that run about four to six hours. Newer model refrigerators have compressors that run almost all the time. So, you will find that these refrigerators conserve energy because they have a more constant internal temperature.

Refrigerator Compressor Shuts Off After a Few Seconds – How to Fix

Check the following and fix the necessary ones if a refrigerator compressor shuts off after a few seconds:

1. Power Supply

Ensure the refrigerator is receiving enough power to run. You may need the help of a qualified electrician to check the power. The compressor will shut off within seconds of turning on if it is not getting the power it needs to run.

The wall outlet may be the origin of the problem. The refrigerator’s power cord may also play a role. Therefore, it is crucial to check them and replace the necessary ones, so the compressor can run smoothly.

Note that the refrigerator needs a dedicated 15amps outlet to work. Using the outlet for other appliances will reduce the voltage supply. The same applies if you use an extension cord. However, if you must use one, get an extension with a 12-gauge wire. And there must be no leftover wire after you plug it into the outlet.

2. Coils and Fan

To check the coils and fan, you will need access to the back of the refrigerator. Pull it away from the wall and remove the cover at the bottom back. Take a look at the condenser coils. If they are noticeably dirty, take a vacuum cleaner and remove all the dirt from them.

While cleaning the coils, clean the condenser fan and compressor with a rag. A vacuum cleaner won’t do as good a job as a rag. Afterward, sweep up the dirt so that it does not quickly cling to the coils and fan again.

Dirt on the coils and fan keep them from working optimally. The coils cannot efficiently remove heat from the refrigerator. The heat overloads the compressor, and you hear it shut off as a protective measure. Shortly after, it starts again but shuts off if the heat is still excessive.

The condenser fan should cool both the coils and the compressor, but the fan cannot work if debris clings to the blades. It also helps to check the fan’s motor while at it. If the bearings are worn, the motor won’t function at all. And if the motor has no continuity, replace it.

Create some space for the effective dissipation of heat into the air. If hot air gets trapped behind the refrigerator, the compressor will shut off too often. And if the trend continues, it will eventually fail.

3. Start Relay/Overload Protector

Unplug the refrigerator and locate the start relay. Newer refrigerator models may have the start relay and overload protector as one device. Whichever is the case, pull out the device from the compressor and test it.

First, shake the relay, and if it rattles, you may need to replace it. Then, check for a burnt odor coming from the device. That indicates it is damaged and should be replaced. You can further check the relay device with a multimeter. Place the probes of the meter between two terminal points and check for continuity. If there is no continuity, it is a confirmation that you should replace the relay.

The start relay ensures the compressor starts and runs smoothly by providing power. The overload protector shields the compressor from too much voltage or heat. So, if the device fails, the compressor will shut down frequently and have a hard time starting.

4. Thermostat

An incorrectly set thermostat will affect how the compressor runs. Due to the fact that the compressor is at the center of the cooling system, and the thermostat controls temperature, it is likely the cause of the compressor shutting off after a few seconds.

Therefore, check the setting of the thermostat. Typically, a mid-point setting is the best for a refrigerator, but your refrigerator manufacturer may indicate otherwise. Check the refrigerator’s user manual to determine the correct setting and adjust the thermostat if necessary.

It is likely the compressor is faulty, especially if no other component appears to be defective. Don’t rule out a faulty compressor; test the motor yourself or hire a professional to do the job. You will know if you should replace the compressor or purchase a new refrigerator.

Refrigerator Compressor Gets Hot and Shuts Off – What to Do

If you find that the compressor of your refrigerator gets hot and shuts off, do the following:

1. Check the Condenser Coils

Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and move it. The coils are at the bottom back of the unit, so you need to create enough space to work. Clean the coils, compressor, and condenser fan. Remove dust and every other debris, so they don’t blanket the compressor and cause it to overheat.

The coils should be cleaned once or twice a year to keep them clean. When they get too dirty, they cannot release heat from the refrigerator. As a result, the compressor will overheat, and the internal temperature of the refrigerator runs high. The compressor overworks itself to cool the unit, runs hot, and shuts down under the heat overload.

You should also check the overload protector if the compressor regularly overheats. It should protect the compressor, so if it does not, it is defective. Consider replacing it.

2. Check the Temperature Control Thermostat

Turn the thermostat from the lowest temperature setting to the highest setting. When you do so, you should hear a click. The click indicates that the thermostat is not defective. But if you hear no click, run a continuity test on the thermostat. If you find no continuity at any temperature setting within its range of operation, replace the thermostat.

The thermostat keeps an eye on the refrigerator’s internal temperature. When it begins to get warm, it sends power to the cooling system to run and cool the unit. If it becomes defective, the compressor may run too often, become hot, wear itself out, and shut off.

3. Check the Condenser Fan

Take a look at the fan beside the compressor. It should run while the compressor runs. But if it does not run, unplug the refrigerator and check it. Start with the blades; clean them and ensure no debris is obstructing them.

Next, turn them with your hand. If they turn well, the fan may not be faulty. If they don’t turn well, it may have something to do with the motor. Take a multimeter and test it for continuity. Replace the fan’s motor if it shows no continuity.

The fan is responsible for drawing air over the condenser coils to cool them. It also cools the compressor. If it becomes faulty, the compressor and coils will overheat over time. The heat will cause the compressor to shut off and the refrigerator to stop cooling.

4. Check the Refrigerant

A leak in the sealed system will cause a depletion of the refrigerant. The refrigerator will stop cooling and the compressor will work harder to help it maintain a cool temperature. Over time, it overheats due to constant running and shuts off.

 There may be one or more leaking points and soldering is one way to fix them. However, this job is not for DIYers; the professionals should do it. Only certified technicians should handle refrigerants, according to the law.

5. Check the Compressor

The last thing to check s the compressor. A failing compressor may run hot and shut off frequently. As it weakens, it takes extra effort to do its job. And the extra effort makes it too hot.

Apart from age, contaminated, low, or high refrigerant can cause the compressor to fail. Also, power surges affect the compressor adversely over time, especially old compressors. To determine if the problem stems from a failing compressor, hire a professional to check the compressor.

Check out these other articles…

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How to Check a Refrigerator Compressor [Quick Guide]

Refrigerator Compressor Stops [Proven Solutions]

Refrigerator Compressor Is Cold [How to Fix]

Gas Refrigerator [Guide/Problems Solved]

Refrigerator Compressor Relay [How to/Issues & Solutions]

Refrigerator Gas [Questions, Problems & Solutions]

My Refrigerator Clunks When Compressor Shuts Off – Solved

A refrigerator that clunks as the compressor shuts off shows that something is loose or damaged. The problem could stem from loose springs on the compressor. There are a few springs or screws that secure the compressor to its housing to keep it stable and secure. If they wear out or come loose, the compressor will hit the sides of its compartment as it shuts off.

To determine if the springs are the problem, inspect them. Consult the refrigerator’s user manual for the location of the springs. You may require the services of an appliance technician to do the job.

If you find out the springs are not the problem and the compressor is not loose, then there may be an internal problem. The mounts on the inside may be loose, and the only fix is to replace the compressor. It cannot be repaired. 

But the loose mounts do not affect the functions of the compressor. Most times, the compressor will keep running with the noise, so you may not need to replace it quickly. The only problem is that the compressor may stop working altogether without further warning. So, you may want to be prepared for that; replace the compressor or purchase a new refrigerator.

Refrigerator Compressor Not Shutting Off – Solutions

The following are possible solutions to a refrigerator compressor that is not shutting off:

1. Replace the Defrost Timer

The defrost timer shuts the compressor down for about 30 minutes every day to run the defrost cycle. This is because the compressor is at the center of the cooling system, so cannot run while the unit defrosts.

If the timer malfunctions, the compressor won’t turn off. So, you will find it running without cycling off. Locate the timer in your refrigerator. Your user manual will show you its location, but most refrigerators have the timer either in the temperature control housing, behind the bottom grille, or at the back.

While the refrigerator is on, turn the timer with a screwdriver to advance it manually into a defrost cycle. A click indicates the heater is activated and the timer is working. But if the heater does not turn on and the timer does not advance out automatically after thirty minutes, replace the timer.

For an electronic defrost timer, find its terminals and run a continuity test on them using a multimeter. If the timer registers no continuity, replace it.

2. Check the Door Seal

Run your hand down the seal; you should feel no cold air when you do so. If you feel even the tiniest cold air escaping, the seal is weak. But if you are not sure, close the door on a dollar bill. It is not possible to pull the dollar bill out without opening the door or tearing the money. If you can pull it out successfully, replace the door seal.

The compressor will run more than it should if the seal is weak. A weak seal lets warm air into the refrigerator while letting cold air escape. As a result, the refrigerator’s internal temperature becomes compromised, and the compressor works to keep the refrigerator cold.

3. Change the Defrost Heater

A defrost heater that does not turn on will cause the compressor to run without shutting off. And a defrost heater may not run if it is defective. Consequently, the coils freeze and the refrigerator stops cooling. The compressor picks up and constantly runs to keep the refrigerator cold. Find the heater under the evaporator coils and check it for continuity using a multimeter. If the heater shows no continuity, replace it.

4. Test the Thermostat

The thermostat shuts its contacts so that power flows to the defrost heater. This process happens when the evaporator coils reach a preset temperature setting and need warming. If the thermostat fails to function, the heater won’t work. As a result, the cooling coils will freeze and stop the refrigerator from cooling.

Run a continuity test on the thermostat using a multimeter. If there is no continuity, consider replacing the thermostat.

5. Replace the Fan Motors

Find the evaporator fan behind the inside rear panel in the freezer. Remove it and check the blades; they should turn well when you spin them with your hand. If they appear stiff, it may indicate a fault with the motor. But to be sure, check the motor for continuity using a multimeter. If there isn’t any continuity, replace the motor.

The evaporator fan has the job of circulating cold air in the freezer and refrigerator. If it stops working, there will be no cold air even if the cooling coils are not frozen. The increase in temperature will prompt the compressor to run without shutting off to cool the appliance.

After checking the evaporator fan, check the condenser fan. Like the evaporator fan, the condenser fan contributes to how cool the refrigerator is. Find it beside the condenser coils and compressor, where it cools both components.

Turn its blades and if they are stiff, check the motor. But ensure the blades are clean and no debris is obstructing them. Dirt can keep the fan from working and affect the compressor. Then, take a multimeter and check the fan’s motor for continuity. If the motor has no continuity, replace it.


If your refrigerator compressor shuts off too often, it is vital to find the origin of the problem. Otherwise, the refrigerator won’t run smoothly and you risk having rotten food. If you are unsure how to fix it using this guide, contact the refrigerator manufacturer for further assistance.

As an alternative, use the chatbox to your right to reach us. We will connect you to an appliance technician; no appointment or waiting period is needed.

Remember to disconnect the refrigerator from electric power before repairing or fixing any part of it. This is a priority step to keep you safe from electric shock.

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