Refrigerator Compressor Stops [Proven Solutions]

Are you looking for solutions for when a refrigerator compressor stops? Look no further. This article discusses the issue and how to solve it permanently.

Refrigerator Compressor Stops
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What Causes a Refrigerator Compressor to Stop?

A refrigerator compressor stops due to one or more of the following reasons:

1. Poor Air Circulation

Moving a refrigerator too close to the surrounding surfaces inhibits the free flow of air around it. The condenser coils and compressor generate heat during regular operation. And if there is no avenue for dissipating the heat, it gets trapped in the refrigerator and compressor. The compressor will work harder to cool the refrigerator, and the extra work wears it out too quickly.

2. Power Surge

A spike in voltage or power damages different electrical appliances, including refrigerators. The damage can affect an entire refrigerator or just some parts. So, if you find that a refrigerator compressor stops working, it may be due to a power surge. Bolts of lightning tend to trigger power surges. Therefore, consider whether or not there was a recent lightning strike.

3. Faulty Start Relay

A start relay is a small device on the compressor that provides the power for it to run. Without the start relay, the compressor finds it almost impossible to start and run. If it starts at all, it may run only intermittently. So, you will find a compressor has stopped working when the start relay has become faulty.

Age, wrong model, or even a power surge can cause a start relay to stop working. It is essential to order the component using the brand and model of your refrigerator.

4. Dusty Coils

Due to their location, the condenser coils tend to get dusty. But only a significant amount of dirt affects their capacity to work. The coils are part of the cooling system, condensing the refrigerant. But in the process, they generate heat that needs dissipating.

If the coils cannot dissipate the heat, the refrigerator’s temperature will rise over time. The compressor will work more than it should as it tries to cool the refrigerator. Eventually, the motor will wear out due to overuse.

5. Refrigerant Issues

A low or high level of refrigerant does not favor the compressor. The compressor may stop working if the refrigerant level is higher than it should carry or lower. The same applies if the refrigerant has any contamination.

6. Age

If nothing else seems to be visibly wrong with the compressor, then you may chalk it up to age. Over time, a refrigerator compressor stops with use, and this is normal, especially if the refrigerator is over 15 years.

What Happens When a Refrigerator Compressor Stops Working?

When a refrigerator compressor stops working, the refrigerator stops cooling. The compressor is at the center of the refrigerator’s cooling system and tends to pick up extra functions when any of the other components of the system fails.

If you suspect your refrigerator compressor is failing or has stopped working, it is best to hire a professional to test it. The test will reveal whether or not you need a new compressor or if there is another way to get it working again.

Refrigerator Compressor Stops Running – How to Fix

If your refrigerator compressor stops running, here are things to do:

1. Improve Air Circulation

Create space between the refrigerator and its surrounding surfaces. That way, the condenser coils, and compressor will get constant airflow and not overheat.

Many people move the appliance too close to the walls, and that impedes the airflow around it. The condenser coils will overheat and cause the appliance’s internal temperature to rise. The compressor will start running continuously to cool the refrigerator. As a result, it will stop running earlier than it should.

2. Use Protective Equipment

Install protective equipment for your refrigerator if your area gets a lot of lightning. You can use a power surge protector; it turns the refrigerator off once it senses a high voltage supply. Contact a qualified electrician for more equipment to use or go to your refrigerator’s manufacturer.

3. Replace the Start Relay

If the problem is not due to air circulation or power surges, check the start relay. Pull it out from where it is mounted on the compressor. Shake it a little and if it rattles, consider replacing the relay. If it smells burnt, it needs a replacement.

However, if the relay shows no signs of burning or damage, check it for continuity. Take a multimeter and run a test on it between the start and run terminals. If the terminals register no continuity, the relay is defective, and you need to replace it.

Purchase a replacement start relay using the brand and model number of your refrigerator. It is crucial to replace any refrigerator component with the correct replacement part. Otherwise, the refrigerator may not run properly.

4. Clean the Condenser Coils

Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and move it. Remove the access panel over the compressor and coils and inspect the coils. If you have been using the refrigerator for more than one year and have never cleaned the coils, they will be significantly dirty. They will be even messier if you have pets that shed.

So, take a vacuum cleaner to the coils and vacuum the dirt thoroughly. If you can, use a condenser cleaning brush because it does a better cleaning job. It also helps to clean under and around the refrigerator to remove debris that may cling easily to coils soon after cleaning.

If the coils are considerably dirty, they will restrict the cooling capacity of the refrigerator. Dirty coils are one of the primary causes of a compressor that stops working.

5. Check the Refrigerant

You may not be able to check the gas yourself. It is usually the work of a licensed technician, as authorized by law. Therefore, hire a qualified technician to check and determine whether or not the refrigerant should be refilled. The technician will also let you know if the gas needs to be entirely changed due to contamination.

6. Replace the Compressor

When all else fails, consider replacing the compressor. It may be worn out due to age. And the only fix to this issue is to replace the compressor. However, replacing the compressor may not be cost-efficient if the refrigerator is old. A compressor replacement only works when the refrigerator is a newer and high-end one.

Refrigerator Compressor Start and Stops – Solved

The following are some of the most typical causes of a refrigerator compressor that starts and stops, plus how to solve the problem:

1. Faulty Start Relay

Pull the relay from the compressor and give it a shake. If you hear it rattling, it means the relay has a fault. And if there is a burnt smell coming from it, consider replacing the relay. But if the relay shows no sign of damage, run a continuity test on it. 

Place the probes of a multimeter between the run and start relay and check for continuity. If the start relay registers no continuity, replace it.

The relay helps kickstart the compressor by providing power. If the relay becomes faulty, the compressor may not run or start and stop within seconds. A clicking sound may accompany it.

2. Defective Compressor Overload Protector

The overload protector of a compressor keeps it from a power overload or overheating. If the compressor starts overheating due to constant running, the overload shuts it down to protect it from damage. But if the overload fails, the compressor will overheat, turn off, and turn on due to the heat.

Therefore, test the refrigerator’s overload protector to determine whether or not it is defective. And if it is, replace the overload protector to see if the compressor runs smoothly.

3. Inconsistent Power Supply

Check the wiring in your home. If the house is old, the wiring may be faulty. Hire an electrician to check it and advise you on the best step to take. The home may need rewiring to accommodate the refrigerator, or there may be protective equipment to ramp up the power supply.

If the home wiring is not adequate to supply power to the compressor, it will start and stop too frequently. This is especially true if the refrigerator is new and the home wiring is old. It means it won’t be up to the task of powering a refrigerator that big.

In addition, use a dedicated wall outlet to plug the refrigerator. Using an extension cord may mean poor power delivery to the refrigerator, and it may cause the compressor to turn on and off.

If you have to use an extension cord, ensure the wire load is high enough to carry a refrigerator. The wire should be up to 12 gauge, at the least, come with a ground wire, and should have none leftover after connecting it to the outlet.

4. Incorrect Thermostat Setting

Setting the thermostat incorrectly, whether too high or too low, affects the cycling of the compressor. The component controls the refrigerator’s temperature; it can determine how the compressor runs. You may accidentally change the setting, so it helps to check it. Typically, you will find the thermostat inside the refrigerator section.

If it is not set correctly, adjust the dial and wait to see if there is any change in how the compressor runs. The correct setting is in the refrigerator’s user manual, but you can try setting it to mid-point.

5. Dirty Coils

Clean the coils with a vacuum cleaner or condenser coil cleaning brush. Remember to disconnect the refrigerator from electric power before cleaning the coils. Do a thorough job of it and clean the floor around the coils to remove dirt that can adhere to them again.

Dirty coils reduce the efficiency of the compressor. The coils build heat when they are significantly dirty because they cannot dissipate heat effectively. The heat overloads the compressor, and the condenser fan cannot cool both the coils and the compressor.

Consequently, the compressor begins to cycle off and on as a protective measure. And if the heat overload continues, the compressor will fail eventually.

6. Faulty Compressor

One of the signs that a compressor is faulty is that it regularly cycles off and on. Other signs that the compressor is the problem are a burnt odor, a loud and regular hum or buzz, and constant running.

In this case, hire a professional to test the compressor. The professional can recommend a fix; whether or not you should replace the compressor. You may want to replace the refrigerator if the compressor needs a replacement. Replacing a compressor is usually expensive, so compare the cost to that of your current refrigerator and determine what to do.

Check out these other articles…

Refrigerator Compressor Making a Knocking Noise [How to Fix]

How to Check a Refrigerator Compressor [Quick Guide]

Refrigerator Gasket [Problems & Solutions]

Refrigerator Smells [Issues Solved]

Gas Refrigerator [Guide/Problems Solved]

Refrigerator Compressor Relay [How to/Issues & Solutions]

Refrigerator Gas [Questions, Problems & Solutions]

Refrigerator Compressor Never Stops Running – What to Do

If you find that the compressor of a refrigerator never stops running, do the following:

1. Inspect the Condenser Coils

Unplug the refrigerator from the wall receptacle and move it. Remove the bottom back access panel and look at the coils. If they are dirty, clean them and maintain the cleaning routine once or twice every year.

Dirty coils cause the refrigerator’s temperature to rise because they cannot dissipate heat from the unit. If the heat continues, the compressor starts working harder to cool the refrigerator. That is why you will hear it running without stopping, and it wears the compressor out too quickly.

While cleaning the coils, clean the condenser fan and the compressor. If the compressor is dirty, the dirt will act as a blanket and prevent air from cooling it. As a result, it will overheat, and it may result in two things: either it stops running or runs constantly but does not cool the refrigerator.

2. Check the Door Gasket

Run your fingers down the length of the gasket to see if you feel cold air escaping. If you cannot feel anything, check the gap between the door frame and the gasket. If there is even the tiniest gap between them, you may have to replace the gasket.

However, if none of these apply, open and close the door on a thin paper. Try to pull the paper out, and if you successfully pull it out, replace the gasket. It should hold the paper in place with suction; you should not be able to remove the paper.

Important Note

The amount of time you leave the refrigerator door open also affects the compressor’s run time. Warm air freely enters the refrigerator as cold air escapes. Then, the compressor will run non-stop to cover for the sudden temperature change. Therefore, check the number of times the door is opened daily.

3. Troubleshoot the Defrost System

Start with the defrost timer. It should advance the refrigerator in and out of the defrost cycle. Turn it clockwise, and when it clicks, the defrost heater should turn on. If the heater does not turn on, the timer is not working. Consider replacing it.

Otherwise, test it with a multimeter to check for continuity. Replace the timer if you find no continuity. If the timer stops working correctly, the compressor will not run smoothly. You may find it running too often as it tries to keep the refrigerator cold.

Next, check the defrost heater. Locate it under the evaporator coils behind the inside panel of the freezer section. Remove the heater and run a continuity test using a multimeter. If you find no continuity in the heater, replace it.

Check the defrost thermostat if the heater is working well. You will find it on the evaporator coils; sometimes, it comes as one assembly with the heater. Run a continuity test on it with a multimeter. If there is no continuity, replace the thermostat.

If all else fails, check the defrost control board. It governs how the defrost system functions. If only one part of the system fails, the board is not the origin. But if the entire system is not working but the individual components are in good working condition, replace the board.

4. Test the Fan Motors

Check the condenser fan. It is near the compressor. Check for debris on the blades, and clean them thoroughly. Turn the blades to check their functionality. If they are stiff, it may mean the motor bearings are worn. Otherwise, the motor shaft may need some lubrication. Applying some penetrating oil will fix it.

Then, take a multimeter to test the motor for continuity. If the fan’s motor has no continuity, replace it.

The condenser fan cools the compressor and coils, so they don’t overheat. If the fan becomes faulty, the coils will overheat, and the refrigerator’s temperature will rise. As a result, the compressor constantly runs to cool the refrigerator.

Next, check the evaporator fan. You will find it behind the inside rear panel of the freezer. Carefully remove the panel because the fan is attached to it. Pull off the wire harnesses and turn the blades to check functionality.

If the blades turn well, the fan’s motor is probably working well. But if they don’t turn well, it may indicate a fault. So, take a multimeter and test the motor to check continuity. If the motor shows no continuity, replace it.

The evaporator fan cools the refrigerator by spreading cold air from the evaporator coils in the freezer. So, if the fan stops working, the refrigerator stops cooling. Consequently, the compressor constantly runs to cool the refrigerator.

5. Check the Ambient Temperature

When the weather is too hot, the refrigerator’s temperature tends to become warmer. The compressor then runs to make it cooler. The problem is that the weather remains hot, so the need to keep it cool is continuous. 

Therefore, you find the compressor running non-stop. You can try lowering the temperature to help the compressor’s run time.

6. Reduce the Content

The more items you put into the refrigerator, the more it has to run to cool everything. And leaving it almost empty increases freezing. Leaving the refrigerator only half-full or ¾ way full helps it run better. You may want to consider reducing the content.

Note that putting hot food into the refrigerator also affects how long the compressor has to run. Allow hot food to sit out and cool considerably, even to room temperature, before storing it in the refrigerator.

How to Stop a Refrigerator Compressor Noise – Quick Guide

To stop noise from a refrigerator compressor, you can soundproof it, set it in an alcove, use a sound-deadening mat, and clean the coils. This article explains each possible way to stop a noisy refrigerator compressor.


There are proven solutions if your refrigerator compressor stops working. It is crucial to fix the compressor because it is the center of the refrigerator’s cooling system.

If you are not sure how to fix it following the steps above, contact the refrigerator’s manufacturer. As an alternative, you can use the chatbox to your right to reach us. We will connect you to an appliance technician for immediate assistance.

Note: Always disconnect the refrigerator from electric power before touching the compressor. If you need to run a test with the refrigerator still running, you need the services of a qualified technician.

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