Refrigerator Compressor Turning On And Off [Issues Solved]

It is vital to find a solution to the problem of a refrigerator compressor turning on and off. Otherwise, the refrigerator won’t work optimally.

Refrigerator Compressor Turning On and Off

Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Turn On – Quick Fix

If nothing else is working in the refrigerator along with the compressor, it means there is a power supply problem. Check the circuit breaker, power cord, wall outlet, or GFCI outlet.

The circuit breaker may be tripped, so check the breaker outside the house. Turn it back on if you notice it is tripped. But if the breaker is on, check the refrigerator’s power cord. It may not be fully plugged, or the power cord may be damaged. 

Disconnect it from the wall outlet and push t back in again. If the refrigerator’s compressor does not turn on, inspect the power cord. It may be frayed or have a loose wire internally. Replace the power cord if you notice any damages.

Check the wall outlet if you suspect the power cord is in good working condition. If it is a GFCI outlet, you may need to reset it. Find the reset button on it and press it. Then, check to see if the outlet starts working.

If the outlet is not a GFCI outlet or the GFCI reset does not work, plug another appliance into it. If the appliance comes on, the problem may be a low voltage supply or a malfunctioning outlet. A refrigerator needs 120V to run correctly. Replace the outlet if the voltage is inadequate or non-existent.

Ensure you have a dedicated wall outlet for the refrigerator, and you don’t use an extension cord. If you suspect the wiring in the house is old, or the power supply is insufficient, hire a qualified electrician to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

When the Refrigerator Lights Are Working

However, check the start relay and the main control board if the refrigerator lights and fans are working. If the compressor makes a clicking sound without turning on, you may have to replace the start relay.

But first, detach the relay and give it the shake and rattle test. If the relay makes a rattling sound when you shake it or smells as if it is burnt, replace the relay. Run a continuity test on the relay if there is no rattle or burnt smell. If there is no continuity, replace the relay.

If all else fails, check the relay on the main control board. It may not be sending enough power to the compressor. While the fan beside the compressor is running, check the voltage going to the compressor from the board. If you don’t get up to 120V on the multimeter, the control board is no longer working. So, replace it.

Finally, consider replacing the compressor. If you get up to 120V AC power going to the compressor, yet it is not turning on, the compressor has failed and should be replaced. Sometimes, it is more cost-effective to replace the entire refrigerator than to buy a new compressor. Therefore, let a service technician advise you or consider the current cost of your refrigerator, compare it to a new compressor, and decide which is better to buy.

Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Turn Off – How to Fix

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

1. Condenser Coils

Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and move it. Create enough space to remove the access panel, if there is one, and inspect the coils. If you find a lot of dirt on the coils, clean them using a vacuum cleaner or a condenser coil cleaning brush. Ensure you do a thorough job of it.

Then, sweep the floor around the coils and refrigerator to remove dirt that may easily adhere to the coils again. Cleaning the coils gives them the capacity to dissipate heat from the refrigerator efficiently. Otherwise, the heat transfers and causes the compressor to run without turning off in a bid to lower the temperature.

2. Defrost System

Troubleshoot each component of the defrost system, starting with the defrost timer. Turn the timer clockwise and wait for the defrost cycle to begin as the heater turns on and the compressor goes off. At the expiration of thirty minutes, the timer should advance the system out of the cycle. 

But if this does not happen, consider replacing the timer. A lack of continuity when you test it with a multimeter confirms that you should replace the defrost timer.

If the timer is working, check the defrost heater. It should turn on a few times a day to warm the cooling coils. Otherwise, they accumulate frost and, over time, stops cooling the refrigerator. As a result, the compressor continues running to keep the refrigerator cold. If you find no continuity in the heater when you test it with a multimeter, replace it.

However, check the defrost timer if the heater is working well. Use a multimeter to run a continuity test on the thermostat. The thermostat should close contacts when it is time for the heater to turn on. That way, electric power can flow to the heater. But if the thermostat fails to close contacts, the defrost cycle will fail even if the heater and timer are in good working condition. Therefore, if you don’t find continuity in the thermostat, replace it.

Finally, check the defrost control board. While control boards hardly fail, it is crucial to check them if nothing else in the refrigerator is defective. Since the board controls the functions of the defrost system and no component is faulty, replace the board.

3. Evaporator Fan

The fan is inside the freezer section, behind the rear panel at the back. To check it, you have to disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and empty the freezer. The fan is attached to the panel by wire harnesses.

Turn the blades of the fan with your hand. If they are stiff, the motor may be faulty. But before concluding, check the shaft to see if it needs oiling. Apply a little penetrating oil if necessary and try the blades again. If the stiffness remains, check the motor.

With a multimeter, run a continuity test on the motor windings. If you don’t get the correct reading on the meter, replace the motor. And if you cannot find the motor, replace the entire fan assembly.

The evaporator fan spreads the cold air from the evaporator coils throughout the refrigerator. Without it, there will be no cold flowing from the coils to the freezer and subsequently to the refrigerator. So, you will find the compressor working hard to cover for the lack of cold air if the fan is defective.

4. Condenser Fan

You will find the fan beside the compressor and condenser coils. Just like the evaporator fan, turn the blades of the fan with your hand to check functionality. If they are stiff, make sure nothing is obstructing them. It helps to clean the fan and compressor while cleaning the condenser coils.

If the blades are stiff and don’t turn well, the bearings are worn. Since the motor cannot run with worn bearings, consider replacing the motor. But to be sure, test the motor to check for continuity using a multimeter. If the multimeter shows no continuity from the motor, replace the motor.

The fan has the job of cooling the compressor and condenser coils. If it fails, the condenser coils will overheat and affect the cooling capacity of the unit. Consequently, the compressor won’t cycle off but continues running because of the rising internal temperature.

5. Door Seals

The refrigerator’s door seals help to keep the unit airtight and working correctly. If the seals stop sealing tightly, the refrigerator is likely to become warm. The temperature causes the compressor to run longer than expected.

Therefore, check the effectiveness of the seal by closing the doors on a piece of paper or a dollar bill. It is a common and simple trick that anyone can use. If you can pull the piece of paper or dollar bill out without opening the doors, the seals are weak and should be replaced.

Another factor that affects the effectiveness of the seals is dirt. Dirty door seals leave the doors unable to seal tightly. As a result, the internal temperature becomes compromised. It is essential to clean the seals from time to time; it also helps you notice a leaky seal.

6. Compressor

Test the compressor to check whether or not it has an open circuit. It is possible that the compressor has failed, causing it to run without turning off. In such a case, you will notice that the refrigerator is no longer cooling enough or at all. 

If you are unsure how to test the compressor, hire a professional to test it and recommend a permanent fix if the compressor has failed. It is crucial to do it right because testing a compressor is quite technical.

This video shows steps to test a refrigerator compressor correctly…

Check out these other articles…

Refrigerator Compressor Leaking [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Compressor Failure [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Not Cooling [Proven Solutions]

Refrigerator Compressor Overload [Solutions]

How to Make a Refrigerator Compressor Quiet [Quick Guide]

Refrigerator Compressor Is Rattling [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Compressor Locked Up [How to Fix]

My Refrigerator Compressor Turning On and Off – Solutions

The following are possible reasons your refrigerator compressor turns on and off, and their solutions:

1. Faulty Start Relay

The start relay provides power to the compressor so it can start and run. Without the relay, the compressor won’t start unless you know how to jumpstart a compressor. So, test the start relay to determine if it is faulty.

Remove it from its place on the compressor and shake it. The shake will tell you whether or not the relay is faulty if it rattles. And if you get a burnt smell from the component, replace it.

However, if the relay appears to be in good working condition, yet the compressor turns on and off too often, take a multimeter and test it for continuity. Test it between the two terminal points. If there is no continuity, replace the relay.

2. Incorrectly Set Thermostat

The internal temperature of the freezer section will alert the thermostat to signal the control board. The board, in turn, will send power to the compressor to run. So, if you set the thermostat incorrectly, the compressor will not run as needed. You may find it turning off and on as it tries to stay on.

Adjust the setting of the thermostat and wait for the compressor to turn on. If it stays on, you know the thermostat was the culprit, and the compressor is not faulty.

3. Dusty Condenser Coils

The coils condense the refrigerant when it flows through them. As this process happens, the refrigerant generates heat. The coils dissipate the heat, so it does not transfer to the refrigerator. But if the coils are dirty, they cannot function efficiently, and it causes the refrigerator’s temperature to rise.

Therefore, clean the condenser coils with a vacuum cleaner. If you can get a condenser coil cleaning brush, you will get a better cleaning result. The brush can reach between the coils and other parts that a vacuum cleaner may miss. To prevent a recurrence of the problem, clean the coils every six or twelve months.

4. Power Cord

The power cord may be damaged or not fully plugged into the wall outlet. If such is the case, you may find the refrigerator tripping off and on. Disconnect and reconnect it to the wall outlet. Then, wait for the compressor to kick on; if it stays on, you know the power cord is the problem.

But if the compressor turns off again after a short time, examine the power cord to check for damages. A frayed or damaged power cord cannot supply the needed voltage for the compressor to run smoothly. 

If you find that the power cord is frayed or damaged in some other way, replace it. Even if you don’t see any damage, replacing the power cord is usually inexpensive, so you may try a new power cord to be sure.

Refrigerator Compressor and Fan Not Turning On – What to Do

Check the motor of the fan and start relay for continuity if you find that the refrigerator compressor and fan are not turning on. Without the fan, the compressor may not run due to a heat overload. And the refrigerator won’t run without a functional compressor, as this article explains.


It is crucial to fix a refrigerator compressor turning on and off if the refrigerator is to run smoothly. Fortunately, we have listed vital factors that cause the compressor to turn on and off and how to fix them.

However, if your refrigerator compressor does not begin to run smoothly after using the above methods, contact the manufacturer if they are still in business. Otherwise, chat with us using the chatbox to your right. We can connect you to appliance technicians for immediate assistance.

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