Refrigerator Does Not Turn On [How to Fix]

One or more components are malfunctioning if a refrigerator does not turn on in your home. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this issue without having to replace the refrigerator.

Refrigerator Does Not Turn On

Refrigerator Does Not Turn On – What to Do

Check to see if the refrigerator light is working. That will tell you whether or not the appliance is getting power. If your refrigerator light is on but the refrigerator does not turn on, whether automatically or when you press a button, check the following:

1. Start Relay/Overload Protector

Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power, move it, and remove the bottom rear access panel. You will see the condenser coils as well as the compressor. The start relay or overload is a tiny device attached to the compressor. There may also be a start capacitor fixed to the device, but it is all one package.

Detach the device from the compressor’s side and separate the capacitor from it if there is one. Next, get a multimeter and set it to the scale of R X 1. Now, set the meter’s probes to the device’s terminals – the pins that connect it to the compressor – and check the reading. 

The refrigerator’s tech sheet should have the correct reading for the start relay or overload device, or you will find it on the capacitor. Replace the overload device if the reading does not match that on the tech sheet or the side of the device.

The start relay/overload device supplies power to the compressor and protects during normal operations. So, it should be one of the first components to check if a refrigerator does not turn on. This is especially true if you hear clicking sounds.

2. Temperature Control Thermostat

Check the thermostat if the fans and compressor are not running. To do that, unplug the refrigerator from the wall receptacle and find the thermostat inside the appliance. You may find it behind the temperature adjustment knob in the fresh food compartment.

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Detach the thermostat from the appliance and run a test using a multimeter set to R X 1. Turn the thermostat to the lowest number on the face or to the warmest setting; the lower the number, the warmer the temperature. Next, place the meter’s probe to the thermostat’s terminal and check for continuity. 

The reading should be infinity, so move the knob to higher numbers if the reading is correct. As you do that, the multimeter should display 0, showing continuity. Replace the thermostat if none of the readings is correct.

The thermostat sends power to the fans and compressor to power the cooling system. The refrigerator will not turn on if the cooling system does not work, and the cooling system needs a functional temperature control thermostat.

3. Control Board

The control board governs the general functions of the refrigerator, including the temperature and defrost functions. This board is not the type at the bottom back, but you will find it inside the refrigerator, attached to the side or top.

Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and check the board for burnt connections, arcing, wear and tear, or other damages. That will explain the poor connection. Consider replacing it if there is any damage. But before replacing it, ensure all other parts that could cause the issue are in good working condition.

Power Issues

If the refrigerator does not turn on and it has no light on, check the refrigerator’s power cord, the wall outlet, and the power output. Ensure the power cord is not frayed or twisted, the wall outlet is still working, and not the GFCI type. If it is, reset it by pressing the reset button. The refrigerator should be plugged into its own outlet, not an extension cord.

Refrigerator Will Not Turn On After Power Outage – Quick Fix

Check the circuit breaker, power cord, wall outlet, and how well the refrigerator is receiving power. This article will help you test each power component, find the faulty one, and replace it.

Refrigerator Compressor Does Not Turn On – What to Do

Test the start relay and thermostat. The relay should supply power to the compressor to enable it to start and run. Without the relay, the compressor will not turn on. Even if it turns on, it will quickly go off without the required start-up power to stabilize. 

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The thermostat turns on the cooling system, where the compressor belongs, to run by supplying power. So, the compressor will not turn on if the thermostat is not working. Remove the thermostat and run a continuity test on it. If there is no continuity, replace the thermostat.

The compressor itself may also be faulty. An open circuit will cause it to stop working, but you may not be able to tell what is wrong until a technician takes a it. Then, you can determine whether or not you need a new compressor.

If none of the above works, contact the manufacturer and request service. Alternatively, hire an independent but qualified technician to check the compressor and recommend a permanent solution.

You can try resetting the compressor yourself. Turn the thermostat inside the refrigerator to zero or Off. Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power, wait a few seconds, and reconnect it. Then turn the thermostat on and set it to your desired temperature setting. Doing this resets the compressor, and may trigger it back on.

Check out these other articles…

Refrigerator Thermostat [How to, Issues & Proven Solutions]

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Refrigerator After Moving [Issues & Proven Solutions]

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Refrigerator Won’t Turn On After Moving – Solved

The compressor may be damaged due to the rigors of moving. The problem could also stem from the oil flowing into the cooling lines from the compressor, especially if you laid the refrigerator down during transit. This article explains the possible causes and solutions.

RV Refrigerator Will Not Turn On – Solutions

If you have a problem with your RV refrigerator not turning on, begin your troubleshooting by checking the power connection. Ensure the refrigerator is plugged into power, whether electric or gas. Check the thermostat and inspect the compressor because the thermostat controls it.

Next, check the pilot light. If the light is burned out, the thermocouple may be the problem. Replace it because it determines the amount of gas that goes to the burner per time, so the light will not work without it.

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If replacing the thermocouple does not fix the problem, the gas line may have air. Turn off the gas valves and reset them. Older models will mean resetting the refrigerator, but newer models usually have a power button you can press.

The burner itself may be defective. If your refrigerator uses both propane and electricity and you switch indiscriminately between the two, the burner may develop a fault. Therefore, it is crucial to learn when to use gas and when to use electricity. Fortunately, removing air from the gas line also takes care of the burner problem. That is if the burner is not completely damaged.

Ammonia sediment may have built up, causing the refrigerator to stop working. You have left the unit without using it for too long; this is the most probable reason for the buildup in the cooling unit. Try turning the refrigerator upside down so that the ammonia can flow away from the cooling system. However, this does not always work, and if it does not, the only other fix is to replace the RV refrigerator.

In addition to the above, ensure the RV refrigerator has the proper balance. An improperly leveled refrigerator may develop some faults, and may not work as it should this is especially true for RV refrigerators because of the greater possibility of uneven ground under the RV. Therefore, move the rig to a more level ground if you have to, and make the refrigerator more level inside the refrigerator.


If a refrigerator does not turn on, it is important to find out why. A refrigerator, though typically sturdy, can be surprisingly fragile if you mishandle it. The same is true for most appliances. Therefore, keep an eye on your unit to ensure it is in good working condition.

Follow our guide to learn how to fix a refrigerator when it does not turn on. Ensure it is getting enough electric power, and the power cord is working. Also, check some internal components such as the thermostat, start relay/overload protector, and even the electronic control board. 

And if the refrigerator is the RV type, check for ammonia buildup, defective burner, or burned-out pilot light. But when nothing else seems to work, contact the manufacturer for service or hire an independent appliance technician.

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