What Are The Signs Of A Bad Refrigerator Compressor? – 8 Symptoms!

Without the compressor, there is no refrigerator. It compresses the refrigerant and releases the heat outside the heat. Among all the signs your refrigerator is dying, the bad compressor is the dire one.

So, what are the signs of a bad refrigerator compressor? Well, there are some obvious symptoms and you can take action by observing those signs.

Keep reading!

8 Bad Refrigerator Compressor Signs

signs of a bad refrigerator compressor

Here is a list of those symptoms:

  • Compressor Noise
  • Repeat On/Off
  • Excessive Frost
  • Relay Symptoms
  • Overheat Compressor
  • Compressor Fan Is Not Running
  • Higher Electricity Bills

Unless you got it from a poor-performing refrigerator brand, the compressor should be functioning well for at least 10 years. But bad luck happens and you will observe those above symptoms!

The purpose here is to detect whether the compressor is bad or not. Do not attempt to repair to replace the compressor yourself. It should be done only by a qualified technician.

But before you call the technician, look for these below-mentioned signs:

  • Compressor Noise

There should be a faint and gentle humming when the compressor is running. We are all familiar with the sound of the refrigerator kicking on and off.

But most of the time we get used to the sound and don’t notice it often. Pay attention to the humming sound. If you can’t hear any sound, the compressor may not be running.

This gentle buzzing should come and go as the compressor turns on to cool the refrigerator and stops when it reaches a certain temperature.

If the buzzing or humming sound is loud, that also indicates a problem. If it makes any clunking noise whenever the compressor shuts off, that is another bad sign for the compressor.

The clunking or knocking noise indicates faulty parts of the compressor. That’s a bad refrigerator compressor noise!

It also indicates there is something wrong with the mounting. Faulty mounting may be causing the motor to hit the inner walls of the compressor.

  • Higher Electricity Bills

A bad refrigerator compressor will lead to higher electricity bills. The compressor wears over time. As it wears out slowly, it will take a longer time to run and keep the refrigerator cool.

As it’s running for a longer time, you will have a higher electricity bill. If you see such a higher electricity bill, that’s an obvious sign of a dying compressor.

Of course, you must check there are no other reasons for such a higher bill before coming to that conclusion.

  • Overheat Compressor

When the refrigerator compressor is hot, that’s another obvious sign of a bad compressor. During the normal operation, it can be warm (45-60 degrees Celsius) but NOT hot.

The compressor may overheat due to the lack of enough refrigerant. The refrigerant may run out fast if there is a leak in the line.

If there is sufficient refrigerant but the compressor still overheats, you may have to replace the compressor completely.

Lack of refrigerant will make the compressor overwork and produce excessive heat. A compressor that has already suffered wear and tear will also overheat.

This will eventually lead to premature wear out of the compressor and misfunctioning of the refrigerator.

So, with an overheating compressor, you should be concerned.

  • Compressor Fan Is Not Running

The fan is an integral part of the compressor to keep it cool and prevent overheating. In fact, you will find such a fan in every electronic to keep it cool.

If for some reason, the compressor fan stops, you will know. There will be excessive heat. The compressor will start making some funny noises.

Notice whether the fan is running or not. If not, call the technician.

  • Repeat On/Off

Your refrigerator compressor works harder during the summer. So, it tends to get overheat a lot during the hot months. There is a fail-safe mechanism to protect the compressor against the overheating issue.

As it overheats, the fail-safe feature shuts the compressor down. But the compressor has to keep the refrigerator cool. So, it starts running again. This keeps going on.

So, if you notice such repeat starts and stops of the compressor, that’s a surefire sign.

  • Excessive Frost

If you notice frost on the compressor head, that’s a red sign and an obvious one among all the bad fridge compressor symptoms. Also, excessive frost in the freezer indicates a problematic compressor.

Excessive frost anywhere simply indicates the compressor is not processing the refrigerant right. Eventually, the refrigerator will face temperature control problems.

And it will make it very difficult for the compressor to work properly.

  • Relay Symptoms

Remove the compressor start relay and shake it close to your years. If it makes a rattling noise, it indicates a faulty start relay and you need to replace the compressor relay.

The compressor relay provides the necessary electricity to the compressor to function properly. So, there won’t be any electricity supply if the compressor relay is faulty.

  • Fridge Compressor Running But Not Cooling

If the refrigerator is not cooling enough, that’s another indication of a problematic compressor. Check your foods kept inside the refrigerator.

If they are not cool enough as they used to, something is not right with the compressor.

Technician Tips For Detecting Compressor Issue

signs your refrigerator is dying

So, how to tell if refrigerator compressor is bad?

I know a lot of people can’t check the compressor fan or starter switch to determine whether it is bad or not. Many won’t even feel confident to do that.

And that’s okay!

But almost anyone can detect compressor problems just by listening to noise. You don’t need any special skills and tools to notice that!

The compressor of any modern refrigerator should NOT make a sound at all. They operate silently. So, if it starts making noise out of nowhere, that points a finger towards the bad compressor.

You don’t even differentiate among the sounds. Just making noise suddenly is something you should check with the help of a technician.

Testing The Compressor: A Step By Step Guide

If it seems the compressor is not functioning well and you are observing some signs your refrigerator compressor is going out, you need to be 100% sure before you call the technician. Because replacing the compressor is very costly if it’s a high-end refrigerator.

This confirmation by yourself will save you a lot of money and tons of time.

Follow the step by step guide:

  1. To disconnect the refrigerator from the electricity, unplug it first.
  2. There is a panel attached to the side of the compressor. Locate it.
  3. Unscrew one or two screws from the panel to remove it.
  4. After removing the panel, unplug the starter switch from the compressor.
  5. Shake the switch. If it makes any rattling sound, the switch is bad. If it does not make any such noise, the compressor is bad.
  6. The starter switch is very affordable but the compressor is very costly depending on your refrigerator.
  7. If your refrigerator is still within the warranty period, contact the manufacturer or dealer ASAP.
  8. If the warranty period is expired, do your cost-benefit analysis. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if my refrigerator compressor is bad?

If it stops making gentle humming noise for more than 30 minutes, that’s a clear sign. Besides, if you see frost on the compressor head, that’s another sign!

What does a bad fridge compressor sound like?

If the refrigerator makes louder than normal noise, that indicates a bad compressor. Also, A bad refrigerator compressor may make a clunky or knocking noise.

Is a buzzing fridge dangerous?

A gentle buzzing fridge is normal. However, if it buzzes louder than normal, it’s not dangerous but you should run an inspection.

What causes fridge compressor failure?

Other than natural wear and tear over time, a power surge may cause premature compressor failure.

What happens when a refrigerator compressor goes out?

When the compressor goes out, it stops processing the refrigerant. So, the refrigerator won’t be cooling. You will have food spoilage.

How much does it cost to replace a refrigerator compressor?

It completely depends on the brand and type of refrigerator you have. The compressor alone may cost you more than $300. You should add the technician fee with that compressor cost too.

Final Thoughts

So, still wondering what are the signs of a bad refrigerator compressor? You really should not. I have discussed plenty of symptoms of your dying refrigerator.

If you can detect any of the above signs, don’t try anything funny yourself. Call the technician unless you know pretty well what you are doing.

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