You rely on your refrigerator to keep your food cold. Not only is this important from the perspective of convenience, it's essential for cost savings. If your refrigerator stops working and food goes bad, you could lose all the money you've spent on your groceries. Therefore, if your fridge or freezer compressor is hot to the touch, it's important to troubleshoot the issue right away, either on your own or with the help of a professional. This is actually the number-one cause of refrigerator failure, according to Parker, so waiting to fix it is not a good idea.
Safety Tips Before You Start
Before you do any troubleshooting of your refrigerator compressor, be sure that the unit is not so hot to the touch that you could burn yourself. In addition, it's best to unplug the refrigerator or turn power off at the circuit breaker before manipulating anything other than the refrigerator's control panel buttons.
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Refer to your owner's manual whenever possible for guidance or call the manufacturer if you require more help. If you are at all unsure what you are doing, you should contact a professional for assistance.
You also might consider putting your food into a different refrigerator during the troubleshooting and repair process if at all possible. If you think the fridge compressor is hot, you should know that it may not be an immediate fix. Your groceries might need another home for a while.
Fridge Compressor Is Hot
If your fridge is overheating on the sides and top, you should first check the compressor. The compressor is part of the appliance's cooling system and is essential for normal operation. A compressor can run hot for a variety of reasons, including lack of refrigerant in the appliance or a refrigerator thermostat that is set too low, thus causing the compressor to work too hard.
Check your refrigerator thermostat to be sure it is set at an appropriate temperature. It's a bit more involved to check the refrigerant levels yourself; you will likely need a professional to assist you if you get to this point.
If the refrigerator's set temperature is not the issue, you should find another place to store your perishable food and unplug the unit. It's not safe to let it continue to run when the compressor is overheating.
Condenser and Cooling Fan Issues
Your refrigerator also uses a condenser and cooling fan as part of its cooling system. Check the condenser coils, located behind the appliance. Are they free of dust, dirt and debris, and far enough from the wall? If not, they might not be able to adequately dissipate heat that is emitted from the appliance, causing the compressor to overheat.
A refrigerator's cooling fan is also an important part of the unit's ability to stay cool. The cooling fan helps to keep the appliance from overheating, but its motor could fail over time. Check to be sure the fan is still spinning. If not, it's likely that is the cause of the compressor being too hot.
Regardless of the issue with your refrigerator's compressor, you might need a professional to help you conduct repairs once you have finished troubleshooting. By looking into the problem yourself, though, you might save some time and money, since the technician will arrive to your home ready to fix the problem and with the correct tools and parts.