What Happens When You Lay a Refrigerator on Its Side?

The correct way to transport a refrigerator generally is in an upright position, but this not always is possible. If you need to move a refrigerator on its side, you must know what can happen when you lay the unit down, as well as what precautions you can take so that you don't damage the unit during transport and set up in its new home.

Interior Parts

If you don't remove the shelving, there is a chance that the shelves will shift inside the unit and could break or damage the door or sides of the refrigerator. Before you transport the refrigerator, you must clean out the freezer and food compartments. You should remove or otherwise secure the shelves and any crisper drawers that could slide out or move when you lay the refrigerator on its side.


Doors that are not secured will open when the refrigerator is laid on its side. Even if you would lay the refrigerator down without the hinges on the top side to help keep the doors closed, you risk the chance that the doors will open during transport. This could damage the hinges, or the doors could hit the sides of the transport vehicle and become damaged. Secure the refrigerators doors with tape or string so that they do not open when you are laying down the unit.


When you lay a refrigerator on its side, the oil in the compressor will flow from the compressor tube into the coolant lines. If you must lay the unit on its side, lay it down on the side opposite from where the compressor lines run out of the compressor. For example, if the compressor line exits the compressor on the right side of the unit, lay the refrigerator on its left side.


When you move the refrigerator and plug it in right away, you risk damaging the compressor. After a refrigerator has been moved on its side, it must sit upright for the same amount of time it was on its side so that any oil that may have flowed into the coolant lines will have enough time to return to the compressor and clear the coolant lines. For example, if the unit was on its side for four hours, it must sit upright for at least four hours before you plug it into the wall outlet.