How to Bypass a Refrigerator Relay

A refrigerator relay is an electric switch that cycles the compressor on and off in response to the demand for cool air inside the appliance. Because compressors are not designed to run continuously, the relay is both an energy-saving feature and a safety component that prevents the compressor from wearing out prematurely. However, if the relay malfunctions, the compressor may not cycle on at all. Bypassing the relay is a quick technique for isolating the problem. Do not leave the appliance in bypass mode or you risk damage to the compressor.

Step 1

Unplug the refrigerator power cord and move the appliance away from the wall so you can get to the back of the cabinet.

Step 2

Remove any cover plate from the bottom of the refrigerator using a screwdriver to take out the screws. Some refrigerators may not have a rear cover plate so this may not apply to your situation.

Step 3

Flex the top and bottom edges of the metal box in the lower right corner to disengage the tabs and pull off the box. This is the cover for the relay.

Step 4

Insert the tip of a flat-blade screwdriver into the space between the relay and the inside top of the housing for the relay. Press down on the top of the relay with the screwdriver as you pull back on the part to remove it from the housing.

Step 5

Slide off the wire on the side of the relay by pulling on the metal connector at the end of the wire.

Step 6

Strip 1/4 inch of plastic coating from each end of the copper wire.

Step 7

Attach each end of the copper wire to the two contacts inside the housing for the relay. Secure the wire ends to the contacts with electrical tape. This closes the circuit and bypasses the relay.

Step 8

Remove your hands and all tools from the refrigerator before plugging in the power cord.

Step 9

Turn the temperature control knob inside the refrigerator to the highest position for a test. If the compressor clicks and activates, producing a distinctive humming sound, the relay is defective and should be replaced. Do not run the appliance indefinitely in bypass mode.

James Clark

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.