Refrigerator Compressor Problems

The compressor is one of the main components of your refrigerator. The purpose of the compressor is to compress all the refrigerator gas used inside of the fridge. This process raises the pressure inside the fridge, and the temperature, which is released through a set of coils outside the fridge. If the compressor is not working in your fridge, the unit will fail to cool. Knowing the common problems of a compressor is a good way to learn basic troubleshooting when your fridge stops working.


When your fridge has electricity, and is running, but the inside of the fridge is hot, check to see if there is a problem other than a broken compressor. You should check to see if all the electrical controls of the fridge are working, as a compressor on a refrigeration unit rarely fails. Check to make sure you temperature control is in the correct position. Listen for fan noise to make sure the freezer fan is functioning properly. You will also want to listen for the compressor fan. The compressor fan is located at the bottom of the fridge, in the back where the compressor lives. If the freezer fan is running, the compressor fan is usually running at the same time. If the fans are not running, check that the fans are free from debris, and that dust is not clogging them.

Intermittent Compressor Function

If your compressor is clicking on and off randomly, check to see that there is not an issue with the compressor relay. A faulty or dirty relay will overload the compressor, causing it to short out and turn off. You will need to test the compressor relay using a multimeter. First, unplug the fridge. All of the components around the compressor area hold a charge, so it is essential that you cut the power to the fridge. Access the back of the refrigerator. At the bottom of the back, you will see an open section -this is where the compressor is located. The relay is usually located to the right of the compressor in the terminal box. Check your owner manual to make sure. Access the inside of the terminal box. The compressor will be at the bottom of the terminal box, and will look like a bit of coiled copper. Remove it by pulling it out, and check to see if there is any corrosion to the unit. If there is, it will need to be cleaned or replaced. Use a multimeter to test the relay continuity. Set the multimeter to X1 and touch the probes to the contact points. The multimeter should read the infinity symbol.

Fridge is Not Cold

If the fridge is not cold, you will need to test the compressor. Access the compressor from the back of the fridge. Again, access the terminal box and remove the relay. Use a multimeter set to X1 to test the terminal. Touch the probe of the multimeter to each terminal inside the terminal box. The multimeter should read zero ohms. Test all the terminals using different combinations of probe placement. All of the readings should be zero. You will also want to test the grounding of the compressor, by touch one probe to the outside of the terminal box, then moving the other probe between the three terminals. The multimeter should read infinity. If you get any other readings, you should have your compressor checked by a professional.