How Do You Know if Your Refrigerator Compressor is Faulty?

Our appliance repair experts share their tips on diagnosing a broken refrigerator...

There are many different reasons why your refrigerator can stop working, but one of the most common and often overlooked is a faulty refrigerator compressor. Refrigerators work by cycling on and off to maintain an appropriate temperature, so it’s normal for a refrigerator to be silent when the cycle has been shut off. However, this inactivity can also be a sign that the compressor has stopped working, which is why a faulty compressor can take time to identify, potentially spoiling hundreds of dollars of food in the process. 

So what are the tell-tale signs of a faulty refrigerator compressor to look out for and what are some of the most common compressor problems?

What is a refrigerator compressor? 

The compressor is the heart of your refrigerator’s operating system. It is located at the bottom of most refrigerators and combines both the motor and the compressor in one hermetically sealed unit. It is responsible for compressing the refrigerant before sending it on to the condenser coil at the back of the refrigerator, where the heat can dissipate into the surrounding air. 

Refrigerator compressor broken as repair man fixes woman's refrigerator compressor

What are the common signs that your refrigerator compressor is faulty?

1. The refrigerator is silent

The faint humming noise that you hear coming from the fridge is the sound of the motor working away. If you don’t hear that sound at various points in the day then it could mean that your compressor is not turning on and off as it should be. Just pull the fridge away from the wall and listen for a few minutes for a soft humming noise. If you don’t hear it kick in after a few minutes then the compressor could be faulty. 

2. The fridge is not as cool as it should be

One of the best indicators of a compressor problem is if the fridge is not as cool as it usually is, or some areas of the fridge are cooler than others. It could be that there’s no humming noise at all, as described above, or that the humming noise is continuous. In either case, if your refrigerator is not cool then the compressor is not functioning properly. 

3. The refrigerator trips the circuit breaker

If your refrigerator intermittently trips the circuit breaker, then that’s another common sign that your compressor is on the way out. When starting up, the electric motor uses five or six times its usual operating current. However, as the compressor ages, the motor will take longer to reach its operating speed, and the increased current for that extended period can cause the circuit breaker to trip. 

4. The compressor runs continuously

Another sign that all is not well with your compressor is if you hear the humming noise continuously without a break, but the refrigerator and freezer compartments are not cold. This is likely to be a sign either that the compressor’s valves are failing or that there’s been a loss of refrigerant from the system. 

5. The refrigerator is noisy

Just as a silent refrigerator can be a sign of a faulty compressor, so can a fridge that’s making too much noise. Bearings or loose valves in the compressor become noisy when they start to fail. If it’s the bearings that are failing, then it may be combined with intermittent trips in the circuit breakers. If it’s the valves that are on the way out, you’re likely to have a noisy fridge that doesn’t get cold. 

Professional assistance from our expert appliance repair team

Do you recognize one of these telltale signs of a faulty compressor in your refrigerator? Then it’s probably time to give us a call. We’ll provide you with a fixed price quote before we start the repair and we can get your refrigerator back to full working order there and then. 


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