Quick Answer:


To repair a refrigerator compressor, start by unplugging the fridge for safety. Access the compressor by removing the back panel. Clean the condenser coils and check the cooling fans for obstructions. Use a multimeter to test the compressor’s electrical resistance and inspect the start relay and overload protector. If necessary, consult a professional for refrigerant issues or consider replacing the compressor if it’s beyond repair. Regular maintenance can prevent future issues.


Refrigerators, the unsung culinary workhorses of our kitchens, play an essential role in our daily lives by preserving the freshness of our food and ensuring our beverages are delightfully chilled. At the core of a refrigerator’s functionality lies the compressor, a crucial component responsible for driving the flow of refrigerant through the cooling system. This vital mechanism is tasked with maintaining the necessary low pressure to convert warm air into the cold air that keeps our food fresh and safe. However, despite its importance, the compressor is susceptible to wear and tear over time, which can lead to various issues such as reduced efficiency, the emergence of unusual noises, or even complete failure. These complications not only undermine the refrigerator’s ability to keep food cold but also pose a significant risk of causing further damage to the appliance, potentially resulting in the loss of both its functionality and the perishables stored inside. Understanding how to repair a refrigerator compressor becomes crucial in preventing these outcomes, ensuring that this key component continues to operate effectively and extends the lifespan of your refrigerator.

The repercussions of a malfunctioning compressor extend beyond the immediate inconvenience; they can also lead to increased energy consumption as the refrigerator struggles to maintain the desired temperature, thus inflating household energy bills and exerting unnecessary strain on the environment. Recognizing the urgency and the potential cost implications of compressor problems, this DIY guide is meticulously crafted to equip homeowners with the knowledge and confidence needed to undertake compressor repairs themselves. By providing detailed, step-by-step instructions complemented by expert tips, this guide aims to demystify the process of diagnosing and resolving common compressor issues. Whether you’re faced with a fridge that’s not cooling properly, emitting strange noises, or showing signs of a severe breakdown, this guide is your go-to resource for navigating the complexities of refrigerator compressor repair, ensuring your appliance continues to operate efficiently and keep your food cold and fresh.

Understanding the Refrigerator Compressor

Before diving into repairs, it’s crucial to understand what the refrigerator compressor is and how it works. The compressor is essentially the heart of the refrigerator’s cooling system, pumping refrigerant through the coils to remove heat from the interior. It operates in a cycle, compressing the gaseous refrigerant, which then cools and condenses back into a liquid, absorbing heat from the refrigerator and freezer compartments in the process.

Symptoms of a Faulty Compressor

Identifying a faulty compressor early can save you from the inconvenience of a broken fridge and the cost of replacing spoiled food. Common signs include:

  • Strange Noises: A humming sound that stops abruptly could indicate compressor issues.
  • Not Cooling Properly: If your fridge and freezer compartments aren’t keeping food cold despite correct temperature settings, the compressor might be failing.
  • Overheating: The compressor feels excessively hot to the touch.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Multimeter
  • Screwdriver set
  • Socket set
  • Vacuum pump (for refrigerant)
  • Refrigerant (specific to your refrigerator model)
  • Replacement compressor (if necessary)
  • Safety goggles and gloves

Step-by-Step Guide to Diagnosing and Repairing Compressor Issues

Step 1: Safety First

Before embarking on any repair journey, ensuring your safety and that of your appliance is paramount. Begin by unplugging your refrigerator from the wall outlet. This simple yet crucial step helps prevent electrical shocks and other hazards, creating a safe environment for you to work in. Always double-check to ensure that the power is completely disconnected before proceeding to the next steps.

Step 2: Access the Compressor

The compressor, often located at the back or the bottom of your refrigerator, is encased in a protective cover that shields it from dust and damage. To access it, you may need to move your refrigerator away from the wall. Use a screwdriver to carefully remove the cover, revealing the compressor and its associated components, such as the condenser coils and cooling fans. This step requires patience and attention to detail to avoid damaging any parts.

Step 3: Inspect and Clean the Condenser Coils

Over time, the condenser coils can accumulate a significant amount of dust and debris, which can impede the refrigerator’s ability to dissipate heat effectively. This buildup forces the compressor to work harder than necessary, potentially leading to overheating and reduced efficiency. Cleaning the coils with a brush or a vacuum can significantly improve the system’s cooling efficiency. Ensure the coils are clean and free of debris to facilitate optimal performance.

Step 4: Check the Cooling Fans

The cooling fans play a critical role in maintaining the refrigerator’s cooling efficiency by circulating air over the condenser coils. Inspect the fans for any signs of obstruction or damage, such as debris accumulation or worn-out blades. If the fans are not operating correctly, they may need to be replaced to restore proper airflow and cooling performance.

Step 5: Test the Compressor

A multimeter can be an invaluable tool in diagnosing compressor issues. Use it to measure the electrical resistance between the compressor’s terminals. The readings should align with the manufacturer’s specifications; a significant deviation could indicate a problem with the compressor. This step helps determine whether the compressor is functioning correctly or if it’s the source of your refrigerator’s cooling issues.

Step 6: Inspect the Start Relay and Overload Protector

The start relay and overload protector are essential for the compressor’s operation, providing the necessary power to start and protect it from electrical overload. Use a multimeter to test these components for continuity. If they are faulty, they could prevent the compressor from starting, leading to cooling problems. Replacing these components can often restore normal operation without the need for more extensive repairs.

Step 7: Check the Refrigerant Levels

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your refrigerator’s cooling system. Low refrigerant levels can compromise the compressor’s ability to maintain the correct temperature, affecting the appliance’s cooling efficiency. Checking and refilling the refrigerant levels typically requires specialized tools and knowledge, making it a task best left to professional technicians.

Step 8: Evaluate the Thermostat and Control Board

Sometimes, the issue may not be with the compressor itself but with the components that regulate its operation, such as the thermostat and control board. Faulty temperature settings or a malfunctioning control board can lead to symptoms similar to those of compressor issues. Inspect these components for proper function and reset or replace them as necessary to ensure they accurately control the refrigerator’s temperature.

Step 9: Decide on Repair or Replacement

After conducting these checks, if the compressor is found to be damaged or beyond repair, you may face the decision of whether to replace the compressor or invest in a new refrigerator. Compressor replacement is a complex process that often requires professional expertise, especially for specific brands like Whirlpool refrigerators. Consider the age of your refrigerator, the cost of replacement parts and labor, and the potential benefits of upgrading to a new, more energy-efficient model before making your decision.

By following these detailed steps, homeowners can effectively diagnose and address many common compressor issues, potentially saving money and extending the life of their refrigerators. However, when in doubt or faced with complex repairs, seeking the assistance of a professional technician is always the best course of action to ensure the safety and proper functioning of your appliance.

When to Call a Professional Technician

While many issues can be addressed with DIY repairs, certain situations call for the expertise of a professional technician, especially when dealing with refrigerant, complex electrical components, or when a complete compressor replacement is necessary. Attempting repairs beyond your skill level can lead to further damage or void warranties.

Preventative Maintenance

Regular maintenance can prevent compressor issues and extend the life of your refrigerator. Clean the condenser coils regularly, check the temperature settings, and ensure the refrigerator is not overloaded, as these measures can help your fridge run more efficiently and cool effectively.


Repairing a refrigerator’s compressor can seem daunting, but with the right tools, knowledge, and a bit of patience, most people can fix common issues. This guide offers a roadmap to diagnosing and fixing compressor problems, potentially saving money and extending the life of your appliance. However, when in doubt, consulting with a professional technician can ensure your refrigerator returns to optimal performance without risking further damage.

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