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My Refrigerator Compressor Locked Up

Lee Morgan

One of the most serious problems you can have with a refrigerator is the compressor. The compressor is like the heart of the refrigerator, and without it the refrigerator is not much more than a storage cabinet. The compressor can have several different problems. Among the serious problems with the compressor is the potential for it to lock up completely, which will keep it from functioning at all. Learn about compressors and what happens when they lock up so you’ll know what to expect if it should happen to your appliance.

Locked Compressor Symptoms

If your refrigerator isn't cold, you could have a locked compressor.

The first symptom of a locked compressor is a loss of cooling in the refrigerator itself. When a compressor locks up, cool air will no longer be produced inside the unit. The second symptom is the sound from the compressor. The refrigerator will sound like it is running. You’ll hear a continuous humming noise from the back of the refrigerator. This is the sound of the locked compressor attempting to run. To confirm your suspicions, you’ll need to access the rear of the fridge. Place your hand on the casing around the compressor. The compressor is normally a little warm, but if it is hot to the touch, especially if it is too hot to keep your hand on it, then the compressor is definitely locked up.

Repairing Compressors

Once you have determined that your compressor is locked up, you’ll need to repair it. Unfortunately, this powerful motor is not generally repairable. The compressor will have to be replaced to make this particular refrigerator function again. However, most people don’t bother replacing a compressor because it is extremely costly. Considering that a new compressor will run you up into several hundred dollars only to fix an already used refrigerator, the better choice is usually to replace the entire appliance.

Start Relay

Some people may misdiagnose a locked up compressor when they see it will not run. If the compressor will not run at all but tries to start up with a clicking noise every five minutes or so, the problem is not with the compressor itself in most instances. This is usually a bad start relay. The start relay can be accessed by accessing the compressor. The part plugs into the compressor and makes it turn on when needed. If you remove the start relay and shake it, you may hear a rattling sound. This is evidence that the relay needs replacement. This is a minor repair.

Function of Compressor

The reason the compressor is important to the refrigerator is because it makes cooling possible. The compressor is a strong motor that compresses the refrigerant gas and makes it change into a liquid and heat up. The condenser coils help the gas release some of the heat, and then the gas is rapidly expanded in the freezer compartment, boiling and vaporizing it, to create the cold air and to chill the evaporator coils.