Refrigerator Maintenance: Refrigerator Compressor Repair

Simple fixes can save big bucks

Refrigerator problem? It could be the compressor (expensive!) but before you call the repair service, try these simple repairs. The problem may just be a bad overload or compressor relay.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Do these tests

A refrigerator that makes a buzzing or humming sound and doesn’t keep the food cold may have a blown compressor (big bucks) or just a bad overload or compressor relay (about $20).

I had this exact problem with a refrigerator and called Costas Stavrou, our appliance consultant. To avoid n expensive service call, Costas suggested I first try unplugging the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow enough time for the compressor to cool and any on-board computers to reset. When I plugged it back in, the problem returned. So he suggested I buy both an overload and a compressor relay (or a universal relay kit) from the appliance parts store and install it (see photo). If the problem went away, it would be a $20 fix. Unfortunately, my compressor noise returned (meaning it was toast). I had to buy a new refrigerator, but at least I didn’t have to waste money on a service call. Instead I applied that money toward a new fridge.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Socket/ratchet set
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Slip joint pliers

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Overload
  • Compressor relay