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Refrigerator Maintenance: Refrigerator Compressor Repair

Simple fixes can save big bucks, especially with a compressor repair

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 for compressor repair

Try a new overload or compressor

Pull the fridge away from the wall, unplug it and remove the service panel. Swap in the new compressor and overload relays. Then plug it back in to see if the problem is gone.

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 an 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.

Required Tools for this Compressor Repair Project

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

Required Materials for this Compressor Repair Project

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

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