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Help w/ Refrigerator Compressor Overheating?

A few days ago I noticed the unit was 'clicking on, then buzzing for about 15 seconds, and then clicking off' every ~5 minutes or so. The freezer had thawed. The fan was running all the time.

It took me a while (and some reading here) to figure out what was going on. Here is what I learned from some exploratory surgery:

- I removed the starter relay and overload device. The resistances between the 3 (tecumpseh) compressor terminals are all in the single digit ohm range. No shorts to ground.
- The starter relay does not rattle when you shake it.
- The compressor was warm/hot to touch.
- The unit was unplugged for a few hours while I did this. When I plugged it back in, the compressor started up an ran for a few hours. The freezer temp got down to about 10 degrees F. I went to bed. During the night I realized it was back in the "clicking, buzzing, getting warm mode". I unplugged it again. In the morning (several hours later) I plugged it in again and the compressor ran. It's still running (1 hour later) as I write this.

So, does the fact that it starts up after 'cooling off' mean that the starter relay and overload device are okay?

Does this behavior point toward compressor? toward overload device? toward starter relay?

I did clean the dust (it was bad, not horrible) off of the various coils.

Thanks for any advice!

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  • 6 more comments 
  • WarmFreezer Jun 29, 2008

    Thanks for the quick reply 22yooper.

    I replaced the relay and I still see the same behavior: The compressor will start if it is cold (idle for several hours), but does not 're-start' correctly once everything is going.

    Could the 'run capacitor' (start capacitor?) cause the compressor to fail to start like this?

    How warm should the outside of the compressor housing feel? (i.e. if it's really hot to touch, does that say something about the compressor being bad???)

    I can hear the overload device clicking in (when the compressor start sequence gives up) and out (one click a few tens of seconds after the compressor start gives up). So I know that it is not 'stuck open', preventing compressor start. Is 'stuck open' the main failure mode for the overload device? (i.e. would it be worth replacing it based on the thought that it is kicking in at too low of a temperature....)

    As far as I can tell, the pertinent devices are the compressor itself, the start relay, the overload device, and the capacitor. I'm hoping that the failure mode I've described points (at least statistically) to failure of one of those!

    Any suggestions welcome :)




  • WarmFreezer Jun 30, 2008

    Hi 22yooper,
    Thanks for the good follow-up information!
    I follow your logic and agree.


  • The wizz Aug 07, 2008

    Refrigerator Compressor runs off and on for several days but then shuts down for several hours -just fan is working.I breafly turned power off cleaned coils and dust from around compressor .Then I turned power back on-after several minutes Compressor started working normal again and items stayed cool in fridge and frozen in freezer.I also have both settings almost maxed out at 9 in fridge and freezer.What could be the problem?Should I also replace the relay? I may be wasting my time if the compressor then i need a vew refrigerator!?

  • Anonymous Dec 19, 2008

    I have a Roper refridgerator that stopped working. The fans work and the light is on but the compressor does not run. I took the back panel off and checked to see if the compressor was getting power. there was power at the two terminals. I have removed the overload devices and plan to find and replace them today. Is that the best idea?

  • TriniVibes Dec 20, 2008

    I had the click,hum issue with a thawing freezer. The start device, overload was definitely shot - shaking and burnt. I bought the replacement parts which are different from the original. Now, the hum, click issue has resolved, but the center panel between freezer and fridge are really hot. The compressor is hot as well. Suggestions?


  • perkins12200 Jan 07, 2009

    Compressor very hot to the touch and freezer cool and refrig pat loosing temp what could be the problem



  • Anonymous May 07, 2009

    Compressor is extremely hot to the touch (unable to hold hand on it) and the fridge does not stay cool. If an external fan is used to blow air over the compressor and condenser everything works fine and the fridge operates normally. The condenser is clean and the condenser fan is working properly.

    Removing the external fan results in the compressor overheating in 15-20 minutes. Also, the freezer side (side by side) is hot to the touch (side of the fridge near the front.) when the unit overheats.

    Would this be a bad compressor. The defrost cycle is working properly and there is no build up of frost.

    Thanks






  • LeRoy Heasley Dec 26, 2013

    Sounds like the compressor, With the heat it may have worn out interna bearing and is causing it to work harder to attempt to run .

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I had a similar problem yesterday (Maytag side by side unit 5 years old, however this apply to most brands). All operation seems normal other then that the refrigerator was not cooling, the air that was blowing inside the refrigerator was room temperature and not cold air. The compressor was also very hot to touch (could not touch it for more then 1-2 seconds) and didn't buzz or hum as in standard operation. I also heard few clicks from the compressor every time I plugged / unplugged the AC to the fridge. Replaced the overload/ relay device with a new one I got at a local appliance parts distributor ($30) and MAGIC. The unit went back to work as soon as I plugged the AC power. The relay/overload unit is on the side of the compressor and that?s where the electric wires are attached to. The unit turns the compressor on and off. The unit is attached to the compressor side with an "electric outlet" like three holes and three prongs. It might be held tight so you can pry gently (between the unit and the compressor body) with a screwdriver. Once pulled out, release the wires connectors that are attached to the relay/ overload unit. You might need to use pliers as they are tight fit. If unit smells like burnt or if you shake and hear rattle then it?s bad. Find a local appliance parts distributors and call to see if they have part for your model/ type. Remember to unplug AC before starting to work on the fridge and good luck.

Posted on Jan 15, 2010

  • jennem Sep 09, 2010

    Thank you so much for the post! Thanks to you I was able to fix our fridge myself

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  • Master
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Replace the relay. It is possible that the contacts in the relay are burnt and do not make contact every time it tries to restart.

Posted on Jun 29, 2008

  • James Helmer
    James Helmer Jun 30, 2008

    Replacing the relay was a last resort in trying to save a compressor that is possibly failing. If the compressor starts when it is cold there is no other problem than the compressor itself. If a component such as a capacitor were bad the compressor would not start at any time.

    If you had an Amp meter I am sure you would get what we call a locked rotor condition with a very high amp (current draw). This type of condition will reflect on the temperature of the compressor body being excessively hot.

    Stuck open on an overload device would allow no power to go through the compressor at all. Most overload devices are ether good or completely bad. These overloads work on both temperature and or current draw. Temperature does make it more sensitive to current draw.

    Some motors can short internally and yet not be shorted to ground. This also would cause excess current draw. I think it is time for you to give up on this one.


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  • Refrigerators Master
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Hello;

My name Peter. I am a retired field service refrigeration technician.
The clicking sound is the overload relay trying to start the compressor. Inspecting the overload relay for rattling or burn marks is a good start.
But, when the overload relay clicks trying to start the compressor and the compressor is hot!
Lets check out the compressor. Remove the overload relay and all components to expose the three steel pins on the compressor. Using a multi-meter; set the meter to the lowest Ohms (Omega).
Touch the ends of the meter probes together. The meter reading should = 1.0. Working around the compressor probes take the Ohm reading between each pin. You should have 3 readings, you will have one high reading and two low readings. Within a few tenths, the two low reading added together should equal the high read. If they do not you have a bad compressor. The fact that the compressor is hot from the overload (starter relay) clicking and trying to start is a good indicator is a good indicator you have a bad compressor. A bad compressor over time will repeatedly knock out the overload relay.
If you hear a clanking sound from the compressor then the flat plate valves in the top of the compressor are gone.
You need to have a certification to break into a seal system, which I have. There is a federal penalty of $27,500 if you are not certified.
If you tap into the low pressure side (65 PSI) vapor, you could get the refrigerant into your lungs, burn them or become asphyxiated. If you tap into the high pressure liquid side, you can get seriously burned.







.

Posted on Oct 31, 2014

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I went by what is recommended and fixed my fridge which started making this clicking sound and stopped cooling at all. I basically replaced the starter on the compressor and now it works fine. I also did some research on this subject and found out that is a common occurrence. The component that typically fails is called a PTC chip inside of the starter ( Positive Temperature Coefficient Resistor) which basically allows for the motor inside of the compressor to generate a higher torque during the start- up. Compressors are typically build using a vein pump which requires quiet a bit of torque to star-up, once its running its fine. The component cost me $75 and it took about 5 min. to replace. Good luck.

Posted on Dec 12, 2012

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Your help is so appreciated, I took my relay off, shook it, and it sounds like it was in a hundred peices inside. Sure seems like this is the problem. Thank you

Posted on Nov 14, 2011

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