The compressor in your fridge is in charge of taking the refrigerant and compressing it from a gas into a hot, high-pressure liquid.
This condensed refrigerant then passes through the condenser coils, where this heat is expelled into the surrounding air, turning it into a cold, low-pressure liquid that is now ready to absorb more heat from inside your fridge.
So as you can see, the compressor is a pretty essential component in the whole refrigeration process, so if your compressor runs into an issue, it will need to be replaced as soon as possible. If this seems like an intimidating task for you, don’t worry! It’s not as complicated as it seems.
In this article, I will explain why you might want to consider replacing your compressor and give you a step-by-step guide on how to do so.
Why Do You Need The Refrigerator Compressor?
Before replacing your compressor, it’s important to understand what has caused it to run into problems and how to properly determine that it’s actually the compressor that needs replacing.
1. Compressor has Failed
The most common reason you’d need to replace your compressor is that it has failed.
There may be a multitude of potential causes behind this which may include general wear and tear from overuse due to heating problems, there might have been an electrical surge that has caused it to burn out, or there may be a leak in the refrigeration system which has caused the compressor to blow.
Whatever the reason, without a working compressor, your fridge won’t be able to cool, so if you discover that it’s failed, you should consider replacing it.
2. Compressor is Overheating
When a compressor works extra hard to cool your fridge, it risks overheating and burning out. The primary reason why a compressor overheats is due to the condenser coils being dirty and packed full of dust and/or hair.
This buildup in the condenser coils acts as an insulator and reduces the fridge’s ability to expel heat. Because of this, it means the compressor works overtime to try and get the fridge cooled, quickly causing it to burn out.
Another common cause of a compressor overheating is due to low refrigerant levels. Low refrigerant will also mean that the fridge can’t cool as effectively, which in turn causes the compressor to work extra hard, overheat and eventually burn out.
3. Electrical/Wiring Issues
Electrical issues such as faulty wiring, dirty connectors, or a burned-out compressor motor will either cause the compressor not to work at all or not work effectively enough, which usually leads to overheating and eventual component failure.
While in some cases, the wiring may possibly be fixed, because it has such a high probability of causing permanent damage to the compressor itself when this problem occurs, you will usually be better off replacing the whole compressor.
4. Noisy Compressor
Not only is a noisy compressor an annoyance, but it’s also usually a sign of a more serious underlying problem.
Depending on the nature of this underlying problem, it may be possible to repair the issue. But if you are not already well versed on what to look for, usually replacing the whole compressor is a far better solution.
5. Refrigerant Leak
A refrigerant leak will reduce the fridge’s ability to cool due to the low refrigerant levels. So to bring it to the correct fridge temperature, the compressor will need to work extra hard to compensate, which may cause it to burn out.
6. Foreign Contaminants in the Refrigeration System
The compressor is specially designed to work with refrigerant, so when certain foreign objects, such as debris or water moisture, get mixed in with the refrigerant, it may cause damage to the compressor and require it to be replaced.
Compressors are hard-working components that will naturally age and become less effective over time. If your compressor struggles to maintain the correct temperature in your fridge and seems to be always on, it’s a good time to replace the compressor.
8. Upgrading the Compressor
Sometimes manufacturers may release better-optimized or more energy-efficient compressors compatible with an older fridge model.
So for many people who want to get a bit more mileage out of their appliance, it’s much easier and cheaper for them to upgrade their compressor rather than replace the entire fridge. This will often allow your fridge to operate quieter, with more energy efficiency, using less power.
How to Replace the Refrigerator Compressor?
Before you replace your fridge’s compressor, it’s important to understand that not all models are the same and that this process may need to be adjusted slightly depending on your specific brand and model of refrigerator.
Additionally, you should make sure you have a new replacement compressor ready to go, along with some basic hand tools such as a screwdriver, safety goggles, and a good pair of pliers.
1. Turn Off the Refrigerator
Before working on any high-powered electrical appliance, it’s crucial to ensure the power cord is completely disconnected from the power supply, or there’s a possibility of receiving an electrical shock.
So make sure you remove the refrigerator from the wall outlet, switch it off at the circuit breaker, and wait 2-3 minutes before proceeding with the installation.
2. Prepare the Working Area
Before doing anything, you should prepare your work area, which includes transferring any items you do not want to thaw into cooler boxes, as the installation may take some time.
Then, pull the fridge away from the kitchen wall so you can get unhindered access to the back.
3. Locate the Old Compressor
On most common fridge models, the compressor is located on the back of the machine near the bottom. Remove the back panel by unthreading the screws; it should just pop off.
Then, locate the bad compressor, typically found at the back of the refrigerator, near the bottom. It’s a cylindrical device with a series of tubes and wires attached to it.
4. Release the Refrigerant
The refrigerant is a hazardous substance and, as such, needs to be carefully collected, as you can’t just pour it down the sink. To safely collect the refrigerant from the fridge, attach a perforating valve to the process tube into an appropriate container and store it in a safe place.
5. Remove the Old Compressor
Using a wrench, you should next loosen the bolts that attach the bad refrigerator compressor to the fridge. You will also need to disconnect the electrical wire harness and the tubes which allow it to pump the refrigerant around the fridge.
Although you have already drained the refrigerant at this stage, we highly recommend wearing gloves and safety goggles at this point, as there is always the risk of some residual refrigerant spilling out.
6. Install a New Dryer, Capillary Tube, and Access Valve
Now the faulty compressor has been removed, it’s time to install the new one, but before we do that, you will notice within your refrigerator compressor installation kit you have a replacement dryer, capillary compressor tube, and access valve.
These should be installed according to the installation instructions that will be included with your replacement compressor. Follow the provided steps carefully and ensure the components are securely installed before proceeding.
7. Install the New Compressor
Take the new compressor and move it into position inside the fridge. Attach the electrical wires, tubing, and bolts using the same configuration used on the faulty compressor.
Ensure everything is securely in place and all bolts/connection points are tightened securely so there’s no possibility of leakage or excessive vibration while under operation. If you are unsure of the correct positioning, you should be able to refer to your fridge’s user manual.
8. Vacuum Out the System
Things are not quite ready to go yet. There will inevitably be a certain amount of moisture and air that remains within the compression system, which we need to remove before adding the refrigerant.
To do this, you need to attach the vacuum pump to the access valve that was installed earlier. Turn the pump on and leave it running for at least 30 minutes to ensure the entire system is fully evacuated.
9. Refill the Refrigeration System
Once the system’s been thoroughly vacuumed, the next step is to add the refrigerant. Again, ensure you wear safety goggles and gloves for this part and carefully follow the instructions detailed in the compressor installation kit to re-introduce the refrigerant back into the system.
Be mindful of the volume of refrigerant you add, and check the system carefully for any noticeable signs of leaks or air entry.
10. Test the Cooling System
Once the refrigerant is in, the system is now good to go! Turn the fridge back on and let it run idly (don’t fill it yet) for 24 hours.
Check the fridge’s internal temperature to ensure it is now thoroughly cooling. If it’s reached the desired temperature, you can begin to re-stock the fridge as usual.