What is the Number One Reason for Refrigerator Failure?

The number one reason for refrigerator failure is a faulty compressor. The compressor is the heart of the refrigerator, as it pumps the refrigerant through the coils and maintains the desired temperature inside the appliance. If the compressor fails, the refrigerator will not cool properly and may stop working altogether. In this article, we will explain what causes compressor failure, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.

What Causes Compressor Failure?

There are several factors that can cause compressor failure, such as:

  • Power surges: Power surges can damage the electrical components of the compressor, such as the start relay, the overload protector, and the capacitor. These components help the compressor start and run smoothly. If they are damaged, the compressor may not start at all or may overheat and burn out.
  • Dirty coils: The coils are located at the back or the bottom of the refrigerator, and they help dissipate the heat generated by the compressor. If the coils are dirty or clogged with dust, dirt, or pet hair, they will not be able to release the heat efficiently. This will cause the compressor to work harder and longer, which can wear it out faster and increase the risk of overheating.
  • Low refrigerant: The refrigerant is the substance that circulates through the coils and absorbs the heat from the inside of the refrigerator. If the refrigerant level is low, due to a leak or improper installation, the compressor will have to run longer and harder to maintain the desired temperature. This can also cause the compressor to overheat and fail.
  • Age: The average lifespan of a refrigerator compressor is about 10 to 15 years, depending on the model and usage. As the compressor ages, it becomes less efficient and more prone to failure. If the compressor is older than 15 years, it may be time to replace it or the entire refrigerator.
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How to Prevent Compressor Failure?

There are some simple steps that you can take to prevent compressor failure and extend the life of your refrigerator, such as:

  • Protect your refrigerator from power surges: You can use a surge protector or a voltage stabilizer to protect your refrigerator from power fluctuations that can damage the compressor. You can also unplug your refrigerator during a storm or a power outage, and wait for a few minutes before plugging it back in.
  • Clean the coils regularly: You should clean the coils at least once a year, or more often if you have pets or a dusty environment. You can use a vacuum cleaner or a brush to remove the dust and dirt from the coils. Make sure to unplug the refrigerator before cleaning the coils, and avoid bending or damaging them.
  • Check the refrigerant level: You should check the refrigerant level every few years, or whenever you notice a decrease in the cooling performance of your refrigerator. You can use a refrigerant gauge to measure the pressure of the refrigerant, or hire a professional to do it for you. If the refrigerant level is low, you should fix the leak and refill the refrigerant as soon as possible.
  • Replace the compressor when necessary: If the compressor is showing signs of failure, such as making loud noises, vibrating excessively, or not cooling the refrigerator properly, you should replace it before it stops working completely. You can either replace the compressor yourself, if you have the skills and tools, or hire a qualified technician to do it for you.
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What to Do if Compressor Failure Happens?

If your compressor fails, you should act quickly to prevent further damage and food spoilage. Here are some steps that you can take if compressor failure happens:

  • Unplug the refrigerator: You should unplug the refrigerator as soon as you notice that the compressor is not working. This will prevent the compressor from overheating and causing a fire hazard. It will also save energy and reduce your electricity bill.
  • Transfer the food to another refrigerator or cooler: You should transfer the food from your refrigerator to another refrigerator or cooler as soon as possible. This will prevent the food from spoiling and causing health problems. You should also discard any food that has been exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours, or has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Call a repair service: You should call a reputable and licensed repair service to diagnose and fix the problem. You should not attempt to repair the compressor yourself, unless you are trained and experienced in doing so. You may end up causing more damage or injuring yourself. You should also avoid using any DIY methods or hacks that you find online, as they may not be safe or effective.


The number one reason for refrigerator failure is a faulty compressor, which can be caused by power surges, dirty coils, low refrigerant, or age. You can prevent compressor failure by protecting your refrigerator from power surges, cleaning the coils regularly, checking the refrigerant level, and replacing the compressor when necessary. If compressor failure happens, you should unplug the refrigerator, transfer the food to another refrigerator or cooler, and call a repair service. By following these tips, you can keep your refrigerator running smoothly and avoid costly and inconvenient repairs.