Refrigerator: Not running

If the refrigerator has electrical power—the inside light turns on—but the compressor won't run, possible causes include a control board failure, a wiring problem or a failed compressor. A bad compressor start relay will also prevent the compressor from running. Follow the tips in our troubleshooting compressor problems video to figure out the problem with your refrigerator.

These repairs may help solve your Refrigerator problem:

Replace the refrigerator compressor start relay

Compressor Start Relay

The start relay is the electrical device that energizes the start windings of the compressor motor when the motor is initially started. The PTC start relay shuts off voltage to the start windings shortly after the compressor starts so that it continues to run using the run windings of the motor. Replace the start relay if it is broken, as the compressor will not get proper voltage to operate. In some situations, a wiring failure could be causing the problem and a repair of the Start relay wiring will fix the problem.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the refrigerator temperature control thermostat

Temperature control thermostat

The temperature control thermostat is also called the cold control or cold control thermostat, and is located in the control housing. The thermostat has a sensor tube attached to it that detects the temperature inside the refrigerator cabinet. The temperature control thermostat controls the temperature inside the cabinet by turning on and shutting off the compressor based on the temperature sensed by the sensor tube. Replace the temperature control thermostat if it fails to sense temperature properly or if it does not cycle the compressor properly.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the refrigerator electronic control board

Electronic control board

The electronic control board—also called the main control board or the power control board (PCB)—controls the compressor and the defrost cycle. When it senses that the compressor must run to keep the refrigerator cool, it sends voltage to the compressor and fans. The electronic control board also receives signals from temperature sensors to monitor the temperatures inside the refrigerator and freezer. With this information, the electronic control board controls the defrost cycle. You can usually do a diagnostic test on the electronic control board to see how well it's working. The test varies by model, but the most common is the Forced Defrost test. See the tech sheet for instructions on running the diagnostics. Replace the electronic control board if it's not working correctly.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the refrigerator defrost timer

Defrost timer

The defrost timer is an electro-mechanical device that controls the intervals between automatic defrost cycles in the refrigerator. The defrost timer motor runs and moves the control components in the device. When the control contacts in the defrost timer advance into the defrost cycle, the compressor stops and the defrost heater turns on for a specified period of time to melt frost off of the evaporator fins. This promotes more efficient exchange of heat across the evaporator. When the specified period of defrost ends, the defrost timer contacts switch back to allow normal cooling operation in the refrigerator.

You’ll need to replace the defrost timer if it doesn’t advance when activated.

Faulty contacts in the timer can also cause the defrost heater to either not energize at all or constantly energize. In that instance, replace the defrost timer.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the refrigerator compressor

Compressor

Repairing the compressor in the refrigerator usually involves the replacement of the start device and/or overload on the motor. If the compressor looks to be in working order but will not start, then replace the start device and/or overload. If the compressor is locked up, or it runs but will not compress the refrigerant, then replace the compressor. A refrigerator service technician will need to complete this repair since it involves the recovery and recharge of the refrigerant (Freon).

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.