5 Common Air Conditioner Compressor Problems

man working on an outdoor central air conditioning unit

A burned out or faulty air conditioner compressor can result in noises coming from the appliance, hard starting, or lost cooling capacity. A compressor draws refrigerant gas from an air conditioner’s components and compresses the low pressure refrigerant to high pressure and moves it through the system. Regular inspection and maintenance practices, such as checking compressor support pads help to avoid such problems.

Start with Simple Checks

While the compressor failing is one of the worst case scenarios, there are other possibilities.

A problem or change in an air conditioner's performance could be symptomatic of something minor. Carry out simple checks to find out what's wrong with the appliance and if it is something small and fixable.

For one, verify that the unit has electrical power. Make sure all control settings are properly adjusted. Finally, check the other components like the air filter, duct work, and blower fans. If any one of these things seems out order, start investigating further in that direction. You may be able to save yourself the time, money, and headache that comes with the compressor.

1. Lost Cooling Capacity

When your unit isn't cooling to the same degree as it should be, the issue may stem from an inability to maintain correct pressure in the compressor. Both abnormally high and abnormally low discharge pressures can be an signs of a problem with the air conditioner compressor.

Such information can be verified by checking the pressure gauges on your unit. Consult your owner's manual as it will tell you precisely what the pressure gauges should read when the unit is functioning at its best.

If it does ultimately end up being an issue regarding a lack of correct or consistent pressure, a service technician can help correct the problem.

2. Insufficient Cooling

If the air conditioner compressor is sluggish or remains in the “on” cycle but little or no cool air actually comes out, the appliance might have loose or worn compressors. True, this is still a compressor issues, but it's not as condemning since consequences like this are expected from regular wear and tear.

Avoid this problem by installing or replacing gauge ports on the compressor.

3. Burned Out Air Conditioner Compressor

A burned out compressor often originates in the electrical system of the unit. Any damage or exposure of the motor's wiring can result in a burn or short between the compressor and the steel parts of the motor.

When this happens, the unit won't start up at all.

Avoid this problem by inspecting the electrical system of the air conditioner regularly.

4. Stuttering or On and Off Start Ups

This is commonly referred as hard starting. The compressor usually stutters and may not come on efficiently. If the problem is continuous, take a look at the fuse and the wiring. Replace the fuse if necessary and make repairs on the wires.

5. Problems with Motor

The air conditioner compressor may fail in case of an overload or if it overheats. This happens when there is an electrical fault within the appliance. To check for this problem, locate the motor and look at the reset button. If there is a fault, it pops out. Wait for it to cool down and push it back in. Always maintain the electrical system of the air conditioner in good condition to avoid this problem.