How to Install a Refrigerator Compressor

the back of a refrigerator with mechanical parts including a compressor
  • 4 hours
  • Advanced
  • 400-600
What You'll Need
New fridge compressor
Socket wrench
Wire cutters
Work gloves
What You'll Need
New fridge compressor
Socket wrench
Wire cutters
Work gloves

Is your milk suddenly going bad much more quickly than it used to? Is food spoiling in your fridge when it definitely shouldn't be? Does your refrigerator feel like it's not as cool as it once was? If your fridge stops performing its primary function, you may think it's time for a whole new fridge.

However, there's no need to take this step initially. Start by replacing your refrigerator compressor. Because when a fridge stops cooling the way it should, the compressor is almost always the problem. This is an affordable repair that's going to cost you a lot less than the price of an entire new fridge.

Warning Signs

There are some warning signs that will let you know when your refrigerator compressor has started to go bad. Often, a compressor will stop making noise when it starts to go bad. Your fridge probably makes a constant, low humming noise. You're used to hearing it but once you stop hearing it, you notice. If the sound of your fridge has changed at all, this is an indication that the compressor has started to go bad.

Remove the Old Compressor

Before you install a new compressor, you have to remove the faulty one. Before you do anything, unplug the refrigerator. Now, you can get to work.

Step 1 - Empty the Fridge

Clean out the fridge. Take everything out of the fridge and put it into coolers with ice packs. Your fridge won't be cooling at all while it's powered off. You want to save as much of your food as you can during this time.

Step 2 - Move the Unit

Pull the fridge out. You have to access the back of the fridge in order to work on the compressor. Get help if you need it and pull the fridge out and away from the wall. You need to have plenty of room back there not just to access the fridge but also to work, so make sure you pull the appliance out far enough to give yourself some moving room back there.

person doing repairs on the back of a refrigerator

Step 3 - Take Off the Guard Plate

Remove the guard. There's a guard plate behind the fridge where the internal mechanism lives. Take this off and set it to the side so you can get a look at what's happening back there. You may want to wait about 20 minutes to allow the fridge machinery to cool off. There's a lot of hot metal back there and that can be hard to work with, so it pays to wait a bit.

Step 4 - Remove the Compressor

Find and remove the compressor. The compressor is usually located near the bottom of the fridge and may have its own cover plate. You may need a socket wrench to remove this plate, which is probably secured with nuts.

Now, stop. You don't want to just pull out wires and yank out the old compressor. If you do that, you'll be standing there with your new compressor in your hand wondering how the heck to hook it back up.

Step 5 - Photograph

Take pictures. Take several pictures of your compressor just the way it is as it sits. Take photos of all the connections where the wires meet the compressor. Work slowly and detach these wires one at time.

Stop to take pictures after every wire you remove. Now, when you go to install your new compressor you'll have the pictures as a visual aid. Some wires will be secured with clips. You need only to squeeze them to pull the wires off the compressor. Others may need to be removed with wire cutters.

Install a New Compressor

Once your old compressor is removed, set it off to the side somewhere you can't possibly confuse it with the new compressor. Now you're ready for phase two: installation.

new refrigerator compressor units

Step 1 - Rewire

Attach the wires. Set the new compressor into position and hold it in place, if necessary, while you carefully re-attach the wires. You've got your photos as a reference if needed.

Step 2 - Add Refrigerant

Add the refrigerant. Your fridge needs refrigerant in order to stay cool. Adding refrigerant is its own whole procedure. You will find instructions for adding it on the refrigerant you buy and in the manufacturer’s information about your fridge.

You'll also need to refer to the manufacturer’s information to determine specifically what kind of refrigerant you need for your fridge. If you no longer have your paperwork, no worries. You can look up all this information online.

Step 3 - Connect

Connect the vales. If you disconnected vales when removing your compressor, you have to no connect these to your new compressor.

Step 4 - Test

Check. Now that you've installed your compressor, it's time to test it. Replace the guard panel on the back of the fridge and plug it back in. Give the fridge a few minutes and listen. Do you hear the hum of the compressor working?

Open the fridge. Does it feel like it's getting cooler? Wait about 30 minutes to an hour to be sure the new compressor is functioning before you move your fridge back into position against the wall.

Often, cooling problems can be resolved with this relatively simple DIY repair. it's much cheaper than buying a whole new fridge and once you do this once, you'll know that you are a home improvement wizard.