Refrigerator clicking? Three quick fixes to try

August 4, 2017

If you hear your refrigerator clicking, it’s a sign that it’s not cooling properly. Unplug your refrigerator to quickly diagnose and fix your refrigerator. [Image credit:]

Refrigerator clicking? Three quick fixes to try

Behind your refrigerator is the compressor whose job is to compress the refrigerant gas and begin the cooling cycle. When the compressor pulls too much power, the overload causes the compressor to overheat and you’ll hear a click as the compressor turns off to protect itself. Once the compressor cools down, you’ll hear another click as the compressor turns on again.

If the compressor itself is broken, you’ll need a professional to assess whether to repair or replace your refrigerator. However, if your appliance is relatively new, there could be other causes for the overheating which you can easily diagnose and repair. Here are a few fixes to try before you call a pro:

1. Clean your condenser coils

A common cause of compressor overload is dirty condenser coils, located either behind or beneath the refrigerator. The condenser is the tubing in which the refrigerant flows to dissipate heat. If these coils are covered in dust, grease, lint, pet hair or other debris, they can’t dissipate heat as efficiently and that causes the machinery to work harder to cool the refrigerator. You may notice that the refrigerator is cool but not as cold as it should be.

You should clean the condenser coil at least once a year. Unplug the refrigerator to prevent shocking yourself and carefully clean the coils; you can find specially designed brushes at many plumbing stores to make this job very easy. Once the coils are clean, plug your refrigerator back in. If the refrigerator is still clicking, you need to look into a few more possibilities.

2. Check your start relay

If you hear a little click at intervals of five minutes or less, this could indicate that your compressor’s start relay is not working. The start relay usually looks like a small box plugged into the side of the compressor and its job is to turn the compressor on and begin the compression of the refrigerant gas that cools your refrigerator.

To check your start relay, unplug the refrigerator. Find the start relay on the compressor and remove it from its socket. Give it a gentle shake. A rattling sound indicates that your start relay needs to be replaced. Your local appliance store or hardware store can provide you with the proper replacement. Disconnect the refrigerator from power before plugging the new start relay in. Once you plug in a new start relay and plug the refrigerator back in, you should not hear any more clicking.

3. Take a look at your condenser fan

If you’re a little more confident of your appliance doctor skills, you can also check the status of your condenser fan. The condenser fan cools the refrigerant in the coils. However, if the fan doesn’t turn on when the compressor is running, the compressor will overheat and you will hear the compressor clicking off and clicking on again. You can order and install a new condenser fan to solve this problem.

If none of these solutions works, you probably need the services of a professional refrigerator repairman. For a newer refrigerator, in reasonably good condition, it may be worthwhile replacing the compressor. If you’re looking at an older appliance, your money may be better spent on a new energy-efficient refrigerator. For tips on maintaining your refrigerator, inside and out, check out our article on how to clean your refrigerator.

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