The compressor is the heart of your refrigerator's operating system. Today the hermetically sealed compressor unit, located in the bottom of most refrigerators, combines the motor and compressor as one unit. The device compresses refrigerant before sending it on to the condenser coil on the back of the refrigerator, where it exchanges its heat with the ambient air.
Compressor Runs Continuously
One of the signs that a compressor is failing is that it runs continuously without the refrigerator and freezer compartments reaching their proper operating temperatures. This condition may be the result of a loss of refrigerant in the system, or the compressor's valves may be failing.
Refrigerator Trips Circuit Breaker
A refrigerator that intermittently trips a circuit breaker when starting up is another sign that its compressor is beginning to fail. Every electric motor draws roughly five to six times its operating current when starting up. As the compressor ages, it takes an increasingly longer period of time to reach operating speed, and this prolongs the period of inrush current that can cause breakers to trip intermittently.
Noise often accompanies a failing compressor. Bearings or valves beginning to fail results in increased noise. When the bearings are failing, the noise is usually combined with an increase in current draw that may cause circuit breakers to trip intermittently. When it is the valves causing the noise, the noise is usually combined with a failure to cool properly. A compressor with failing bearings will also run hot and give off a hot oily smell resulting from overheated wiring.