If your unit is warming up too quickly, producing a ticking sound, or your refrigerator is not cooling the food but sounds like it is running, the refrigerator start relay may be damaged. A refrigerator start relay is a device usually mounted on the compressor to jump-start the compressor periodically.
The refrigerator’s compressor does not work throughout the day. It goes on and off during the cooling cycle to maintain optimum temperatures inside the fridge. The relay is the device that supplies the refrigerator with power; therefore, the compressor cannot work without the relay.
If the relay fails, the compressor won’t start, and you may have to bypass the relay system. If you choose to bypass the relay, you will also bypass the thermal overload, which can be dangerous. If you leave the relay bypass on for too long, it will cause a bypass overload overheating your unit, and other systems will spoil and wear out from overheating.
Keep in mind that a relay bypass is a temporary fix, and you have to get your relay fixed by a professional soon after.
What does a start relay do on a fridge?
The start relay is an electrical switch that starts the compressor, a device that creates the cold air that runs through your unit to keep your food cool. It boosts the compressor by dictating when it should turn on or off based on the unit’s need for cool air. The start relay helps to save energy, ensures the refrigerator works properly, and prevents overheating.
So, how does the start relay work? When the thermostat in the fridge senses a high internal temperature, it switches on the compressor. But since the thermostat cannot handle the current of the compressor, it switches on the relay. The relay then turns on the compressor by applying power through the overload device to the compressor motor’s second winding, giving it an extra force to start turning.
How do you know if your refrigerator relay is bad?
The compressor is a critical component of the refrigerator, but it needs a functional start relay. If the relay system is not working, here are some of the signs you may notice.
- The refrigerator is not cooling. A non-functional cooling system is the most obvious sign of a damaged relay. A working fridge typically produces a humming sound throughout the day, which signifies a functional compressor. If the compressor isn’t cooling the refrigerator, then the relay is damaged.
- A click sound. There is usually an audible click every time the relay starts the compressor. Whether the compressor turns on or not, the click is always there. If the compressor doesn’t turn on, the relay will try to start it shortly after, which happens in intervals of two to five minutes. So it means the relay is faulty if this clicking occurs repeatedly.
- The shake and rattle test. Perform a physical test on the relay to know if it is working or not. Unplug the unit from the power source. Open the panel at the back of the refrigerator to locate the relay on the compressor. Disconnect the start relay and shake it. If you hear a rattling sound inside the relay, then something is loose and needs replacement. If there is no rattling, then there could be a problem with the actual compressor. You can also check for burn marks around the relay ports to see if it blew.
How to bypass a damaged start relay on a refrigerator
Observe safety first. Before you start the bypass process, make sure you turn off the unit and disconnect the from the power source not to have any power running through it. Also, get help in moving the fridge away from the wall.
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When the unit is disconnected, your food will be safe for about 4 hours in the refrigerator and 24 hours in the freezer before going bad. Also, avoid opening the refrigerator doors to prevent the unit from heating faster.
Things you need
- Screwdriver (regular and flathead)
- Electrical tape
- Locate the panel on the lower back of your fridge. Open it using a screwdriver to access the relay ad set the cover aside.
- Locate the start relay by first locating the compressor. The compressor will be a large black cylinder with copper tubes connected to it on the fridge’s left or right side. Locate the relay, a black plastic box on the compressor’s side with wires running to it. The relay is in this black box.
- Release the relay from the compressor by pulling or pushing it off to reveal the relay inside. Sometimes, you may have to use a flat head screwdriver to detach the relay from the compressor.
- Access the relay by opening the cover of the box using a screwdriver. You will see the overload protector and relay inside the box; the largest piece is the relay.
- Remove the metal connector attached to the relay and strip the wire. Using a pair of pliers, grip the wires’ ends and gently strip off about a quarter-inch of the wire casing.
- Connect both wires to the relay housing using an electrical tape to bypass the missing relay and complete the circuit. Then, put back the relay box in its place and cover the back panel correctly.
- Plug in the refrigerator to the socket and turn on the power source. Observe your unit for a couple of hours to make sure it is working.
Be sure to be on the lookout for the signs of a faulty relay to avoid over-consumption of power and overheating of the whole unit. With this guide, you will be able to bypass the start relay in your refrigerator efficiently. However, we do not recommend you to leave your unit on bypass mode for too long. Remember to book an appointment with a professional technician to repair the relay correctly.
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