Refrigerator Compressor Rattles When Shutting Off: Here’s Why

The refrigerator works 24/7 to keep food and drinks cold. It is only when something starts to go wrong we realize how much we use it. If your refrigerator has started to make unusual noises then it is important to investigate the problem before it develops. Ignoring the issue could result in the refrigerator no longer working. 

If your refrigerator compressor has started making a rattling noise when shutting off, it is a sign the compressor is not working properly. This could be a simple issue such as a build up of debris that needs cleaning or a worn piece that needs replacing. 

What are the Signs of a Bad Refrigerator Compressor? 

A bad refrigerator compressor is a big problem so it is not something to ignore. If you notice any of these signs then your refrigerator needs some maintenance and repairs as soon as possible.  

Loud Humming Noise

A humming compressor is normal. However, if the noise suddenly gets louder then it is a sign there is a problem. 

Clicking or Rattling Noises 

If the compressor starts to make knocking, clicking, or rattling sounds this is one of the most obvious indications of the compressor being bad. 

Compressor Frequently Turning On and Off

If you notice your compressor is frequently clicking on and off, there is something that is not working as it should be. 


If the compressor gets too hot it won’t work well and can experience premature wear and tear.

Fan Not Running 

If the compressor is on but the fan is not running, this is a sign there is a problem.

Using More Power Than Usual 

If your refrigerator seems to be running normally but you have noticed your electricity bills are higher this could be due to the compressor overworking.

How Does A Compressor Work? 

The refrigerator compressor is essentially the pump inside the fridge. It is responsible for pulling air in and turning the liquid refrigerant into a gas. This gas is what passes along the coils which cools the gas down so it is a liquid again.

The liquid then travels through an expansion valve to turn it into a mist and this evaporates to become liquified gas. The liquified gas takes away heat from inside the refrigerator and then reaches the compressor to begin the cycle again. 

To summarize, this means the compressor plays an essential part in keeping the fridge cool. 

Refrigerator Compressor Noise When Shuts Off: 7 Reasons Why 

The refrigerator compressor plays an important role so it is concerning to hear it rattling and making unusual noises. There are some simple reasons why your fridge may be making noise and the solutions take just a few minutes.  

Dirty Blades

It’s common for the condenser fan on the refrigerator to become covered in debris and dirt over time. This can cause the blades to rattle and could be the reason your compressor is making a noise. 

Solution: Clean the Blades

Fortunately, this is a quick and easy problem to fix. Disconnect the fridge from the power and unscrew the rear access panel so you can reach the fan blades. Simply take a cloth and clean the blades. Wipe all of the build up dirt off each blade and replace any damaged blades. Test the refrigerator to see if the noise has stopped. 

Dirty Coils

The issue could also be a build up of dirt and dust on the condenser coils. If this is the case, the compressor has to work much harder. This results in overheating and damage. 

Solution: Clean the Coils

If you can see there is dirt and dust on the coils, gently clear them of all of the debris. This will make an instant difference to how effectively your refrigerator runs. 

No Lubrication 

Compressors need lubrication to keep them operating smoothly. Without oil on the compressor it can become damaged and the refrigerator could stop working.

Solution: Oil the Compressor

This isn’t a task that needs to be carried out often. Just every so often, check there is still lubricant inside the refrigerator. This will keep the compressor in good condition and will help keep the fridge running smoothly. 


The refrigerator needs to be in a room with good ventilation. If the compressor is dealing with high temperatures a lot then it can become damaged. The compressor can also overheat due to other parts in the fridge not working as they should or as a result of using the wrong outlet. 

Solution: Ventilation and Maintenance 

If the issue is overheating then move the refrigerator into a better ventilated area so the compressor is no longer subjected to hot temperatures. Also make sure the refrigerator is well maintained and is plugged into an appropriate outlet so there is no reason for the compressor to overheat. 

Damaged Defrost Timer 

A damaged or faulty defrost timer may cause the fridge to make a rattling noise. 

Solution: Replace the Timer 

A damaged defrost timer is unlikely to be fixable so the easiest solution is to simply replace the timer with a new one. 

Missing Drain Pan 

The rattling could be because something is not where it should be on your fridge. If a drain pan has been removed but hasn’t been properly replaced it could be causing the noise.

Solution: Check the Pans Are Where They Should Be

It can be hard to find the source of the rattling noise so take a look at each of the removable refrigerator parts to ensure they are where they should be. If a drain pan is missing, replace it and hopefully with everything back in its rightful place the noise will stop. 

Damaged Drain Pan Supports

Equally, if the drain pans are in position the noise could be because the supports themselves are worn and are not doing their job as effectively as they should. 

Solution: Check the Supports

If all of the removable parts are where they should be, check the condition of the supports that hold the pans in place. If these supports are damaged then they may need to be reinforced to help prevent the rattling noises from persisting.  

How to Tell if Refrigerator Compressor is Bad & Needs Fixing (3 Easy Steps) 

The refrigerant compressor has a lot of work to do and unfortunately it is not a part that is easy to fix yourself. As the compressor works with many other parts, it’s best to check these are in good condition before replacing the whole compressor (or investing in a new fridge).

1. Listen for Unusual Noises

If your refrigerator compressor is making weird noises this is the first and most obvious sign of a problem. The normal noise of a well functioning compressor is a humming or buzzing. These noises come and go as the refrigerator works. If this noise is rattling, clunking, knocking or very loud then it’s a bad sign. If your refrigerator has started to make different noises then it’s a good time to call a qualified technician to come and check, fix, or replace the compressor.

2. Check the Compressor Relay 

The compressor relay supplies power to the compressor so if the relay is experiencing problems the compressor will too. The easiest way to check the compressor relay is to unplug the fridge, remove the relay and hold it close to your ear while shaking the part. If there is a rattling noise then the part needs to be replaced with a new relay.

3. Check the Refrigerant Levels

If your refrigerator does not have enough refrigerant or it is leaking then the compressor is going to work too hard and overheat. It’s best to get a technician to inspect the refrigerant levels to ensure there is enough for the system to work as it should. If the compressor is overheating even though the refrigerant levels are fine then the compressor may need to be replaced. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we’ve answered common questions about refrigerator compressors so you can get your fridge up and running again in no time. 

How long does a refrigerator compressor take to reset? 

The refrigerator compressor can be reset by running the power off for a couple of minutes and then turning the power back on. This resets the compressor. If the compressor is tripping you will need to turn the fridge off, wait 5 minutes, press the red overload button located on or close to the compressor and then switch the fridge back on. If the switch trips again you will need to contact an engineer to investigate the issue. 

How to tell if refrigerator compressor is running? 

The refrigerator compressor usually runs 80 – 90% of the time and will make a gentle humming noise when it is running. If your refrigerator is not cold but the fan is running, you can take a multimeter and test the pins of the compressor after you have disconnected it. You should get a reading of between 4 and 10 ohms on the pins if the compressor is working. If the compressor is working but the refrigerator is not working as it should, the issue could be the relay meter. 

Next Steps

Fixing your refrigerator compressor could be a simple task (for example cleaning the blades or coils or replacing the relay). However, it may also be an issue that requires a technician to come out and investigate. Either way, the problem needs to be solved. Otherwise, the issue will get worse until the refrigerator is no longer staying cold.

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