How To Fix Your Refrigerator or Freezer Quickly and Cheaply

So you bought a cheap fridge or freezer at WalMart, did ya?  Or maybe your old fridge or freezer  conked out.  The first thing that comes to mind is “THE COMPRESSOR IS OUT”!  A scary thought indeed.  And you think that because you don’t hear the compressor noise and nothing is cooling anymore.

Compressors are pretty robust devices.  They do fail, they sure do, but many times one of the components that connect to the compressor fail causing the compressor not to start.   There are three components hooked up to a common refrigerator or freezer compressor.

  • Motor Starting Relay
  • Starting Capacitor (and possibly a run capacitor)
  • Overload Protector

Here is what a compressor hookup looks like typically.  There are three male pins that stick out on one end of the compressor:

Some connectors will be inverted so you really need to verify which pin is the correct one.

Many compressors will show the proper hook up on the data label itself.



Here’s an example, yeah you can’t make out what pin is what from my pic but it’s on there:












So the components hook up sorta like this.

  • Motor start relay plugs in across the start and run pins.  Relay hooks to start capacitor and neutral from thermostat 120v.

Motor Start Relay (typical) (click to enlarge photos)

The motor start relay pin holes just plug in over the start and run pins.  Easy peasy.








  • The motor overload protection device plugs into the pin (COMMON).  The Line (120v) wire from the thermostat plugs into the motor overload protection device.

Now let’s talk about fixing this IF it doesn’t start or the freezer isn’t cooling. If the compressor is running but not cooling you probably need a technician, and refrigerant.

If the compressor won’t start and you know which one of the components has failed and it is a reliable, brand name component which lasted for 20 years just order the new part.  For example if the motor starting relay failed, just get a new one.

If you have a cheap fridge or freezer which has failed prematurely then I would recommend replacing all three items with a Supco 3 n 1 Hard Start Kit

Okay so what is a “Hard Start Kit”?  Sometimes old compressors just need a bigger jolt to get them going but they still will run. This can be due to age, corrosion, weakness of the motor, etc. Theoretically if you put a hard start kit on a compressor that doesn’t need it you can shorten the life of it.  In the real world maybe that means the compressor will fail at 19 years old instead of 20.

However if you have a cheap freezer like I did which is notorious for blowing the motor start relay every 1-2 years and if you don’t want to deal with changing a start relay every year or two you might want to go to a hard start kit.   They are super easy to hook up

  • Red wire = Run
  • Whte wire = start
  • Black wire= Common
  • Remaining 2 wires with no connector = 120 volt

Remember, if you didn’t NEED a hard start kit to kick over your compressor,  you can theoretically shorten the service life of the compressor.

I find this an acceptable risk on a new, inexpensive device with early failure rates of components.

And also remember if you do NEED a hard start kit….your compressor is almost done for anyway.

Anyway if you own a refrigerator or freezer (you probably do) you should probably have a hard start kit laying around ANYWAY for EMERGENCIES.  Having your freezer die in July with $400 worth of meat in it is considered an emergency in my estimation.

In conclusion……..calling a repairman is expensive.  Motor start relays, and motor overload devices and capacitors are inexpensive and literally just plug in over pins.  Supco 3 n 1 Hard Start kits have all three of those components in one convenient can and are super easy to hook up.  Just remember to remove the old components which may be bad first.  I’ve actually seen that before.

6 thoughts on “How To Fix Your Refrigerator or Freezer Quickly and Cheaply

  1. Jonathan

    Actually if your fridge doesn’t have a hard start kit already installed installing one now can actually extend the life of the compressor due to reduced starting amps. But its all for naught if you don’t double check the run cap microfared rating while your at it.

    This also applies to your home AC but requires a different type of hard start kit that uses a potential relay and is sized for the compressor.

  2. Robert W Gentry

    I am working with two refrigerators in my home (one acquired because it was given to me after it quick working and I hope to fix it). However, both are experiencing compressor start up on a call for cooling. I replaced the OEM capacitor and thermal overload relay with a Supco 810. Checked compressor pin resistance to verify start and run winding loops. Hooked it up. cleaned condenser coil and evaporator coil. Check defrost cycle for correct operation. Checked evaporator fan for operation. The units will begin to work well cooling freezer to 20-Deg. F and refrig. to 40-Deg F. However, after several days, the compressor would not restart. This has occurred on both “hard start” installations. If you unplug power to let compressor refrigerant pressure equalize, the compressor will restart. I am considering replacing evaporator fan and refrig. thermostat but this does not address why compressor will not restart under a load. Can you help me with diagnosis?

    please send email reply


  3. Denis Barsalo

    In my case, I installed a 3 N’ 1 on a 3year old chest freezer, the compressor starts alright but then after a few seconds, it changes to a hum and it gets super hot over several minutes and eventually just stops. Letting it cool for a few hours and trying again does the same thing. Starts, hums, overheats. Thoughts?

      1. Denis Barsalo

        Thanks John, it’s what I thought too but I recently found out that there is such a device as a 4 N’ 1 for higher efficiency compressors that use a run capacitor and I’m wondering if this newer freezer might not be in the need of that instead of the 3 N’ 1. I rewired the freezer as delivered and the compressor doesn’t start at all. Instead, I hear noise coming briefly from a 6″ capacitor which is what I thought was the defective part, and then it all shuts down. I had presumed that the capacitor was a start capacitor which is why I got the 3 N’ 1 in the first place. But information about this freezer model is unavailable and I don’t have enough knowledge to figure it out. Oh well….

  4. Dave

    I just picked up a hard start kit. I’m curious though, I’ve seen some on line that have connectors to install the overload capacitor. The one I bought and the one you have in the article don’t have these connections. Isn’t this a concern?


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