Compressor dead? Maybe it’s not.

The A/C isn’t working and you immediately think it may be the worst-case scenario: The compressor has failed.

But maybe it hasn’t failed. Maybe it’s the condenser fan, wire problems or a crankcase heater.

How do you know which it is?


One smart step is to pull the compressor from its terminals and check for shorts.

“Unless you pull the compressor from its terminals, you cannot know it’s shorted,” says Bryan Orr, co-owner and vice president of service, Kalos Services Inc., Clermont, Florida, and founder of

“If you’re reading at the contactor or anywhere else, there could be a problem with the wire itself,” he said in an interview with

When a compressor shorts, it often starts with a mechanical problem, which can lead to an electrical problem later and cause the windings to short out.


Use a multi-meter to see if the compressor is getting voltage, said Greg Fox, president, Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Sacramento, Calif.

Other possibilities

Find out what’s working and what’s not working, said Mike Matta, service manager, Unique Indoor Comfort, Conshohocken, PA.

Is the equipment properly charged? How is the ductwork? What about the air filter?

Learn more about compressors and other trouble spots by reading:

Do you have a problem with your A/C system? Contact us at We’re eager to help.