The compressor is the heart of an air conditioning system -- without a compressor in good working condition, the condensing unit of an air conditioner can't create cold air to be blown into a home. Unfortunately, compressors do not last forever, and since air conditioning compressors are quite expensive to repair or replace, it usually makes more sense to replace your entire air conditioner when the compressor fails. Knowing the signs that an air conditioner's compressor is failing gives you time to make arrangements for a new air conditioning unit. Common symptoms of a failing compressor include the following.
After living in a house for a while, most people know what their air conditioner usually sounds like, both the inside fan unit and the outdoor condenser unit. When the condenser unit begins to make strange noises, it could be a red flag that the compressor is failing and won't last much longer. If you hear a chattering, rattling, or ticking noise when your air conditioning unit is starting up, it often means that the electrical relay switch inside the compressor is wearing out. A rumbling or loud clicking noise may indicate that the motor mounts for the compressor have broken.
Vibration Upon Start-Up
The outdoor condenser unit should start up smoothly when everything is operating properly. When a compressor is going bad, it often goes into hard start mode because it has trouble turning on properly. A hard start of the compressor can cause the entire condenser unit to vibrate when it turns on. Never ignore a vibrating condenser unit; if you notice that your condenser unit is vibrating, turn the air conditioner off and contact an HVAC professional to inspect the compressor to see if it is close to failing.
Reduced Air Flow
When a compressor is failing, it is not able to produce as much cold air. Since there is not enough cold air in the condenser unit, air flow into your home will be reduced. This can start out subtle, but if there is a problem with the compressor, it won't take long to notice that not nearly enough air is blowing out of your vents.
Circuit Breaker Tripping
As a compressor goes bad, the compressor can begin to overheat or may try to pull extra power from the circuit in order to operate at a higher capacity. Both of these things can cause the circuit breaker for your air conditioner to trip. If your circuit breaker for your air conditioner begins tripping on a regular basis, you need to have the compressor checked out by a professional.