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How to Bypass the Start Relay on a Refrigerator

man repairing bottom of refrigerator

Start relays are critical to prevent your fridge from overheating. Ideally, you should have a professional install a new start relay should your old one burn out.

However, if you need a temporary bypass solution, we’ll walk you through how to do just that.

Lets get started.


Initial Safety Precautions

While it’s possible to bypass the start relay on your refrigerator, you should only do so in extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, you should never use the bypass method for a long time; the start relay’s purpose is to prevent your fridge from overheating.

So, by bypassing this important system and running it that way for a long time, you’re setting yourself up for the potential to damage your refrigerator permanently. 

Prior to starting the bypass steps we’ll cover next, make sure to unplug your fridge and turn off the circuit breaker. 

You’ll also want to drag your fridge away from the wall so that you have a safe place to work. A reminder that refrigerators are top-heavy, so seek the help of another adult before attempting to move your refrigerator. 

How to Bypass the Start Relay on a Refrigerator

The good news is that it’s easy to bypass the start relay on your refrigerator so you can get your food cooled down. We’ll outline the general steps you’ll need to take to do so. 

That said, you should always consult with your fridge’s user manual; it’ll help you understand the wiring, as it should contain a wiring diagram.

Ready to bypass your refrigerator’s start relay system? Let’s begin.

Step 1: Using a regular screwdriver, take off the cover plate that sits over the relay system. You’ll find it towards the bottom of your fridge on the back part that faces the wall.

Step 2: Wiggle the metal box located in the lower right corner until the start relay system is within view.

Step 3: With a flathead screwdriver, create space between the start relay and casing by pressing between them. 

Step 4: Use the flathead screwdriver to press the start relay until it’s easy enough to remove.

Step 5: With the relay system out of your fridge, take off the metal connectors attached to it.

Step 6: Use a pair of pliers and strip off a section of each of the two wires.

Step 7: Connect the wires to the start relay’s housing and use electrical tape to hold them in place. By doing so, the bypass step is complete, and you’ve reconnected the circuit.

Step 8: Slip the relay system box back in the way you took it out. Make sure to screw the cover plate into place at the back of your fridge.

Step 9: Turn the circuit breaker on, plug in your fridge, and return it to its place against the wall.

Remember, leaving your fridge in bypass mode for too long is detrimental to its well-being. 

Therefore, you should start by seeking the support of a trained technician. 

If the technician can’t come to your house right away, you can use the bypass method described here to keep your perishables cool in the meantime. 

However, you should stay near your fridge to monitor it for overheating. If that starts to happen, call up a neighbor to see if you can store your food in their refrigerator, as it’s best to unplug your fridge until the technician arrives.

Tools Required

You’ll need to prep yourself with some basic tools to bypass the start relay on a refrigerator. Most likely, you’ll already have them lying around your garage. They include:

  • Regular and flathead screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Pliers

What Does a Start Relay Do on a Fridge?

A refrigerator’s start relay is crucial to its functioning because it controls the compressor. If a start relay falters, the compressor won’t be able to keep the inside of your fridge cold.

It may be your first time learning the word “compressor,” but you’ve likely heard it countless times before – it’s what creates the humming noise when the cooling kicks on in your fridge. 

Signs of a Broken Start Relay System

There are few signs you can look out for that indicate your fridge has a start relay problem. Let’s take a look at each.

1. Refrigerator Not Cooling

A lukewarm refrigerator is one of the biggest clues that your fridge has a start relay issue. In some cases, you might hear your fridge humming infrequently. But if the start relay has severe damage, you won’t hear it at all.

2. Clicking Noise

Just like you can hear a compressor’s hum, you can also hear a single-clicking noise when the start relay turns on the compressor. However, if your start relay is malfunctioning, it isn’t succeeding in turning the compressor on every time. 

Therefore, you’ll likely hear frequent clicking without the follow-up sound of a hum. Assuming a malfunctioning start relay is the issue, the clicking usually occurs in intervals of 2 – 5 minutes.

3. Shake and Rattle Test

A final way to determine if your start relay isn’t working is to perform a shake and rattle test. Start by unplugging your fridge. Then, open the compartment that sits in the back – that’s where the compressor and start relay sit.

Once you unplug the start relay, give it a little shake. You won’t hear a noise if the start relay is in good condition. However, if it rattles, you’ll need to install a new relay.

As a word of caution, if you don’t hear rattling, but your fridge displays the other two issues discussed here, the problem likely has to do with the compressor. Unfortunately, compressors are a costlier and more difficult issue to fix than start relays.

What Causes a Refrigerator Relay to Go Bad?

Aside from old age, there are a couple of common events that cause a refrigerator start relay system to go bad. 

Electrical Surge

It’s no secret that electrical surges aren’t good for electronics, and refrigerators are no exception. During an electrical surge, start relays receive too much of an electrical load. 

As a result, they begin to overheat and may even melt. When that happens, the relay trips up and can even melt as well from too much heat.

Issue with the Motor

If your fridge’s motor fails, it can cause too much voltage to pass through the wiring. Motor failure can be the result of the compressor turning on and off too frequently. By straining the motor, overheating can occur and produce similar issues with the start relay as an electrical surge.

Sometimes, all a starter relay needs is a reset instead of a completely new part. To determine if that’s the case, unplug your fridge and wait for the relay’s metal to cool down. If the relay’s metal already began to melt, you’ll likely see it mold back into its former shape.

After it’s cooled down, plug your fridge back in. If you don’t experience any more signs of a broken relay system, you likely caught the issue in time. However, if the problem persists, you’ll need to swap out the start relay with a new relay to avoid permanent damage to your fridge.


Bypassing the start relay on your refrigerator should only be used as a temporary solution. Therefore, you should purchase a new start relay as soon as possible. It’s critical to properly install your new start relay to avoid future issues. 

For this reason, we highly recommend seeking an experienced technician to do it for you.

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