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Oh oh! Something is wrong with your air conditioner and now you are wondering why the air conditioner compressor is not working but the fan is working. Although this may require some detective work, you should be able to identify the problem. If not, you can always call your local HVAC technician.

To get you closer to solving the problem, let’s look at what your compressor is doing to your heating and air conditioning system. Next we will examine just 6 reasons why your air conditioning compressor may not be working but your cooling fan is still working.


If your air conditioning compressor isn’t working, your air conditioning system will have problems. Your compressor plays a central role in your home’s cooling process, as it’s responsible for “compressing” the refrigerant in your air conditioner, turning it into high-pressure gas.

The high pressure then forces the refrigerant through the refrigerant lines to the condenser coils, releasing the heat from the refrigerant and thus removing the heat from your home. Throughout the day, this cycle repeats itself, keeping your home at your ideal temperature.

However, if your compressor isn’t working properly, your air conditioner won’t be able to perform this important step in the process of cooling your home. A great way to ensure your compressor continues to perform as it should is with regular air conditioning maintenance. However, if your compressor is already not working as it should, it’s time to fix it.


Now that you have determined that your compressor is not working, you need to troubleshoot to determine why it is not working. Below we outline 6 potential issues to consider.

Possible problem 1. There is a problem with the thermostat.

If there is a problem with your air conditioner, the first thing you should do is look at your thermostat. Check your thermostat settings to make sure they are correct. In some cases, changing the settings can cause your compressor not to work.

Another possible problem is that your thermostat is faulty. In other words, your thermostat isn’t telling your system correctly that your compressor should be running. If this is the case, you may need to replace your thermostat, which can easily be done by an HVAC technician.

Potential Problem 2. Time to check your condenser coils and air filters.

In addition to checking your thermostat, you can also check the cleanliness of your coils and air filters. If you don’t regularly clean your condenser coils or replace your air filters, you increase the chances of your compressor overheating, causing your compressor to shut down automatically.

One way to solve or even prevent this problem is to perform an HVAC maintenance. First you should clean your condenser coils by removing the outer liner from your outdoor condenser unit and then rinsing your condenser coils with water. (Pro tip: Be sure to also clean around the unit.) Next, you’ll need to replace air filters throughout the house.

After that, give your system a chance to cool down and once it’s had a chance to reset, try running your system to see if your compressor turns on.

Possible problem 3. There is a problem with the electrical connection.

After you’ve checked your thermostat, cleaned your condenser coils, and replaced your air filters, it’s time to consider the next potential problem. Another reason your compressor may not be working could be that your AC unit is not receiving power. However, your fan can still run because it is powered from your home.

When assessing an electrical issue, we encourage you to exercise caution. The easiest (and safest) thing you can do is check your circuit breaker. If you experience a trip or a blown fuse, that could be your problem. However, if the electrical problem seems more serious, you can call your HVAC technician to have your unit repaired.

Possible problem 4. Something is wrong with your capacitor.

If it’s not an electrical issue, it’s still possible that your compressor is having electrical issues. Your condenser is also responsible for powering your compressor. If there is a problem with the capacitor that powers the compressor, your compressor will not turn on.

The easiest way to identify and fix a problem with your condenser is to call your HVAC technician. Your HVAC technician will use a multimeter to test your capacitor, and if your capacitor is the problem, your technician will be happy to repair your system and install a new capacitor for you. In this way your compressor will start to work normally and your home will feel good again.

Pro Tip: There’s a chance a bad condenser could cause further damage to your HVAC system, like a dead compressor. If you think your capacitor is the problem, read on.

Possible problem 5. You have a dead compressor.

At this point you’ve tried everything from looking at your thermostat to checking your condenser. If so, you may have a dead compressor. In fact, if a faulty compressor was the main problem, you could also end up with a damaged compressor. Another possible cause of a dead compressor is an overheated unit.

Once you determine you have a dead compressor, you only have two choices: replace just the compressor, or replace the entire unit (the safest bet). As with your condenser, you ideally want your local HVAC technician to help you replace the damaged part.

Possible problem 6. Your air conditioner is getting old.

Finally, compressor problems can arise because your system is getting old. As your system ages, your system components begin to deteriorate. This could be why your fan is still running, but your air conditioning compressor has finally decided to give up.

If your system is 10 to 15 years or older, your AC system is nearing the end of its life. At some point it makes more sense to replace your system than to keep replacing parts here and there.

With a new AC system, you no longer have to worry about losing various internal components. As a bonus, you can also save energy with a new system. Read our article If you need a new air conditioner to learn more about when to upgrade.


If you’re still wondering why your air conditioning compressor isn’t working but your fan is working, you may need professional help. An HVAC technician not only knows how to diagnose problems with your air conditioner, they also have the skills and tools to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

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