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This air conditioning repair article explains procedures for the diagnosis and repair of hard-starting air conditioning compressors. If your air conditioner or heat pump compressor motor won't start or has trouble starting, humming at start-up for example, it may be damaged and at or near end of life. But a common repair performed to try to get such motors running and to keep them in use longer is the installation of an air conditioner or heat pump "hard start" kit - a start capacitor or a start/run capacitor that helps get the motor spinning. First it's useful to diagnose the cause of the compressor's hard-starting trouble.
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HARD STARTING - How to Diagnose & Repair Air Conditioner Compressor Hard Starting or Intermittent Running or Stuttering
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Questions & answers or comments about diagnosing and fixing hard-starting A/C or heat pump compressors
Question: Could Loose Electrical Wiring (or a bad A/C start relay) Explain a Hard-Starting Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Compressor Motor?
I had a tech come out and install a hard-start kit to keep a 4-year-old 3-1/2 ton Carrier compressor from tripping the circuit breaker. The compressor failed this summer. A second tech was suspicious that a compressor less than five years old would be tripping the breaker. He discovered a loose connection in the cut-out switch. Would the hard-start kit have been necessary had the loose connection been tightened prior to it's installation? I'm wondering if the failure could have been avoided with proper diagnosis by the first tech
In 2009 tech # one had come to respond to my problem of a 4-year-old compressor kicking the circuit breaker. Without even looking at the connections in the shut-off box adjacent to the unit, he went straight into control panel, checked compressor current draw at start-up and installed a hard-start kit. I thought it odd that a compressor less than five years old would be drawing too much current. Had no problems in 2010 but last month the circuit breaker started kicking off again late in the day.
Tech #one returned, checked coolant pressures and return temp, added some freon and started to pack up. I asked if he wasn't going to check the current draws. He reluctantly removed the control cover, checked draw and voltages and pronounced the unit was running perfectly before leaving with my $168 check. When the circuit breaker kicked off again the next day, I started to suspect the breaker might be worn out. Called an electrician a few days later.
He replaced the breaker switch, again without checking the connections at the shut-off box, and within eight hours my compressor had died - coils shorted to ground - confirmed by tech # one who quoted me a price to replace the unit. Now I called a contractor I knew asking if he knew any good AC techs. He referred me to tech # 2 who, in my first call, was immediately suspicious that my original problem may have been in the wiring, not the unit. His reasoning was that a compressor less than 5 years old shouldn't have been giving me problems to begin with. He came over to confirm my compressor was shorted out. He then did what no other tech had done since I owned the house - popped the cover off the shut-off box and tightened the leads at the terminals - black wire loose, white wire "very loose."
My question is whether that may have been my problem all along and would a hard-start kit have temporarily relieved the symptom -tripped circuit breaker- without curing the problem.
Tx Red: you and your second HVACR Tech have come across a useful diagnostic step: check for loose, or even burnt or arced wiring connections. I can't be sure of the answer to your question, as time has passed and we can't know for sure what conditions the first tech saw. A bad relay can cause compressor start problems, and I pose that its possible that arced, burned, or loose connections at the relay could make it misbehave.
Your thesis that a loose wire could have been misdiagnosed as a hard-starting A/C or heat pump compressor motor is reasonable but not, IMHO, absolutely proven by events. A compressor start relay (or most other switches) that are loosely wired will typically experience arcing at the loose connection (an event that can, by the way, when the circuit is active or the switch closed, draw higher amps than normal due to the resistance at the point of arcing and corrosion.)
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