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The Hard Starting AC—What It Means and What to Do About It


The one thing you want to make sure of when it comes to your air conditioner is that you don’t let anything bad happen to your compressor. It’s the most vital part of the system, and it’s the most expensive component. Like a car’s transmission, when your AC compressor fails, it might just be time to get a new air conditioner. So you should always try to catch problems early if they might put strain on the compressor.

One AC problem that can indicate compressor issues, and can also cause damage to the compressor if it’s allowed to continue, is hard starting. Here are some details to help you catch this problem when it starts so you can get repairs before you end up needing to replace your air conditioner.

What Hard Starting Is

As the name indicates, this is an issue that occurs when the cooling cycle is trying to start up. The motors of an air conditioner can struggle with starting for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the motor itself is damaged. Perhaps there’s a problem with the wiring connecting the motor. Perhaps the true culprit is the capacitor—a component that stores electricity so it can release it all at once, giving the motor the boost it needs to get going. But it’s also possible that there’s already something wrong with the compressor, and that this is why your air conditioner kicks on hard

How to Recognize Hard Starting

Keep an eye—or an ear—out for indications that your air conditioner is hard starting. Here are some of the things you might notice.

  • Stuttering: When the compressor starts up, does it sound like a smooth, steady hum? No? If it sounds more like a car coughing and struggling to start, you should be concerned.
  • Clicking: This is another sound you may hear at the start of the cooling cycle, often in combination with the stuttering sound, when your AC unit is hard starting.
  • Short Cycling: The full cooling cycle of your air conditioner is meant to last fifteen minutes or more. If you hear the compressor starting up (or trying to start up) much more frequently than that, you definitely need AC repair in Chicago right away.
  • Tripped Circuit Breakers: If the circuit that your air conditioner is on has its breaker tripped once, it might be unrelated. Maybe you simply plugged in the vacuum cleaner on the same circuit and that’s what overloaded it. But the second time it happens, consider it a serious concern and get professional help for your air conditioner before doing permanent damage to your compressor.

Fixing Hard Starting

The solution depends on the specific cause of the problem. Your technician may be able to repair the motor, or replace it with a new one. It might simply be a case of redoing the wiring that connects the motor. The capacitor may need to be replaced, or a “hard-start kit” or more powerful capacitor may be added to provide the kick that your air conditioner needs to start more smoothly … sort of like a cup of coffee giving you the energy boost you need to start the day. The important thing is that you have it fixed promptly, before any more components, especially the compressor, are affected.

Contact ServiceMax with all your questions about hard starting and any other AC repair needs.

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