Near the bottom of this page we have a real good Youtube Video made by Acservicetech that shows how to troubleshoot an air conditioner if the air conditioner outside unit is not turning on. Many thanks to the AC Service Tech Channel!
1. Check the circuit breaker to make sure the breaker has not tripped. The breaker would probably be a double pole 30, 40 or 50 amp breaker. Even though the breaker looks like it is on I would still flip it all the way to off and back on again just to make sure. Sometimes one leg of a double pole breaker will hold in the other leg and make the breaker appear to look like it is, “ON” when it has actually been tripped.
2. Make sure your thermostat is turned down to a temperature that will allow the air conditioning system to come on. Sorry! I hope I did not insult your intelligence! I want to try to cover everything! I have been on several service calls when not having the thermostat turned down far enough was the only problem. If your thermostat has the little levers on it then it would not hurt to flip the little lever from “OFF” to “COOL”. On several service calls I have seen all that it takes is a flip of this little lever on the thermostat. Sometimes the contacts in the thermostat do not make the connection and flipping the levers will reestablish the connection. I would turn your fan to the “ON” position. Did the fan come on? If the fan did not come on check the switch on the side of your furnace to make sure it has not been turned to “OFF”. Make sure your filter access door and furnace door are secure. Many of the furnaces have a switch activated door for your safety. When the door is not completely on the furnace will not operation. This keeps the furnace from coming on when someone is servicing the blower or filter.
3. If your outdoor unit is running listen to determine if the fan is the only thing running or is the compressor running too?
4. Turn off your electrical power to the outdoor unit by pulling the disconnect switch or turn off the indoor circuit breaker. Take the screws off your air conditioner control access panel. Check with a multi-meter to make sure the power is actually off. Touch the top of the compressor. Is the compressor very hot? If the compressor is hot then the compressor could be out on thermal over-load. You need to wait and let the compressor cool down before you test your system again. Sometimes I use water from a hose and gently let it run over the compressor to cool it down quickly. Sometimes it can take 2 or 3 hours for a compressor to cool down. After it has cooled down reapply power. Did the compressor start? Did the fan start? If the fan did not start with the compressor then this is why the compressor over heated. Check your fan motor and fan run capacitor to make sure the fan blade is free and the capacitor is in good shape. You can check the fan bearings by spinning the blade by hand the blade should continue to spin 3 to 5 seconds after you spin it. If it doesn’t then you probably need a new fan motor. Another reason the compressor over heated could be that the system is low on refrigerant. Is the suction line (the line with the black insulation) cold like a cold coke can right out of the refrigerator after the unit runs for 10 to 15 minutes. If it is not cold, then you need to add some refrigerant. The refrigerant is what keeps the compressor running cool. If the system is low on refrigerant then you do not get the cool gas coming back to keep the compressor running cool. The compressor over heats, and this will eventually melt the windings down in the compressor and contaminant the whole refrigeration system! This is not good. Eventually the compressor will ground out and you will need a new compressor or new system. Please make sure that suction line is cold or you might be low on refrigerant charge. You will need to call a service technician to charge up your system if it is low. Now EPA require that you be licensed and certified to purchase and use refrigerants.
5. Inspect your wiring to make sure that you do not have any burnt connections. Repair the burnt connections if you have some.
6. Inspect the capacitor/capacitors to see if they are swollen looking. If they are swollen purchase a new capacitor.
7. Take the compressor terminal cover off and inspect the terminals on the compressor. Sometimes the compressor terminal cover can be a bear to take off. I use a screw driver to release the metal clip that holds the cover on. Sometimes the cover slides off. Sometimes the terminals unplug from the compressor. If any of the compressor terminals are burnt then you could probably use our Term-Lok compressor terminal repair kit to repair the terminals. Please see Term-Lok compressor terminal repair kit above on this page.
8. Inspect your contactor. Is your contactors points look burnt? You might need to purchase a contactor.
9. When you plug in the disconnect and apply power to your outdoor unit does the fan start and the compressor try to start, but make a “UGGGG” sound. This means the compressor is locked up. The compressor is an electric motor, enclosed in a case, with a piston similar to what you would find in a car. When you hear that “UGGG” sound it is telling you that the piston is locked up. We need to try to unlock the piston. If we can not unlock the piston then you need a new compressor or air conditioning system. You might want to purchase a Super-Boost hard start capacitor. I have used this device to save many a compressor. The Super-Boost is also listed above on this page. If you purchase and hook-up the hard start capacitor and the compressor still will not start then I am afraid you will need a new compressor or system. I say, “System” instead of just outdoor unit because it is recommended that you change both the outdoor unit and the indoor evaporator coil when you install a new system. Manufacturer’s say that it will damage the outdoor unit if you do not change the evaporator coil too.
Best of luck! I hope this has helped you to trouble-shoot and repair your air conditioner! I hope you can get your air conditioner up and running again soon! I admire you for trying to repair your air conditioner yourself. Please be careful and make sure the power is turned off and you do not get cut on those sharp sheet-metal edges. Just take your time and think things out step-by-step.