Why Is My AC Compressor Overheating and Shutting Off?

Staying cool in Southern California requires reliable air conditioning, and when the air conditioner stops working suddenly, it’s often an emergency. At Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, we understand and want to help our customers stay cool and comfortable. As the number one company for air conditioning repair in East San Diego, we are ready to diagnose and repair even the most complex air conditioning problems. 

One common question we hear from customers is, “Why is my AC compressor overheating and shutting off?” Not only does an overheating compressor prevent the air conditioner from producing cold air, but it can also cause the circuit breaker switch to trip. It’s not long before you feel hot under the collar, and not just because of the rising temperature in your home. 

The first step to preventing an overheated air conditioner compressor is understanding what causes it to happen. In most cases, you can prevent this issue and stay cool. If not, get in touch with Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning at (619) 949-2483 for prompt, expert repairs. 

The Most Common Reasons Air Conditioner Compressors Overheat

When customers ask us, “Why is my AC compressor overheating and shutting off?” we have several possible answers. In most cases, an inspection of the unit reveals one of the following problems. 

1. Lack of Maintenance

HVAC professionals recommend an annual maintenance service appointment for your air conditioner to prevent issues like overheating. Professional maintenance prevents dirty condenser coils, which trap heat. Instead of releasing heat outside, the refrigerant in the compressor coils retains warmth and ultimately blows warm air into your home.

When the compressor coils hold onto heat, the part is at risk of overheating. In addition to cleaning the coils to keep this from happening, HVAC professionals check on other potential sources of compressor trouble, like loose or worn parts, loose electrical connections, and low refrigerant, that can cause overheating. 

Failing to change the air filter in your HVAC system can also cause the compressor to overheat. A dirty filter blocks airflow, making the compressor work harder. It can also cause short cycling, which means the air conditioner continually turns on and off, increasing power usage and the risk of overheating.

2. Voltage Issues

Loose electrical connections can cause problems with your air conditioner, but voltage issues are more likely to result in overheating. A power surge can send too much electricity through the compressor, causing it to overheat. Excess voltage can cause a burning smell in addition to tripping the circuit breaker. 

3. Low Refrigerant

Refrigerant flows through your air conditioner, pulling heat out of the air and producing cool air to lower the temperature inside your home. If refrigerant levels are low, the air conditioner has to work harder to cool the air, which can cause overheating.

If the refrigerant drops below recommended levels, there is a leak in the line. Air conditioners never “use up” the refrigerant. To solve the issue, a technician needs to find and repair the leak before adding more refrigerant; “topping off” refrigerant without fixing the leak won’t solve the problem. 

4. Incorrectly Sized Air Conditioner

Choosing the correct size and type of air conditioner for the room size is critical to both adequate cooling and preventing malfunctions. When your space is too big for the air conditioner to handle, the excess strain on the compressor can cause it to overheat. When this happens, the unit will likely trip the circuit breaker and shut off. 

A professional HVAC technician can help you select the perfect size air conditioner to ensure maximum comfort and reliable operation. 

5. Inadequate Ventilation

Maintaining airflow around the outdoor unit can help ensure the compressor works without issues. Keep the unit clear of debris, including vegetation, toys, and tall grass, to ensure plenty of ventilation and keep air flowing through the unit. 

6. Broken or Malfunctioning Parts

Malfunctions in other air conditioner parts can cause the compressor to overheat and shut off. For example, a bad condenser fan, a malfunctioning metering device, or a broken capacitor can result in excess heat and keep the compressor from working properly. Replacing these faulty components protects the compressor and restores cooling. 

Repairing an Overheated Air Conditioner Compressor

In addition to asking, “Why is my AC compressor overheating and shutting off?” many customers have concerns about whether the issue is fixable. The answer is, “It depends.”

Sometimes, taking care of maintenance issues like a clogged air filter and dirty condenser coils is enough to solve the problem and keep the air conditioner running. Repairing a leaking refrigerant line can also prevent overheating and keep your home cool. 

However, when mechanical components fail, we may need to replace the compressor to restore function. In some cases, it is more cost-effective to replace the entire air conditioner than the compressor only. If your air conditioner is over ten years old or it has frequent issues, replacing it with a more energy-efficient model can save money in the long term.

Trust Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning for Help with Air Conditioner Problems

An overheating air conditioner is never convenient, especially when San Diego temperatures climb into the triple digits. Keeping up with recommended maintenance, including replacing the air filter and scheduling a professional service at least once a year, can go a long way toward preventing compressor overheating. However, if your system develops problems, Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning is here for you. 

Our trained and experienced team provides expert diagnosis and repairs for all air conditioner problems. If your AC is leaking refrigerant, blows warm air, makes strange noises, or you need to know,  “Why is my AC compressor overheating and shutting off?” call us for prompt repairs. We also provide regular maintenance services and will help you select and install new energy-efficient equipment when it’s time to replace old units. 

Don’t let a malfunctioning air conditioner leave you feeling hot and frustrated. Call Maximum Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning at (619) 949-2483 for service in the East San Diego area.