Declining quality of consumer-grade products - 2009 fridge compressor autopsy...


New members click here to sign-up

Shoppers Square
As the Tub Turns
Dirty Laundry

Forum Topics & Rules
Picture of the Day
Manuals & Literature

Thread Number: 91066

Tag: Refrigerators

Declining quality of consumer-grade products - 2009 fridge compressor autopsy...
[Down to Last]

eBay Watch
scroll >>> for more items --- [As an eBay Partner, eBay may compensate if you make a purchase using any link to eBay on this page]
Post# 1155699   8/1/2022 at 09:25 (661 days old)
by turbokinetic (Northport, Alabama USA)    

I know what you're thinking.... another "old guard" geezer posting about how bad things are with nothing but anecdotal evidence that this is actually the case. Before you judge me, please watch the video.  I don't believe unhappiness is unreasonable when one is forced to accept concepts such as "throw-away society" and "poor value / high overall ownership costs" and "bad ownership experience" in the name of "progress."


The back-story to this video is as follows.  A couple years ago a local gentleman brought his 1947 GE fridge to me for rewiring and re-gasketing. That job went well and he has been using that fridge ever since as a beverage fridge. 


Fast-forward to last week, and his main kitchen fridge stopped working. Without warning, it started clicking on and off on the compressor overload, as if the compressor was stuck. I normally don't work on modern appliances; however this is local and the owner was able to bring it over in the back of his pickup with little effort on his part. So I agreed to look at it. 


The compressor would not start. I tried boosting with higher voltages, adding capacitors etc. and nothing would break it free.  So, I ended up putting in a salvaged compressor to get his going. 


Here is a video where I tear it down and inspect it for root cause of failure. Again, I need to repeat that I am not saying everything "old" is better just because it's "old."  I am saying that this compressor, and its application, show clear engineering choices made, which sacrificed its life span in the name of some modicum of energy savings.  These marginal design choices are not the only way to get an efficient unit, since the fridge compressors from the 1940's and 1950's era were very efficient, while having consistently longer lives. This failed unit is purely an example of doing just enough to get by until it is someone else's problem. When it becomes a problem, it goes to the dump where all the foamed-together plastic parts will not be feasible to separate nor recycle.







  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 2         View Full Size

Post# 1155703 , Reply# 1   8/1/2022 at 10:11 (661 days old)
by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)    
Modern refrigerator compressors

combo52's profile picture
Hi David love the teardown always love to see the insides of things and how they work.

Our small appliance repair company works on around 1500 refrigerators a year, and we are not seeing more than one bad compressor in a years time this is very rare on a new refrigerator in fact the compressor is probably the one really good part of a new refrigerator lol.

Nobody appreciates the quality that went into old compressors and motors and things more than I do but the reality is you could not have a $2000 compressor as part of a new refrigerator nobody could buy them or afford them.

You might remember about three years ago I cut open an Embrco compressor that had locked up because another service technician had put stop leak in the sealed system to try to fix an evaporator leak problem.

I sawed the compressor open and freed it up it still runs fine today itís like the one you just cut it open.

When you look at the extremely small failure rate of modern compressors I sincerely doubt that compressors in 1939 didnít have an even higher failure rate, but no way to prove that today.

I have no doubt that many compressors made after 2000 will be going strong in 50 years in the basic refrigerators And freezers.


Post# 1155720 , Reply# 2   8/1/2022 at 14:21 (660 days old)
by turbokinetic (Northport, Alabama USA)    

Hi John. I do remember that compressor! That one was a slightly older model, with a larger body design. I remember the cast iron cylinder frame in the compressor was different and much larger than what this failed one has. The one I salvaged to get this fridge going was also like yours you cut open. It is the older model. I think it was marked 1998.

While I do agree that compressors are generally very reliable, it's clear that some poor engineering choices were made in the one I took apart.  Thankfully the ones like you cut open and the one I installed into this fridge rarely ever go bad. If I have a bad one of similar size, it will be interesting to compare the surface area of the main bearings versus this 2009 failed one. 


The very early (30's and 40's) ones were less consistent in their life spans. I've seen a document on this somewhere and will share it if I run across it again. They didn't have the automated and consistent manufacturing processes like we have today. Some of them did go out early. The ones we still have today from the early days are the ones which were especially good, and are still in the long flat bottom of the failure bathtub curve.


What I foresee killing off many of the 2000's compressors are the lower engineering margins in the design.  It takes less of an incident to go beyond that margin into the region of damage and failure; as compared to earlier compressors with a larger engineering margin.


All things being equal, eventually something will go wrong with the whole system. Things like condenser fan failures, leaks and running without refrigerant, voltage excursions, etc.  The larger engineering margins in the early designs allowed them to better tolerate system fault conditions.  They can survive a certain amount of abuse, before catastrophic damage happens.  With a larger surface area in the bearings, the oil could be overheated or diluted to a greater degree before lubrication film failure occurred.  With a larger stator-rotor air gap; even if there was wear in the bearings, it would have to be much more severe before a rub appeared. 


I'm sure you're right that some of these post-2000's compressors will still be around. However I expect it will be the ones which have not been exposed to any abnormal operating conditions. 



Post# 1158465 , Reply# 3   9/1/2022 at 18:29 (629 days old)
by Paulg (My sweet home... Chicago)    
South Korean compressors

paulg's profile picture
Is it LG that has the high-failure linear-compressors? If so it would be interesting to see a forensic dissection of these compressors to determine the fault.

Post# 1158481 , Reply# 4   9/1/2022 at 20:53 (629 days old)
by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)    
yes,it is LG.... :)

.. the metal valve plate breaks up-there is some pics on here somewhere.AS I recall failed linear compressors were replaced with regular rotary motor compressors under warranty.

Post# 1158485 , Reply# 5   9/1/2022 at 21:40 (629 days old)
by CorvairGeek (Gem State)    
compressor oil viscosity

Did Embraco spec such a low viscosity lubricant, or is it something the refrigerator manufacturer took upon themselves? I assume the compressor comes preloaded with oil, but maybe not.

Post# 1158500 , Reply# 6   9/2/2022 at 06:24 (629 days old)
by turbokinetic (Northport, Alabama USA)    

Jerry, Replacement compressors come from Embraco with oil in them; however I am not entirely sure about OEM parts ordered in bulk. It may be easier for the manufacturer to braze and assemble systems if there is no oil. I have an Embraco engineering sample with a large sight glass on the side, where you can see the oil in the base. It has a mark for normal level. That sample is used to ensure oil return is happening on a new OEM design to prove it is working correctly. I assume the results of this test would be used to decide on how much oil is used in the new system design. For that reason, it might be up to the system designer to install the oil in the proper amount for their system.

Post# 1158869 , Reply# 7   9/6/2022 at 09:49 (625 days old)
by ViewSaver (N. Central Illinois)    

Hi, David. All OEM compressors come pre-filled with oil, charged with slight pressure of dry nitrogen and then plugged (at least the ones we use which do indeed come in bulk by the pallet). The manufacturers give a particular order to remove the plugs to minimize/avoid having the residual nitrogen pressure blow out any oil and contaminate the joint. I would guess that a major customer could specify within some range the viscosity of oil based upon the expected operating conditions of the compressor when installed? That's not my area however, I just deal with them when they fail. :-)


Post# 1159017 , Reply# 8   9/7/2022 at 21:30 (623 days old)
by norgeway (mocksville n c )    
As usual

Ill be more blunt Its junk, it was engineered to fail in a few years, Back when Frigidaire, Norge, GE and Kelvinator were building things to last 50 plus years minimum, you got your moneys worth, now you pay a fortune for very substandard products.The days of We put our name on it, it has to be quality are gone.

Post# 1159025 , Reply# 9   9/7/2022 at 22:31 (623 days old)
by qsd-dan (West)    

qsd-dan's profile picture
I'll be more blunt Its junk, it was engineered to fail in a few years. Back when Frigidaire, Norge, GE and Kelvinator were building things to last 50 plus years minimum, you got your moneys worth, now you pay a fortune for very substandard products. The days of We put our name on it, it has to be quality are gone."

What's even crazier is that manufactures have absolutely zero shame in trash they produce. If their shitty junk breaks under warranty, they do everything in their power to make the repair process as miserable as possible. One must nearly become a belligerent asshole to get anything accomplished. It didn't use to be that way.

Post# 1159478 , Reply# 10   9/13/2022 at 15:15 (617 days old)
vacerator (Macomb, Michigan)    
I had a 70's

Avocado top freezer Whirlpool in my first house. It was running hot, and tripping the cut off. I cleaned and oiled the filthy condensor fan motor, and it ran fine for at least 5 more years.
Our neighbors had a nice Frigidaire SxS that was only 12 years old. After two previous services for the damper door, and control board after 8 or 10 years, the unit died.
They bought A Samsung french door with two bottom drawers. The only complaint they have is the ice makers needs thawing now and then or it jams up.
They also got a GE SxS for their basement, which has been great for 5 years.

Return to Super Index

Comes to the Rescue!

The Discuss-o-Mat has stopped, buzzer is sounding!!!
If you would like to reply to this thread please log-in...

Discuss-O-MAT Log-In


New members click here to sign-up

Shoppers Square
As the Tub Turns
Dirty Laundry

Forum Topics & Rules
Picture of the Day
Manuals & Literature
Vacuumland home
Discuss-o-Mat Forums
Vintage Brochures, Service and Owners Manuals
Fun Vintage Washer Ephemera
See It Wash!
Video Downloads
Audio Downloads
Picture of the Day
Patent of the Day
Photos of our Collections
The Old Aberdeen Farm
Vintage Service Manuals
Vintage washer/dryer/dishwasher to sell?
Technical/service questions?
Looking for Parts?
Website related questions?
Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy
Our Privacy Policy