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Why Is My Air Conditioner’s Outdoor Unit Not Working?

August 04, 2016

Outside AC unit isn’t working? The problem could be numerous things. So let’s whittle them down, shall we?

Which of these scenarios best describes your problem:

  • Outside unit hums but fan isn’t working 
  • Entire outside unit isn’t working/has no power

If it’s the first, read the first section of this article. If it’s the later, scroll down and read the second section. 

Scenario 1: Outside unit hums but the fan does not spin

If the fan isn’t working, but outside unit hums then the problem may be with a start capacitor. The capacitor’s job is to give the fan a boost to the fan motor when it starts up.

Try this: Take a long, skinny stick and gently push the fan. If the fan starts to spin then the capacitor needs replacing. If the fan does not start, you may just have a bad fan motor that needs replacing.

Either way, contact an AC tech for help.

Scenario 2: Entire outside unit won’t run/has no power

If the entire outside unit won’t run, then try these DIY solutions.

Check thermostat settings
Make sure your thermostat is set to “cool” and that the temperature setting is set at least a few degrees below room temperature. 

Sounds simple, but, hey, you never know! An AC tech will check here first, so you might as well.

Clean the outside unit
Long story short, if the outside unit gets too dirty, it can cause the compressor (the unit’s ‘heart’) to overheat, shutting down the unit as a result. 

So if your outside unit looks like this:

You might want to get it cleaned. 

A professional AC tech will clean the unit as part of a maintenance visit. But you can do it yourself with a sprayer on a light setting.

Check the outdoor unit’s circuit breaker

Go to your electric panel box and see if the outside unit’s circuit breakers has tripped. (The switch may be marked “A/C”.) 

If it is tripped (set in the middle neutral position) reset it. That is, flip it to OFF, then ON. 

If the breaker trips immediately, then you most likely have an electrical issue.  If the breaker trips after a few minutes of the AC running, you have a different problem. Either way, call an AC tech for help.

Check the AC disconnect box

See this box near the outside unit? 

Pull it down and up and you’ll see a pull out plug. Ensure that it’s in the “ON” position, as pictured here: 

Someone may have set it in the OFF position and left it that way. If it is in the OFF position, then:

  1. Turn off the AC at the thermostat.
  2. Pull out the disconnect plug, flip it around and insert it back in.

Try resetting the outside unit

Your unit may be ‘locked out’ due to a safety switch. In that case, it needs resetting.

How to reset the AC:

  1. Turn the system off at thermostat or breaker
  2. Wait 1 minute
  3. Turn system back on 
  4. Wait up to 10 minutes

If the unit starts, congrats! If not, then you may have a problem that requires a professional’s touch. 

Need your air conditioner repaired and live in the metro Kansas City area?

Contact Santa Fe online to repair your air conditioner. We’ve got your back!

Santa Fe Air Conditioning and Heating serves the Kansas City area. For more information, contact us online


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