A/C Troubleshooting

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Last evening, my A/C unit stopped working. I'd like to try to figure out what died, how much it will cost to fix, and if I can do the repairs myself.
We heard a sort of buzzing sound a few times, and when I looked out the window, I noticed that the fan blades seemed to be turning slower than usual. I went to the thermostat and turned off the A/C for a few minutes. When I turned it back on, I could hear a short buzz sound at the A/C unit, but the fan blades didn't move. The buzz sound would repeat every 10 seconds or so, but the fan never moved.
I then turned off the A/C and flipped the breaker. I tried to spin the fan blades with a screwdriver, and they turn freely. I checked the service disconnect box outside the house, and all looks fine.
I'm thinking that either the fan motor died, or the compressor is dead, or both. Any thoughts?
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This is just a lay-person opinion.
The fan motor is a possibility. A dead contactor (switch like device) is more likely. Does not sound like compressor failure to me.
A service man will know how to jumper the motor and force the contactor to determine the actual cause.
Since that is the least expensive part let's hope that is the one.
Colbyt
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Mike wrote:

    Taking some measurements with a volt meter is what should be done to determine what is not working and why.
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Most contactors (relays) can be manual activated (removing a cover) and push-in the armature.
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The most likely cause is : a defective combo Run Capacitor based on what youve described. You wont be able to buy this part yourself ; it is only available thru the Trade and you need to initiate a Service Call.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Not necessarily so. Replacement parts can be easily (though not rapidly) obtained via mail order OR you can take the part to Grainger's (or similar), say "Gimme one like this" and provide the name of an A/C contractor, OR get your jovial and friendly HVAC technician to sell you one off his truck.
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Exactly correct up till the last part, I used to buy nad replace my own caps all the time. I upgraded all my units, so haven't had a break down for a while, My advise is to install two separate capacitors, anyhow. That way you only have to replace the bad one, + the separate ones are easier to find. @ $10- $20 they are worth a try, that's less than 15 minutes worth of service call.
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You guys are encouraging a homeowner who hasnt had the technical expertise to repair something he can destroy or hurt himself on. All for the sake of a simple service call (??) . Whether he can get the exact replacement or not, isnt the point. And to tell him to buy two independent run capacitors and expect him to wire them in so they work correctly and safely...is absurd im afraid. OP, call an HVAC serviceman to do the job and realize your limitations ; at the same time, he can check out the freon level, do preventive maintenance routines, and tell you the overall performance of the entire system including the inside Unit with Cooling Coil.
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To a point I agree with you. I lose sight of the fact that a lot of people lack the basic skills to even attempt such a task. I was perhaps lucky, on my first attempt at AC repair, I peeled the sheet metal on the outside unit and quickly spotted the problem. That emboldened me to go deeper the next time. I do have fairly advanced mechanical and electrical skills though, I have worked as a auto dealer line mechanic, and the electrical I've picked up as I went. Having owned several older homes you just learn it, if you have more desire to learn than money for service calls, I have replaced nearly every component, over the years, on various units, except a compressor, & for that I'd call a pro.
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Eric in North TX wrote:

I dealt with thieving HVAC repairmen for years before becoming disgusted enough to learn to do much of my own servicing. It's about the only business I know where failure of a $20 part can result in a $2000 repair bill. That said, there are limits to what one can do without equipment that justifies a service call by someone who has it already.
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cjt wrote:

Not everyone who repairs HVAC equipment is going to rip you off. Just like all the trades, there are some contractors who give the rest a bad name. I have to defend the majority of "all" trades. Word will get around pretty quick if you gouge people no matter what service is provided.
TDD
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and that's why you read the advice on this and other lists. Talk to your neighbors. See who they have used, and ask if they are pleased.
--
Christopher A. Young
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Turned out to be a blown capacitor. Repair guy showed up at 7pm Friday night, had it fixed by 7:30. Ended up costing $50 for the service call, and $85 to put in the new capacitor. Coulda been worse...
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I hope you watched and learned. Nothing all that technical about it was there? Next time you won't be held hostage.
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I hope he got several of the guy's business cards. To hand out to his neighbors.
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Mike wrote:

We would have charged $65.00 for the call and $25.00 for the capacitor.
TDD
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Sounds like a reasonable price. Thanks for letting us know what was the problem.
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Mike posted for all of us...

You got a deal! At those prices he won't be in business long.
--
Tekkie Don\'t bother to thank me, I do this as a public service.

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I'm sad that there are crooks in the AC field. A couple years ago, a news team did a sting, and found that many of the techs who showed up either didn't find the problem (one wire unconnected) or did other damage while they were working. That's a shame.
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You have obviously never taken your car to a transmission shop.
And with respect to one of the previous posts, can one even buy a made in USA capacitor any more?
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