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DIY – Replacing an Outside Unit Air Conditioner Capacitor

*DISCLOSURE:  THIS IS A PERSONAL STORY, NOT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE*

This is just a heads up post in case anybody else experiences this specific issue with their air conditioner. When our a/c stops working because the outside unit isn’t turning on (fan blowing inside but the outside unit is off), it most likely is the capacitor.

How to Replace a Capacitor for the Outside A/C Unit

It looks like a metal cylinder smaller than a soda can. Here are the steps we took to replace it ourselves:

  1. TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY TO THE A/C
  2. Remove the bolts of the little panel in the back or on the side of your outside unit
  3. Take a picture of how it is hooked up currently so you know how to put the new capacitor back in
  4. SHORT IT OUT BY USING TWO INSULATED SCREW DRIVERS TO BLEED OUT THE ELECTRICITY BY TOUCHING TWO TERMINALS AT ONCE (just don’t go around molesting the terminals and it seems to work out okay) and unplug the 3 wires leading into it
  5. Either order a new one online or take it to a place like Grainger Industrial or any air conditioner repair shop to get a replacement.  Call in advance with the part number from the one you removed and they’ll let you know if they have it before you make the trek to get it.  Heck, some places will even test the old one for you if you don’t have a volt meter.
  6. $20-$40 later, you reinstall the new capacitor using the picture you took (the new capacitor may not be exactly the same size as the old one even though it’s correct, that is okay as long as it fits in the space)
  7. Turn on the electricity again to test it out
  8. If it works, reinstall the cover panel

Works for Us!

Feel free to find a YouTube video to follow along with too!  We just replaced capacitors in late June 2018 (downstairs unit) and August 2017 (upstairs unit) at our house.  Took about 1.5 hours from discovering the problem to putting up our tools when we were done…and half an hour of that was just hubby picking up the part I tracked down via calling around.  We got lucky that it wasn’t a Sunday when most of the shops are closed.

Overall, this saved us about $100-$150  each time versus calling in an a/c company.  We know because we called in an a/c company for this several times at our rent house before figuring out how to do it ourselves since those outdoor unit capacitors are currently manufactured to only last 2-3 years.



FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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