how to clean contactor on ac unit


How to Clean Contactor on AC Unit


Maintaining your air conditioning unit is crucial to ensure optimal performance and longevity. One of the essential components that require regular cleaning is the contactor. The contactor is responsible for controlling the flow of electrical current to your air conditioner's compressor and condenser fan motor. Over time, dirt, debris, and corrosion can accumulate on the contactor, causing it to malfunction. In this article, we will guide you through the process of cleaning the contactor on your AC unit, helping you keep your system running smoothly and efficiently.

Understanding the Contactor

The contactor is a relay switch located inside your air conditioning unit's electrical panel. It consists of several contacts that allow or interrupt the electrical current to the compressor and fan motor. When the thermostat calls for cooling, it sends a low-voltage signal to the contactor, energizing the electromagnet. This action pulls the contacts together, completing the circuit and allowing the high voltage to power the compressor and fan motor, resulting in cool air being circulated throughout your home.

Safety First: Precautions before Cleaning

Before proceeding to clean the contactor on your AC unit, it is essential to ensure your safety and prevent any accidents. Follow these precautions:

1. Turn Off the Power: Locate your air conditioner's electrical panel and turn off the power supply to the unit. This step will prevent any electrical shocks while handling the contactor.

2. Wear Protective Gear: Put on safety goggles, gloves, and clothing that covers your skin to protect yourself from any potential harm caused by dust, debris, or exposure to electrical elements.

3. Gather the Necessary Tools: Grab a screwdriver, a soft brush or toothbrush, a can of compressed air, and some electrical contact cleaner. These tools will assist you during the cleaning process.

Cleaning the Contactor Step by Step

Now that you have taken the necessary precautions, it's time to clean the contactor on your AC unit. Follow these steps carefully:

1. Access the Electrical Panel: Remove the access panel on your air conditioning unit to locate the contactor. It is usually located near the condenser or compressor. You may need to unscrew or lift a latch to open the panel.

2. Inspect for Signs of Damage: Before cleaning, perform a visual inspection of the contactor for any signs of damage, such as burning, melting, or pitting. If you notice severe damage, it is recommended to consult a professional HVAC technician for further assistance.

3. Remove Debris: Use a soft brush or toothbrush to gently remove any debris, dirt, or dust from the contactor. Be cautious not to damage the contacts or other components during this process.

4. Clean Using Compressed Air: Utilize the can of compressed air to blow away any stubborn particles or dirt that may be stuck in difficult-to-reach areas of the contactor. Make sure to direct the airflow away from other sensitive components in the electrical panel.

5. Apply Electrical Contact Cleaner: Spray a small amount of electrical contact cleaner onto a clean, lint-free cloth. Gently wipe the contactor's surface and contacts to remove any remaining dirt or corrosion buildup. Avoid spraying the cleaner directly onto the contactor to prevent any damage to surrounding components.

6. Reassemble and Test: After completing the cleaning process, reassemble the access panel securely. Turn on the power supply to your air conditioning unit and test its functionality by setting the thermostat to a lower temperature. Observe if the contactor engages smoothly and the compressor and fan motor operate without any issues.

Maintaining Your AC Unit

Cleaning the contactor is just one aspect of ensuring the proper maintenance of your air conditioning unit. Here are a few additional tips to keep your AC running efficiently:

1. Regular Filter Replacement: Check and replace your air filters regularly to enhance airflow and prevent dirt and debris from clogging the system. Refer to your unit's manual for specific guidelines on filter replacement.

2. Outdoor Unit Clearance: Keep the area around your outdoor unit clear of vegetation, leaves, and other debris. Maintain a minimum clearance of two feet to allow proper airflow and prevent any obstructions.

3. Professional Maintenance: Schedule annual maintenance with a professional HVAC technician to inspect and service your air conditioning unit. They will perform comprehensive checks, clean and lubricate components, and detect any potential issues before they become major problems.


Cleaning the contactor on your AC unit is a vital maintenance task that ensures uninterrupted operation and enhances the lifespan of your system. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can easily clean the contactor and maintain its optimal performance. Remember to prioritize safety by turning off the power supply and wearing protective gear before starting the cleaning process. Additionally, regular maintenance, including filter replacement and professional servicing, will extend the life of your air conditioning unit and keep you cool during the hot summer months.


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