Portable Air Conditioner Clicking? Here’s What To Do

Portable Air Conditioner Clicking? Here's What To Do

If your portable air conditioner is making clicking noises, the good news is that it could be nothing more than the normal function of your AC. Having said that, there’s also a chance something is wrong. 

There’s a good chance that the clicking sound you hear coming from your portable air conditioner is simply the compressor starting up. An electrically operated switch, called a relay, sends the signal to start the compressor. The clicking sound you hear is the switch opening the electrical circuit.

Keep reading, and I’ll offer some further information on different sounds your air conditioner might be making and why, as well as a simple test to determine whether or not it’s the relay switch your hearing.

What You’ll Need

If your air conditioner is clicking because of a normal process, you won’t need anything. However, there are a few items you may need in other circumstances.

  • Screwdriver
  • Soft cloth
  • Brush
  • A spray bottle with warm water and a mild detergent, such as dish soap

Possible Reasons for Portable Air Conditioners to Click

As mentioned above, what you’re hearing may be perfectly normal, but it could also be the sign of trouble. Hopefully, going through each of the sections below will help you figure out what your issue is.

Is What You’re Hearing Normal?

Portable Air Conditioner Next To Bed
Portable Air Conditioner

Try the following to rule out whether or not you just hearing your air conditioner function as it should. If you conclude that what you’re hearing is a relay switch, you probably don’t have to worry.

Step 1

Turn off anything in the room that could drown out the sound of your air conditioner — the TV, the radio, etc.

Step 2

Sit or stand close enough to your air conditioner so that you can hear what it’s doing. Additionally, you want to be able to feel whether the fan is simply blowing air or if it’s blowing cold air.

Step 3

Listen for the click. 

Step 4

Once you’ve heard the click listen for any additional sound—like the hum of the condenser. And has the air blowing on you become colder?

Step 5

If you were able to answer yes to both of those, the clicking is probably just one of your components coming on (either the condenser, compressor, or blower). You can further test this to see how often the clicking cycles and if it cycles in tandem with the air getting cooler.

Step 6

If you’re pretty sure that what you’re hearing is the relay switch, but the click is excessively loud and continues for more than just a few seconds, you may have a broken or damaged relay. If so, it will need to be replaced.

If you want to get any replacement part – or see how much one would cost – click to enter your model number in the search bar below. Our partners at AppliancePartsPros stock almost every part with free guides on how to install them.

Does the Fan Need Cleaning or Maintenance?

Another source of a clicking noise could be a loose fan, and you’ll need to disassemble your air conditioner to check that. 

Step 1

Unplug your air conditioner.

Step 2

Check your user’s manual and follow the instructions for opening up your unit. 

Step 3

Access the fan and visually inspect it. Does it have a layer of dust and debris on it? If there’s a buildup of dust on the blades there may be some in the motor as well and this could throw off the balance of the blades or wheel. 

Depending on how bad the situation is, this could produce a slight clicking sound or even a louder banging. However, this would be a steady incessant noise — for the length of time the fan is running — not like the click you would get when your compressor fires up.

If the bearings are worn out, the sound will be quite noisy, much noisier than a click. If that’s what you’re hearing, your bearings are shot, and potentially your fan motor needs to be replaced. If that’s the case, you’ll have to assess whether replacing the motor makes more sense than buying a new air-conditioner.

Regardless, if your blades are dirty, clean them. First, remove as much dust as you can with a soft cloth or brush, and then thoroughly clean them off with warm water and mild detergent, such as dish soap.

Step 4

Reassemble the air conditioner and plug it back in.

Check for Loose Screws, Clips, or Panels

Hand Holding Screwdiver Next To Portable Air Conditioner
Portable Air Conditioner

Depending on your air conditioner, the housing may be held together by screws or clips. If something is slightly loose it may produce a light clicking noise when the unit is running and vibrating.

Step 1

Check to make sure that all exterior screws, clips, or clamps are tightly in place. 

Step 2

You should also check to make sure that all of the panels that make up the housing of your unit fit together snugly. This may not have anything to do with the fasteners — a warped panel will fail to fit snugly against another panel and may cause the two of them to click or clack against each other.

Other Potential Noises

Keep Your Portable Air Conditioner Clean

Sometimes, assigning a word to a sound can be challenging. For example, what you say is a clicking sound, I might refer to as a snapping sound. With that in mind, here are some other noises your portable air conditioner could be making and what they mean.

And yes, we’ll be including some noises that would never be confused with clicking. 


If your air conditioner sounds like it’s whistling or wheezing, it could be because you’ve blocked the air intake.

Make sure that the vent is not obstructed in any way. This would include sitting too close to a wall or any type of furniture. 

Your owner’s manual will probably tell you how much clearance your intake vents require.

Buzzing, Humming, Vibrating

When it comes to portable air conditioners, the compressor is built right into the casing. Air conditioning systems use scroll compressors, and they tend to vibrate quite a bit. 

If the vibrations aren’t isolated or dampened that can result in a buzzing or humming sound as components vibrate against each other.

Another cause for vibrations could be that your air conditioner is sitting on an uneven surface. When the air conditioner runs this could cause it to jiggle and — depending on your flooring — click, clack, and clatter around.


If your portable air conditioner is clicking, there’s a very good chance it’s just the compressor relay opening. This is a normal function of your air conditioner and does not require a fix.

However, to recap, here are some other possible reasons for something that may sound like a click.

  • Your fan may need cleaning or maintenance
  • You may have loose fasteners, such as screws or clips
  • A warped panel can also produce a clicking or clacking noise

Did the information provided here help you source the cause of your noisy air conditioner? We hope so. 

While you’re here, why not check out some of our related posts below? Perhaps we can help you with something else.

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more