A buddy of mine was getting a new refrigerator for his basement and when he picked it up he placed it in the back of his pickup on its side because he was afraid that the highway trip might be too much for it standing up.
After doing so he asked what problems can happen from doing this and whats the best thing he can do now so the refrigerator won’t get damaged.
When moving a refrigeration unit of any type manufacturers suggest that you should always do so with it in its upright position. This is because in the system along with Freon or an equivalent gas is oil that lubricates the compressor. If the unit is tipped you have a problem where oil can be relocated throughout the system and if you start it this could damage the compressor.
This is the primary reason however you can also damage the system because it is designed to sit in a specific way and the brackets may not be able to withstand heavy jarring in an opposite direction.
Because freon and oil charges are inserted in the system by attaching a manifold to the compressor lines it is possible that waiting about 24 to 48 hours after such a move will allow the oil to drain back into its correct place. At the very least you should not attempt to start a compressor immediately after transporting or storing it out of vertical.
The best situation in this case would have been to rent a small box truck that the refrigeration unit could have been transported in the right position. Even after such a trip I would still wait a few hours but it would mean that you have a much better chance of success. Unfortunately sometimes the expense of renting appropriate transport outweighs the value of the system. especially if it is used as this one was.
So that is the reason manufacturers suggest that you do not transport any freon unit on its side but as I have been told by a few people in the industry if you do not have a choice then the best thing to do is allow the unit to sit for at least a day before you start it.
When you do start it you want to make sure you listen for any uncommon sounds from the compressor. If you hear any noise immediately turn the unit off.
You should also inspect the unit for any damage to the coolant lines , evaporator and compressor. If you see any oil leaking anywhere either before you run the unit or after running it for a while then you have a leak. Often you can get leaks at welded seams and compression fittings.
Getting a great deal on a unit then transporting it wrong could mean you end up paying for repairs. Its not something you want to get into if you can find any other solution.
Because of time, cost and availability you might need to transport a system on its side. This will mean you need to do a full inspection. Some people would say you might need to evacuate and recharge the system with both refrigerant and an oil charge but this would really depend on the unit.
Remember this is true for refrigerators, freezers and even air conditioner units.
Most new refrigeration compressors do not make any noise however other parts can depending on its design. If possible you always want to make a purchase of a used unit while it is functioning and at that time you can hear how loud it is normally. If you hear a difference you have only a very short time before you damage the compressor so don’t expect it to work its way out it. Turn the unit off immediately and if you need a pro then call one.