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How much does it cost to repair a relay?

The relay is an essential component in many electrical systems and appliances. It acts as an electrically operated switch that opens and closes contacts to control a circuit. Relays allow a small current to control a much larger current, enabling automation and remote control. As relays age and wear out, they may need repair or replacement. Determining the cost to repair or replace a faulty relay depends on several factors. This article will provide an overview of relay function, failure modes, and the costs associated with relay repairs.

What is a Relay?

A relay is an electromagnetic switch operated by a relatively small electric current that can turn on or off a much larger electric current. The relay consists of an electromagnet (a coil of wire that becomes a temporary magnet when electricity flows through it), a movable metal arm (called an armature) that is controlled by the electromagnet, and one or more sets of contacts that open or close when the armature moves.

When power is applied to the electromagnet coil, it generates a magnetic field that pulls the armature towards it, changing the position of the contact points. This opens or closes the contacts, which connects or disconnects the relay’s control circuit from the circuit being switched. When power is removed from the electromagnet coil, a spring pulls the armature back to its original position and reverses the contact position.

Types of Relays

There are various types of relays used for different applications:

  • Electromechanical relays – the most common type, uses an electromagnet coil and moving contacts.
  • Solid state relays – uses semiconductor switching elements rather than mechanical contacts.
  • Reed relays – uses magnetic fields to control reed switches sealed in a glass capsule.
  • Thermal relays – operates based on a temperature threshold instead of electromagnetism.
  • Time delay relays – delays changing state between contacts by a preset time.
  • Machine tool relays – designed to control high power equipment and motors.

The principles of operation are similar, using a small control signal to operate a switch for a much larger load circuit.

How do Relays Fail?

Relays can fail over time due to mechanical or electrical issues. Some common failure modes include:

  • Contact failure – Relay contacts become pitted or burnt over time, preventing them from properly opening and closing the circuit.
  • Weld failure – Contacts may become welded shut due to excessive electrical current flowing through closed contacts.
  • Coil failure – The electromagnet coil winding can short circuit or open circuit due to overheating or aging insulation breakdown.
  • Mechanical jam – Dirt, debris, or mechanical misalignment can cause the relay armature and contacts to jam.
  • Corrosion – Environmental corrosion of the contacts, armature, and coil over time leads to malfunction.

Signs of a faulty relay include failure of the load circuit to turn on, intermittent operation, sticking contacts, or abnormal coil resistance.

Cost Factors for Relay Repair

When a relay fails, the options are to repair it or fully replace it. Several factors determine the cost feasibility:

1. Relay Type

  • Electromechanical relays are often cost effective to repair as long as the coil and armature are in good shape.
  • Reed relays can be repaired by replacing the reed capsule.
  • Solid state and other specialty relays are generally not economical to repair, only to replace.

2. Labor Cost

The cost of labor time for a technician to diagnose, disassemble, repair, reassemble, and test a relay can range from $50 to $150 per hour. Simpler relays may take 0.5 hours while complex relays can take 2-3 hours.

3. Parts Cost

Replacement parts like contacts, coils, springs, and armatures can range from $5 to $50 each. A full relay replacement unit can cost $25 to $300 or more.

4. Testing & Calibration

Testing equipment to verify proper electrical operation and calibration adds cost. Simple relays may just require basic measurements while complex relay logic requires thorough testing.

5. Tooling Cost

Specialized tools may be needed to properly disassemble and reassemble relays. This could include custom jigs, precision tools, soldering equipment.

Estimated Repair Costs

Given these factors, here are rough estimates for repairing common relay types:

Relay Type Repair Labor Parts Cost Misc. Cost Total Repair Cost
Electromechanical automotive relay $50 $10 $20 $80
Electromechanical power relay $100 $25 $50 $175
Electromechanical PLC relay $150 $40 $75 $265
Reed relay $75 $15 $25 $115
Solid state relay $50 $40 $30 $120

When to Repair vs. Replace

In some cases, it is more cost effective to fully replace a faulty relay rather than attempting repair. Reasons to replace instead of repairing include:

  • New relay costs less than estimated repair cost
  • Relay is obsolete and parts unavailable
  • Internal faults inaccessible for repair
  • Time delay to repair is unacceptable
  • Repair unlikely to fix root cause of failure
  • High risk application requires full replacement

Conversely, repairing makes sense if the relay is expensive, custom made, rarely fails, or is otherwise difficult to replace.

Improving Relay Reliability

While relay failure is unavoidable over time, certain measures can maximize relay lifespan and minimize repair costs:

  • Selecting a relay rated for higher capacity than required
  • Installing surge suppressors to protect from voltage spikes
  • Using relays with readily available replacement parts
  • Implementing predictive maintenance to detect early warning signs
  • Following manufacturer maintenance recommendations
  • Replacing relays proactively before failure


Repairing a faulty relay can often be a cost-effective solution, with typical repair costs ranging from $50 to $300 depending on the relay type and complexity. The decision to repair or replace should take into account not only the direct cost but also labor time, testing requirements, and application criticality. Implementing best practices for installation, operation, and maintenance is key to minimizing relay failures and avoiding unnecessary repairs or replacements. With proper care, most relays can provide many years of reliable service. Considering these factors allows plant maintenance teams to optimize relay lifecycle costs.