Repair and disassembly guides for food cooling appliances including refrigerators, freezers and fridge-freezers.

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Defrost heater not coming on.

I turned the dial of the GE dts18icsarww thermostat timer and it entered into defrost mode but the heater did not come on. Once the 30 minute cycle was complete, the condenser and fan came back on but ice did not melt. Do I need to just replace heater or could there be something else I need to replace as well?

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With the power disconnected from the fridge, find and disconnect the defrost heater and then measure the defrost heater for continuity using a DMM's Ohmmeter function (Digital MultiMeter - adequate one is available for <$20 at larger hardware stores)

If the heater tests o/c (open circuit) then replace the heater.

Here is a link to one supplier. It is not a recommendation to use them. it is shown to give a location for the heater (part #618 on the diagram) and the cost of the part. There are other suppliers that may suit you better if you search online.

If the heater tests OK then reconnect the heater, change the DMM to use its' Voltmeter function, (highest AC Volts range to start with), reconnect the fridge to the power, wait until the fridge enters the defrost mode (do not know how to manually do this for your model) and then test if there is power being supplied to the heater.

>>>>>>>>Be safety aware when you do this as there are lethal voltages present<<<<<<<<<<<

If there is no power available at the heater connection then the problem is further back into the control board area (or between it and the heater) which would have to be further investigated.

Hopefully this is of some help.

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Tx! There was no continuity on the heater so I'm buying a new one, but could there also be a problem with the power to the heater and if so, how do i check that and what settings on the multimeter should i select to check?



Hopefully there shouldn't be a problem. Heaters have a life so hopefully that is all that the problem is.

Not sure regarding your model so set the Voltmeter to the highest AC Volts range on the meter i.e. > 500V AC if you have it.

Some heaters operate at the outlet power supply voltage, so if your house power is 110V AC then the meter will be set OK to read that.

If you get no reading drop the meter range down 1 step at a time. You'll still get a reading if the power for the heater is DC so that's not an issue.

As to where you measure it.

Disconnect the power from the fridge and the plug the test leads of the meter (with the correct range setting as above) into the plug where the heater connects into, (the heater can be left disconnected from the plug. - I assume that it is only a 2 wire plug - doesn't matter which lead goes into which connector of the plug). Then connect the power to the fridge. The hard part is I don't know with your fridge how to manually start the defrost mode so you'll have to wait until it goes into defrost mode and then check the reading on the meter.

Again be safety aware.

Don't put your fingers near the test lead bare ends with the power on when it is connected to the heater plug and switch off the power before removing the meter test leads.

I know I'm being over cautious but I don't know how much experience you have regarding lethal voltage testing. It may be safer to just replace the heater and find that that was all that the problem was.

Hopefully this makes sense.


I have 19ohms resistance across the heater element, and 119v from the power supply, when in defrost mode. I’ve replaced the heater anyway, but get same results. What else could be wrong??


Hi @rgeorge4,

The only thing that I can think of as the heater has been replaced and power is available during the defrost mode is how long is the power on for to the heater?

It may be that the heater isn't on for long enough to melt the ice completely.

You may have to connect the meter across the heater connector plug again (without the heater may be easier) and then when it goes into the defrost mode check the meter reading occasionally to see if the power is still there during most of the defrost mode period, until just before or when the compressor starts again signalling the end of the defrost period, but remember to take note of how long it is there for.

I don't know if opening and closing the freezer door too often or even leaving it open will skew the result as perhaps if the temperature in the freezer rises too quickly the freezer thermostat or temp sensor may come into play and signal the end of the defrost prematurely (to avoid damaging the evaporator unit by letting the temp get too high above 32 deg F) so perhaps only checking the reading quickly every 5 minutes may be prudent

You may be able to check online if there is a service manual for your model fridge to see if it details if you can manually force an auto defrost action or not. Otherwise you'll have to wait until it occurs as part of the normal operation.

If the defrost mode period is too short (again I don't know the correct amount of time but usually it should be around the 20-30 minute mark) then perhaps if it is shorter than this the defrost timer or defrost thermostat (or thermistor) or even the control board depending on your make and model may be the problem


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