It's important to perform regular fridge maintenance before trying these fixes. Your appliance should last for at least 10-15 years before needing replacement, so keep it running well with these tips.
Safety Note: Power Down the Fridge
Before removing and replacing, or continuity testing electrical components, power down the fridge. This will prevent damage to the components and prevent you from being electrocuted. Still, some electrical components — like capacitors — will store their charge and should not be tampered with.
- If the fridge is pulled away from the wall, or if the power switch is easily accessible, remove the plug.
- Otherwise, find the fridge’s circuit breaker in your breaker box and turn the circuit off.
- Verify your fridge has lost power by opening the doors and seeing if the lights turn on.
Safety Note: Sharp Sheet Metal
When working underneath the fridge, consider wearing gloves to avoid cuts from the sharp sheet metal. The sheet metal is the thin structural metal where components mount. While wearing gloves may make work more challenging, it’s worth protecting yourself.
When refrigerators experience temporary power outages, they may enter a safe mode. The safe mode protects the fridge's internal components from electrical overloading. You'll have to reset the power to your fridge.
- Unplug your refrigerator. If the plug is too hard to reach, switch the circuit breaker off.
- Wait 5 minutes before returning power to the fridge.
- Once power is back, open your freezer and push the light switch 3 times to trigger a cooling cycle.
- Monitor temperature over the next 24 hours.
Out of Level Fridge
A fridge out of level may refuse to cooperate or cool effectively. It might also make strange noises. Level your fridge.
- Start by adjusting the front feet. Use a bubble level and correct any side-to-side wonkiness in the fridge.
Tilt the fridge back slightly. This will allow doors to close on their own, increase efficiency and prevent ice maker issues.
Location of Noise
Troubleshooting begins with finding the general source of the noise. Where is the noise the loudest: back, bottom, inside, or outside? Maybe a hum is audible everywhere.
- Be sure to check inside the main compartment and freezer section as well to pinpoint the noise.
- Note the frequency of the sound, and if it stops when a door is opened. If opening the freezer stops the sound, this is helpful for locating it.
Normal Types of Sound
Certain sounds are characteristic of a refrigerator and do not imply that anything is wrong. Listen to these sounds and decide whether they are common.
Boiling and Gurgling
This is the sound of refrigerant flowing from the bottom of your appliance to the evaporator. Expect this sound with each compressor cycle.
Sizzling and Hissing and Popping
This is water dripping onto the defrost heater in the freezer. In fridges with defrost systems, expect this sound every 10-12 hours. If your appliance doesn't have a defrost cycle, you'll want to manually defrost your freezer.
After defrosting, you may hear a popping sound.
This is ice cubes falling into the ice cube tray. When the ice maker is making ice you can expect ice every 1-1.5 hours.
Thumping and Water Running
This can also be the ice maker, the evaporator moving refrigerant, the evaporator fan, and the water inlet valve filling the ice cube tray with water.
Snapping and Clicking
This is the electronic control or automatic defrost control kicking on and off.
Vibrating and Humming
This is the compressor turning on and is normal up to a certain volume. In order to maintain its internal temperature, your refrigerator's compressor will run on and off all of the time. When the compressor is normally running this will sound like a humming for 15-30 minutes followed by silence for 15-30 minutes, repeated over 24 hours a day. This ratio is called a duty cycle.
The compressor will run more frequently when the thermostat is set colder or when the fridge or freezer door is opened. If your compressor is running constantly or for the entirety of a 24-hour period, your compressor may be faulty.
This is characteristic of the opening water inlet valve to fill the ice maker. This is a similar sound to the dispensing of water from the front of the machine.
This sound is defrosted water dripping into the drain pan after the defrost cycle.
Rushing and Blowing and Whistling Air
Forced air from the evaporator fan or condenser fan during cooling cycles is another very common noise.
At this point, you've hopefully noticed that your appliance is actually a music box! After understanding the typical operating sounds, you'll be familiar when a sound doesn't seem right.
Scraping or Whirring from Freezer
Certain whirring could be coming from the evaporator fan, or ice maker.
- Open the freezer compartment, and make sure the evaporator fan at the back of the compartment isn't blocked. Unblock the fan if it's surrounded by food, and see if the noise goes away.
- If the scraping sound continues, inspect your fan. Ice buildup near the blades can contribute to this sound. The fridge may be at a lower temperature from a faulty fan motor.
- Replace your fan if it's excessively noisy.
- If the fan is not the issue, and sounds more like a creaking, inspect the ice maker. If the freezer door was left open, the ice cubes in the tray may have melted, and are unable to eject. The jammed ice maker motor is creating noise. Follow the defrost guide to free the stuck ice.
Rattling Inside the Fridge
Check for blocked air vents at the back of the fridge and objects out of place. Glass not properly situated on shelves has a tendency to vibrate.
Clicking Under Fridge
A faulty defective defrost timer may produce a ticking similar to a clock since that's what it is. Clicking could also come from a starting relay, though this is a normal sound.
Whirring Under Fridge
Like the evaporator, when the condenser fan is dirty, it can also cause the refrigerator to make an unusual humming or whirring sound.
- If the condenser is damaged, the blade can usually be pulled off and replaced relatively cheaply. Check the grommet as well and replace it if defective.
- If the fan blade is not defective, the condenser fan motor may be causing the humming noise. With time, the bearings inside the condenser fan motor can wear and tear, causing loud refrigerator noise.
Knocking or Groaning Under the Fridge
Loud humming is often caused by a dirty compressor. This is different than the popcorn popping sound that the compressor makes on startup or shutoff. A failing compressor may make a single loud knocking sound as it begins to pump refrigerant, sometimes repeating the noise when it shuts off.
Knocking or Tapping from Ice Maker
There are a few causes for sounds coming from the ice maker. Let's consider the frequency of the sound. Ice maker sounds are sometimes fixed by defrosting and resetting the ice maker.
If the sound is constant, then the ice maker is likely frozen and the ice is jammed.
- Inspect the ice tray. If cubes are melted and clumped to the tray, defrost the ice maker. When cubes are unable to eject, the timer will click continuously.
If the sound is periodic, timed with dispensing ice, it's likely the auger motor is frozen. The knocking in this case may also be the gears inside of the motor. It's only a matter of time before the system fails.
- You can extend the life of the motor and gears by performing periodic defrosts
- If you're able to remove the auger motor, let it defrost completely before disassembly.
Rattling Under Fridge
If you notice a distinct rattling coming from the bottom of your refrigerator, inspect for a loose drain pan. The drain pan catches water and could have vibrated loose.