December 30, 2021

How to fix your evaporator cooling fan

Evaporator fan not working
Evaporator fan not working

When your refrigerator isn’t cooling well even though items are still frozen in the freezer section, the evaporator cooling fan may not be working.

Check for air flow through the vents in the back wall of the freezer section when the compressor is running to see whether the evaporator fan is working.

If the evaporator fan isn’t moving air through the freezer, follow the tips in this article to troubleshoot the problem and restore cooling to the refrigerator section.

Refrigerator evaporator fan

When it’s operating properly, the evaporator fan blows air through the evaporator coil to circulate cooling air through the freezer section and refrigerator section.

When the evaporator quits working, Items stored in the freezer will typically remain frozen because the evaporator provides enough freezer compartment cooling on its own. The refrigerator section won’t cool well because the evaporator fan stops circulating cold air through the refrigerator compartment.

Common problems that prevent the evaporator fan from running are excessive frost in the freezer and a failed evaporator fan motor.

Check for excessive frost in the freezer

Excessive frost can build up on evaporator coils in the freezer and block evaporator fan blades when the automatic defrost system isn’t working or when a bad door gasket allows air to leak into the refrigerator.

You will likely hear a loud buzzing noise when evaporator fan blades hit frost build-up on the evaporator. If you heard the loud buzzing noise and the buzzing stopped at the same time that the refrigerator quit cooling well, then an evaporator fan blade is likely stuck in the excessive frost.

Excessive frost throughout the freezer

If you see heavy frost covering much of the freezer section, an air leak through a bad door gasket is likely allowing warm, moist air to leak into the refrigerator and cause the excessive frost. An ice dispenser door that’s jammed open by an ice cube also cause excessive frost in a side-by-side refrigerator.

Check the refrigerator and freezer door gaskets. Repair or replace a gasket that isn’t sealing a door properly.

In a side-by-side refrigerator, check the ice dispenser and eliminate the ice jam in the ice dispenser cover if a stuck ice cube is preventing the cover from closing.

After eliminating the air leak, you can safely store food and unplug the refrigerator for about 8 hours to melt frost off the evaporator and free up the evaporator fan. The refrigerator section should cool properly once you get the evaporator fan running again.

Frost concentrated on the back wall of the freezer

If you just see frost on the back wall of the freezer (also called the evaporator cover), then an automatic defrost system failure may be evident.

The automatic defrost system periodically melts frost build-up off the evaporator when the system is working properly. When the defrost system fails to turn on the defrost heater to melt frost off the evaporator, the frost can build up until it blocks the evaporator fan blades. You’ll typically hear a buzzing noise intermittently then hear the buzzing build up in intensity as excessive frost accumulates on the evaporator and evaporator fan blades hit the frost build-up.

You can get the evaporator fan running again by safely storing food and unplugging the refrigerator for around 8 hours to melt the excessive frost off the evaporator.

This will only be a temporary fix when the automatic defrost system is broken because frost will eventually build back up within a day or two and you’ll start hearing the buzzing noise of the evaporator fan blades hitting frost again.

Follow the tips in our Refrigerator won't cool troubleshooting video: defrost system problems to diagnose and permanently fix the defrost system failure.

Evaporator fan motor

If excessive frost isn’t preventing the evaporator fan from running, then the evaporator fan motor may have failed.

Follow the steps in our Diagnosing refrigerator evaporator fan problems video to troubleshoot and repair a failed evaporator fan motor.

A control problem or wiring failure can also prevent the evaporator fan from running. If you can’t fix the evaporator fan problem yourself, have a service technician repair your refrigerator.

Symptoms common to all refrigerators

Choose a symptom to see related refrigerator repairs.

Main causes: jammed ice cubes, broken ice maker assembly, dirty water filter, kinked water line, bad water valve, freezer not cold enough
Main causes: damaged door seal, faulty defrost sensor or bi-metal thermostat, broken defrost heater, bad defrost timer or control board
Main causes: leaky door gasket, defrost system failure, evaporator fan not running, dirty condenser coils, condenser fan not running
Main causes: control board or cold control failure, broken compressor start relay, compressor motor failure, defrost timer problems
Main causes: water valve leaking, frozen or broken defrost drain tube, overflowing drain pan, cracked water system tubing, leaking door seal
Things to do: clean condenser coils, replace the water filter, clean the interior, adjust doors to prevent air leaks, clean the drain pan
Main causes: blocked air vents, compressor problems, condenser or evaporator fan not working, control system failure, sensor problems
Main causes: blocked vents, defrost system problems, evaporator fan failure, dirty condenser coils, bad sensors, condenser fan not working

Repair guides common to all refrigerators

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your refrigerator.

How to clean refrigerator condenser coils

Help your refrigerator run more efficiently by cleaning the condenser coils. It's easy and takes just a few minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
How to replace a refrigerator water valve

Replace the water valve that feeds water to the ice maker and water dispenser if it no longer controls the flow of water.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
How to replace a refrigerator temperature control board

If the temperature in your refrigerator doesn't match the temperature you set, the problem could be the temperature control board—a service technician can give you a definite diagnosis. If the board is at fault, follow these steps to replace it yourself.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all refrigerators

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