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.