July 20, 2015

How to replace a defrost heater in a side-by-side refrigerator

By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a defrost heater in a side-by-side refrigerator

This DIY repair guide gives step-by-step instructions for replacing the defrost heater in a side-by-side refrigerator. During the defrost cycle, the defrost heater melts frost from the evaporator fins. If the defrost heater fails, frost builds up in the freezer, and the refrigerator works less efficiently. If the defrost heater is visibly damaged, replace it with the manufacturer-approved replacement part that fits your model. If the defrost heater isn't visibly damaged, a service technician should diagnose the cause of frost buildup before you install a replacement, because a failed defrost heater is just one of several possible reasons.

This procedure works for Kenmore, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, GE, Maytag, Amana, Samsung, LG, Frigidaire, Electrolux, Bosch and Haier side-by-side refrigerators.

Quick links
Tools required
1/4-inch nut driver
Screwdriver
Work gloves
Repair difficulty
Time required
45 minutes or less
Repair difficulty
Time required
45 minutes or less

Instructions

  1. 01.

    Disconnect the electrical power

    Safely store any food that could deteriorate while the refrigerator is shut off for this repair. Then, unplug the refrigerator or shut off the circuit breaker for the refrigerator.

  2. 02.

    Remove shelf supports from the freezer

    Remove the shelves and baskets from the freezer compartment. Remove the screws from the shelf supports on the right interior wall of the freezer and pull the supports out.

    Tip: If necessary, refer to your owner's manual for guidance in removing baskets and shelves in the freezer.
    Remove the freezer basket.

    Remove the freezer basket.

    Remove the freezer shelf supports.

    Remove the freezer shelf supports.

  3. 03.

    Remove the back panel

    Remove the mounting screws that secure the freezer’s inside back panel. Pull out the bottom of the panel slightly to release it and then remove the panel from the freezer. 

    Remove the evaporator panel screws.

    Remove the evaporator panel screws.

    Remove the evaporator panel.

    Remove the evaporator panel.

  4. 04.

    Disconnect the wires

    Release the locking tabs that secure the black wires to the top of the defrost heater and disconnect the wires.

    Disconnect the defrost heater wires.

    Disconnect the defrost heater wires.

  5. 05.

    Remove the defrost heater

    Unhook the hangers at the bottom of the evaporator. If your evaporator has clips, release them. Remove any plastic foam insulation from around the evaporator.

    Work the defrost heater downward and pull it out. 

    Unhook the defrost heater hangers.

    Unhook the defrost heater hangers.

    Remove the defrost heater.

    Remove the defrost heater.

  6. 06.

    Install the new the defrost heater

    Insert the new defrost heater into the evaporator assembly. Reinstall the mounting clips at the bottom of the evaporator.

    Connect the wires at the top of the evaporator.

  7. 07.

    Reinstall the back panel

    Reinstall the back panel and secure it in place with the mounting screws. Overtightening the screws can crack the freezer liner or mounting rails, so rotate the screws until they stop and then snug them up with a final twist.

    Reinstall the baskets and shelves. 

  8. 08.

    Restore electrical power

    Plug in the refrigerator or turn on the house circuit breaker to restore power.

Warning: Undertaking repairs to appliances can be hazardous. Use the proper tools and safety equipment noted in the guide and follow all instructions. Do not proceed until you are confident that you understand all of the steps and are capable of completing the repair. Some repairs should only be performed by a qualified technician.

Symptoms common to all refrigerators

Choose a symptom to see related refrigerator repairs.

Main causes: leaky door gasket, defrost system failure, evaporator fan not running, dirty condenser coils, condenser fan not running
Main causes: blocked air vents, compressor problems, condenser or evaporator fan not working, control system failure, sensor problems
Main causes: jammed ice cubes, broken ice maker assembly, dirty water filter, kinked water line, bad water valve, freezer not cold enough
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: damaged door seal, faulty defrost sensor or bi-metal thermostat, broken defrost heater, bad defrost timer or control board
Main causes: control board or cold control failure, broken compressor start relay, compressor motor failure, defrost timer 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 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
July 20, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
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
July 20, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
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
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all refrigerators

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your refrigerator.

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