Solved! When to Worry About Refrigerator Noises

If your fridge is trying to tell you something, listen up! Learn the difference between run-of-the-mill noises and those that are cause for concern.

Here's What to Do When You Hear Refrigerator Noise

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Q: My refrigerator has been making strange noises lately. Should I have a pro check it out?

A: It’s understandable to be alarmed when your fridge starts making unfamiliar sounds, but don’t fret yet—most don’t indicate a problem. In fact, many manufacturers, like GE Appliances, publish their own lists of refrigerator noises that are considered normal and don’t warrant a service call. For example, while a sizzling sound might sound scary, it’s likely just water dripping on the defrost heater. Popping and cracking noises may also simply be the expansion and contraction of internal parts as the unit changes temperature, requiring no action on your part.

Here's What Every Refrigerator Noise Means

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Not all fridge fracas is so innocent. If you hear any of the sounds below, take heed—and either seek to resolve the issue yourself or call in a pro. Always make sure to disconnect the power to the fridge prior to taking any action. And keep in mind that attempting a DIY repair on a machine still under warranty could void the warranty—don’t risk it. If it’s an older appliance, an online search may help you find any parts you may need.

Does it sound like a grinding, scraping, or knocking, as if something is being hit by a fan’s blades?

If so, there could be an obstruction in one of the fridge’s two fans. One is a condenser fan located in the bottom of the refrigerator, and the other is an evaporator fan in the freezer compartment. Identify which area the sound seems to be coming from, and then disconnect the power to troubleshoot.

  • If the sound seems located in the condenser fan, remove the rear access panel and inspect for anything that could be blocking the fan’s blades. If the blades are damaged, they’ll need to be replaced. (While you’re down there, it’s a good time to clean the coils, which should be done at least once a year to keep things running smoothly; here’s how.)
  • If the sound emanates from inside the freezer, remove the evaporator fan cover located inside the freezer. Remove any debris that may be blocking the fan blades and inspect for broken parts that need to be replaced.

A recurring clicking, buzzing, or vibrating sound might indicate that the icemaker is turned on but not connected to a water supply.

If the icemaker has intentionally not been connected to a water supply, locate the metal shut-off arm or the on/off switch and move it to the “off” position. Keeping the icemaker on when not connected to a water supply could damage it.

If you hear a rattling sound, a few possible culprits could be to blame.

The cause of the rattling may be as simple as the sides or back of the fridge touching another surface like a wall or cabinet. Pull the fridge out a few inches to give it some breathing room.

Alternatively, your fridge may not be level. Place a level atop the fridge and adjust the legs accordingly.

Finally, the drain pan below the refrigerator may have come loose. Refer to your instruction manual for how to access the evaporator drain pan (located below the refrigerator). Use duct tape to secure the drain pan in place.

These Refrigerator Noises Require Professional Repairs

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If you hear a loud humming, take note.

Compressors make low humming or buzzing sounds as part of their normal operation. But if the refrigerator noise gets louder and louder to the point where you can hear it from the next room, contact a licensed technician. Compressors are typically expensive to repair or replace and not a DIY job for homeowners.

Are you hearing no noise at all?

Yes, your fridge can be too silent. If your refrigerator isn’t even making so much as a gentle hum, that’s another indication your compressor might be damaged, which will affect your fridge’s cooling capabilities. To troubleshoot, unplug the fridge and plug it back in. Double check your electrical panel to make sure a breaker wasn’t tripped. If it doesn’t start running normally again, call for a service.