Refrigerator Has Freezer Leaking Water Into Fridge

Refrigerator Has Freezer Leaking Water Into Fridge

Bill Gilbert and 1 contributor
Last updated on

This sort of leak usually comes about because condensate from the freezer is not able to flow down the condensate drain. Here's what's supposed to happen:

  • The condensate is the water vapor in the air) that condenses onto the evaporator coils in your top-mount freezer. (think of the outside of a glass of ice water)
  • The condensate turns into a sort of frost (also called rime ice) on the coils (they're below freezing).
  • The defrost system runs periodically and melts the condensate ice, and the water drips into a funnel-like device under the evaporator, almost always metal.
  • The "funnel" drains through a tube down into a tray under the refrigerator, where it evaporates.

This problem doesn't happen in side-by-side or bottom freezer models, as the water can't leak up or sideways. (Gravity)

The problem is often caused by a condensate or evaporator drain blocked by ice.

Ice forming in places where it won't drain properly when it melts will also cause this.

Occasionally, an ice maker can leak and cause this, but the main problem will be no drainage, even if the ice maker is what's leaking.

When these things happen, the condensate spills over from the funnel device or misses it entirely and goes down the damper vents into the refrigerator below. Now you have a leak.

Block Image

Evaporator Coils in Red Rectangle

Block Image

Defrost Drain Funnel in Orange Rectangle

Causes

1

Open your freezer and look at the rear portion of the freezer. Do you see a lot of ice crystals formed on the back wall of the freezer? This is a usual symptom of excessive ice buildup. At this point, manually defrosting your freezer will probably be the most effective approach. Some units have forced defrost cycles, but this isn't as likely in a top-mount freezer unit.

  • Use a steamer to melt the ice on the outside of the evaporator cover if there is any. A steamer is the safest and most effective way to remove ice in your freezer. Strongly avoid using a hair dryer, and do not use a heat gun to melt the ice. A steamer is far more efficient.
  • An alternative is to use bowls of hot water in the freezer compartment. This is slow but very safe and doesn't require additional equipment.
  • When the rear panel (evaporator cover) is clear of ice, or if there isn't any excess ice, unfasten it and move it out of the way. Take care, as there may be items still attached to the cover, like a fan or a thermistor (temperature sensor).
    • A wet-dry vacuum set up to remove water can be used to remove standing water and pieces of ice that have been dislodged.
    • Get some towels or rags to absorb the water in the freezer from the melting ice, as you don't want more in the fridge.
    • You should also put a towel down in the fridge where the water is coming in so it doesn't get wetter.
  • Now, use your steamer to melt the ice on the evaporator coils. If there isn't any, check for an ice plug in the condensate drain.
    • Try and pour some hot water down the drain hole.
    • Use a blunt wooden dowel to probe.
  • No ice? Move on to the next main item.
2

If there's no ice, then the next issue is to remove the likely clog of material in the condensate drain tube. You can use a piece of flexible wire with the end blunted so it won't harm the plastic drain tube. #14 or #16 AWG solid copper is great for this.

You can also try a wet-dry vacuum and, try and remove the clog from the top. Don't try from the bottom, as you might lodge the clog more firmly. If you can get a helper to probe from the bottom with the wire, you may dislodge it so that it goes back up the tube.

This may not work because the tube is small in diameter. Compressed air may dislodge the item, but use low pressure and short puffs from the bottom. Items like peas, beans, hazelnuts, peanuts, and the like are perfect drain pluggers. The nuts, especially, will stay put and not rot away.

3

This is the other main possibility. Since it is somewhat less common to find top freezer models with ice makers, we've listed the possibilities in the order you see.

The sign of a leaking ice maker will be ice all over the bottom of the freezer. Since the ice maker usually leaks when filling or from a slight overflow, the water often freezes before it can run into the fridge. You will likely notice water droplets have frozen on the side of the freezer below the ice maker and almost certainly ice inside the ice maker itself.

Things to check:

  • Is the refrigerator level?
  • Is the ice maker level?

These first two will probably result only in very small leaks as the volume involved is very small. You can check both with a small level.

  • Is the ice maker overfilling?

This is more likely the source, along with a frozen fill tube partially blocked with ice, causing water to go where it shouldn't. Here's a link to a page for a leaking Whirlpool Ice Maker. The same principles apply but look for the items listed above for more on fixing the problem.

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