Refrigerator Sounds and Possible Causes

Refrigerator Sounds and Possible Causes

Bill Gilbert
Last updated on

Certain sounds are characteristic of a refrigerator and do not imply that anything is wrong. Listen to these sounds and decide whether they are common.

Boiling and Gurgling

This is the sound of refrigerant flowing from the bottom of your appliance to the evaporator. Expect this sound with each compressor cycle.

Sizzling and Hissing and Popping

This is water dripping onto the defrost heater in the freezer. In fridges with defrost systems, expect this sound every 10-12 hours. If your appliance doesn't have a defrost cycle, you'll want to manually defrost your freezer.

After defrosting, you may hear a popping sound.

Clunking

This is ice cubes falling into the ice cube tray. When the ice maker is making ice you can expect ice every 1-1.5 hours.

Thumping and Water Running

This can also be the ice maker, the evaporator moving refrigerant, the evaporator fan, and the water inlet valve filling the ice cube tray with water.

Snapping and Clicking

This is the electronic control or automatic defrost control kicking on and off.

Vibrating and Humming

This is the compressor turning on and is normal up to a certain volume. In order to maintain its internal temperature, your refrigerator's compressor will run on and off all of the time. When the compressor is normally running this will sound like a humming for 15-30 minutes followed by silence for 15-30 minutes, repeated over 24 hours a day. This ratio is called a duty cycle.

The compressor will run more frequently when the thermostat is set colder or when the fridge or freezer door is opened. If your compressor is running constantly or for the entirety of a 24-hour period, your compressor may be faulty.

Buzzing

This is characteristic of the opening water inlet valve to fill the ice maker. This is a similar sound to the dispensing of water from the front of the machine.

Dripping

This sound is defrosted water dripping into the drain pan after the defrost cycle.

Rushing and Blowing and Whistling Air

Forced air from the evaporator fan or condenser fan during cooling cycles is another very common noise.

At this point, you've hopefully noticed that your appliance is actually a music box! After understanding the typical operating sounds, you'll know better when a sound doesn't seem right.

Scraping or Whirring from Freezer

Certain whirring could be coming from the evaporator fan or ice maker.

  • Open the freezer compartment, and make sure the evaporator fan at the back of the compartment isn't blocked. Unblock the fan if it's surrounded by food, and see if the noise goes away.
  • If the scraping sound continues, inspect your fan. Ice buildup near the blades can contribute to this sound. The fridge may be at a lower temperature from a faulty fan motor.
    • Replace your fan if it's excessively noisy.
  • If the fan is not the issue and sounds more like a creaking, inspect the ice maker. If the freezer door was left open, the ice cubes in the tray may have melted, and are unable to eject. The jammed ice maker motor is creating noise. Follow the defrost guide to free the stuck ice.

Rattling Inside the Fridge

Check for blocked air vents at the back of the fridge and objects out of place. Glass not properly situated on shelves has a tendency to vibrate.

Clicking Under Fridge

A faulty defrost timer may produce a ticking similar to a clock since that's what it is. Clicking could also come from a starting relay, though this is a normal sound.

Whirring Under Fridge

Like the evaporator, when the condenser fan is dirty, it can also cause the refrigerator to make an unusual humming or whirring sound.

  • If the condenser fan blades are damaged, they can usually be pulled off and replaced relatively cheaply. Check the grommet as well and replace it if defective.
  • If the fan blade is not defective, the condenser fan motor may be causing the humming noise. With time, the bearings inside the condenser fan motor can wear and tear, causing loud refrigerator noise.

Knocking or Groaning Under the Fridge

A dirty compressor often causes loud humming. This is different from the popcorn-popping sound that the compressor makes on startup or shutoff. A failing compressor may make a single loud knocking sound as it begins to pump refrigerant, sometimes repeating the noise when it shuts off.

Knocking or Tapping from Ice Maker

There are a few causes of ice maker sounds. Let's consider the frequency of the sound. Ice maker sounds are sometimes fixed by defrosting and resetting the ice maker.

If the sound is constant, then the ice maker is likely frozen and the ice is jammed.

  • Inspect the ice tray. If cubes are melted and clumped to the tray, defrost the ice maker. When cubes are unable to eject, the timer will click continuously.

If the sound is periodic and timed with dispensing ice, it's likely the auger motor is frozen. In this case, the knocking may also be the gears inside the motor. It's only a matter of time before the system fails.

  • You can extend the life of the motor and gears by performing periodic defrosts
  • If you can remove the auger motor, let it defrost completely before disassembly.

Rattling Under Fridge

If you notice a distinct rattling coming from the bottom of your refrigerator, inspect for a loose drain pan. The drain pan catches water and could have vibrated loose.

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