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5 Most Common Freezer Problems and Solutions

freezer problems

Don’t let your freezer freeze you out. We’ll help identify the likely causes of the most common freezer repairs.

Has your frozen food lost its chill? Is your meat so freezer-burnt it’s entirely white? Is the freezer moaning and groaning like Old Man Winter himself — or worse, not working at all? When your freezer isn’t doing its job, it might not be a catastrophe requiring a repair or all-out replacement. Before calling in the experts for a repair, you can sometimes do a little sleuthing yourself — armed with some inside information from the technicians at Sears.

Here are the top five most common freezer problems that Sears’ experts see over and over again and the likely culprits behind them.

#1 PROBLEM: My freezer is making strange noises.

LIKELY CULPRIT: The evaporator fan motor needs to be replaced. Keep in mind, though, that not all freezers will make exactly the same sound when this happens. Noises coming from the freezer may also be caused by:

  • Clicking sounds from the ice maker as it harvests a batch of ice
  • Sizzling sounds as the appliance goes through a defrost cycle
  • Gurgling sounds as water drains off the evaporative coil during the defrost cycle
  • Swishing or whirring sounds as a multiple-speed fan ramps up to high speed

The key question to ask yourself is if there are any other issues going on with the appliance. Is the ice maker working? Does the freezer maintain your desired temperature? Does it dispense water and ice? If everything is working, then the noise is probably just the appliance going through its normal operation. Diagnosing a noise complaint can be very difficult. What sounds like humming on one day might sound like buzzing on another. Loudness is often relative; so what is considered loud at nighttime might be quiet during the day. Also, different conditions will cause the appliance to sound differently. Always refer to the owner’s manual for specific details regarding normal operating sounds. If the appliance has another issue besides the strange noise, then resolving that issue will more than likely also resolve the noise complaint.

#2 PROBLEM: There’s frost buildup in my freezer.

LIKELY CULPRIT: The defrost heater needs to be replaced. Depending on where the frost is forming, it could be due to many correctable conditions.

  • Frost forming around the freezer door’s gaskets indicates the door was not fully closed. Look for any packaging or items that might prevent the gaskets from sealing properly: food packages sticking out too far, a drawer that’s not fully sealing, an ice container not locked down or items left on top of the appliance.
  • The freezer temperature may be set too low if the frost is light, snowy and seems to be everywhere. If the set temperatures of the appliance are too low, there isn’t a chance to remove the moisture from the air as the appliance cools. The moisture will turn to “snow” before the appliance starts the next cooling cycle. Make sure the freezer temperature is around 0°F (-18°C) and the refrigerator is around 37°F (3°C).
  • The freezer door might have been left open if the frost is everywhere and is hard and icy. At first, the frost will form closer to the door area but will eventually cover the entire interior. In most cases, correcting the issue that caused the frost buildup and allowing the freezer to go through a couple of defrost cycles will clear up the excessive frost, and the appliance will be back to normal.
  • Frost building up solely on the back of the freezer section, where the evaporator coil is located, indicates an issue with the defrost cycle. Depending on the appliance, this could be either a defective heater, bimetal, defrost sensor, defrost timer or control board. Further troubleshooting is needed to pinpoint what exactly is needed to resolve the issue.

#3 PROBLEM: There’s a small amount of water leaking on the floor next to my freezer.

LIKELY CULPRIT: The defrost drain has frozen over and needs to be defrosted and cleaned. Water on the floor by the appliance may also be due to:

  • Dropped ice cube that melted
  • Spilled drink when filling a glass

If the appliance has water a hookup for water and ice, the leak could be coming from the household connections. Inspect the water line going from the shutoff valve to the freezer. Pay close attention to where the line attaches to the appliance and to the household valve. The water line should be replaced if it’s leaking anywhere.

Carefully inspect around the shutoff valve. The valve should be replaced if it’s leaking anywhere. Contact a licensed plumber to replace it if you’re unable to do so yourself.

If the water is coming from the freezer itself, it may be due to the condensation pan overfilling. This will normally be due to:

  • Excessive amount of frost forming on the evaporative coils. When the freezer goes through a defrost cycle, it’s producing more water than the drain pan can hold. This may be due to high usage, especially during times of high humidity. Limit the number of times the freezer door is opened as well as the length of time the door is left open.
  • Water isn’t evaporating in the condensation pan before the next defrost cycle. Make sure the back mechanical room cover is in place. This allows proper airflow over the condensation pan, which will improve the rate at which the water is evaporated. This cover will need to be replaced if damaged or missing.

The condensation pan will need to be repaired or replaced if it’s cracked and leaking.

#4 PROBLEM: My freezer won’t run.

LIKELY CULPRIT: The electronic controls need to be replaced — but first check if the power light indicator and freezer light are working. If not, power might not be flowing to the product. Verify the appliance controls are set properly:

  • Newer appliances have a showroom or demo mode used on the sales floor to highlight features without running the cooling system. Most of the time, the instructions on how to place the appliance into and out of demo mode will be listed in the owner’s manual in the “Setting the Appliance’s Controls” section.
  • The other setting to check is that the freezer was set to off or power off. Make sure the appliance controls are set to 0°F (-18°C) for the freezer and 37°F (3°C) for the refrigerator. Mechanical controls should be set to the midpoint settings. Refer to the owner’s manual for specific instructions on adjusting the appliance’s set temperature.

Make sure the appliance has power going to it. This can be done by verifying interior lighting or checking if the user interface display is on or if the appliance can dispense water or ice. If there’s no power going to the appliance, check to see if the outlet is good by plugging in something else, like a hairdryer or lamp. If that device also doesn’t work, then the outlet doesn’t have power going to it. Look for a tripped circuit breaker or tripped GFI outlet. A licensed electrician should be contacted for more serious electrical problems.

If there’s power going to the outlet, there may be an issue with the main control or user interface boards, or the temperature-monitoring devices such as the sensors, or the thermostat might be bad. Further troubleshooting will be needed to pinpoint and resolve the issue.

#5 PROBLEM: The temperature is too warm.

LIKELY CULPRIT: The defrost thermostat needs to be replaced if its contacts aren’t properly functioning. The normal freezer temperature is between 0ºF and 5ºF. Here are some things to check for if the freezer is running too warm, but the refrigerator section is maintaining the desired temperature:

  • The freezer’s set temperature is correct. Make sure it wasn’t accidentally adjusted to a warmer-than-desired temperature. If it was, set the temperature back to the recommended setting of 0°F (-18°C).
  • Ensure there’s sufficient amount of product in the freezer section. It’s recommended to keep the freezer 70% to 85% full. Too much stuff in there will limit air circulation within the appliance — and too little will cause all the cold air to spill out of the appliance every time it’s opened.
  • The placement of products within the appliance is also important. Keep things evenly dispersed near the middle of the shelves so as not to block any vents or interfere with proper air circulation.
  • Check that the appliance is kept in an environment between 55°F (13°C) and 110°F (43°C). If the environment is too cold, the freezer may not get sufficient run time to maintain its temperature. If the temperature is too warm, the appliance will have a hard time getting the interior down to the desired temperature.

If none of the above scenarios appears to be causing the issue:

  • There could be a defrost issue if the back of the freezer, where the evaporator coil is located, is heavily frosted. Depending on the appliance, this may be caused by a defective defrost heater, bimetal, defrost sensor or control board.
  • The temperature-monitoring device may be malfunctioning, either a temperature sensor or thermostat isn’t reading the temperature correctly.
  • The main control board might not be reading the temperature control input correctly.
  • The sealed system may be leaking, and there’s not sufficient freon to cool the freezer to the desired temperature.

Any of the above situations will require further troubleshooting to pinpoint and resolve the issue.

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