Understanding and Repairing a Refrigerator Evaporator-Fan Issue

20 October 2016
 Categories: , Articles


If you have a refrigerator that is not working as well as it should, then this may be a sign that you should think about buying a new one. Most refrigerators will work well for around 15 years, so purchasing a new one is a good choice if the appliance is 15 years or older. If your refrigerator is closer to the 10-year mark, or if it is only a few years old, then you can save yourself some cash by repairing the appliance instead of getting rid of it altogether. In some cases, the evaporator fan may not be working correctly. Keep reading to find out about how the evaporator fan works, some signs that the evaporator fan is bad, and how you can make the repair.

How Does the Evaporator Fan Work?

Most refrigerators will have a compressor pump, condenser coils, evaporator coils, refrigerant, and an evaporator fan. The refrigerant will run through the copper condenser and evaporator coils that are attached to the compressor pump. This pump will compress refrigerant so it can then be forced through the evaporator coils. These coils absorb heat and create cool air in the freezer compartment. As the coolant becomes warm, it flows out of the freezer and along the back of the refrigerator unit. This is where the condenser coils sit, and heat is released into the air that sits around the metal coils. 

During this process, the freezer compartment becomes cooled as the evaporator coils release cool air. However, cool air does not naturally flow into the refrigerator. Most refrigerators have evaporator fans that force cool air into the refrigerator part of the appliance. The fan will first pull air up from the refrigerator and force it over the evaporator coils. This creates cooled air that is then forced down into the refrigerator.

What Are the Signs of a Malfunctioning Fan?

If the evaporator fan no longer works, then cool air will not be moved into the refrigerator compartment. A few things are likely to be seen when this happens. The freezer compartment will become extremely cold as all of the cooled air remains in the freezer. Ice will start building in the freezer, and you may see thick crystals starting to form on the evaporator coil.

Since cool air will not move into the refrigerator, you will not feel air moving through the refrigerator compartment. This air will normally release from the circulating vent that sits on the top of the refrigerator compartment. Place your hand over the vent to see whether you feel any cool air. If you do not, then there is a chance that the evaporator fan is not on. The fan turns on when the thermostat inside the refrigerator calls for cool air. Turn the thermostat down a bit to see whether air blows out of the vent. If you do not feel air and do not hear the fan motor working, then the evaporator fan is probably not working.

How to Replace the Fan?

The evaporator fan is located in the sealed compartment in the back of your freezer where the evaporator coil is also located. You will need to remove most or all of the food from your freezer to access the compartment. Unplug your refrigerator to keep the compressor pump from turning on and forcing refrigerant through the evaporator coil while you work. Place your frozen food in a cooler with ice packs and use a hair dryer to remove ice from around the freezer compartment door. Use a screwdriver to remove any screws you see from the compartment door and pull it off. 

You will see the evaporator coil just underneath the cover and a fan sitting near the coil. This will be the evaporator fan. The fan is typically secured to the back of the refrigerator with two screws. These screws will sit in the base of the fan, so remove them. Pull the fan out and look for the wiring harness attached to the base. Gently pull out the harness to unplug it from the fan. Go to your local home or appliance repair store with the fan to find an exact replacement. Plug in the wiring harness into the new fan, replace all screws and covers, and plug in your refrigerator. If you hear the compressor pump activating and the fan working, then you can use your refrigerator normally again. 

If you would like professional help, contact a company such as Anderson's Appliance Repair Service.