How To Test The Defrost Heater On A Refrigerator

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Is your refrigerator freezing foods as well as your freezer? Loss of defrosting within the refrigerator can trace back to a malfunctioning defrost heater. Checking to see if the defrost heater is the culprit is easy if you have a multi-meter with a continuity testing setting.

Note that you will want to remove the food from your fridge before performing the test if you haven't done so already due to the defrosting issue.

Things You Need:

  • Socket wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Multi-meter with continuity testing

Step 1: Remove the Defrost Heater

Unplug the refrigerator. You can leave the unit up against the wall since you will access the defrost heater from inside the fridge.  Pull out any shelves or trays in the top of the fridge near the freezer.

Lift the light cover off and away from the light bulb. Unscrew the light bulb and set both the bulb and the cover somewhere safe.

Use a socket wrench to remove the fasteners on the rear panel. If there is a grounding wire attached to the panel, pull the wire off and let it dangles in place for now. Lift the panel up and pull it out of the fridge. Set the panel with the light bulb.

You should now see the defrost heater that's mounted inside an evaporator bracket. Locate the mounting screws for the defrost heater only, not the bracket, and remove with a screwdriver. Pull the heater down and disconnect the attached wires before setting the heater onto a flat surface for examination and testing.

Step 2: Test the Defrost Heater

Check the defrost heater for any visible signs of buckling, bubbling, or cracking. If you see any damage, you will need a new defrost heater and you should call an appliance repair tech. If you don't see any visible flaws, you can continue on to testing.

Locate the two terminals on the defrost heater – you should find the terminals where you unhooked the wires while the heater was still in the fridge. Now calibrate your multi-meter to the continuity setting.

Place one muli-meter probe in the first terminal and the other probe in the remaining terminal. If the meter beeps, the heater has continuity and likely isn't the cause of your problem. Call in an appliance repair tech to find out what is really wrong.

Step 3: Reassemble the Defrost Heater

If the defrost heater had continuity, you can put the heater back into place until the service call. Hook the wires back up to the heater and then simple slide the heater onto the evaporator bracket and then reattach the mounting screw.

Put the rear panel cover back in place and attach its fasteners. Attach the grounding wire, if applicable. Screw the light bulb back in place and replace its cover with the cover fasteners. Contact a business, such as Giddens Services Ltd, if you find that you need professional help. 

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