All refrigerators make noise. Yours might even be humming right now. But what happens when you hear an unfamiliar or annoying noise coming from your fridge—is there cause for concern?
If the noise is accompanied by other issues—like food not cooling properly, the ice maker not working, or lots of heat emanating from underneath the appliance—it’s wise to call a repair person. But if you can determine where the noise is coming from and how often it occurs, you might be able to diagnose and deal with the problem yourself.
We spoke with two experts who discussed some of the most common refrigerator noises you might hear, what they might mean, and when to call in a pro to take a look.
If the noise is coming from the bottom of the refrigerator
If you hear a rattling noise near the bottom of the refrigerator, it’s likely the drain pan, says Doug Rogers, president of repair company Mr. Appliance.
“This is an easy fix: Just secure the pan back in place for peace and quiet,” he says. The drain pan is located underneath the fridge and is roughly an inch above the floor.
If the noise is coming from the back of the refrigerator
A strange sound coming from the back of the fridge is probably the condenser fan or the compressor.
“If you determine the noise is caused by the condenser fan, try cleaning away dust and debris that may have accumulated between the fan blades using a soft brush,” says Rogers. Of course, be sure to unplug your refrigerator before any cleaning or repairs.
If the noise is coming from inside the refrigerator
Hear a noise inside the refrigerator that sounds like a squeak or rattle? It’s probably the circulation fan that pushes air through the freezer and fridge sections of your appliance. The circulation fan is located right behind an access panel on the back of the refrigerator.
“You can make certain this is the problem by pushing in the light switch in the freezer,” says Rogers. If the circulation fan is the culprit, the noise will get louder.
Fan motors can fail in many different ways, but one of the most common (and gross) ways is an animal getting inside the fan and dying. You might not hear any noise since the animal is blocking the fan from running. It might also feel really warm and hot by the fan.
Unfortunately, Rogers says, the only fix for this is to replace the fan.
If it sounds like squealing or a bird chirping
Your fridge shouldn’t sound like a bird or small critter is trapped inside. If you do hear something that sounds like squealing or chirping, it may mean the evaporator fan is malfunctioning.
If something is wrong with the fan, the freezer won’t cool adequately, says Rogers.
The evaporator fan can be accessed by removing the freezer’s contents and looking at the inside panel in the back of the freezer. You’ll need a screwdriver to open it. See if the blade is operating smoothly by spinning it. Check wires and all components for signs of wear and tear, along with grommets.
“If the fan blade doesn’t move freely or there are signs of damage or corrosion on wires or connectors, it may be necessary to replace these parts,” Rogers says.
If it sounds like buzzing or humming
Your light is probably close to going out if you hear an electrical buzzing sound, says Sears home service knowledge author Adrienne Berain-Normann. On some units, you can replace the lights yourself.
If it sounds like knocking
Rogers says a knocking noise is likely a sign that the condenser is failing or the fan motor isn’t working properly. The fan is probably too hot or running too hard.
If a clicking sound is coming from your ice maker
Click, click, click coming from your ice maker could mean that the water line valve is loose or not connected to the water supply. If you recently moved the fridge, a broken connection could stop the ice maker from working.
Noises not to worry about
Keep in mind that not every noise you hear is a sign that something’s amiss. Gurgling, for example, is Freon boiling in the evaporator, which is how it cools the fridge.
“It’s not a noise to be concerned about,” says Rogers.
Also, as a general rule, an older refrigerator will make more noise than a newer unit. A typical refrigerator can last up to 20 years.