Like most people who own a fridge, you’re likely quite familiar with one or more components that keep the appliance running. However, many people forget that there’s one part that controls everything from behind the scenes. That part is the main control board.
The main control board is like your fridge’s brain, controlling the appliance’s components and functions. When the board goes bad, the fridge will experience problems with cooling, defrosting, and the water dispenser and ice maker. Besides that, the board itself might have burnt smells or signs, while its parts lack electrical continuity.
The main control board in your fridge can be quite challenging to understand and diagnose. This guide will help you explore what the board is, how it works, and 6 signs that the board has gone bad.
What Does A Refrigerator Main Control Board Do?
Let’s begin by understanding what a refrigerator control board is and what it does.
Most people see the main control board as the brain of your refrigerator. That’s because it’s a component responsible for controlling all of the appliance’s functions.
From a technical perspective, the main control board is a type of printed circuit board (PCB). It’s a board with plenty of electrical and electronic components like:
- And more
Together, these components control the flow of electrical current and signals to the fridge’s other parts, like its compressor, fans, motors, and more.
As you can see, the main control board is connected to all fridge components and controls each of its functions.
Unfortunately, that means the fridge will experience malfunctions and function incorrectly if the control board was to develop any faults.
Dealing with a faulty main control board can be quite frustrating and challenging. Firstly, it’s not a serviceable part, so you can’t get it repaired once it’s damaged. Secondly, the control board is also one of the most expensive fridge parts to replace.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Control Board In A Refrigerator?
A problematic control board can cause many different problems for your refrigerator. Some of those problems are more obvious, while others will require you to inspect the control board up close.
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Here are 6 signs that your refrigerator has a bad control board:
#1 Cooling Problems
The first and most common symptom of a bad control board is that there’s a problem with the fridge’s cooling.
For example, your fridge might:
- Cool down excessively, even beyond the temperature you’ve set
- Fail to cool down, leaving you with a warm fridge
- Have other erratic cooling behaviors, like intermittent cooling or only cooling one compartment but not the other
These problems happen because one or more components on the control board suffer damage, particularly those controlling the fridge’s cooling system.
As a result, the fridge has problems producing cold air or accurately measuring the fridge’s internal temperature.
#2 Automatic Defrosting Issues
The second sign of a faulty fridge control board is an excessive buildup of ice and frost inside the appliance, caused by problems with the automatic defrosting feature.
Most modern refrigerators have an automatic defrosting feature that runs one or more times a day every few hours.
When the automatic defrosting cycle begins, the fridge pauses cooling and turns on the built-in defrost heater. That will continue for a set period to melt away any ice or frost buildup inside your fridge’s compartments and on the inside panels.
That defrosting cycle is crucial because it prevents cooling problems and ice buildups inside the refrigerator compartment.
However, a faulty control board will affect that automatic defrosting feature in one of two ways:
- The automatic defrosting cycle does not run when it should, or
- The automatic defrosting cycle does not run long enough, failing to melt all the ice or frost in your refrigerator.
Even though the fridge will continue cooling down normally, these auto defrost issues will later lead to more significant problems.
#3 Ice Maker and Water Dispenser Problems
Many refrigerator brands and models now have built-in ice makers and water dispensers. These additional features mean that the fridge has additional components, which are also controlled by the main control board.
So, a problematic main control board can also cause problems with these parts, like no ice from the ice maker or no water coming out of the dispenser.
#4 No Electrical Continuity
Signs #1-#3 listed above are based on changes in the fridge’s functionality. However, you can also look for symptoms by directly removing and testing the control board with a multimeter.
Remember: before handling the main control board in your fridge, you must disconnect it from the power supply. That way, you reduce any risk of injury and prevent electrocution.
Once you remove the main control board, you can use a multimeter to check for electrical continuity in the board’s components.
Normally, those components should have electrical continuity. However, a lack of continuity is a telltale sign that the refrigerator control board is bad.
When there is no electrical continuity, electrical power and signals are not flowing through the main control board as they should be.
As a result, the board can’t function correctly.
#5 Smells and Visual Signs
Besides a lack of electrical continuity, burn signs are also telltale symptoms of a bad control board.
For example, you might find that one or more components on the main control board have clearly burned. At the same time, you might also find burnt smells coming directly from the main control board.
These burns typically happen when the main control board experiences electrical faults like short circuits and electrical surges.
Those faults will damage one or more components on the board, leading to problems with the fridge’s components and features.
#6 Total Failure
Last but not least, a telltale sign of a bad control board is that the fridge no longer functions at all.
Remember: the components on the control board coordinate the fridge’s functions by sending electrical signals and power to them.
So, when the control board no longer works, none of the fridge’s components can function. As a result, the refrigerator will not turn on, nor will it cool down.
Here are a few more questions and answers to help you understand your refrigerator’s control board:
How Do You Test A Refrigerator Control Board?
You can test a refrigerator control board by using a multimeter. With the multimeter, you can perform electrical continuity and voltage tests on the control board to see if it’s still functioning correctly.
Can You Fix A Fridge Control Board?
Yes, it’s possible to fix a fridge control board that’s suffered damage or gone bad. However, it’s typically not the most practical solution for typical appliance owners. Instead, the more practical solution would be to replace it with a new control board as it’s quicker with a much lower chance of malfunctioning.
How Do You Reset A Refrigerator Control Board?
You can reset a refrigerator control board through power cycling. First, disconnect the fridge from its power source and leave it alone for 5 minutes. During that time, any retained electricity in the main control board will dissipate naturally. That will reset the fridge’s memory when you turn it back on.
Where Is The Fridge Main Control Board?
The exact location of the fridge’s main control board differs between brands and models. However, you’ll usually find it in a separate compartment at the back of the refrigerator. You will need to remove the access panel that covers it to access the board. For more information, please refer to your refrigerator user manual to locate the board.
How Do You Replace A Refrigerator Control Board?
To replace a refrigerator control board, you must first remove the panel that conceals it. Then, disconnect all the electrical connectors and wire harnesses attached to it. That will free up the board to remove it from the compartment. Then, put the new board in its place and reattach the connectors the same way as before.