Manufacturers design fridges to create cold environments where you can store food safely. Still, your fridge is not supposed to freeze up and collect ice on the back panel of its compartments. So why would that happen?
When you find that your fridge is freezing up the back, it’s likely there’s an air leak around the door letting warm air enter the refrigerator. The same problem can also happen if water freezes in the defrost drain and clogs it. Lastly, the freezing could happen because the defrost system has failed, such as the defrost thermostat or defrost heater.
In this guide, you’ll learn the reasons your fridge is freezing up at the back and what you can do about it.
Why Has My Fridge Got Ice At The Back?
The first issue to consider when there’s ice at the back of your fridge is that there might be an air leak. The same problem will also happen if any part of the defrost system (like the drain, thermostat, or heater) is experiencing a fault.
This section will dive deeper into each possibility and show you how to fix it.
What’s happening: The back of your fridge should not freeze up. But when that happens, don’t start the troubleshooting process by assuming that a faulty component is causing the problem.
Instead, check for an air leak. The compartments in your fridge must stay air-tight at all times. The problem here starts when warm air from the outside leaks into the refrigerator and mixes with the cold air. When that happens, frost will form around the compartment, including the back panel.
As that buildup of frost becomes more severe, it turns into solid ice, which is what you’re seeing at the back of your fridge compartment.
There are two likely reasons why warm air is leaking into your fridge compartment:
- You didn’t close the fridge door fully.
- The door gasket (or ‘seal’) has experienced damage or excessive wear and can’t form a tight seal between the door and the fridge.
How to resolve it: To resolve this problem, carefully inspect the fridge door gasket. If you find tears, rips, or if the gasket is deformed in any way, you must replace it with a new one.
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Replacing a fridge door gasket is very straightforward. Just pull the existing one out and slide the new one into place.
Once you’re sure that the door seal is in excellent shape, you must be more mindful about closing the fridge door. Be sure to push the door shut with just a tiny bit of force, enough to ensure the door forms a tight seal.
Clogged Defrost Drain
What it is: At the back of your refrigerator compartment, there’s a small hole that acts as a defrost drain. That drain provides a way for any water inside the compartment to quickly flow out of the fridge.
The defrost drain is also a crucial part of the fridge’s auto-defrost feature, which runs one or more times a day. When the refrigerator automatically melts any ice or frost buildups, the water from that process needs to flow away through the defrost drain.
What’s happening: A common problem for fridges is that ice builds up inside the defrost drain and clogs it. That’s because the water that flows into the drain is typically close to freezing and can quickly turn to ice.
To make matters worse, defrost drains in fridges do not come with heating elements to prevent freezing.
So when ice clogs the defrost drain and goes unnoticed, the buildup will continue growing. You’ll start to notice it when the back of the fridge starts freezing, particularly at the bottom sections of the rear panel.
How to resolve it: The most effective way to clear a clogged defrost drain is to melt the ice using hot water. It’s best to slowly pour hot water on the drain with a turkey baster or something similar.
Once enough ice melts, water will flow through the defrost drain normally again.
Failed Defrost System
What it is: As you’ve seen above, your fridge has a defrost system that melts away ice and frost at least once a day. Two of the most crucial parts of that system are the defrost thermostat or defrost heater.
- Defrost Thermostat: The thermostat continually senses the temperature at the back of the fridge. It will trigger the defrost system to turn on when it senses that the back is too cold because of a frost or ice buildup. That’s done to melt away the frost or ice buildup before it becomes too severe.
- Defrost Heater: When the defrost system turns on, it’ll power a heating element to melt away the frost and ice buildup. You can find the heating element behind the compartment’s rear panel.
What’s happening: When the back of the fridge freezes up, it’s likely because the defrost system isn’t working as it should. So, without regular defrosting, the buildup of frost and ice continues to become worse each day.
The reason that happens is that either the thermostat is faulty or the heater isn’t working. A failed thermostat will prevent the defrost system from turning the heater on.
On the other hand, a heater that doesn’t work won’t melt anything away.
How to resolve it: The solution here is to replace the thermostat or heater, depending on which one has failed. Unfortunately, neither of these parts is repairable. So, taking them out and putting a new one in is the only solution.
To do that, you must first empty the fridge compartment and attempt to remove the rear panel. That can be quite challenging if the back is already covered in ice. So, you will have to carefully chip away at the ice or melt it using hot water.
Once you take the panel off, you’ll have clear access to the defrost thermostat and heater. All you’d have to do at that point is remove the affected part and reinstall a new one in its place.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are a few additional questions that you might have when troubleshooting a fridge that’s freezing up at the back:
Should A Fridge Have Ice On The Back Wall?
No, there is absolutely no reason for a fridge to have ice on its back wall. Most fridges on the market today have auto-defrost functions that regularly melt any ice or frost buildups. As long as those functions are working correctly, any frost will melt away before turning to ice.
Why Does My Fridge Ice Up On The Back Wall?
Your fridge has ice up on the back wall because its auto-defrost function is not working correctly. As a result, frost builds up on the back wall whenever warm air enters the compartment. The frost buildup will solidify into ice that sticks to the back wall if left unchecked.
How Do I Get Ice Off The Back Of My Fridge?
You can remove the ice by gently tapping on it with a spatula or something similar. If the ice buildup is too solid, you’ll have to gradually melt it away. You can do that by defrosting the fridge manually or gradually pouring hot water on the ice.
How Long Does It Take To Manually Defrost A Refrigerator?
You will need at least 8 hours to defrost a fridge manually by shutting it off and keeping the compartment door open. You can speed the process up by pointing a fan at the open fridge to increase airflow.
Can I Defrost My Fridge Without Turning It Off?
Yes, there are several ways you can defrost your fridge without turning it off. For example, you can force the fridge to go into defrost mode. Check the user manual to find the exact steps that apply to your fridge brand and model.
Besides that, you can defrost it by leaving a pot of hot water inside the fridge compartment. The heat from the pot will melt any frost or ice buildups in the fridge compartment.