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Old 08-10-2011, 05:41 PM
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Will a refrigerator work if either fan goes out? Need Answer Fast

I'm trying to decide if it's time to get a repairman over here.

Saturday night one of the fans in my Whirlpool refrigerator started making a terrible shrill noise. At midnight. We had to get out earplugs to sleep. I thought then that I'd have to call the repair guy Monday. I didn't unplug the refrigerator because I have too much stuff in the freezer to ruin. I didn't get up to see which fan was making the noise either. I was too busy trying to sleep.

We got back from church Sunday and the refrigerator was running normal. No fan noise.

Now I'm wondering if the fan burned out. I can hear the one in the freezer running. So, it's the fan down by the compressor that I'm worried about.

If that fan is burned out. Will the refrigerator still cool? Right now, mine is cold as it ever was. Everything is frozen in the freezer.

I know the repairman is lurking in my future. But, I hate to bring him out if the refrigerator is working ok. How will he know which fan was making the noise? Should I wait until the fan is loud again and then call?

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-10-2011 at 05:45 PM.
Old 08-10-2011, 05:49 PM
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One fan cools the compressor; the other, inside the box, circulates the cold air throughout the refrigerator and freezer compartments. Replacing either of these is relatively inexpensive. (Note I said relatively - local repair costs vary greatly.)

If the circulating fan burned out you will soon notice that either the freezer or the refrigerator compartment no longer maintains proper temperature. If the compressor cooling fan burned out you may not notice any difference -- until the overheated compressor burns out. Then the box will not cool at all, and the repair will be very, very expensive. Probably more so than replacing the appliance.

And I guarantee if it happens it will be at the beginning of a long holiday weekend. Especially if you are about to leave on a trip.

Given your description, I would run, not walk, to my phone and call for service ASAP. YMMV.

Last edited by CannyDan; 08-10-2011 at 05:50 PM. Reason: semicolon
Old 08-10-2011, 05:57 PM
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The entire refrigerator will be warm if the circulation fan stops. My circulation fan made a lot of noise before it stopped completely.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 08-10-2011 at 05:59 PM.
Old 08-10-2011, 05:58 PM
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Damaging my compressor is what I'm most afraid will happen.

If it wasn't cooling I'd quickly unplug it. Since it's cooling I thought maybe the compressor fan was running.

I just called the service place. Maybe he can still tell which fan is going bad. There might be burnt oil on the shaft or it may wobble if the bearings are shot.

Looks like I'll be writing a check tomorrow. <sigh>

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-10-2011 at 06:00 PM.
Old 08-10-2011, 06:05 PM
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Forgot to mention...

I worked on computers servicing and building them for years and years. When one of the fans went out, they'd make that same loud noise. I used to stop the fan with my finger and isolate which one in the computer case was bad. These were 12 volt and they didn't hurt my finger. I wouldn't try this on a 120V refrigerator fan. That mistake would probably cost someone a broken finger or worse.

Anyhow, I know the sound of a bad fan all too well. Murphy's law tells us it will go bad at midnight, on a weekend.

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-10-2011 at 06:07 PM.
Old 08-10-2011, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord View Post
The entire refrigerator will be warm if the circulation fan stops. My circulation fan made a lot of noise before it stopped completely.
Which is why I suspect this isn't his problem.
Old 08-10-2011, 07:16 PM
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The circulation fan seems fine. I can hear it running when I open the freezer and see the grill opening.

It's the other fan underneath the fridge by the compressor. I can't tell if it's running. I don't want to crawl on the floor trying to look under there. My back can't take that sort of abuse right now..

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-10-2011 at 07:16 PM.
Old 08-10-2011, 07:23 PM
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the frig will still work if the coil cooling fan stops though it will work harder and could shorten compressor life.

pull the fridge out. take the louvered grill off the front and back. leave it out away from the wall a foot or two. if you have some fans then place a small fan(s) on the floor in the rear blowing air in the direction the ailing fan does.
Old 08-12-2011, 08:50 PM
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Got the fridge fixed today.

He bumped the fan at top with his hand and it started the noise. So that was the one that got replaced. It's the evaporator fan.

Could have done it myself if I'd known how easy. 4 screws removes the entire back panel of the freezer. Then a couple screws held the fan. He had a little trouble plugging in the new fan. The connector wire was pretty short and hard to grab.

$69 for the Whirlpool replacement fan and $55 labor. That's still a lot better than $900 for a new fridge.

I asked about the fan by the compressor (the condenser fan) he said those almost never fail. It's usually the evaporator fan. That's good to know.

Last edited by aceplace57; 08-12-2011 at 08:53 PM.
Old 08-12-2011, 11:43 PM
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Glad it all worked out for you. Thanks for the update.
Old 11-03-2016, 08:50 AM
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So what does this mean in real terms?

One of the previous comments was that if the circulating fan (which I think is what we are now calling the evaporator fan) had gone out, then neither compartment would have been cooled. Yet the original poster said that both compartments were being kept quite cool after one of the fans gave out. Or did it? It sounds like the repair guy might have shown up to a refrig where the circulating fan was actually working but was on the verge of failing and a mere bump was able to set it off kilter again. Or is it possible for a fridge/ freezer to be able to keep cool for a period of time (days?) without a circulating fan working? What is the real story here? Anyone know?
Old 11-03-2016, 11:17 PM
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Fans act strange when they start going bad. I had a bum fan in my window A/C that would shriek like a banchee when starting up cold and would barely move. After some minutes (longer if it was cooler outside) it would suddenly snap out of it and work perfectly fine. I assume it was a problem with the bearings and/or balance of the commutator. Computer fans can develop weird vibrations and hums too, sometimes only at certain speeds, so it can be hard to isolate.
Old 11-05-2016, 12:06 AM
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Most refrigerators today don't have any cooling coils in the "refrigerator" part of the box, instead having them in the "freezer" section. A circulating fan draws heat from the larger compartment to be removed by those coils in the freezer area.

(By definition the part of a system like this or an air conditioner where liquid refrigerant {"freon"} expands into a gas and thus captures heat is the evaporator. So the fan in that location can be called the 'evaporator fan'. Calling it a 'circulating fan' is descriptive. The part of the system where a special machine compresses the refrigerant back to liquid form, and radiates away the heat collected in the evaporator stage, is called the condenser, and the fan that cools this pump and the heat radiator is called the 'condenser fan'.)

The box would not have functioned normally if the evaporator fan had died. The freezer would have frozen up, but the refrigerator would have been warm, or cool near the circulation vent and warm elsewhere. So apparently the fan had given notice of its eminent demise, but actually continued working until the repairman arrived. Nice of it to do so!
Old 11-08-2016, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CannyDan View Post
Most refrigerators today don't have any cooling coils in the "refrigerator" part of the box, instead having them in the "freezer" section. A circulating fan draws heat from the larger compartment to be removed by those coils in the freezer area.

(By definition the part of a system like this or an air conditioner where liquid refrigerant {"freon"} expands into a gas and thus captures heat is the evaporator. So the fan in that location can be called the 'evaporator fan'. Calling it a 'circulating fan' is descriptive. The part of the system where a special machine compresses the refrigerant back to liquid form, and radiates away the heat collected in the evaporator stage, is called the condenser, and the fan that cools this pump and the heat radiator is called the 'condenser fan'.)

The box would not have functioned normally if the evaporator fan had died. The freezer would have frozen up, but the refrigerator would have been warm, or cool near the circulation vent and warm elsewhere. So apparently the fan had given notice of its eminent demise, but actually continued working until the repairman arrived. Nice of it to do so!

To expand on this a refrigerator or A/C system work on changes of state. From a gas to a liquid and from a liquid to a gas.
The compressor compresses the refrigerant into a hot gas. The condenser blows air across it removing heat and condenses it to a hot liquid. This high pressure liquid undergoes a pressure drop via some type of metering orifice.
You now have a cold liquid. Warm air is blown over the evaporator which removes the heat from that air and boils the refrigerant (evaporates it) to a cool gas.
The cool gas then heads back to the compressor and the cycle starts again.
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Old 11-08-2016, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KDS444 View Post
One of the previous comments was that if the circulating fan (which I think is what we are now calling the evaporator fan) had gone out, then neither compartment would have been cooled. Yet the original poster said that both compartments were being kept quite cool after one of the fans gave out. Or did it? It sounds like the repair guy might have shown up to a refrig where the circulating fan was actually working but was on the verge of failing and a mere bump was able to set it off kilter again. Or is it possible for a fridge/ freezer to be able to keep cool for a period of time (days?) without a circulating fan working? What is the real story here? Anyone know?
My fridge has 2 fans (possibly 3) for the box. One for the freezer and one for the fridge (and I think a third for the ice maker). I'm going to guess either that was the case or the fan was working intermittently. If you only have one fan and it stops, you aren't going to make it days without any issues. Your freezer may survive but the fridge will warm up for sure. In fact, I'm going to wager a guess that the freezer fan died and the fan that sends air up/over to the fridge was still okay.
The thing is, if no air moves over the evap coils they'll turn into a solid block of ice which which will A)give you little to no cooling and B) you'll notice the compressor running almost non stop.

Also to second john from upthread, if the condenser fan dies, putting a regular fan on the coils is a perfectly acceptable way to buy yourself some time. And while you're there, clean them because, well, you're there and also, the second you turn that fan on you're going to blow all the dust that's in that space all over your kitchen, it's going to be a huge mess.
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