Refrigerator Ticking [How to Fix]

There are different reasons you may find your refrigerator ticking. Sometimes, you need to replace a component. But other times, you have to clean the refrigerator. Let’s discuss a ticking refrigerator and how to fix it.

Refrigerator Ticking

Why Is My Refrigerator Making a Ticking Noise?

Below are reasons why your refrigerator is making a ticking noise and solutions to them:

1. Defective Start Relay

The start relay is the part of the refrigerator that supplies power to the compressor. Any time the compressor shuts down and needs to restart, the relay provides the boost of electric power to get it moving. It continues connecting the compressor to power until the motor is smoothly running.

But if the relay becomes defective, the compressor will have a hard time starting. You will hear the ticking or clicking noise as it tries to run but fails. The interval between each sound may last a few seconds or minutes. But it is usually short.

To determine whether or not the relay is defective, disconnect the refrigerator from electric power. Move the unit to create space at the back; that way, you can reach the compressor. The relay is attached to it. Pull it out and shake it. A functional start relay won’t rattle or make any sound. But if it rattles when you shake it, it is likely defective. You may also get a burnt odor from it, and if you do, the relay needs a replacement.

Go a step further and test the relay to check for continuity. Use a multimeter to run the test. You do this to be sure you need a replacement relay. Place the meter’s testers on the start and run terminals and check the reading. You can find the correct reading on the tech sheet taped to the refrigerator. If you see no continuity, replace the start relay.

2. Dusty Condenser Coils

If the condenser coils are a lot dirty, they will cause a heat overload on the compressor. The ticking noise you hear is the compressor shutting down due to the excess heat and trying to restart. Typically, the condenser fan keeps the condenser coils and compressor from overheating. But the fan becomes almost ineffective on the coils if they are significantly dirty.

Therefore, locate the condenser coils on your refrigerator. Some have them at the bottom back, next to the compressor, while others have them behind the bottom front grille. When you find them, inspect them to see if they are dirty. If you have never cleaned since you purchased your refrigerator, there is no need for an inspection; they are dirty. This is especially true if you have hairy pets or live in a dusty area.

If one is handy, you can use a small brush or a condenser coil cleaning brush. Such a brush will do an excellent job of cleaning every speck of dust and other debris on the coils. But if you don’t have the tool, use a vacuum cleaner. It can clean the coils well. Afterward, sweep the debris from around and under the refrigerator before reconnecting it to electric power.

3. Faulty Condenser Fan

As we have already briefly explained, the condenser fan has the job of cooling the condenser coils and compressor. It also blows air over the drip pan to evaporate the condensate water from the defrost cycle. 

The fan is part of the cooling system, so if it becomes faulty, the compressor will overheat. Also, the condenser coils will contribute to the compressor’s heat, even if they are not dirty. As a result, the compressor will shut down to protect itself, creating the ticking noise you hear.

To test the condenser fan, first, clean the blades to remove every debris. Ensure they are clean and have no obstruction. Then, turn the blades; they should spin freely if the fan is in good working condition. If you notice any stiffness in the blades, it may indicate that the motor has worn bearings. But it may also mean that the motor shaft needs oiling.

Add a little penetrating oil to the shaft to eliminate friction. If the blades remain stiff after you oil the shaft, you may have to replace the motor. But before doing that, run a continuity test on the motor using a multimeter. If you find no continuity, replace the condenser fan’s motor.

4. Malfunctioning Defrost Timer

When the timer begins to malfunction, it may tick like a clock. While it may sound dire, a ticking defrost timer is not an issue about which to panic. The refrigerator will continue cooling with such a timer, unlike the other causes of a ticking noise where the refrigerator almost always stops cooling.

Locate the defrost timer in your refrigerator. The location will depend on the brand and model you own. But you will find it either on the bottom kickplate, at the back of the refrigerator, or on the temperature control housing inside the unit. The timer typically has four metal terminals protruding from it.

Take a multimeter and run a continuity test on the timer. If you don’t find continuity, replace the defrost timer.

Check out these other articles…

Refrigerator Compressor Shuts Off [How to Fix]

RV Refrigerator Leaking [Problems Solved]

Refrigerator Leaking [Proven Solutions]

Freezer Not Cooling [Proven Solutions]

Freezer Leaking [Problems & Proven Solutions]

Ice Maker Is Leaking [How to Fix]

Refrigerator Lock [Detailed Guide]

Why Does My Refrigerator Keep Clicking?

There are a few reasons your refrigerator clicks. Actually, the clicking noise is from the compressor as it tries and fails to run. But some faults lead to the compressor making that noise.

1. Dusty Condenser Coils

The location of the coils in the refrigerator makes them easy to get dirty. Dust from around the house, grease from the kitchen, and even shed hair from pets where it applies all contribute to clogging the condenser coils.

The refrigerant flows to the condenser coils from the compressor during the refrigeration process. There, the coils release the heat in the refrigerant into the atmosphere. But if they are dirty, the dirt forms create a barrier that makes it difficult to release the heat. 

Consequently, the heat remains and overloads the compressor. Also, the refrigerator stops cooling, so the compressor has to run more than it should to cool the internal temperature. Thoroughly cleaning the coils will fix the problem if it stems from the condenser coils. You can use a vacuum cleaner or a small brush to clean them.

2. Bad Start Relay

The start relay is a small device fixed to the side of the compressor. It supplies the power that the compressor needs to start and run. But a bad relay cannot provide the required power. As a result, you will hear the compressor trying to resume operations without the relay but failing. After a few seconds or minutes, it may try again. Hence, the clicking you hear.

You can test the functionality of the relay yourself; it is easy to do. Disconnect the refrigerator from electric power and pull it out. You may need a helper if the refrigerator is heavy. Then, find the relay on the compressor and detach it. Gently shake it and listen for a rattle when you do so. If the relay rattles, it is defective, and you should replace it.

However, if the relay does not rattle or the test is unsatisfactory, you can check it for continuity using a multimeter. Run the test between the two terminals on the relay, and if there is no continuity, replace the start relay.

3. Defective Condenser Fan

Your refrigerator may be cooling while making the clicking noise. If that is the case, you still need to find the source of the noise so that it does not cause any lasting damage. And the most probable origin is the condenser fan.

The fan blows air over the condenser coils as they condense the refrigerant to push the hot away and cool them. But if the blades break or bend or the motor fails, the coils will overheat, and the compressor will not run smoothly. The fan’s motor may also make a clicking noise as it unsuccessfully tries to work.

The fan is typically at the bottom back of the refrigerator, where you have the condenser coils. Turn its blades by hand. If they are stiff or you hear the clicking noise, you know you need to replace the fan. You may try fixing the blades if they are bent out of shape, but it does not always work.

However, if the blades are clean and not obstructed, yet they are stiff, the motor’s bearings may be worn. That means the motor needs a replacement. Run a continuity test on the motor using a multimeter. If you find no continuity, consider replacing the fan’s motor.

4. Malfunctioning Compressor

The noise may not come from any other component but the compressor. A bad compressor can generate a clicking noise when it tries hard to start and run but fails. If you have checked other components that are likely to make the noise, yet you still hear it, the compressor may be the culprit.

The best solution is to hire a professional to test the compressor and recommend the next step. In some cases, the only solution to a damaged compressor is a new refrigerator. But if you have a high-end newer model, it is usually more cost-efficient to buy a new compressor.

Bottom Line

A ticking refrigerator is usually not a cause for alarm. The solution to a refrigerator ticking, whether the ticking is coming from inside or outside, is quick and easy. The same applies if the refrigerator is clicking. If the refrigerator is ticking inside, the defrost timer on the control housing is the most probable origin. But if the noise is outside, the compressor or condenser coils are the likely culprits.

Get Instant Help — Ask An Experienced Verified Appliance Technician

Need expert help? Click here to use the chat box on this page to speak with a verified appliance technician right away. No need for expensive in-home service calls. No appointments. No waiting.