My Refrigerator Door Was Left Open and There Is a Motor Smell

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An overstuffed refrigerator may prevent its door from closing, as can a faulty seal. A refrigerator that is left open will struggle to keep a constant temperature going. If you notice a motor smell from the inside or the back of the refrigerator -- maybe even in the freezer -- the refrigerator may be damaged. Perform a few tests to determine whether you have burnt out the motor of your refrigerator.

How it Works

  • Your refrigerator uses a thermostat to maintain a consistent temperature. When the door is left open, the condenser motor will continue running until the correct temperature is met. As the condenser creates cold air, it escapes from the open door. Eventually, the condenser will overheat, causing a motor smell to rise from the condenser unit. If you smell burning instead or hear a loud noise, it may be the condenser fan that has burnt out.

Condenser Fan

  • The condenser fan is located behind the back panel of the freezer unit. As the condenser creates cold air, the fan runs to disperse it through the freezer and refrigerator unit. The fan will continue running if the condenser continues creating cold air. A burnt-out fan may run with a loud noise or a burning smell. Replacement is the only option.

Removing the Fan

  • Remove the screws from the back panel on the inside of the freezer to access the condenser fan. Remove the screws from the fan cover and the fan body to disconnect it from the freezer. Pull on the wire connectors to unplug the fan. Replacement of the fan requires reversing the directions.

Testing the Compressor Motor

  • The compressor motor needs to be tested if you smell a bad motor smell. Unplug the refrigerator from the outlet and pull the refrigerator out from the wall. Remove the cover from the electrical terminal connected to the compressor. If you notice a capacitor in the refrigerator, either discharge it or call out a service technician. The capacitor holds a charge even when unplugged. Pull the compressor relay, which looks like wound copper, from the capacitor. Set a multimeter to the X1 setting and insert a probe into each terminal of the compressor motor. You should get a reading of zero ohms. If you get any other reading, the motor is burnt out and needs to be replaced.

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  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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