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Ice Build-up

There are a number of simple solutions to fix ice build-up in a refrigerator that any layman can do, such as not leaving the door open, ensuring that the door seal is airtight, keeping the unit level so that the door remains closed, and setting the right temperature. If these simple solutions don’t fix the problem, you can likely find the cause and then call in a professional.

Photograph of an frosted over freezer

Ice build-up is caused by a change in your refrigerator’s temperature. The recommended temperature range is between 34°F and 40°F. If the temperature inside the fridge is dropping below 34°F, it will be cold enough for ice to form.

Two possible causes and solutions to ice build-up involve the airflow and the heater and thermostat.


A refrigerator completely relies on proper air flow in order to function. Sometimes items can fall and cover the vents inside the box restricting the airflow. Check to make sure that all vents are properly open. If they are, inspect the circulation fan on the back of the unit to make sure it is working. The fan should come on when the temperature in the box rises. If after a few minutes it doesn’t turn on when the door is open, it’s likely faulty and will need to be replaced.

Heater and thermostat

If the problem isn’t caused by airflow restriction or a faulty fan, it is likely caused by a fault in one the defrost system elements. You will need a multimeter to check to see if they are functioning. If you don’t have training in electrics – STOP HERE! Don’t ever work on electrical issues if you don’t know how. Assuming you do, first, unplug your fridge. Next, look for the removable cover on the back of the unit that contains the main computer board. Once removed, you will see a blue plug marked “defrost” or “J9” and a white plug directly next to it. Unplug both and place one end of your multimeter into the center of the defroster plug and the other end on the pin with the orange wire on the white plug. You should get continuous ~20 ohms. If not, one or both of the elements are faulty and will need to be replaced. For an ice build-up issue, nine out of ten times it will be the heater.

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