Freezer Giving Off A Burning Smell? This Could Be Why

Freezer giving off a burning smell

Wondering why your freezer smells like burning?

I know, a freezer burning smell can be concerning due to the electrical and fire hazards it can imply.

But don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place to fix the issue.

If your freezer is giving off a burning smell, it’s probably new, there’s a power issue, or the defrost heater is malfunctioning. A broken condenser fan, dirty coils, or faulty compressor could also explain the problem.

Keep reading to learn how to eliminate the burning smell from freezers!

Why trust us? This article was written by Craig Anderson and Andy Fulenchek.

Craig has helped thousands of other homeowners repair their appliances since 2016.

Andy is one of our resident appliance repair experts with over a decade of experience. He currently runs his appliance repair company with a team of trusted technicians.

What to Do if Your Freezer Smells Like Burning: 6 Simple Steps

In this section, I’ll guide you through the different reasons that can explain the freezer burning smell and provide various solutions.

If your freezer is giving off a burning smell, it’s crucial to unplug the unit and address the issue immediatly, as it can be dangerous and lead to a fire hazard.

#1 If Your Freezer is New, Please Wait

If your freezer smells like burning plastic and you recently bought it, there’s probably nothing wrong with it.

New freezers can give a burning smell due to the materials used in their manufacture and storage.

Why does your new freezer smell like burning
New freezers can smell like burning due to manufacturing residue

Additionally, the first time you use your freezer, the compressor has to run longer than usual to lower the internal temperature. As a result, it generates a lot of heat, which could also explain the burning smell from freezers.

So, if your freezer is new, try waiting a couple of days until the smell disappears. You can get rid of the odor faster by cleaning your appliance with equal parts of vinegar and water.

Then, I recommend placing an open box of baking soda in your freezer, as it can absorb bad odors.

But if the freezer burning smell persists, please keep reading.

#2 Check for Power Issues

I tend to find that when a freezer gives off a burning smell, it’s typically due to power issues.

First, check the plug for sufficient power. If the interior lights are on, the power supply is likely good. You can also plug in a different item, such as a lamp, to test it. However, if the power outlet is faulty, it could cause a burning smell. In such cases, you should call an electrician.

Now, let’s inspect your freezer’s power cord, as sometimes keeping it tangled or pressed at a weird angle against the wall could be enough to damage it and cause a burning smell. It’s also common for rodents like mice to chew through the cords.

To check the cord, please turn off your freezer at the circuit breaker, so you can safely unplug it from the wall outlet. If you notice any signs of damage, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

You can also use a meter to check the integrity of the cord!

Freezer power cord
If your freezer’s power cord is damaged, you’ll need to replace it

Here’s how to replace your freezer’s power cord:

  1. Keep the freezer turned off at the circuit breaker and unplug the damaged power cord.
  2. Move your freezer so you can access the power cord. If it’s too heavy, please ask a friend for help.
  3. Remove the panel located on the lower rear of your appliance. You’ll need a screwdriver.
  4. Disconnect the power cord wire harness and remove the screws holding the grounding wire and the old power cord in place.
  5. Carefully pull out the old cord.
  6. Transfer the retainer from the old cord to the new one and connect the new power cord.

Bear in mind that the process of replacing a power cord can vary depending on the model and brand you own. If you don’t feel comfortable replacing the power cord, please call a professional.

You should never plug your freezer into an extension cord, since it can draw more electricity than an extension cord can take and burn it.

#3 Clean the Condenser Coils

If your freezer smells like burning, checking the condenser coils is crucial.

The condenser coils dissipate heat. So, if they are very dusty, your freezer can give off a burning smell and experience temperature issues.

Condenser coils
If you notice a freezer burning smell, clean the condenser coils

You’ll need to clean the condenser coils to get rid of the burning smell. Follow this quick guide to do it:

  1. Unplug your freezer from the wall outlet.
  2. Locate the condenser coils. They’re typically located across the bottom or on the back, but please check your manual.
  3. Access the condenser coils and use a flashlight to look at them.
  4. Use a narrow vacuum attachment or soft brush to vacuum any dust.
  5. Wipe the protective front cover with a damp cloth and let dry.
  6. Move the freezer back into its place.

Try cleaning your freezer condenser coils at least once a year to prevent the burning smell from reappearing.

#4 Check the Condenser Fan

From what I’ve seen, a burnt-out condenser fan motor can also explain why your freezer gives off a burning smell.

You see, during the refrigeration cycle, a coolant flows through the condenser coils, transforming into a liquid state. Since the coils remove heat from the coolant until condensed, they dissipate heat on the back of your appliance.

Then, the condenser fan draws in air to cool the condenser coils and compressor to prevent heat buildup.

Unfortunately, the condenser fan motor can burn out and smell, especially if obstructed.

Here’s how to check the condenser fan:

  1. Unplug your freezer from the wall outlet or turn it off at the circuit breaker.
  2. Move your freezer and locate the condenser fan. It is usually located behind the bottom rear compartment cover or below the appliance, but please check your manual.
  3. Remove the panel covering the condenser fan.
  4. Check if any obstructions keep the blades from turning, or use a multimeter to see if the motor receives the indicated voltage.

If you notice that the condenser fan is not working, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

Tip: It’s also important to check the evaporator fan (typically located inside the freezer compartment). If it gets obstructed due to ice buildup, it can overheat and emit a burning smell.

#5 Check the Defrost Heater

In my experience, other internal parts, such as the defrost heater, can cause a burning smell in your freezer.

The defrost heater is responsible for periodically melting the frost that accumulates in the evaporator coils. Unfortunately, it can cause a burning smell if it’s faulty or comes into contact with foreign objects.

To check the defrost heater, you’ll need to:

  1. Unplug your freezer from the wall outlet or turn it off at the circuit breaker.
  2. Locate the defrost heater. It’s typically beneath the evaporator coils, but please check your manual for further instructions.
  3. Remove the panel covering the heater and evaporator coils.
  4. Check if something that shouldn’t be there has come into contact with the defrost heater.
  5. Carefully disconnect the wires attached to the defrost heater.
  6. Set your multimeter to the Rx1 setting and place the probes on each of the heater’s terminals. If the multimeter reads zero or infinite, you must replace the heater.

If you want to get any replacement part – or see how much one would cost – click to enter your model number in the search bar below. Our partners at AppliancePartsPros stock almost every part with free guides on how to install them.

#6 Check the Compressor

If you’ve tried the five fixes above, but your freezer still gives off a burning smell, you’ll need to check the compressor.

The compressor is one of the most important components of your freezer, as it is responsible for increasing the pressure and temperature of the coolant. It acts as a pump that circulates the coolant through your freezer system.

While a failing compressor is sealed and typically doesn’t cause a smell, the relays on its outside can burn, resulting in an unpleasant smell.

In such cases, you’ll need to check if your freezer is still under warranty and call a technician, as repairing compressor issues can be challenging.

Does Your Freezer Still Smell Like Burning?

If you’ve tried the fixes above, but your freezer still has a burning smell, you’ll need to check other components.

Inside your freezer, several components could be responsible for a burning smell if they malfunction.

For instance, the wiring for the lights or door switches can short out. Other electrically-driven parts, such as the ice maker or damper door motors, could also explain the burning smell.

In such cases, I usually advise checking if the freezer is still under warranty and calling a professional. A technician has the knowledge and tools to diagnose the problem accurately, saving you time while ensuring your safety.

How to Check if Your Freezer Is Under Warranty

If you notice a burning smell, it’s important to determine if your freezer is still under warranty, especially since certain components, such as the compressor, can be very expensive to replace.

If you purchased your freezer a year ago, it’s probably still under warranty. But please verify this by checking the documents you received when you bought the freezer.

However, if you don’t have these documents, you’ll need to search for them on the manufacturer’s website. You can also ask the retailer; they normally save the warranty information.

Wrapping Up: Addressing Freezer Burning Smells

Hopefully, now you know how to eliminate your freezer’s burning smell.

Remember, if your freezer is new, it can give off a burning smell. However, if it’s not new or the smell doesn’t wear off, don’t forget to check the power cord, defrost heater, compressor fan, and coils.

Thank you so much for reading this guide. If you found it helpful, please check out our related articles below.

Good luck!

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more