Okay, so your refrigerator’s alarm is going off.  By alarm, it’s usually a beeping or chiming sound that happens in either monotone or staccato rhythms every 15 – 30 seconds or so.  It depends on the brand and model, of course.

Anyway, you won’t mistake it for anything else and you’ll know exactly where it’s coming from.  It’s not like a pesky smoke detector chirping somewhere in the home that you can’t seem to find (and when you do find it, for some reason, it’s a smoke detector you never knew you had or was located wherever you found it).

But just because you know where the alarm is coming from doesn’t mean you know why it’s going off.  You want to figure that out as quickly as you can because if your fridge is like a lot, an unanswered alarm can cause the refrigerator to shut itself down.

Not shut itself down because it’s damaged, but to prevent damage.  The alarm is there for a reason and it’s to protect the operational integrity of the machine.

So, let’s look at some reasons why that alarm might be going off and see if one of them is the solution to your issue.

#1 Your Refrigerator is Too Full

This is an easy one to check and solve, if this is the ultimate issue.

Go ahead and open that refrigerator door and take a long, hard stare inside.  Is it too full?  Are there way too many things in there that may be keeping you from closing the door completely?  Are there perishable items that have been pushed toward the back and forgotten since the Financial Crisis of 2008?

the fridge is full
If the issue tends to happen after your weekly shop, overfilling could be the problem.

You get the point.

The simple thing that may be causing the alarm on your fridge to go off is simply that your fridge is overstuffed.  It’s tapping out like a fighter in a mixed martial arts match.  If a fridge’s door can’t shut completely, it will sound an alarm letting you know it’s not in a position to do its job.

The fix: clean out the fridge.  Or at least rearrange items so that the door can close and seal.

Look for bulky items overhanging on shelves that interfere with the door closing.  This is especially true where items on shelves may butt up against door bins when the door is shut.

Also, take a look at those door bins and see if there’s anything like a tall ketchup bottle or jar of pickles that may be jammed into a position that would affect the door’s proper closing.  You know.  That one bottle jammed in there at an odd angle that looks like someone through it into the bin like a javelin.  Fix that.

Once you’re all done with that, close the door and see if the alarm clears.

#2 Your Refrigerator has a Power Issue

The words “power issue” can be a bit misleading, but it doesn’t mean they’re not true.  Some refrigerators will sound an alarm when they need to be reset.  This usually happens if there’s been a power surge or a power outage to the refrigerator.

Think of the alarm as an indicator more than a dire warning at this point.  In fact, the refrigerator may be cooling like it normally would.  However, there may be certain functions that have been either turned off or reduced in capacity as a result of the “reset” requirement.  It’s like a built-in safety feature.  Hence, the alarm.

Functions that may be reduced from normal operating capability include your water and ice dispenser.

To silence the alarm, consult your owner’s manual on the requirement to reset your refrigerator.  For some models, this may be as simple as unplugging and plugging the fridge back into the outlet.  For others, there may be a few buttons you have to push simultaneously to reset your appliance.  Again, consult the manual.

Don’t have the manual to hand? Try Googling your refrigerators brand, model, and “manual PDF” to find an online copy.

#3 Your Refrigerator Door is Out of Alignment

A refrigerator door that is out of normal alignment may cause it to not shut completely or shut in a way that a natural seal doesn’t form as designed.  As a result, the refrigerator will be working harder to keep things cold, which will often result in an alarm letting you know it’s working hard to keep things cold and something is wrong.

Or something is out of alignment.  Namely, a door.

The older refrigerators get, the more wear and tear their interiors and exteriors go through.  The most common item to go through everyday wear and tear is the door, of course.  It requires no electrical power to open or close, just the physical contact and strength of the individual opening it.

Now most people open doors like normal people.  However, kids can be tough on fridge doors.  Not on purpose, of course.  They just tend to be a little rougher, especially closing them.

That’s not to say you can blame your kid or kids for the alarm (or their friends).  And if you have zero children, well, let’s just say every refrigerator door experiences a certain degree of everyday manipulation that may affect its alignment over time.

So, the tip here is to check your door alignments.  Both the horizontal and vertical alignments.  This can be done with a simple torpedo level to check to see if the door is square, plum, and, well, level.  

You can also just step a few feet away and look at the door.  Does it look crooked or out of whack in some fashion?  This is very noticeable with French door refrigerators, i.e., one door appears to be more crooked or sitting higher than the other.

Consult your owner’s manual on how to adjust your fridge’s door(s) alignment.

#4 Your Refrigerator is Not Level

This issue is exactly what it sounds like.  If your refrigerator is not level, your doors will often be out of balance and will not shut correctly.

This does not mean you have to adjust the alignment of the doors, as noted in the last tip.  Instead, you’ll need to adjust the balance and alignment of the entire fridge.

If this sounds daunting, it isn’t.  It usually just requires adjusting the footers of the fridge a little bit at a time.  You’ll adjust, check the level, adjust, check the level, and so on and so on.

Before you know it, the fridge will be level as it should be.  And hopefully, the alarm should be silent like it should be.

#5 Your Refrigerator Drawers Are Not Shutting Completely

If you have a refrigerator door with a middle drawer or a bottom drawer freezer, check to make sure they’re shutting completely.  If they are, it may be due to a loading issue where they’re just too full.

checking refrigerator drawers
Check your fridges drawers for obstruction

Or perhaps there is an obstruction in the drawer that’s preventing them from closing appropriately.  This is very true for middle drawers if you’ve tried to put containers that may be just a little too tall in them.  You’ll usually know this is true if you put one of those plastic clamshell containers of strawberries in the drawer.  If you hear plastic crinkling as you close the drawer, you know the container is too tall.

Lastly, check your drawer slides.  Over time, the grease or lubrication on the slides will wear off.  As a result, the drawers will become stiffer and stiffer to open and close.  They may just need a little TLC.

#6 Your Refrigerator has a Seal Problem

Just as an improperly shut door fails to form a natural seal with the fridge’s main body, so will poor gaskets.  Here, you want to check the rubber gasket that forms the seal for your fridge for damage.

The type of damage you’re looking for includes tears, slices, chunks missing, areas where the gasket is just flat and has no spring to it anymore, and curves where the gasket material should be nice and straight.  Any one or more of these types of issues can lead to poor and incomplete sealing when the fridge’s door is shut, leading to an alarm.

The fix here is often just replacing the gasket completely.

#7 Your Refrigerator Alarm has a Problem

So, you’ve tried all the tips above and still have an alarm going off?  Well, at this point you may just have a faulty alarm.

Alarms are part of an electronic system.  If something within the electrical system is faulty, you may get an alarm even when there’s nothing mechanically wrong with the operation of the fridge itself.

a refrigerator technician
Call a professional technician to run a diagnostic test on the fridge

This usually requires calling in a refrigerator technician to do a full diagnostic test.  But don’t beat yourself up.  Not every issue has a simple solution.

Conclusion

A refrigerator alarm going off can be an annoying and frustrating thing to deal with.  However, there is a reason it’s going off.  Usually, the reason is simple or even fairly obvious.  You may be able to silence it by just doing some simple troubleshooting.  But sometimes, you may need to call for professional help.

Whatever is the fix, just remember the alarm is there for a reason other than to be annoying.  And there are things you can do to silence and even prevent that alarm from going off in the future.