Fridge Smells Like Burning? You Might Have Some Work To Do

Refrigerator smells like burning

Does your fridge smell like burning?

You’re not alone! I know how concerning a burning smell can be, especially when you don’t know where it’s coming from.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to fix the problem.

If your fridge smells like burning, it’s probably due to being new, a faulty power cord or outlet, dirty condenser coils, or obstructed fans. The burning smell could also result from the defrost heater contacting the wiring, loose connections, or a malfunctioning control board.

Read on to learn how to eliminate your fridge’s burning smell!

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.

Fridge Smells Like Burning? 8 Reasons Why (With Fixes)

In this section, I’ll help you identify the source of your fridge’s burnt smell and provide various solutions to help you forget all about the issue.

Before trying any of the solutions mentioned in this article, please unplug your fridge to prevent any electrical hazards.

#1 Your Fridge Is New

If you’ve just set up your brand-new fridge and notice a burning smell, don’t worry – it’s probably nothing to be concerned about!

In my experience, it’s common for new refrigerators to emit a burning smell due to the materials used in manufacturing. You see, adhesives and protective coatings can release chemicals during the initial cooling process, leading to a burning smell.

The burning smell should fade as your fridge runs. You can speed up the process by cleaning the unit with vinegar and warm water and placing an odor absorber inside. Try using a few charcoal briquettes, a bowl of baking soda, or crumpled-up newspaper to absorb any lingering smell.

baking soda in fridge
Place a bowl of baking soda inside your fridge to absorb any unpleasant odors.

However, if the burning smell persists or your refrigerator is not new, you’ll need to check some of the internal components. Please keep reading to learn how to do it.

#2 Power Issues

I find that when a fridge smells like burning, it’s typically due to an issue with the power cord or outlet.

In such cases, you must carefully unplug your refrigerator and inspect the power cord. Look for any visible signs of damage, such as frayed wires or exposed insulation. If the power cord is damaged, please replace it with a new one.

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.

If your fridge’s power cord is not damaged, it’s time to check the power outlet. Plug a different appliance into the outlet and see if it turns on and works correctly. If it doesn’t, then you’re probably dealing with an underlying electrical issue. In such cases, it’s best to call a certified electrician.

#3 Dirty Condenser Coils

If your fridge still smells like burning, I recommend checking the condenser coils.

During the cooling process, a refrigerant flows through the condenser coils and releases the heat it contains, which helps maintain the desired internal temperature. Unfortunately, if the condenser coils are covered in dust, they won’t be able to dissipate heat effectively, leading to a burning smell.

Fridge condenser coils
Dirty condenser coils could explain why your fridge smells like burning.

Luckily, cleaning the condenser coils is very simple. You’ll just need to:

  1. Unplug your freezer from the wall outlet and locate the condenser coils. They’re typically on the back of the unit or across the bottom.
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove any dust or dirt from the coils.
  3. While you’re at it, gently clean the area around the coils.
  4. Plug your fridge back into the power outlet.

Tip: Try cleaning the condenser coils at least once a year to prevent temperature issues and a burning smell.

#4 The Interior Light Is Always On

When fixing a fridge that has a burnt smell, I always check the interior light.

If your refrigerator’s interior light is always turned on, even with the door closed, it can lead to overheating and cause a burning smell.

Fridge interior light
Does your fridge smell like burning? Inspect the interior light!

So, if your fridge smells like burning, place your phone inside the unit while recording a video and close the door. Wait for 30 seconds and watch the video. Did the interior light turn off when you shut the door, or did it stay on?

If the light stayed turned on, please check the door switch. If it’s malfunctioning, it can think the door is open when it’s actually closed and cause the interior light to stay on. In such cases, you’ll need to replace the door switch.

If the light stays turned on even after replacing the door switch, there’s probably a wiring issue or a problem with the control board.

#5 Obstructed Fans

Now, let’s rule out your fridge’s evaporator and condenser fans as possible culprits for the burning smell.

The evaporator and condenser fans play a crucial role during the cooling process. The evaporator fan circulates cold air throughout the interior, while the condenser fan helps dissipate heat from the coils. When either of the fans is obstructed or malfunctioning, it can lead to a burning smell.

Please inspect the evaporator and condenser fans and remove any visible obstructions. You can also try to spin the blades manually. If they don’t spin freely or if you notice a grinding sound, you need to replace them.

#6 Defrost Heater Issues

My usual advice when fixing a fridge that smells like burning is to check the defrost heater.

The defrost heater generates heat to melt any frost buildup. Unfortunately, wires can get dislodged during moves and come in contact with the defrost heater. As a result, the plastic coating on the wire or any nearby plastic components can melt and produce a burning smell.

Unplug your refrigerator and carefully inspect the defrost heater. Check for any dislodged wires and look for signs of melting.

If you find that the wiring has come in contact with the defrost heater, you must replace any necessary components. In such cases, it’s often best to call a professional.

#7 Loose Connections

Over time, the electrical connections within your fridge can become loose, resulting in a burning smell.

You see, loose connections can lead to arcing, which generates heat that can melt plastic coatings on wires and damage other components.

To identify any loose connections, please unplug your fridge and access its back panel.

Note: Don’t forget to read the manufacturer’s manual for detailed instructions on how to access the connections.

Check if the connections are loose and look for any signs of damage. Then, tighten any loose connections or replace any compromised wiring to eliminate your fridge’s burning smell.

#8 Control Board Problems

If you’ve tried all of the fixes above, but your fridge still smells like burning, then you’re probably dealing with a control board issue.

The control board is one of the most important components in your refrigerator, as it manages different functions. Unfortunately, a power surge can damage some of the components on the control board and lead to a burning smell.

To inspect the control board, I recommend calling a professional, as it’s one of the trickiest and most expensive components to repair.

If your control board is malfunctioning, please consider your fridge’s age and overall performance. It’s often more cost-effective to replace the entire unit.

Fixing a Fridge That Smells Like Burning

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

Remember that if your fridge is new, it can give off a burning smell. However, if the smell persists, don’t forget to check the power cord and outlet, defrost heater, fans, interior light, condenser coils, and control board.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. If you ever experience a different issue, please check out our site. We love fixing all sorts of appliances.

Have a great day!

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