Fridge Stuck In Defrost Mode? Follow These 6 Simple Steps

Fridge stuck in Defrost mode

Are you trying to stop your fridge from being stuck in Defrost mode?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I know how annoying it can be to have this happen.

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

If your fridge is stuck in defrost mode, you’ll need to make sure the child lock is turned off, check the temperature, and reset your fridge. But, if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to check the defrost timer, thermostat, or heater.

Read on to learn more about these fixes and forget all about the issue!

How Does Defrost Mode Work?

Before doing anything else, it’s crucial that you understand how the defrost cycle works. This way, solving the issue will be much easier.

To keep your food fresh, fridges have a coolant that circulates through the coils in the form of gas and liquid.

When the refrigerant flows into the evaporator (or internal) coils to absorb the heat and cool your food, sometimes a small amount of frost can form in them.

This is when Defrost mode comes in handy.

You see, most modern refrigerators have a Defrost mode that is responsible for melting frost from the evaporator coils.

The defrost system works by measuring the temperature of the internal coils throughout the day. When they hit a specific temperature, the machine is notified when it’s time to stop the cooling to melt any frost and prevent ice buildup.

What to Do if Your Fridge Is Stuck in Defrost Mode: 6 Steps

Unfortunately, if your fridge is stuck in Defrost mode, your food may thaw and your appliance won’t work as intended.

This may happen due to numerous reasons. This is why I’ve created a list of 6 things you should check to solve the issue:

#1 Make Sure the Child Lock Is Turned Off

The child lock keeps kids from accidentally pressing your fridge’s buttons and changing the settings.

On some refrigerator models, Defrost mode will not activate or turn off if the child lock is enabled.

Please check if the child lock is turned on, and if it is, disable it. To do it, press the “Child Lock” button (or the lock icon) for three seconds. If you can’t find the “Child Lock” button, try pressing the “Ice Off” button for three seconds.

Note that this process may vary depending on the model and brand you own, this is why I recommend checking your manual first.

#2 Check the Temperature

The defrost system will activate a heater to melt the frost from the evaporator coils when the surrounding atmosphere is 0 °C (32 °F).

So, if the temperature on your refrigerator is too low, Defrost mode can be automatically activated.

Your fridge’s temperature should sit between 3 °C (37.4 °F) and 4.4 °C (40 °F).

Adjusting fridge temperature
If your fridge is not set to the correct temperature, Defrost mode may automatically turn on.

To check the temperature, please place a thermostat in a glass of water that has been on the middle shelf for at least 12 hours.

If the temperature is too low, you’ll need to safely raise it. Follow this guide to do it:

  1. Locate the temperature control. It’s usually located in the back, but please check your manual, as this may vary depending on the model.
  2. Change the temperature setting one increment at a time and wait 24 hours for the temperature change to take effect.
  3. Check the temperature again. Remember, you’ll need to let your fridge sit for 24 hours before making an additional temperature change (if needed).

#3 Reset Your Fridge

Before checking the defrost system compartments, please reset your fridge.

You see, most modern refrigerators have computer chips and can be vulnerable to coding bugs or glitches.

Luckily, you can easily get rid of the troublesome code that was causing the issue by simply unplugging your fridge from the wall outlet, waiting for at least 10 minutes, and plugging it back in.

Bear in mind that if you can’t move your fridge because it’s too heavy, you can turn it off at the circuit breaker.

circuit breaker
Go to the circuit breaker to reset your fridge.

Please don’t open the doors while resetting your fridge to keep your food as cool as possible.

But, if resetting your fridge didn’t do the trick, keep reading.

#4 Check the Defrost Timer

The defrost timer turns on periodically and is responsible for controlling when your fridge is in Defrost mode.

So, if your fridge is stuck in Defrost mode, there’s a good chance there’s an issue with your defrost timer.

To test the timer, you’ll need to:

  1. Unplug your fridge from the power source.
  2. Locate the defrost timer. It’s usually located on the back, behind the lower kick plate, or control panel. But please check your manual first.
  3. Carefully pull the timer out and disconnect its wires.
  4. Set your multimeter to Rx1 and place one of the probes on the “C” or “3” terminal and the other probe on one of the three remaining terminals, one at a time. Your first two readings should be zero or near zero, and the third reading should be infinite. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to replace the timer.

But, if the multimeter test didn’t show an issue, please reconnect the timer to the fridge and reinstall the power supply.

Then, you’ll need to reset the defrost timer by turning the circular notch in the counterclockwise direction with a flathead screwdriver until the fan stops (this is a sign that the timer has been reset).

After a few minutes, your fridge should start to operate normally.

#5 Check the Defrost Thermostat

The defrost thermostat is responsible for monitoring the temperature of the evaporator coils. If it senses that the temperature is too low, it will send signals to the heater to melt away any frost buildup.

Unfortunately, if the thermostat is faulty, it won’t be able to sense the temperature accurately and can send wrong signals to the heater. This could explain why your fridge is stuck in Defrost mode.

To test the defrost thermostat, you’ll need to:

  1. Unplug your fridge from the power supply and locate the defrost thermostat. It’s usually located in the back panel, but please read your manual first, as the location may vary.
  2. Remove the plates covering the thermostat with a screwdriver.
  3. Carefully disconnect the two wiring connectors and remove the thermostat.
  4. Place the thermostat in a glass of iced water for a couple of minutes to test it.
  5. Set your multimeter to the Rx1 setting and use the probes to touch the thermostat terminals. You should get a reading of 0, but if that’s not the case, the thermostat is probably faulty, and you need to replace it.

#6 Test the Defrost Heater

The heater is located near the evaporator coils and, as mentioned before, it turns on to melt any frost or ice buildup on the evaporator coils.

Unfortunately, when the defrost heater is not working correctly, it can stay on permanently or not work at all.

Here’s how to test a defrost heater:

  1. Unplug your fridge from the wall outlet or turn it off at the circuit breaker.
  2. Locate the heater. It’s usually located beneath the evaporator coils, but remember to verify this with your manual.
  3. Remove the plastic panel covering the defrost heater, you may need to use a screwdriver.
  4. Carefully disconnect the wires attached to the defrost heater.
  5. Set your multimeter to the Rx1 setting. Place the probes on each of the heater’s terminals. If the multimeter reads zero or infinite, you’ll need to replace the heater.

Finding Your Fridge’s Manual and Warranty

As you noticed, you may need to access the defrost system components. Their location may vary depending on the model and brand you own.

This is why I recommend reading your manual before inspecting or replacing any component.

If you can’t find your manual, please locate a label in your fridge that includes the model number. It’s typically located on the sides, interior, or back.

Then, search for the model number and brand on Google. For example, if you own a Whirlpool fridge, type “Whirlpool [model number] Refrigerator Manual PDF” in the search bar.

Then, download the manual.

If you need to replace a defrost component, you may need to check if your fridge is still under warranty. Normally, you can check this on the documents you received when you purchased your appliance.

But, if you can’t find these documents, please go to the manufacturer’s website or contact the retailer.

If replacing one of the components is too expensive, it may be more convenient to buy a new fridge.

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.

How to Defrost a Fridge/Freezer the Right Way

If your fridge/freezer has an auto defrost feature, you won’t need to manually defrost it. However, if the defrost system is not working, or you have a traditional fridge, you may need to do it.

To manually defrost your appliance the right way, you’ll need to:

  1. Unplug your appliance to avoid electrical hazards while defrosting.
  2. Transfer your food to a cooler to keep it from spoiling. Remove all the drawers.
  3. Arrange towels around the bottom of the appliance.
  4. Place a bowl filled with boiling water on the middle shelf to speed up the defrosting process. Do not use sharp objects to remove ice buildup, as they can damage your appliance.
  5. Use a microfiber cloth and sponge to remove the excess water. You can also clean your fridge with equal parts of vinegar and warm water.
  6. Plug your appliance back into the wall outlet.


That about covers it!

Remember, if your fridge is stuck in Defrost mode, you’ll need to make sure the child lock is not enabled and check the temperature. But if that doesn’t work, don’t forget to test the defrost timer, heater, and thermostat.

Thank you so much for reading this article! If you found the tips above helpful, please check out our related posts 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