Troubleshooting Refrigerator That Makes Clicking Noise

The other day I was sitting at my dining room table and all I could hear was a clicking noise coming from my refrigerator. I knew that clicking once in a while was a sign that the refrigerator was working properly. However, this was a constant clicking noise that I was sure wasn’t supposed to be happening. 

The main culprit of clicking refrigerator noises is usually a faulty compressor start relay or dirty condenser coils. You may also hear normal clicking noises that come from the condenser fan, ice maker, condenser coils, and normal operation. 

Since my refrigerator’s clicking noise was getting progressively worse, I knew it wasn’t from normal operation. I took it upon myself to try some troubleshooting methods that I thought might fix the issue. If you’re having the same issue with your refrigerator, check out the troubleshooting methods below that I tried. 

What Are The Reasons My fridge Is Making Clicking Noise?

More often than not, the clicking noise you’re hearing is completely normal. The condenser coils will make a clicking noise when they enter the defrost cycle. Not only that but there are many internal switches inside your refrigerator that can make various clicking noises throughout the day. 

If the clicking noises are paired with loss or functionality, they’re very loud, or they just don’t stop, then you may need to inspect your refrigerator more closely. One of the most irritating clicking sounds that you may hear can come from the compressor start relay if it’s having trouble. 

1. The Start Relay Isn’t Working?

This is probably one of the most common reasons why your refrigerator is making an obnoxious clicking noise. This is one of the simpler compressor-related problems that you could try to troubleshoot. 

The compressor start relay tells your refrigerator when it’s time to fire up the compressor. You will hear a normal clicking noise when it begins to operate. However, if the start relay is becoming faulty, you will hear a clicking noise more than normal. You may also notice issues with food in your refrigerator not staying cool

If you suspect your compressor start relay is faulty, you can try to switch it out. Each model refrigerator is different, so the relay may be in a different location than others. Normally, it’s somewhere near the base of the compressor

You will first unplug your refrigerator and remove the rear cover at the base of the fridge. Locate the compressor start relay and disconnect it from the cable harness. Simply remove the old relay and plug the new one into the cable harness. Re-attach it following the instructions given by the manufacturer. Put the cover back on and plug the fridge back in. 

While you’re back there, consider cleaning the condenser coils as well. 

2. Dirty Condenser Coils?

I’ve had this issue many times before. Dust accumulates on the condenser coils and then they have trouble keeping the refrigerator cool because they won’t be able to dissipate heat as well. 

The condenser coils are either on the back of your refrigerator or on the bottom behind an access panel. Since they’re out of sight, a lot of homeowners, such as myself, forget that they need to be cleaned. If they aren’t cleaned for quite a while, dust and debris will build up on them, causing a wide range of refrigerator issues

The clicking is due to the refrigerator constantly being forced to cycle coolant through the condenser coils. It will then cause your fridge to be abnormally hot. 

The fix for this is extremely simple. Just unplug your refrigerator and wipe down the condenser coils. You can use your vacuum hose with the corner attachment on it. I recommend doing this very gently so you don’t damage the condenser coils. Don’t use cleaning products either. A dry rag will do just fine

I suggest cleaning your condenser coils once each year. I like to add this to my spring cleaning list. 

If you’re still hearing the clicking after you’ve cleaned the condenser coils, check your defrost timer. 

3. The Defrost Timer Isn’t Working Properly

When your defrost timer turns on, it makes a distinct clicking noise. If the defrost timer has gone bad, it may tick more than usual or not at all. You’ll know it’s your defrost timer if either there’s ice built up in the freezer or the refrigerator won’t keep cool. You can test for continuity with a multimeter to see if there are fluctuations in Ohms. 


If the issue isn’t with the defrost timer, it could be the compressor. 

4. The Compressor Is Going Bad

For a refrigerator to keep cool, it uses coolant in gas form. The coolant is stored in a compressor and if anything goes wrong with the compressor, it will make a clicking noise and may need replacement. It’s a common issue that refrigerators can face. You may also notice that your food is spoiling or your fridge smells off

In older refrigerators, the compressor will run 50% of the time, and 90% in newer energy-efficient models. The compressor is one of the most energy-consuming parts of a refrigerator since it turns on and off constantly. 

If your refrigerator’s compressor is constantly running, it’s time to replace it. If it turns on and off constantly, it could be due to a power overload or overhearing

You will know your compressor is running well if your refrigerator keeps cool consistently and you only hear the compressor click on and off once in a while. 

If everything seems to be in check, look at your ice maker. 

5. The Icemaker Could Be The Problem

If your refrigerator has a built-in icemaker, there’s a possibility that this is the reason you’re hearing a clicking noise.

The ice maker has several components that make it work and can cause the clicking noise such as the water inlet valve, arm, and the ice itself. If you’re hearing constant clicking, it’s most likely because the freezer won’t stop producing ice. Additionally, there could be a shortage of ice or liquid in the ice bin. 

These are generally very easy to replace. Usually, all you have to do is find the replacement parts that match the make and model of your fridge. Most ice makers can be fixed with just a screwdriver

If there’s nothing wrong with the icemaker, check the water dispenser. 

6. Water Dispenser Could Be the Issue

One of the last places the check for the clicking noise is the water dispenser. If your refrigerator has a water dispenser on the door, it could be the source of the clicking. 

You will hear a clicking noise when you actively dispense water or ice. However, in more serious cases, the clicking will continue even when you’re not using the water or ice dispenser. This is most likely due to clogs or blockages in the water dispenser’s path. 

The blockage could be within the filter, tubing, or inlet valve. You may also leak into your water dispenser system. Not only can it cause clicking noises, but the leak could be difficult to detect, leading to damage to your floor or walls.

7. It Could Be A Normal Noise Of Your Fridge

Your refrigerator makes normal clicking noises all of the time. The condenser coils will begin to make clicking noises when they enter the defrost cycle. There are plenty of internal switches that click when activated. The main board inside of the fridge can also make clicking noises as well as some of the ventilation and fan systems. 


The only time you need to worry about clicking noises is when they don’t stop or other problems begin to arise such as loss of power and functionality. 

If none of the troubleshooting tips have helped, it may be time to reach out to a professional. 

8. Call A Professional To Check It Out?

If all else has failed, it’s time to call a professional. The easiest way to do it is to access the manufacturer’s website. Most of them will have a chat and email option. You can use these methods to tell them what your issue is with the refrigerator. If it’s still under warranty, they will send somebody out to check on it at no charge to you. 

The lifespan of A Refrigerator

A refrigerator has a lifespan of between 10 to 18 years. This may depend on the type of refrigerator you have and how well it’s maintained. A refrigerator runs continuously, so keeping it in tip-top shape is important. Taking just a few minutes out of your day once every few months can ensure you get the most out of your refrigerator. 

Proper Maintenance Of Your Refrigerator

As with any other appliance, a refrigerator needs to be maintained. They’re also one of the most-used appliances in the home. Unfortunately, wear and tear are inevitable, so you must follow various tips to keep your fridge up and running for as long as possible. 

  1. Clean the coils: Keep the coils free of dust, debris, and pet hair. This will help keep the refrigerator operating smoothly and efficiently. You’ll need to move the refrigerator and gain access to the back panels to clean the coils. You can use a rag or a vacuum to clean them off. While you’re down there, clean the condenser fan as well. You should do this one per year. 
  1. Maintain the temperature: Consistently check the temperature in both the fridge and freezer. The refrigerator should be around 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  1. Check the gaskets:  If the gaskets on the doors aren’t sealing well, the cold air can escape. If the seals are broken, the fridge will need to use more energy to maintain the right temperature. If you see that the seals are cracked or worn out, replace them. Clean them regularly with warm, soapy water to prevent anything from harming the seal. 
  1. Change the filters:  There are filters in the ice and water dispensers. These will need to be changed every three months or so. You can check the manual for further instructions on how to change the filter. 
  1. Keep The Refrigerator Level: If your refrigerator isn’t level, the doors won’t close or seal properly. This could cause the motor to strain unnecessarily. Use a level to ensure your refrigerator is properly set. 
  1. Cover your food: Covering your food with fitted tops or aluminum foil will help keep food fresh and minimize moisture in your fridge. Moisture can ruin an appliance. 
  1. Keep It Full: Don’t overcrowd your refrigerator or freezer, but keeping it stocked can help everything cool better and operate more efficiently.

Signs Of A Bad Refrigerator

If you think your refrigerator is going bad, here are a few signs that it could be time for a replacement. 

  1. Food spoiling quickly: If your food is spoiling before it should, then your refrigerator is probably going bad. It’s not able to maintain a cold enough internal temperature to keep food fresh. 
  1. Condensation on the outside of the fridge: Is your refrigerator sweating? This is one of the most common signs that your refrigerator is dying. This is generally an issue with the gasket or seal. Cold air leaks out and leads to spoiled food. 
  1. Excess Frost: Do you notice frost building up in your freezer or refrigerator? If so, there’s an issue with the internal temperature. 
  1. Noisy refrigerator: The motor on your refrigerator will make a noise when it’s running, but if it’s loud, constant, or disruptive, it’s an indication that the refrigerator needs a repair. 
  1. Coils are hot: If the coils on the back of the fridge are constantly, excessively hot, the fridge isn’t running efficiently. This isn’t the most common sign of a dying refrigerator, but it’s a good indication. 
  1. The fridge is over 10 years old: Since most refrigerators last between 10-18 years, if you notice an issue and your fridge is 10 years old, it’s probably faulty. 

Is It Normal For My Freezer To Click As Well?

It’s normal for your freezer to click along with your refrigerator. It clicks because the compressor is turning on or off. The compressor helps cool the refrigerant gas when the cooling cycle turns on. This is how your freezer stays so cool all of the time. If you hear it clicking a lot, it means the compressor is having trouble. It could also mean that the condenser fan is faulty.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why your refrigerator can be making clicking noises. Most of the time it’s nothing to worry about. Your refrigerator will make clicking noises on occasion due to certain parts turning on and off. It will also click when you use the water dispenser and when the freezer makes ice. 

If you think your refrigerator is making more noise than normal, you should try the troubleshooting methods above or call a professional to diagnose your unit.