Why Is My Refrigerator Leaking Water?
Drain is plugged
Always unplug the refrigerator before you work on it. Review safety procedures.
The most common problem in a refrigerator that is leaking is a plugged drain. All frost free refrigerators have a defrost cycle that melts the frost and ice that may build up on the evaporator coils and the water is channeled off to a pan or tray located outside of the refrigerator, usually underneath the refrigerator near the compressor.
The drain can be plugged with bits of food, ice, or plastic bag closers. In some refrigerators this drain is easily located and can be cleaned resulting in normal operation. However, most refrigerators have this drain located behind a back panel and will require some disassembly to access the drain. This process takes some patience and time.
Make a note about where the water is coming from. Is it coming out of the freezer compartment, is it coming out of the fresh food compartment, is it coming from under the refrigerator, is it leaking from the back. How often does it leak? Twice a day or more?
Choose the scenario that fits you:
Side By Side Refrigerator
If your refrigerator/freezer is a side by side model, then the leak would generally be coming from the freezer section and it would make some ice on the floor of the freezer until any depression was filled and then it would leak out the front of the freezer compartment onto the floor about 2 or 3 times a day. Depending on conditions, you could expect to see around 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water on the floor. In dryer conditions, the amount could be less.
If upon inspection, you find these conditions, then you most likely have a plugged drain. This is a moderately difficult job and should be attempted by those who have a good mechanical sense, who can follow safety rules for refrigerators and can follow directions. If you cannot do these things, please call a service center and have a certified repairman make the repair.
Unplug the refrigerator before attempting to service or repair. Failure to do so could cause severe damage to your refrigerator and serious injury.
For the brave: You will need to remove the back panel in the freezer. This panel is quite often a two piece panel that is held in place with 4 or 5 screws or 1/4 inch nuts. If the lower panel can be removed without removing the top panel, this is ideal. Remove the bottom panel. The drain is located on the bottom of this area. If it is plugged, the depression under the coils will be filled with ice. The ice needs to be defrosted. Since this can be a thick piece of ice, it may take some time to melt the ice. You must be patient. You must not use any sharp tool or object to chip away at the ice. Severe damage can be done to your refrigerator and injury could result.
Defrosting can be achieved by leaving the freezer door open and waiting several hours. Place a couple of large towels on the floor of the freezer to catch the water. Change the towels as they collect water. Ice that can be removed by picking it up may be removed. Do not pry, poke, cut, or otherwise try to mechanically remove the ice, doing so may cause damage or injury.
Fast defrosting can be achieved with hot water. Use hot water from the faucet. Do not heat water, boiling water could damage certain components in the freezer. Place a couple of bath towels on the bottom of the freezer. Place a large bowl of hot water on the towels. Using a cup or turkey baster, pour water on the ice. Do this about every 5 to 10 minutes until the ice is melted. This should reveal a drain in the bottom of the back panel. When the ice is thoroughly melted. The drain can be inspected. When you pour water in the depression, it should drain immediately through the drain hole. If it does not, then the drain is plugged.
Caution, fast defrosting will create more water, if you have wood floors or other surfaces that cannot take water, then do not use this method.
You need to unplug the drain, remove any debris in the tray and opening to the drain. A flexible tube, pipe cleaner, or bottle brush can be used to open the drain. When the drain is opened, it should be flushed thoroughly with water.
Freezer on the Top, Top and Bottom
Is the water leaking out of the fresh food compartment? Pull the crisper trays out of the bottom of the refrigerator. Is there water collecting in the depression under the crisper?
Check that area to make sure the drain is not located under the crisper, although this is not common, some refrigerators utilize this method of draining the refrigerator. If there is a drain, it needs to be cleared of whatever is plugging it and you are back in service, as easy as that.
However, most top and bottom units have a drain that runs from the bottom back of the freezer compartment to the bottom of the refrigerator to an evaporation pan located near the compressor. This may be a more difficult drain to open and clear.
To determine where the drain is, look at the back of the refrigerator to see if there is a tube coming from the center of the refrigerator about the height of the bottom of the freezer compartment. Hooked to that would be a hard plastic tube that runs to the drip tray under the refrigerator. If you see that, then this is the place where the water is supposed to drain.
The tube that goes through the back of the refrigerator may come from the back of the fresh food compartment where it has a small tray about 2 inches square that catches water dripping from the freezer compartment. This small tray is removable and generally can be taken out by pulling on it. You will see than that it is plugged and needs to be cleaned and opened up. You may have to remove a cover from the back of the refrigerator which is normally a plastic decorative cover. Other components could be located under the cover, so caution should be used in removing it.
It is possible that the hole from above is plugged or filled with ice. This may require that you remove the back panel in the freezer to access the drip tray. Please follow all safety procedures. If you open the panel and there is an ice dam, then it must be defrosted in order to gain access to the drip tray. Slow and steady is the required approach, do not try to speed up the defrosting by chipping, scraping, or prying with anything. This could result in severe damage to your refrigerator and serious injury.
Caution should be used in removal of the back panel since other components could be tied to the panel. If there is an ice maker, it must be removed and the ground wire must be removed. In some refrigerators, the evaporator fan could be tied to the back panel. If it must be removed, then carefully inspect the mounting and be sure to remember how it came out. A paper drawing and labels with a pencil could save you a lot of time when you reassemble these parts. Simple pencil labels with arrows indicating direction of mounting could be helpful.
Once the drip tray is cleared, Pour a small amount of water in the tray, like 1/2 cup and see if it drains to the pan on the bottom. It is possible to have two problems where the ice dam occurred due to a plugged drain.
The Ice Maker is Leaking
Water is brought to the refrigerator through a connector on the back. It is connected to a water valve normally located on the bottom of the back of the refrigerator near the bottom.
- The ice maker could be leaking in several places:
- The connection to the water valve may not be tight or seated properly
- The tube carrying the water to the ice maker could have a loose connection
- The ice maker could be faulty and could be calling for too much water too often check the ice bin for solid ice or an ice dam
- The tube that comes in through the back could be misaligned and the water is spilling inside the freezer
Turn the water off to the ice maker and see if that cures the problem, if it does, then the leak is somewhere in the ice maker set up.
The Refrigerator Was recently Moved
If you just moved the refrigerator to a new location, the move may have misaligned the hose that comes down or the pan itself. Check to see that all portions of the drain and pan are fitting properly and that the drain tube is not misaligned.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.