Common Causes of a Burning Smell from the Fridge – and What to Do

When there is a burning smell from a fridge, the associated systems can vary. The fridge may continue working normally. In extreme cases, you can have a crackling or popping sound, sometimes with smoke and possibly a tripped breaker.

Regardless of the nature of the fault, tracing and fixing the cause should be of paramount importance or else you can have a fire.

Beyond this, you may have questions such as whether to continue using the fridge and what steps to take (if you want to have a go at fixing the fault yourself).

This post provides guidance on what steps to take in case there is a burning smell from the fridge, and possible places to check for causes of burning to help you fix the underlying fault faster.

What to Do when your Fridge gives off a Burning Smell

Probably the first cause of action you should take is to:

Switch off power to the fridge at the wall outlet. If the fridge is running off propane, switch it off.

Unplug the fridge from the wall outlet. You may have to switch off the breaker that supplies power to the fridge’s electric circuit.

Next, try to locate the source of the burning smell. With the fridge still switched off, conduct a preliminary inspection of the fridge to locate the source of the smell.

Thoroughly inspect the fridge body – interior, back, power cord, top plug, and wall outlet for the possible source of the burning smell.

Where is the burning smell strongest? Do you see any burn marks anywhere? This helps you identify places you should focus your troubleshooting efforts.

With that being said, here are places that I’d recommend that you check first from experience:

#1. Wall outlet. Does the wall outlet have any burning smell? A loose wire connection in the outlet can give off sparks, causing heat buildup and the burning smell from the hot insulation and plastic.

You’ll need to disconnect the power supply from the circuit breaker before attempting to conduct any repairs. Do not hesitate to contact a qualified electrician at any point to fix this for you.

#2. Fridge top plug. Loose wire connections in the fridge’s top plug can give off sparks that heat and give off the burning smell.

You’ll likely need to replace the damaged top plug and wires.

#3. Inspect and or smell the power cord for broken insulation or burn marks. Replace the damaged cable with another of the same gauge and type.

#4. Inspect the back panel of the fridge. If the wall outlet, power cord, and plug appear intact proceed to check the fridge’s back panel.

You’ll likely have to move the fridge and remove the back panel to access the compressor wiring and starter relay. Inspect them for any signs of burning.

Does the starter relay bear any burn marks or smell? If so, replace it with another of the same type and rating.

Do not hesitate to contact a qualified technician at any point to support you on this.

Should you Continue using the Fridge?

I’d advise against the continued use of the fridge until you’ve identified and fixed the cause of the burning smell otherwise you can have a fire break out.

Related questions

Is It Normal for an RV Propane Fridge to Have a Burnt Smell?

No, you shouldn’t have any odor inside the RV provided the fridge is properly installed and the exhaust fumes and smoke are properly channeled through the vent and there are no leakages inside the RV.

If there is a burnt, smell inspect the installation for any leakages of fumes or smoke.

Always install a CO monitor and a fire detector to alert you in case of a carbon monoxide leak.

Can a Fridge Catch Fire?

Yes, it it possible for a fridge to catch fire and there are instances on record of burnt fridges.

How to Get Rid of the Burning Smell

While the burnt plastic odor in the freezer can die down over several days, you may be able to speed it up using baking soda.

Spread the baking solar over a large plate (a large surface area speeds up the absorption) and place it in the freezer.

Improving ventilation by opening doors or windows (where possible) also helps reduce the intensity of the burnt smell.

Closing Thoughts

Do not ignore the burning smell from the fridge or any appliance for that matter. It can easily grow into a fire destroying property, causing injury and possibly death.

Common causes of burning smell include loose wiring in the plug or wall outlet, a damaged power cord, damaged wiring at the back panel of the fridge, or a faulty compressor starter relay.

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