How to replace the condenser fan motor on a refrigerator...
something anyone who owns a pair of screwdrivers ought to be able to do; falls under the category of minor household repairs. My refrige is a Samsung RS2630SH - but for other refrigerators these instructions should help as a guideline.
A little background:
About a year ago, my parents remodeled their kitchen and sent me their old refrigerator. Dad said it never kept his beer cold enough; Mom said after the remodel it was too tall to fit under the new cabinets. I always suspected they just wanted to give me a better fridge than the one I had. Quite a bit better, as a matter of fact. This is a side-by-side with an icemaker, much larger than my previous fridge, which we then gifted to the neighbor (he's a work-at-home mechanic; it is now his garage-beer fridge).
I tend not to --at least I hope I tend not to-- look a gift horse in the mouth, until it malfunctions, anyway. Which this particular horse did. Lately I'd been noticing the wall between fridge and freezer heating up quite a bit, and a screeching-rattling noise coming from around back. I took off the bottom back cover and decided the noise was coming from the fan. I sprayed the fan shaft with WD-40 (a multi-purpose lubricant) and it seemed to quiet down. The next day the wall between fridge and freezer was still hot, hotter than it had been, hot enough though I could put my hand on it, I couldn't leave my hand there for long. I checked around back again and the fan didn't seem to be running at all. Explains why it had quieted down, innit?
So I googled my model number and found a page of complaints. After reading a bit I decided the fan motor did have to be replaced, so I called a couple local appliance places and spoke to people there. No one I spoke to seemed alarmed that I was thinking about just ordering a part and doing the work myself, so I didn't figure it was an especially daunting task. I ordered a motor.
Things I'd do differently if I had it to do over: I'd order a pair of grommets to go with the motor. I'm not sure they are called grommets, but that's what I would call them. They are rubber "donuts" that fit on either side of the motor and keep it from rattling around in the housing. I was able to reuse one from the old motor, but the other one fell apart (it had gotten too hot and partly melted onto the motor). I'll order a pair and fix this soon, but for now, it's not rattling --I think the centrifugal force of the fan turning is holding it in place-- and I'm not going to worry about it right now.
While waiting for the motor I put a small, desk-type fan behind the fridge, blowing onto the coils that the integral fan would be cooling, were it functioning. This, I think, is important, because it's possible to burn up a lot more than just a fan motor if the fridge is not cooling as it should. So, for a week or so, I had the refrigerator pulled out from the wall at an annoying angle, to leave room for the little fan behind it.
what you'll need
small flat-head screwdriver, if you don't have that, a butterknife ought to work: all you will do with the flat-head screwdriver is pry apart a couple pieces of plastic.
medium phillips-head screwdriver
small needlenose pliers, if you don't have that, hemostats or tweezers ought to work
a clean flat surface to work on
fan motor - part number DA31-00103A
2 new grommets (the old ones may be reusable)
When you first decide you need a new condenser fan, open the large compartment on the back of your refrigerator, locate your fan and unplug it, and provide some other means of ventilation. You should unplug your refrigerator before unplugging the fan. You can plug the refrigerator back in, once you have ventilation (a small desk fan in this case) set up.
When your part arrives --if you don't live in a city it might take a few days; it took five days in my case-- you are ready to begin.
Take the fan housing (includes the fan and motor) out of the refrigerator. This is just light plastic and can break, so don't force it. There are grooves and tabs in both the piece that comes out and the piece that stays in; these interlock, and you should be able to slide the fan straight toward you to release it. Then you'll need to rotate it to get it out from behind the copper lines. Be very careful not to bend or kink these lines; I can't help you replace them.
Remove the two phillips-head screws holding the motor housing shut. Use your flat screwdriver (or butter knife) to pry open the housing, starting at the sides. The sides should snap open, then you can take the two pieces apart at the top. There is a half-hinge at the top, so you don't want pry there.
Turn the housing over, so you are looking at the fan blades. Use your pliers or tweezers to pull the spring straight off the shaft of the fan. Then gently but firmly pull the fan off the shaft.
Things I'd do differently if I had it to do over: I would measure how much of the shaft was in the fan, so to put the blade at exactly the same depth on the new shaft instead of guessing at it.
Now you can take the front half of the housing off the frame, though it's not necessary. I like to clean it while I have it apart, so I usually take things all the way apart. If you do, notice the screw that holds these two parts together is longer than the other two screws. Be sure and put the screws back in the holes they came out of. In this case it shouldn't matter, but sometimes using a long screw or bolt where a short one should be can crack or break something (ask me how I know - hint: waterpump on a Ford).
The front of the housing can only fit back into the frame one way: push straight in and turn a quarter-turn counter-clockwise.
Put the grommets on the new motor, the motor into the front half of the housing with the shaft sticking out through the frame, and refasten the back of the housing to the front.
Be sure the wiring lies in the groove made for it, and doesn't get pinched.
Push the fan blade back onto the shaft, and put the spring back on the end of the shaft. I tried to use the pliers for this but found it was easier to just push it on with two fingers.
Make sure the fan blade spins freely. If it hits the housing, you have pushed it too far down the shaft. Just remove the spring and adjust it.
Now you are ready to replace the fan assembly in your refrigerator. I found holding it sideways, with the blade pointing down, was easiest to get it behind the copper lines. Then I could turn it the way it was supposed to face and slide it onto the grooves till it snapped into place.
Unplug your refrigerator and plug the fan in to its outlet. Mold the wire into the slots provided for it. Plug the refrigerator back in, wait a few seconds, and when the fan comes on sit back and admire your work :)
When you replace the back panel, note that there are two slots at the bottom that you slide into before replacing the screws at the top.
Earlier I mentioned that good lighting was one of the things you'd need. This "headlight" is my favorite tool. They are sold at hardware stores, and depending on the features they cost between $10 and $40.
...assembling this blog post took at least four times as long as installing the fan motor. That's probably because there are only eleven parts to the fan assembly: frame, front housing, back housing, motor, blade, spring, three screws, and two grommets.
Hey. Yeah, you. This post is now 3 years old, and it's still getting hits! I think I would like to work in the technical writing field, but at the moment I'm not. So how about, next time you come to this page to find out how to replace that fridge fan, you click on the 'donate' button on the top left, and send me a dollar or two? Seriously, just a dollar or two. It'd be most appreciated and will give me incentive to post other "fixit" items for you. :) Thanks in advance. (updated 3 May 2012)
so now I've had ONE dollar donation, from someone in Las Vegas, much appreciated! Yeah, blogger is free, but my internet connection isn't. If everyone who viewed this post sent just one dollar I'd have $15-$50/a week income from it... which would cover phone/internet/satellite - I wouldn't be getting rich, okay? (updated 20 October 2012)