Samsung Refrigerator Heater Repair

DISCLAIMER AND SAFETY: YOU NEED TO READ THIS.
I do not work for Samsung. I do not work for an appliance repair company. Appliances are complicated pieces of equipment. Repairing an appliance without proper knowledge, procedures, and care can result in harm to persons, the appliance, and/ or other property. The information provided herein is for educational purposes only. I take no liability for any damage to property or persons resulting from usage of this information. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

WEAR SAFETY GOOGLES, gloves, and any other personal protective equipment that you feel is necessary. Particularly, wear safety eyewear of some type when when gently pushing or pulling on the evaporator assembly. Although I think that sweated joints are quite strong, you do not want to be hurt if you break a refrigerant line which is under pressure and can spray you.

COMMENTS:
Samsung refrigerators are unique in many ways. They have twin evaporators; one each for the refrigerator and the freezer. They also have a heating element design that is causing some customers grief. In Samsung's own words, the heating element is "woven" into the evaporator assembly. They claim that the evaporator and defrost heater must be replaced as a single unit. Their recommendation is to recover the refrigerant, break the refrigerant line, replace the assembly, sweat a new fitting, and refill with refrigerant. This is expensive, beyond the scope of freelance repair persons, and unnecessary.

This page documents the procedure that I used to diagnose and replace a Samsung defrost element that was about 5 years old. My refrigerator is humming along quite happily and working just like new.

Acknowledgements:
I am not the first person to do this. Initially, I called a commercial repair service and paid about $60 for a diagnosis. The explanation from the repairman sounded "weak", so I did my own research by reading the forums at AppliancePartsPros.com. I concluded that the repairman was flat out wrong. He had recommended $500 in unnecessary parts other than the correct part, a new heater. I undertook the repair myself and have a refrigerator that is now working like new. I took a few pictures and found a few tricks on the way.This information is my contribution to the Internet community.

THE UNIT:
Samsung RS267LASH refrigerator

SYMPTOMS:
Refrigerator quit cooling. Temperatures would rise over 50°F. After running the self diagnosis feature, the refrigerator would report that the defrost cycle timed out after exceeding the maximum time of 80 minutes. Makes sense, right? The relay was activating the heater, but the heater was burned out; thus, the evaporator never defrosted and ultimately froze up. Upon disassembling the internal ductwork, I tested the heater with a multimeter and found it to be open circuit. The replacement heater registered ~95 ohms.

PART 1: TAKE APART THE REFRIGERATOR

UNPLUG AND TURN OFF THE REFRIGERATOR. YOU DON'T WANT TO BE ELECTROCUTED!

Pull out the shelves. Remove all screws from the lower half of the refrigerator. Remove the white panel covering the evaporator assembly. If the assembly is really frozen up, this can be difficult. Take your time. Place a shop rag over a lip of the white plastic and gently tug on it if necessary. You should see something like the picture below once the shelves and ductwork cover are removed. You can see that I have a blue towel underneath the evaporator which has been soaking up the melting ice.

PART 2: DIAGNOSIS AND PARTS

Unplug the heater, thermal fuse, and thermistor plugs. They are keyed so you should have little concern about mixing them up. Grab a multimeter. Place the meter across the heater element and look for a resistance near 95 ohms. I have seen this value reported as low as 70 ohms for working heaters. If the heater is open circuit or reading extremely high resistance, you have a bad heater. Burn marks may NOT be apparent.

If the heater is OK, the problem may be the thermistor, thermal fuse, or control board. At this point, I don't have time to write down how to test the thermistor. Order a new thermistor and thermal fuse, replace them, and be done with it. If you're unlucky enough to need a new heater, keep reading.

My Samsung refrigerator will work just fine for about a week without a defrost. Once you figure out what you need, put everything back together and turn the refrigerator back on to make your family happy. Order the part and fix it next weekend.

You can find parts from many places. I like http://www.appliancepartspros.com/

If you are ordering a heater, you will be ordering the entire assembly present in the first picture. Remember, Samsung does not endorse replacing the heater individually so it is not sold individually.

PART 3: PREPARE THE NEW HEATER 

The new heater will look like this.
You are going to have to remove the heater from the evaporator. Cut the cable ties holding in the thermal fuse and remove. Take off the foam blocks and the aluminum tape. Use the picture below for assistance.

There is a nasty rivet to deal with. Since the new heater is easily accessible on the benchtop, I recommend just drilling it out, carefully.
Ultimately, the separated heater should look like this. (Edit: I can't find my picture! Check out this link for a small picture of the individual heater).


PART 4: PREPARE THE REFRIGERATOR
Remove the thermal fuse. Remove the cable ties, foam blocks, and aluminum tape. GENTLY tug up and out on the assembly to get the bottom part dislodged from the plastic recess in which it sits. This will give you room required for the next step.
Unfortunately, the old assembly also has a rivet. There is not enough room to drill it. You are going to have to deal with it. Here's what I did. Take some needle nose pliers and gently bend the metal back and forth to expose the edge of the rivet head. Holding a hacksaw blade in your hand, gently cut off the head. It will not matter that this attachment point is absent in the final repair if you take a little time to ensure that the other fit points are reasonably aligned. My rivet was already quite rusty; thus, this step wasn't too bad.

REPLACE THE HEATER AND COMPLETE THE JOB:
You should understand from prior steps how to slide the heater off the evaporator. You will need room to do this. Pull out the bottom shelf a few inches and you will have the required room. See the picture below.
Once the new heater is on, use needle nose pliers to bend the metal and secure the attachment points. You should be able to re-attach everything that you took apart with the exception of the rivet. Put the thermal fuse back in the proper location and secure it with cable ties. Use other cable ties to manage the wire locations. If you took pictures of the original setup you will be able to put everything back just the way it was. Replace the foam spacer blocks and aluminum tape. Gently lift the assembly upwards while pushing it to get the bottom heater plate back in the plastic recess. Here is what my final work looked like. Good as new!
Put everything back together and pat yourself on the back.

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