Understanding Samsung Refrigerator Error Code 21E

Understanding Samsung Refrigerator Error Code 21E

You notice an error code from your Samsung refrigerator, but nothing seems to be amiss inside the fridge; it’s cooling as it normally does, and the temperature is just right.

In that case, the issue might be in the freezer compartment.

With an error code 21 E — or 21 V in some models — the issue usually lies in your freezer’s cooling system, particularly the fan motor.

In this article, you’ll learn the root causes of this error and what you should do when you get it.

What is an error code 21E and how do you troubleshoot it?

A Samsung refrigerator error code 21E or 21V refers to an issue with the freezer fan. This means that the freezer fan has stopped rotating.

To fix this, first, you’ll have to defrost your fridge to rid of any ice buildup that may be causing the fan to freeze in place.

A freezer fan that has stopped functioning can be because of an open door, a blockage in the fan mechanism, or motor failure.

Ice buildup is the most common culprit in fan errors, as they’re located directly across the evaporator coils and are heavily responsible for releasing cold air in the fridge.

This is why defrosting the fridge usually solves the issue instantly. If the error persists, however, you might not be looking at a simple ice blockage.

A persistent error code 21E or 21V may indicate an issue with the freezer’s door assembly or the fan motor itself.

To know more about these issues and how they affect your freezer’s fan assembly, keep reading below.

Common Causes of Error Code 21E/21V and How to Resolve Them

Your Samsung refrigerator has a twin cooling system that allows you to set separate temperatures for your fridge and freezer compartments. As such, these compartments use different cooling fans as well (even your ice maker has one of its own!).

These fans are largely responsible for regulating the temperature inside each compartment. When one of them fails, your fridge will send you an error code to determine which of them needs troubleshooting.

In the case of a 21E or 21V error code, the root issues can be narrowed down to four cases. This is the easiest fan error to troubleshoot, as it only requires you to access the back panel in the worst-case scenario.

Open Freezer DoorActivate Force Defrost to melt the ice buildup in your freezer. Inspect the door assembly for any damage.
Loose or Damaged Freezer Door GasketCheck the freezer door for any cold air escaping while it’s closed. 

If you feel any, inspect the door seal around it for damages or loose fittings.
Overcrowded FreezerRearrange the items in your freezer to maximize the space in the compartment.

Transfer all food items into containers for easier storage.

If the freezer is full, move other items to the fridge compartment.
Freezer Fan Motor FailureUnplug your refrigerator and remove the shelves and bins in the freezer compartment.

Unscrew the evaporator panel and unplug the wires connecting it to the fridge.

Unscrew the fan assembly from the panel cover and inspect the fan blades for any damages or debris buildup.

Open the fan motor panel cover and inspect the wiring around the fan motor for any loose or damaged connections.

Replace the wires if necessary.

Inspect the fan motor for any damages. When replacing this component, refer to your user manual for the correct model.

See what we mean? Most of these issues can be resolved without you reaching for a screwdriver!

However, should your circumstance require you to access the fan motor itself, don’t hesitate to call for professional assistance if you need it.

Open Freezer Door

Fan errors in your Samsung refrigerator typically stem from poor door management. That’s why we recommend inspecting your fridge’s door assembly as the first step in addressing issues like this.

Your Samsung refrigerator is programmed to slow its cooling fans down once you open its door. When you leave the door open for too long, it eventually shuts its fan mechanic.

Once the fan mechanic stops, you’ll notice your freezer getting warmer.

This is because the fan mechanic keeps the compartment chilled by blowing air into the evaporator coils and allowing it to absorb more heat from the refrigerants.

Moreover, when a door is left open for too long, you put the refrigerator at risk of a faster and thicker frost buildup, especially in the freezer compartment.

Conversely, when thick ice forms inside the freezer compartment — especially along its walls — you’ll find it harder to close the door due to the frost buildup.

Cold air constantly circulates in your freezer compartment while the door is closed. 

Once you open the door, warm air from outside will seep into the freezer; closing the door afterward will entrap the warm air and mix it with the cold one circulating inside.

This is a cycle that happens no matter how abruptly you perform the action of opening and closing the freezer door, thus your Samsung fridge uses an auto-defrosting system to melt off excessive ice formation from time to time.

However, if the ice buildup grows too thick, the only way to melt off the ice is by force-defrosting your fridge and resetting it.

Solution: Put your refrigerator in Force Defrost mode. This will melt off the ice buildup in all compartments, including the freezer.

To activate this setting, press and hold the Power Freeze and Fridge buttons for at least 8 seconds. Then press any other button until “Fd” appears on the display, accompanied by a beep.

If you have a dispenser model, press the Freezer and Lighting buttons instead.

You can run the Force Defrost mode without emptying your refrigerator, however, we recommend realigning the shelves and bins in your freezer while it’s defrosting.

This is to ensure that none of the shelves or bins are misaligned, preventing the freezer door from closing all the way.

The Force Defrost lasts for at least 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the frost buildup inside your fridge. 

If you’re looking to speed up the defrosting process, we advise against using a hairdryer or other similar devices. This can damage the material of your refrigerator, as well as pose an electrical hazard once all the ice has melted.

Instead, leave the door open while Force Defrost is running. Unlike when your refrigerator is in cooling mode, defrosting mode uses warm air from the defrost heater to get rid of all the ice buildup.

This means that warm air from outside poses no risks while the fridge is in defrosting mode. In fact, all that warm air from an open fridge door can help defrost your fridge faster.

Once that’s done, double-check if the door can close firmly. If you still have difficulty closing it, check out some tips from our guide on how to fix a freezer door that won’t close all the way.

An important tip to remember is to refrain from opening and closing the refrigerator door several times over an hour. Don’t leave it open for more than a minute, either.

When powering your fridge back up, don’t forget to restart its settings to reset the error code.

Loose or Damaged Door Seal

Have you ever noticed a rubber seal around your refrigerator’s door and wondered what it’s for?

This is called a door gasket, and it’s installed in all types of doors to seal gaps and reduce the infiltration of light, sound, moisture, and the like. In the case of your fridge, the door gasket keeps the cold air from escaping through the gaps in the door frame.

The door gasket also helps the door fit perfectly in its frame. When this is loose or damaged, the door will have a problem staying closed.

Additionally, the door gasket can wear down over time, but preserving its quality requires regular maintenance.

You can run a quick test on the freezer’s door to determine if the gasket has come loose or is broken. Simply take a paper bill and close the door around it.

If the bill slides freely, this means that the door gasket has issues.

Solution: Check the condition of your rubber seal by holding out your hand near the freezer door while it’s closed. If you can feel cold air coming out, check if the door seal is loose or damaged.

A loose door seal can be reattached, while a damaged door seal needs to be replaced immediately.

Moreover, the door seal can accumulate dirt or debris from the items you store in the freezer. To avoid lint buildup in the door seal, clean the gasket regularly with mild soap and water.

We recommend cleaning the door seal with a soft brush every time you defrost your refrigerator. Do not use bleach or detergent as these products can break down the rubber material.

Overcrowded Freezer

Compared to the fridge compartment, your freezer has limited space. This makes it more prone to overcrowding if you aren’t mindful of how you store items.

An overcrowded freezer can lead to either a door that has trouble closing or a freezer fan that will overwork because of the number of items that need cooling.

When storing your food, consider the amount of space each item needs. Place them in corners so that they won’t get in the way of the door or the air vents.

When your freezer is getting too full, don’t push the items in and force the door to close. The door will only pop open later and spill your food.

Moreover, when the freezer is too crowded, select which items can do without freezing and move them into the fridge compartment.

Solution: Rearrange the items in your freezer and make sure none of them are blocking the door or the air vents. 

We’ve also prepared a number of tips you can follow to avoid overcrowding in the long run. This can also help prevent you from encountering another 21E or 21V error code in the future:

  1. Store your food items in a container. Before placing food in the freezer, transfer them into containers first.

This can help you more accurately estimate the space they will take. It would also make them easy to move around.

Furthermore, containers can help insulate the food in its required condition. For example, if your food requires to be rinsed first before being stored in the fridge, keeping it in a container will keep it from icing up and spoiling.

  1. Let hot or warm food cool down before storing them in the fridge. Unless the food has gone down to room temperature, avoid storing it in the freezer altogether.

Your fridge’s cooling system consists of temperature-sensing components that react to temperature changes inside the fridge.

If they were to detect the heat from hot or warm foods in the freezer, they will most likely interpret this as a sign that the freezer compartment is warming up.

As a result, the cooling system will drop the temperature further, urging the freezer fan to work harder. This can result in ice buildup or an overworking freezer fan.

  1. Don’t store high-moisture items near the back of the compartment. If you’re storing food that has water activity (i.e., meat, freshly rinsed ingredients, etc.), place them as far away from the back of the compartment as possible.

The fridge’s evaporator coils and the freezer fan are located at the back of the fridge. This makes that area more prone to ice buildup as it’s directly in the line of the cooling system.

When foods with water activity are placed near the coils and the fan, they become more susceptible to icing up. Likewise, they could contribute to faster and thicker frost buildup around the coils and the fan.

  1. Leave a 2-inch gap between the door and your items. To avoid any debris getting caught between the door seal and leaving a gap, items should be placed two inches away from the door’s opening.

Likewise, there should also be a 2-inch gap between the containers and the back of the fridge.

  1. Clean the condenser coils regularly. As another preventive measure, we recommend cleaning the condenser coils at the back of your refrigerator regularly.

The condenser coils are responsible for transmitting the warm air absorbed by the evaporator coils and releasing it outside the refrigerator. This is precisely why it’s mounted on the back of the fridge’s exterior.

This also makes it prone to dust and lint buildup, which can turn into blockage when neglected.

And when these coils are blocked, it traps the warm air back inside the fridge and leads to a cooling issue. This scenario can also force other components of your fridge’s cooling system to overwork and overheat.

Freezer Fan Motor Failure

Like the ice maker fan or the evaporator fan, your Samsung fridge’s freezer fan is housed on the back of the cover of the evaporator panel and is surrounded by wires.

An issue with the freezer fan motor can involve these wirings as much as physical damage to the fan motor itself can.

When a motor fails because of wiring issues, it doesn’t always prevent the fan blades from functioning properly. Likewise, if the fan blades are damaged, don’t be surprised to find the fan motor still in good condition.

That means that when you troubleshoot the freezer fan assembly, you don’t have to worry about replacing the whole thing; you can just replace either the blade or the motor!

To distinguish which one is damaged between these two components, listen for a humming noise in the freezer compartment while the refrigerator is running.

If there’s a faint and low humming from the back of the freezer, that means the motor is working as it should and that the fan is likely damaged.

Solution: Power off and unplug your refrigerator to let it thaw out for at least an hour. Alternatively, put the refrigerator in Force Defrost before powering it off and unplugging it.

This is to melt off any ice buildup that can be freezing the evaporator panel in place. It will also melt any ice blockage around the fan motor.

Remove the evaporator panel at the back of the freezer compartment.

If you have a French door model, you’ll have to remove both tray assemblies first. Afterward, unscrew the four bolts holding the door in place to disconnect the freezer door from its bracket.

Remove the gear shaft for better access to the evaporator panel.

Unscrew the evaporator panel from the fridge and gently lift it. Be careful of wires still connecting the panel to the fridge.

Once you’ve disconnected these wires, you can find the freezer fan on the backside of the panel cover.

Unscrew it from its housing and inspect the fan blade for any damage or debris buildup. Turn the blades by hand to check if it has difficulty rotating freely.

If it has debris buildup or is having difficulty rotating, clean it using a soft, damp cloth with mild water. Do not use grease or alcohol.

If there is any physical damage to the fan blades, replace them.

Remove the fan blades from their housing and unscrew the motor panel behind it. Be careful of removing the last set of wires connected to the motor panel.

Inspect the wirings for any damages. If there are any, you’ll have to replace them later.

Once the motor is free, inspect it for any damages. 

Replace it if necessary. Refer to your user manual for your fridge’s model number and the correct freezer fan motor it uses.

Similar to an error code 40C or an error code 22C or 22E, a 21E error can be easily narrowed down to door issues or, in the worst scenario, a certain technical component.

This makes troubleshooting it much easier. In the case of a freezer fan failure, it’s also a matter of long-term habits.

Remember to be mindful of what you put in your freezer and how you put them in. Having a strategic storing organization can save you the hassle of getting this error again.

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