Diffective Diffuser Causing Warm Side-By-Side Refrigerator

By Todd Fratzel on Appliances

Trouble Shooting Kenmore Elite Refrigerator

The last few days we’ve been having trouble with our Kenmore Elite (Model #10656703500) side-by-side refrigerator. Last week I noticed that my morning yogurt drinks didn’t feel very cold and then a gallon of milk spoiled. At first I didn’t think much of it and just turned the temperature down a bit in our refrigerator. Well today we found another spoiled gallon of milk and it finally dawned on me that the refrigerator wasn’t keeping things as cold as they needed to be. The first big clue to the problem was the fact that our freezer was keeping temperature just fine.

Kenmore Elite Air Flow 223x300 Diffective Diffuser Causing Warm Side By Side RefrigeratorAfter doing a bit of research I discovered how these side-by-side refrigerators work. Cool air flows from the refrigerator side into the freezer compartment and back into the refrigerator. The flow of air is controlled by an air diffuser located in the wall between both compartments. The diffuser is connected to the thermistor and electronic controls and opens and shuts a door between the compartments based on the desired temperature.

Because our freezer is working fine and because I could not feel any cold air coming out of the refrigerator vents (see diagram) it’s quite obvious to me that one of two parts is not working properly. Either the diffuser or thermistor are defective and need to be replaced. So rather than take a chance I went ahead and ordered both parts today.

Kenmore Model 10656703500 Parts Diagram

Kenmore Elite 10656703500 Parts Diagram 267x300 Diffective Diffuser Causing Warm Side By Side RefrigeratorOne of the things I like about Kenmore appliances is how easy it is to find parts for repairs. I simply went online and looked up the diagrams for our Kenmore Elite Model 10656703500 refrigerator at Sears PartsDirect.

The part in question is #15 and it’s located in the upper left hand corner inside the refrigertor compartment (see photo below). To remove the diffuser you’ll need to remove part #17 and #16 by removing two small screws. You’ll also need to remove the cover inside the freezer compartment adjacent to the diffuser (see photo).

The thermistor is part #6 and it’s located inside the cover (part #16). I’ll be replacing both of these parts when they arrive and I’ll report back on my success.Kenmore Elite Diffuser freezer1 300x144 Diffective Diffuser Causing Warm Side By Side Refrigerator

Kenmore Elite Diffuser 225x300 Diffective Diffuser Causing Warm Side By Side RefrigeratorIn order to remove the diffuser you need to release the “tabs” on the freezer side. If you look closely in the photos you can see the tabs. Once you release those you can remove the diffuser from the refrigerator side.

I’m fairly confident that this will fix the problem. I say this because I removed the diffuser and the doors inside it were closed shut even though the refrigerator was running full steam ahead trying to cool things down. In the mean time while I wait for parts I’ve manually opened the doors so the refrigerator should cool down quite a bit, if it get’s too cold I’ll manually adjust the doors.

Update

So I wanted to pass on that my assesment was accurate and the refrigerator is now fixed. If you’d like to learn more then read: How to replace a refrigerator air diffuser. You can also read my post about How To Temporarily Fix A Warm Side-By-Side Refrigerator.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the author of Tool Box Buzz and Today's Green Construction. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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85 Comments

  1. Heidi says:

    I love the detail and the pictures in this article. It is really clear as to what someone would have to do to fix this problem.

  2. Ed says:

    Hey, just wanted to say thanks for all the detail…
    I’ve already ordered my replacement parts, and put a stick in
    my current diffuser to keep my fridge cool till the new parts
    arrive.
    In my case, my original problem was that the control relay on my compressor was bad, so as a result, I had built up condensation that eventually froze because I didn’t properly clean things up after replacing the relay. Anyway, ice buildup is what I think caused my diffuser to malfunction.

    Regardless, I now have a cool fridge thanks to this detailed explanation!

    Many thanks to the author!
    Ed

    • raj says:

      i want to thank everyone above, as i too had the same problem and did what was described above and it worked – I now have a little plastic piece pushed into the diffuser to keep it open
      do I even have to replace the diffuser/thermistor? can I not just leave it this way for good (as long as i’m comfortable with how cold it gets and don’t mind not using the thermostat)
      also, a small tip for those who want to remove the air chute to access the diffuser taps on the freezer side: there are two screws that are hard to access as they point upward; best way is to use a socket; screw size happens to be 0.25 inch (quarter inch)

      • Todd Fratzel says:

        I think you’ll find that you’ll have long term issues on both sides. The freezer will likely not be cold enough at times and the refrigerator may get too cold. Quite possible that the unit will run more than necessary which will use up more electricity. Glad it worked!!

        • raj says:

          thanks, todd;
          for now I set the freezer to the lowest (warmest) setting and both sides (freezer and refrigerator) seem to run fine. I suppose it’s running in “open loop” mode (i.e. no feedback control of temp on refig side).

          I’d surmise that when it comes to load on the system (and thus how much electricity is consumed), it depends solely on the freezer setting but not on the refrigerator setting as the diffuser just regulates temp by opening or closing but does nothing to reduce the power at the source of the cooling mechanism; no?)

  3. fidel says:

    hi i need help with mi kenmore frige. i replace the water filter and my cooler stop workinng ta all ,please help

  4. Miguel Justo says:

    Tengo un Refrigerador Kenmore Modelo 106.58953800.

    Hasta hace unas semanas, este funcionaba correctamente, sin embargo
    ahora estamos teniendo problemas: en algunas ocaciones el lado del
    congelador congela todo lo que se introduce en el mientras que el lado del refrigerador no enfria, y en otras ocaciones no enfria en ninguno de los lados.

    Un amigo me envio el diagrama de partes del modelo 106.56703500 y noto que el mio tiene un difusor en la parte isquierda superior, por l del lado del refrigerador pero en la parte inferior no, por lo tanto no veo como el aire podria circular de un lado al otro.

    Me gustaria me ayudarn en este sentido.

    Gracias

    Miguel Justo

    • paco says:

      Fijate bien, a la mitad del panel que divide el refri del congelador, hay una rejilla de plastico, por ahi reingresa el aire al congelador y lo restituye nuevamente al refrigerador por el difusor (en la parte isquierda superior), ese conducto con el tiempo se congela y no permite que el aire circule, deja descongelar tu refri uno o dos dias o con un secador de pelo aplicalo de lado del refri hasta que sientas el aire salir por el congelador, para esto debes remover el panel frontal del lado del congelador, encontraras la otra rejilla en la parte inferior derecha del congelador.

  5. Jean says:

    I just had a compressor fan replaced last week because the refrigerator and freezer stopped cooling. (This happened a few months ago, but I resolved it by vacuming the coils.) This time the new fan seemed to do the trick. I could now hear the fan and motor running. Well, less than a week later, all the ice melted again and everything was warming up. The fan is running, but nothing is cooling. What else could be wrong? It’s a kenmore side-by-side.

  6. Luke says:

    Is the air defuser a moving vent part. Mine seems to be open, something tells me there has to be something sucking in the cold air because cold air sinks and not rises. Is there somethink that sucks the air or is the defuser something that opens and closes the vent.
    Model #10655602400

    • Todd says:

      Luke – The air diffuser is basically a little motor that opens and closes the vent based on the thermostat. There’s a separate fan that’s blowing the cold air inside the walls of the refrigerator, when the diffuser opens the cold air comes out at the top, falls down to the bottom where there is another vent back into the walls. This allows the air flow to move in a circular pattern. make sense?

      • paco says:

        I am whit you todd,I just replaced the diffuser and the termistor and still dont see any results,the fridge side is not as cold as should be and I dont feel any air blowing from the diffuser,what I noticed is when open the freezer door cold air come out from the diffuser as soon as I close the freezer door the flow stops,plus I noticed another thermistor on the freezer side when I was replacing the diffuser….please advice me.

        Best regards.

        • Todd says:

          Paco – I’m out of ideas….probably time for a repair man.

          • paco says:

            ok i have the solution already (after several months, diffuser and termistor replaced whit no results)and its so simple,on side by side fridges, the duct or vent from where the air blows back to the freezer GETS STUCK WHIT ICE !!! that prevent the air from circulating properly so the freezer works ok BUT the fridge does not, defrost your fridge at least 1 or 2 days or apply hot water on the vent(fridge side),you will see a couple of channels aside the vent from where is supossed to flow the air, to locate this vent on the freezer side remove the front panel that cover the radiator and the fan, you will see a little vent on the right side of the freezzer and when its correctly defrosted apply a dryer on any side (vent)you must feel the air in your hand on the other side….problem solved.

          • Todd says:

            Paco – That means the defrost isn’t working or the thermister is not working correctly. That duct should not ice up.

          • paco says:

            Well Todd, but every time you open your fridge moist get inside, and (I think)must built ice in some place, and am talkin in a several years period which sounds normal to me, if I see this duct stuck whit ice in a short period then I will think I have a real problem or some component its not working as you sugested, any way I will keep you informed in the progress but in my opinion we all must keep an eye once in a wihile on the return vent.

            Best Regards.

  7. Don says:

    Hi Todd,
    As you asked in response to my comment under your “Temporary Repair | Warm Refrigerator – Cold Freezer” page, I am reporting back my results.
    I ordered the parts last Saturday (expedited charges), received them Tuesday, and installed them in under 10 minutes. It took a few hours to notice the difference, but now my refrigerator side is nice and chilly holding steady around the factory recommended 37 degrees F.
    Thanks so much for your posting. It saved me lots of money!

    Don in Littleton, Colorado.

  8. JillthePill says:

    We just had a repairman do this repair. Wish I’d seen this post first. I’m online looking for answers because the repair fixed nothing — still cold freezer, warm fridge. In fact, it worked just fine for one week with no diffuser at all and a plastic bag jammed in the space between fridge and freezer. $150 later ….. 55 degrees in the fridge. :(

  9. EDD says:

    i need help with my Kenmore,elite refrigerator my daughter was moving the buttons that were on top but anyways we would like to now how can you fix the temperature What are the numbers for the temperature on top of the frig?

  10. EDD says:

    ok, thanks do you how much do u think it will cost me

  11. George Petrakis says:

    Your instructions and pictures were very helpful. I was able to replace the diffuser and fixed the problem. Thank you very much!

  12. Chas says:

    This saved me so much money. It even gave me the confidence to replace the ill fitting ice chute door. The ice chute kept jamming with ice as if it was melting and re-freezing into a lump of ice blocking the chute. What I found was that the old little ice chute door was not sealing shut completely allowing just enough warm air into chute to melt the ice above.

    Another thing that I found broken was the the little $2.00 dollar looking ice dispenser switch’s “plastic” pins that hold the it in place. I ordered the replacement bracket from Sears for $12.00 and installed it in 10 minutes.

    Our grandkids jammed their glasses against the ice dispenser paddle so hard that it broke the cheap pins that holds the switch in place.

    Sorry for rambling but this is a great site—share the knowledge

  13. Fardin says:

    I changed Diffuser and Thermistor on my Kenmore ellite refrigerator but the vent where cooling air goes back to freezer is blocked with ice. What is causing this and how can I get rid of the ice.

  14. Taps says:

    Hi Todd,
    Mine is not Elite but another Kenmore side-by-side model(106.569266). I don’t let anything blokcing Air Flow. But ice still builds up in the lower left vent by drawer. And after couple of days, it totally covers the vent, Milk goes bad afterwards. I always did defrosting but frequency has now increased. Another symptom I see is, on top-left vent which blows cold air, I see water droplets which becomes ice. After reading all this, I believe mine is the same issue in the article. What you think? I’ll wait for your feedback. Also, I looked up in SearsPartsDirect.com and found out Diffuser and Thermostat costing 28.22 and 67.08 respectively. Are those the right parts because I could not find “thermistor”? Don’t want to sound cheap but do we have better site than that? Because I found out that from Sears Parts and Repair center in our area that min charge for Tech to come out to us is 130. Plus, not being “handy” myself (can hang picture frame though), I am seeking some encouragement from, changing Diffuser and Thermostat can be my cup of tea? Please comment and advise. Sorry to all for such long message with multiple questions. Thanking you for article and any suggestion you may have for me. Thanks again. – Taps

    • Todd says:

      Taps – The only way to know for sure is to look and see if the “vent” inside the diffuser is shut preventing cool air from entering. Sounds like you may have a different problem. Do you have too much food in front of those vents? That might explain icing over?

  15. AlexF says:

    This is a great site – - very helpful & focused…
    I think I have the same issue here – Freezer cold/fridge not… It would appear to be that the diffuser isn’t working or perhaps one of my two Thermistors is failing (freezer/fridge). Is there a way to test the parts before placing the order? If it is the Thermistor, it’s an $8 part,,, if the Diffuser, $75.
    I suspect its the Diffuser, because I don’t think the fan is running… but perhaps the fans not running because the Thermistor is broken and isn’t sending it the appropriate signal to turn the fan on?…
    I too have some condensation surrounding the Diffuser and hope it’s not to do with the circuit board as someone earlier mentioned…!
    So is there a more definitive way to determine which of these components is failing or do you just hit them either one at a time or all at once? Ive read about a test-code that signals “P” or “F” for numbers “1-10″ thereby relaying whether certain parts are passing or failing, but I didn’t see it for my fridge (which incidentally is a Kenmore Coldspot Elite 106.52703100) — Alex

    • Todd says:

      Alex – Thanks for the compliment. I ended up replacing both for the simple fact that I couldn’t be sure and I was sick of spoiling milk! After tearing it all apart I discovered the broken diffuser. Looking back at my situation what I do know is the diffuser would consistently stay shut unless I propped it open. The fan runs when the entire refrigerator condenser is running so that’s not necessarily going to tell you much.

      • Cheryl says:

        Todd, I opened my fridge a few hours ago and could hear a little clicking sound(fast) I looked up and noticed that none of the lights are on for the settings on the temps for the fridge and freezer and the lights for the filter. Can’t tell yet if the fridge is warming up or not. Any suggestions.

        • Todd says:

          Cheryl – My lights worked fine throughout the diffuser breakdown….sounds like a computer/circuit board issue.

          • Cheryl says:

            Todd, being it was the weekend, I had removed the top shelf freezer stuff to the freezer in the garage, seems like the bottom was staying fairly cool. So Hubby and I were debating our next step, he got the book out and was doing troubleshooting when I got online and saw your response (computer/circuit board problem) his idea was to unplug and see if it would reset, all the lights came back on and the blower is running again. Time will tell if this fixed our problem. Thanks for the response and just in case anyone has the same problems hope this is helpful to them.

  16. bates says:

    My Kenmore fridge(not elite s/s, but a bottom freezer)developed the warm refrigerator/cold freezer syndrome and no light. Having a lapsed warranty, I googled the problem. Got your site. I made sure there was no blockage in the upper shelf near the air exchange section below the freezer. The result was not satisfactory. Then, because I needed to get replacement bulbs, I unplugged the fridge to unscrew them. I re-plugged the appliance. I could feel that there was a change in temperature (lower- by the feel method since I threw out my old thermometer)later, but not as cold as I had hoped. Was this a resetting of the circuit board?

    My other question is: if the problem (warm fridge section)persists, can I follow the directions you described to replace the diffuser/thermistor units even if I do not have a side by side appliance? I do not consider myself “handy” so you may think this is a dumb question!

    Thanks

    • Todd says:

      I’m really not that familiar with the above/below configuration. It’s likely that it uses some other approach for cooling the upper portion. Do you have a parts diagram? That would be the first step in trying to figure this out.

  17. Phoebe says:

    Hi Todd. Freezer fine, frige not. Air flows through diffuser after manual defrost and worked fine for 1-1 1/2 weeks. Evaporator fan ok. Ice on coils. I’m thinking defrost switch?? Can’t find it though. Have Kenmore (Whirlpool) 106.58534700.

    • Todd says:

      Have you looked up your parts manual for that one? If not do a search for it and most appliances have an online pdf with diagram. The last defrost switch I did was a freezer and it was inside behind a panel on the inside of the freezer.

  18. Angel says:

    Hi. I also have a warm fridge problem and would like to fix it as described here.
    I need help though in releasing the locking tabs holding the diffuser.
    I see that the hole between the two compartments is rectangular and I see 4 white things on the corners of the hole (1 white thing in each corner). Are these the locking tabs that need to be released?
    I tried to squeeze, push, and pull these but they won’t budge. I did not do it forcefully though since I don’t exactly know how to release them and I do not want to damage them.
    Will you please elaborate how to release the locking tabs?

    Another question is how do I find the model of my Kenmore Elite Side-By-Side fridge?
    I don’t have the receipt or manual anymore. Is the model somewhere on the fridge?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    • Todd says:

      Did you look closely at the picture labeled “Freezer Side”? Do you see the tabs in that photo? If memory serves me right I had to release those using a screwdriver from the freezer side. You’ll have to experiment with it a bit.

      Typically the model number is located on a sticker on the inside of the refrigerator.

  19. sb says:

    Mine is not Elite but another Kenmore side-by-side model
    cant find the model number
    Frerezer work on the botton only,,,,when gets to the top get s warm

    the other side is warm
    any ideas??

  20. steve parker says:

    I have a Kenmore Elite model #10653602201 side by side and having the same problem as what is being posted here. Are the parts the same and is the temp. fix and the replacement of parts the same as illusterated. Thank you for any assistance you can give.

    Steve

  21. Tom Mayes says:

    Hey Todd,I have a Kenmore Elite side by side,the external water dispenster worked one night,,woke up the next morning and not a drop would come out,its making the clicking sound when you push in just like it did before,installed a new filter,still nothing,it is still making ice very well,,Hmmmmmmmm! Tom Ks.

  22. Bob says:

    I have a kenmore elite model 106 52603100:
    January 2010 my freezer and and fridge stopped working. My original extended warranty expired so i paid 250 to extend the warranty one more year. The tec replaced a overload.
    Now the warranty ran out, I have another problem… the freezer works but the fridge is warm.
    Yesterday I was ready to buy a new fridge so i was shopping around. When I googled my problem I came across your website. I was ready to spend around 1200-1500 on a new refigerator, but after reading your website, I have confidence it is the solution to my problem. I just ordered from sears and the thermistor and diffuser will be delivered this Friday or Monday. When I install it I’ll keep you posted.

    • Todd says:

      Bob – I hope it helps. Refrigerators can seem quite complicated but the core functions are fairly straight forward. Please do let me know how it works out for you!

  23. Rick says:

    Hi Tod

    seem your the man when it comes to a fridge
    I have the same problem with the refrigerator side not cooling but
    I noticed that if I open the freezer door the air circulates thru the top vent and as soon as I close the freezer door it stops circulating. I would appreciate your advise.

    Thanks

  24. tim bauer says:

    i have a kenmore side by side and the other evening my wife noticed the unit making a louder than normal noise, and then yesterday i noticed that neither the freezer nor fridge is cooling, however i do still hear a fan that continues to run………any help

  25. Nick says:

    Thanks for the writeup. This gave me some courage to investigate. Finally my issue was frozen ducts and no air was moving from the freezer to the refrigeration side. I had no eletric damper just a manual door I can adjust. I opened it all the way and I am waiting now to see if this is fixed. My temperature was 55F in the fridge side and had some spoiled milk this week.

  26. GE says:

    Thank you for the easy to follow instructions. I had exactly the same problem with my side by side. I’m not a handy by any means but I follow your instruction and now my refrigerator is back to normal…. no more spoiled milk.

  27. paco says:

    Hi Todd,tx for all your advices,
    well, while I am waiting for my diffuser and thermistor (already ordered)the doors that shut open and closed on the old difusser were retired,the diffuser back on place, now the “hole” betewen the frezzer and fridge are free,there is no obstruction at all,and figured the temperature on the fridge would be chilli cold at least, but I see (still) theres little air blowing from the frezzer and the temp. is not enough to maintain things cool, that worries me and make me think if the diffuser and thermistor can correct that.

    thanks again.

  28. Matthew says:

    Hello Todd – MANY thanks for your time and effort helping us DIYers.

    I have a Kenmore side by side with bottom freezer and it seems the defrost heater is not functioning properly. Based on some other web advice I replaced the electronic adaptive control board but the freezer coils continue to freeze up after a couple of weeks. Ordered a new defrost heater but when I checked the resistance (about 26 ohms) the new one measured within a couple ohms of the old one. I also checked voltage to the coil using the 5 quick switch method and it only showed about .5 volts dc (assuming the heater coil is DC?)

    Any suggestions on where I should go next? The unit works great for a couple of weeks after defrosting.

    Model # is 596.73503200

    Thanks!

  29. Kevin says:

    Hi Todd,

    Just bought a new Kenmore Elite french door refrigerator and I am having trouble with the center bar not folding properly. It does not always catch the latch which prevents the right door from closing. Should I just adjust the latch a little to the right or do I need new spring(s) for the folding bar? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  30. Nett says:

    Another moocher for free advice, Todd.

    We stored our Elite 253.44393402 for a couple of years. It was working fine when we unplugged it and now…the condenser will not turn on when plugged in. Any suggestions on troubleshooting?

    Thanks.

  31. Jane12 says:

    Hi Todd, we have a Kenmore Coldspot side by side Model 106.56533400. For teh past week, freezer has worked fine but refrig section has recorded as high as 65F. We tried turning the unit off and on many times – compressor came on – freezer would work but no change in refrig section.

    This morning, we noticed small amt of ice on the tiny vent (diffuser?) on the top left portion of refrig section (freezer partition wall) as well as frost/small amt of ice built up on the back wall of freezer (behind the middle shelves).

    We disconnected power supply, emptied the freezer, and then thawed iced areas with a hair dryer. Turned unit back on; refrig section temp is now 40F, with better air movement through diffuser. Still some frost on diffuser unit. Any ideas, please? Thank you.

    used a

  32. Walter says:

    Good Morning,
    There is a pool of water that forms on the bottom of the freezer which eventually freezes. I can see the rozen water trail coming from the bottom grill (inside the freezer) . Any sugestions?
    Best regards,
    Walter

  33. Heather says:

    Kenmore elite side by side was running warm on both sides. Technician diagnosed prob as faulty mother board. So we replaced it ($300) and a week later just the fridge side is warm. The motor is running all the time and tech said that meant we would need a freon charge ($1000) and he did not think it was worth the money. My question is that if the freezer side is fine, and I can barely feel air blowing into the top of the fridge…couldn’t it just be replacing the blower? If the freezer is frozen, then we obviously have plenty of freon right?

    • Todd says:

      I’m with you on the diagnosis. Sure sounds like the diffuser. I hate to say it but I haven’t had great luck with appliance repairmen….hence why I try to fix it myself!

  34. John says:

    My wife stuck a box of instant potatoes in front of the diffuser blocking the unit and not letting it cool as well as it should. (no comments about the potatoes she is a horrible cook):)

  35. Phil says:

    I have a kenmore 106.9535710. The refrigerator was warm and freezer was too cold. I took apart the difuser and cleared some ice build up. The foam around the diffuser broke apart but I still put back the diffuser. It worked great for a few days but now ice build up near diffuser and on top shelf. How important was that foam around diffuser? And what else could be problem?
    Thanks

  36. John W. says:

    Todd
    Thank You for your excellent advice and instruction, I was able to order the parts from Sears.com for $113.00 with delivery, and the refrigerator has been running perfectly since. Probably saved a couple hundred dollars not having to call a service person.

  37. Woody says:

    We have a side by side Kenmore Elite and the water dispenser started trickling out when trying to fill a glass – then it stopped all completely. No water getting to the dispenser and no ice making? When the ice dispenser and water dispenser button is pushed, the motor is working and a clicking sound but no water coming out or getting to the ice maker….please help! Freezer is cold and refrigerator is cold also…only problem…no water coming out but replaced the water filter and water is getting to it b/c when we pull it off, water drips out. Please help!!!

  38. Carlos says:

    how do i initiate this particulator refrigirator to defrost. 106.59429801 kenmore.

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