The Saga of the Broken Magic Chef
Summary: Did your Magic Chef HVDR1040 refrigerator stop working? Don’t throw it away just yet!!! This quick repair could save you hundreds of dollars. Plug in your broken fridge. Nothing? Empty your freezer, stick your head in there and listen. Do you hear sounds coming from the back of the freezer every minute or so? Look through the slots in the back panel of the freezer. When you hear those sounds, do you see the fans blades spin and then quickly stop? If so, I have a $20 fix for your broken fridge!
I live in a tiny house, so I don’t have a need (or space) for a standard 25-30 cubic foot refrigerator. Unfortunately, due to everything being supersized, there aren’t many options for smaller “apartment” sized fridges. So, after doing a little research, I landed on 9.9 cubic Magic Chef HVDR1040. It comes in three different colors, white (HVDR1040W), stainless steel (HVDR1040ST), and “stainless look” (HVDR1040S) which is what I got. The fridge came with a 1-year warranty, and 5 year compressor warranty. After about 14 months, the fridge started cooling erratically, sometimes working, sometimes not, seemingly at random. Until it just stopped working completely.
Now, I’m cheap, so I really don’t want to throw out a practically new fridge. It just seems like such a waste. And of course Magic Chef was no help at all past the warranty period. So I started trouble shooting. With the fridge plugged in, I could hear it making small noises every 10-15 seconds or so, so I knew it was trying to do something. I narrowed the noise down to the freezer. Following my ears, I found a small fan tucked behind the rear panel of the fridge, and sure enough, every 10-15 seconds, the fan would start spinning, and then immediately stop! This part is sometimes called the evaporator fan or condenser fan. Potential problem found!
I disassembled the rear panel, unplugged the fan, and TA-DA, the refrigerator compressor (down at the bottom rear of the fridge) fired up a few seconds later and the fridge started cooling again! I plugged the fan back in and the compressor turned off. Then I unplugged the fan, and it started working again. Safe to say, the fan is the issue. Basically, most of the cooling for the entire fridge and freezer happens in the freezer. The fan in question is controlled by a thermostat and blows cold air from the freezer down into the fridge as needed to maintain a certain fridge temperature. That’s why on this model fridge, items that are places on the back of the top shelf will sometimes freeze. Anyways, something shorted out in the fan, and in order to protect the rest of the fridge components, the entire system stops working. Solution? Get a new fan!
There are two options here. Option 1 is to buy an original (OEM) fan motor, which is part number 50240401000Q. The cheapest I could find after an hour of searching was $70 (see link below), which seems crazy considering $70 is about ¼ the price of what I paid for the entire fridge. Option 2 is to buy something that is a close match. The best I could find is the Samsung DA31-00146E which was $19 (see link below). The original part is plug and play, no modifications required. The Samsung requires 5-15 minutes of modifications, depending on your skill level and the tools required.
I’ve outlined the entire repair process below. This fix definitely works for the following three models:
Magic Chef HVDR1040ST
Magic Chef HVDR1040W
Magic Chef HVDR1040ST
This fix will likely work on the following models, which appear to be re-badged versions of the Magic Chef HVDR1040.
There may be other similarly designed fridges that this will work on, but proceed at your own risk.
Total Estimated Repair Time – 20-45 minutes, depending on method
Tools Required for OEM Replacement Fan –
- OEM Part Number 50240401000Q ($70)
- Phillips head screwdriver (if you don't already have a "jewelers" screwdriver set like the one below, get one!)
- Flat head screw driver
- Utility Knife
Additional Tools Required for Non-OEM Replacement Fan –
- Non-OEM part number Samsung DA31-00146E ($19)
- Superglue or similar adhesive
- Cutoff/grinding wheel, bolt cutters, heavy duty snips capable of cutting 3/16” metal rod. I used a rotary tool similar to the one linked below.
- Wire strippers (or carefully use utility knife)
Step 1: As always when working around electrified appliances, unplug the fridge. Clear out the freezer, but you probably already did this, because all your food went bad, right? At the top left and top right of the rear panel there are two small (1/2” diameter) plastic caps. Get a small screwdriver or utility knife blade under them and remove. This will expose two screwed. Remove those screws.
Step 2: Start pulling the top of the back panel towards you. It should start to come free. There will be a bit of resistance since there is a glued foam strip all the way around this panel. After the top is free, use your flathead screw driver to loosen up the sides. There are two clips on each side that you’ll need to work free, one about midway down, and one about 2” up from the bottom corner.
Step 3: Once you have the back panel free, the back plumbing of the fridge will be exposed, and the back panel that you just removed will be connected to the freezer by one cable. Unplug that cable, remove the back panel from the fridge, and then plug the fridge back in. Does the fridge compressor start working after a few minutes? If yes, then plug the fan back in. Does the fridge compressor immediately stop working? If yes, you’ve found your problem. Continue to Step 4. If not, this might not be your problem.
Step 4: With the back panel removed, you can see that the fan is very “cleverly” tucked into the panel. First, remove two visible screws located near the fan at 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock. Then cut the metal foil backing along the seam between the two plastic pieces as shown in the photo. Grab the fan, and start pulling up, separating the plastic piece that the fan is attached to from the larger freezer panel. As you do this, release the two clips at the bottom of the panel, and the piece of plastic the fan is attached to will come free.
Step 5: Flip over the piece that you just removed so that the fan blades are visible. If you spin the fan blade, you should see one screw tucked below the blade. Wiggle your screw driver through the fan blade, and remove that screw. The opposite side is just held in place, so wiggle the fan around and pull it free!
Step 6: Remove the fan blade from the motor (the part with wires attached) by holding the motor and pulling up on the fan blade. It might require a bit of force, but the fan blade WILL slide off the metal motor shaft. Remove the white plastic piece below the fan blade. If you bought the OEM fan motor, skip down to Step 9.
Step 7: If you bought the non-OEM motor, continue reading. You’ll notice that the three wires from the wiring harness are connected to the motor in a way that is not conducive to easy replacement. Snip these wires off so you can reuse the wiring harness, leaving just enough wire attached to the old fan so that you can see which wire goes where. On the new Samsung motor, you’ll see three pins (and one blank) where you’ll need to reconnect the old wiring harness. Strip about ½” of sheathing off all three wires, and then spin the wire around a small round object (toothpick, paper clip, etc), forming the wires into a shape that will slide around the pins of the new motor. Slide the wires onto the new pins, make sure wires are well seated onto the pins by using your “small round object” and pushing the wire down. Once you are confident that the wires are seated, fill around the pins with your superglue or adhesive. Let dry. If you are having trouble getting all three wires to stay seated at the same time, just do one at a time, letting the adhesive set on one wire before starting the other.
Step 8: With the wiring finished, you’ll notice that the motor shaft on the new motor is about 3/8” to ½” longer than the original. Using your torture device of choice (cut off wheel, grinding wheel, bolt cutters, snips), shorten the new motor shaft so it is the same length as the original. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ll want it within 1/8” or so. Smooth the edges of your newly cut motor shaft as necessary. You’ll need to be able to slide the old fan blade onto the shaft. Note, you don't need to remove the shaft. I only did that for clarity. (As an aside, you can remove the shafts and magnets from the motors. The old shaft/magnet WILL fit into the new motor housing, but for whatever the reason, it WILL NOT WORK when hooked up, so there is something that isn’t compatible there, hence the need to trim the new shaft to the appropriate size, rather than just doing a swap. Figured this might save some of you advanced tinkerer’s some time.)
Step 9: Plug the new motor back into the fridge and wait. In under a minute, the fridge should recognize the new motor is attached, the compressor should fire up, and the fan motor shaft should start spinning. Lightly touch the motor shaft to verify its working.
Step 10: Put the plastic piece back on the fan shaft, followed by the original fan blade. Just gently push the fan blade onto the shaft until it stops. From this point, installation is the reverse of removal. There isn’t anything tricky about putting things back together. Just work in reverse.
Step 11: Enjoy your food and beer being at an appropriate temperature again. If you’re feeling particularly salty, feel free to raise a middle finger and wave it in the air at planned obsolescence and the throw away culture.
Questions? Issues? Comments? Get in touch!