Most refrigerators are expected to last for at least 13 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders. This makes them one of the most durable appliances in an American household, which is remarkable considering that -- except for occasional power outages -- they operate on a nonstop basis. Despite their durability, the 24-hour demands placed on refrigerators may eventually cause problems, some of which are indicated by thumping noises.
Sometimes thumping noises from a refrigerator are just routine sounds coming from the compressor. As refrigerators age, some of the parts may not function as well, but this is not a cause for alarm. According to Home Repair Forum, one of the compressor's three springs may be wearing down or may even be broken, which can cause a thumping or bumping sound whenever the motor stops. However, a faulty or broken spring will not affect the overall performance of the refrigerator.
It is possible that the thumping noise from the refrigerator is a symptom that the compressor is wearing out. The compressor and the motor are housed inside of a sealed canister; in the event of a compressor failure, the entire canister must be replaced. In most instances, replacing the canister will cost more than the refrigerator is worth; if the appliance's compressor is not under warranty, the price for parts and labor could exceed $350.
The thumping noise may be caused by the damper assembly on certain appliance models. Free Appliance Repairman Online notes that General Electric Profile refrigerators have a damper assembly that is susceptible to breaking; and if it does, the refrigerated food will start to freeze. To address this issue, GE has changed the design of the damper on more recent models; if you have one of the older Profile refrigerators, contact GE about a replacement damper.
Broken Door Bearing
The refrigerator's thumping sound may be the door bearing. If the sound starts when you open the refrigerator more than halfway, the door bearing is most likely broken. While this is a simple fix, the refrigerator door will have to be removed from its top and bottom hinges to access the bearing. Have someone help you hold the door while taking it off; or if you're not comfortable with making the repair, call an authorized service technician for assistance.
It is quite possible that the thumping noise is one of the refrigerator's normal operational sounds. According to Whirlpool, if your refrigerator has an ice maker, the thumping could be the sound of the water line. In addition, the water supply line could be knocking up against something during the ice-making process.