I went to replace the fridge thermostat today. I unscrewed the housing found the cables popped out the metal thermostat from the plastic casing.

I should have stopped to unplug the fridge here since I didn't do it before any of this. But I blanked and started unplugging the power wires. I started to smell faint electrical burning smell, realized I was playing with power without turning the appliance off, and unplugged it from the wall.

I finished replacing the thermostat and plugged the fridge back in. Immediately came on and started running.

  1. I'm an idiot yes. Guess I wasn't fully awake yet. I build computers I know to turn power off, I don't know what I was thinking.

  2. Since there was some smell, have I increased the chances of an electrical fire? Are there any signs (burned wires, etc) I can check for -- after unplugging the fridge...

  3. I do assume there would be nothing toxic that one with breathe in from the fridge/electronics/burning whatever.

I do think the fridge is running correctly. The freezer is definitely putting out cold air. Just don't want to burn down the house or anything. I forgot the most important step. Have coffee, don't do this after first getting up, and don't get distracted by kid/dog/wife. And unplug the dang thing.

2 Answers 2


If you would have shorted something badly the breaker should have tripped. I say "should" have as long as you have a quality breaker that is not corroded.

I would definitely monitor the situation though until you trust that everything is OK. There shouldn't be any increased chance of a problem unless something was seriously damaged. As long as you didn't breathe the fumes for long then you are good.

Rest easy but keep an eye on the fridge until you are sure everything is working normally.

  • I don't think anything was seriously damaged. I was pulling carefully.im a new home owner and was doing this a little gingerly. The smell went away instantly once I turned it back on. Do
    – hikerguy88
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:43
  1. Shame on you working on something live and living on the dangerous edge! (It seems from your post you felt it was a good idea to beat yourself up, so figured helping you do so might make you feel better? Wad off any trolls?)

  2. The official answer to this question is "Yes"; however, with that said, I suspect you are ok. Nonetheless, go make sure you are ok. Firstly, did you yank on wires to any extreme that you could have caused a cut in the sheathing? (most metal in a fridge is not user friendly/rounded when not exposed to human hands). They most likely, by code, ran the wires in a safe manner and via grommets, but take nothing for granted, these areas are typically not user serviceable. Also, unplug the wire connectors and look for oxidization, burnt, or loose connections. If you find any, clean and tighten them. Also tape off and or repair any cut wires. Oh yea..... Unplug ti before you start.

  3. If something burns, and you inhale it, it is almost if not always toxic. It doesn't matter if it is cigarettes, e-smoke, burnt hot dogs, etc. But I wouldn't panic if you caught a whif and didn't decide to make a peace-smoke-pipe ceremony out of it. Do you feel sick or otherwise abnormal? (probably not), but if you ever do, go see a doctor. (that's general advice, not just for this instance).

All in all, I suspect you are fine, and so is the fridge, but its certainly worth the effort to give you and your family the peace of mind that all is well.

  • I don't know how long it was because I disconnected the two wires to the thermostat and then tried to figure out how to get the metal wire disconnected​. Maybe 2-5 minutes. At first I thought it was from the hot light sitting on some plastic in the fridge then I realized it was more electrical. As for the fridge yeah I think I'll unplug it and take a flash light to look for any issues. I didn't stretch any of the wires too far out notice any cuts in the sheathing. Should probably double check. honest feedback is required for improvement. It was dumb Thank you for the valuable information
    – hikerguy88
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:37
  • The length of time in this instant is not a big deal. I tried to give you a response with sincerity and some light humor because its not an end of the world situation. Yes you could have died, but you didn't. The worst is behind you. As for the length of time, seconds, minutes, even hours wouldn't be something to stress over unless you felt sick, sincerely sick. You definitely did not release cyanide or anything instantly fatal as a gas, thus why I said "if you feel sick, EVER, get checked out"
    – noybman
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:41
  • I do very much appreciate it. Thank you. Yeah I got the humor part and laughed when I read it. The information was also very good and helpful. I'm a new home owner and don't know very much about this stuff. My dad always paid technicians to do things and then I lived in apartments and never really had an issue -- except when the roof fell in from snow and ice...can't fix that myself lol. Anyway I do very much appreciate your response.
    – hikerguy88
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:46

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