Fridge Repair Tips
Fridge Won’t Get Cold
- Open the freezer compartment and listen for a fan. If fan is not working, hold the light switch button in and see if fan comes on; some manufacturers wire the fan through the light switch button, so that the fan only runs when the door is closed. If the fan runs, observe the interior back wall of the freezer and look for a formation of ice crystals; If present, a defrost problem is indicated. Remove the back panel to access the evaporator area.
- There are three components that control the defrost function, the heater, thermostat (bi-metal), and the timer or electronic defrost control. If there is a mechanical timer, manually turn it until the defrost cycle begins; you will feel a detent and all the motors will stop.
- Wait a few minutes to determine if the heater comes on; you may be able to see a red glow if you turn out the light, or you may hear a sizzling noise as melting ice drips onto the heater. If the heater comes on, the timer is bad and needs to be replaced.
- If the heater does not come on, proceed with continuity checks of the heater and the defrost thermostat. This should be done with the refrigerator unplugged or the breaker tripped, because there are live electrical circuits that can arc to the evaporator and put a hole in it requiring very expensive repairs or replacement of the refrigerator.
- Once you have found the defective part, proceed with melting out as much of the ice as you can; a hand held hair dryer or heat gun can be used, but be very careful not to melt any plastic parts or wire insulation. Another option is to just leave the refrigerator turned off and the door open, until all the ice has melted. Then, remove any food that will cause a mess if it melts, eg, ice, Popsicles, ice cream, etc.
- If frost build up does not appear to be the issue, proceed with observation of the evaporator coil which is located behind the interior back panel of the freezer compartment. If the compressor is running, there should be a light frost pattern over about 80% of the coil length.
- If there is heavy frost in a small area of the coil where the capillary is joined to the evaporator, light frost on only a small portion of the coil, or no frost, there may be a sealed system leak, and, if out of warranty, you probably should consider replacement, but a few further checks should be done prior to replacement.
- No frost at all on the evaporator, and the fan running, can be an indication that the compressor is not starting. Remove the cover, if present, from the motor compartment and place your hand on top of the compressor. It should be warm, and vibrating slightly. Some compressors run very quietly and it is difficult to tell if they are running at any particular time without a clamp on meter that measures current flow.
- A cool or cold compressor indicates one that has not run for a while, and you need to check that the appropriate power is being supplied to the compressor; also check the overload device for continuity and, if none, replace the overload device. CAUTION – Some newer compressors are designed to operate on low voltage supplied through an inverter to the compressor. You should always consult the manufacturer’s wiring diagram for details. If no power is getting to the compressor, there is either a bad control board or cold control (thermostat), or the unit is in defrost mode.
- It should be noted that when a refrigerator’s fans are both not running, it is either in defrost mode or the cold control is satisfied. Refrigerators with static condensers do not have condenser fans. If a single fan is not running, you must check for the appropriate power supply at the fan motor connection. CAUTION – some fan motors run on low DC voltage. Consult the motor label for the electrical specifics of the motor you are checking. If the power supply is present, replace the fan motor. If no power supply is present, proceed below.
- With electronically controlled units, remove power by unplugging or turning off the appropriate breaker for five minutes and then restore power. This will take the control out of defrost mode. When this occurs, you should hear both fans (evaporator and condenser) start and the compressor may start, may try to start and click off. If it starts, let it run for ten to fifteen minutes and then check the frost pattern. If all is normal, you may be ok now, but keep a close watch for 24 to 48 hours. Sometimes power fluctuations cause an electronic control to get con fused and it just needs to be reset. If the problem recurs, replace the control board.
- Mechanical controls will require a continuity check across the control terminals. If there is continuity, move to the time. Manually advance the timer ¼ turn. The unit should start up; if so replace the timer.
- If the compressor sounds as though it is straining to start and then an audible click is heard, replace the relay and overload. If this doesn’t get the compressor started and running, the compressor is locked up and will need to be replaced. Compressor replacement is expensive and requires special equipment. If out of warranty, you should consider replacing the refrigerator.
Fridge Doesn’t Seal
- Examine the door seal, and if it is torn, misshapen, or not seated properly, the seal will need to be replaced, reshaped (use a hair dryer or heat gun on a very low setting), or reseated. A heated door seal is very fragile and tears easily, use extreme care.
- If the door seal passes inspection, and the door does not close all the way and pops back open if you force it closed, something is blocking it on the inside. Make sure all shelves are seated properly, all bins and drawers are installed correctly and closed completely. Check that no items are past the shelf edge and that the door shelves are in correctly and not hitting anything.
- If the door closes, except for a small area usually near a corner, the door has been racked (forced out of shape). Slightly loosen the screws all around the perimeter of the liner, twist the door in the opposite direction to the non-contacting portion, retighten the screws at the corners only, and recheck. If the door is now ok, tighten the rest of the screws. If not loosen the corner screws and rack the door some more. You may have to hold it in position while tightening the screws. Repeat until door closes properly.
- If the door closes but, not easily, or if it doesn’t appear level, it may need a hinge adjustment, or the spacer(s) at the bottom may be worn out.
- On top mount freezer models where the freezer door has the problem, to level the door, loosen the screws on the top hinge, lift the door to the level position and tighten the screws. To raise the door, remove the top hinge, lift the door off, and add a spacer or two (if nylon spacers are not readily available, you can use flat metal washers), and replace the door and top hinge. If the fresh food door has the problem, remove the freezer door, then remove the middle hinge (some have a removable pin so that you only need to unscrew or pull out the pin), and lift the fresh food door off of the bottom hinge; proceed with spacers or washers, as above, until door positions properly. It is good practice to lubricate hinge pins and spacers during these procedures.
- Most side by side refrigerators have two-piece-spacers on the bottom called door cams. These keep the door at the proper height and assist in door closure. They are available together in a kit, and should be replaced when worn. They are model specific, so be sure to get the correct ones for your particular model.
- There are only two sources for water in a refrigerator; the water that supplies the ice maker and water dispenser, and the water that is produced from the melting ice during the defrost cycle.
- Water from the ice maker and water dispensing system is comprised of two sections, the pressure side and the distribution side. A leak on the pressure side will leak constantly until the water supply is turned off. The pressure line runs from the supply valve (usually at the wall behind the refrigerator) and runs to the inlet valve on the back of the refrigerator. In some cases this line first goes directly to, or flows through a fitting to the filter before the inlet valve. This is a pressure line also. Inlet valves for systems with both ice and water are dual valves in that one pressure line comes in and two distribution lines, individually operated by the appropriate switch, go out. The one going to the ice maker would leak only when the ice maker cycles. This line is visible and travels from the inlet valve, up the outside back of the refrigerator and joins a fitting just before it enters the freezer.
- The distribution line for the water dispenser is a bit more complicated. It runs from the inlet valve through the motor compartment, up through the bottom, into the fresh food section and connects to a reservoir, tank, or coil of tubing (which retains water and allows it to be cold when dispensed). Often the tubing passing near the compressor becomes brittle and breaks. It will only leak while the dispenser is calling for water. Tubing, reservoirs, tanks and tubing coils must be replaced they cannot normally be repaired. Leaking pressure must be replaced with lines designed to carry water under pressure. Lines leaking at fittings can often be repaired by cutting off the bad portion or fitting, putting on a new fitting and reattaching the line.
- Leaks from the melting ice during the defrost cycle is mostly evident by a small puddle of water directly under the freezer door of a side by side refrigerator and results from a clogged defrost drain. The drain runs from a hole in the small pan under the evaporator coil, through a tube, which allows the defrost water to enter a pan under the refrigerator where it remains until the motor compartment heat evaporates it. These pans normally do not need to be emptied. When the drain is clogged, water in the drain pan in the freezer refreezes. This eventually overflows the drain pan and collects on the floor of the freezer and when that area is full of ice, the water then begins to run out from under the door during the defrost cycle. To clear the clogged drain, use a turkey baster full of hot water and force it through the drain; also remove all the accumulated ice.
- In top mount refrigerators with clogged defrost drains, water is usually found on a shelf directly under where the drain leaves the freezer and exits the back of the fresh food compartment, or at the bottom of the refrigerator. The drain in top mount freezers is cleared in the same manner as in side by sides, with the following caveats: On some models the freezer drain drips into a cup device which is attached to a hole in the back wall – the cup must be removed and cleaned out as well as any accessible exterior drain tube on the rear of the refrigerator.