Troubleshooting Refrigerator Problems

What to Do When the Light Goes Out and Other Problems

Posted by Tony Green | Sep 02, 2009
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Your refrigerator might seem like a mysterious contraption, especially when something suddenly goes wrong. However, DIY fridge and freezer repair can often be surprisingly simple. Find out the five most common refrigerator problems and how to deal with them yourself.

  1. Nothing happens. There’s no sound of the refrigerator motor running and the light doesn't come on.

Make sure the power cord is securely connected to an electric outlet. This may sound simple and obvious, but it does happen. If cord is indeed plugged in, check the circuit box and reset the breaker if necessary. 

  1. The refrigerator is not cooling sufficiently – or at all.

This is probably the commonest refrigerator problem. First make sure the thermostat is set at the proper temperature. Generally a default setting is marked on the dial or spelled out in the operating manual. Give the dial a turn or two and reset it. Sometimes the contacts become stuck and need to be jarred loose. If it happens again, this part may need to be replaced. Always unplug the unit when replacing the thermostat or any electrical part.

If the thermostat is OK, then check the condenser coils underneath the fridge for dust. Dust buildup will prevent the coils from carrying heat away, making the unit work harder and less efficiently. Remove the panel in front and vacuum underneath.

Inspect the seal around the door. Place a bright flashlight inside and turn off the lights in the kitchen. If you see light anywhere around the seal, it is faulty and needs to be replaced. A replacement seal can be obtained from your manufacturer or an appliance parts source.

  1. The fridge is too cold.

This problem can also be caused by a wrong setting on the thermostat (too high). If adjusting the setting doesn’t solve your problem, the thermostat itself may be faulty and need replacement.

Other simple reasons for a too-cold fridge might be: A) an inadequate door seal, due to a worn rubber gasket or loose hinges, or B) a blocked fan vent. 

  1. There is a puddle of water on the floor or inside the fridge.

Look for a leak in the icemaker supply line. If you find one, immediately locate the water shutoff valve and turn off the water. Fix with a repair kit, available at your local home improvement store.

Another possible cause is a blocked drain or overfull drain pan. Locate the plug in the bottom of the main compartment (you may need to consult your owner's manual to find it) and force hot water through it with a poultry baster. A little bleach mixed in the water can aid the process. The drain pan is easily accessible underneath. If there is a puddle that isn't water, call your repairman

  1. The refrigerator runs constantly.

This is another result of dirty coils underneath. Unplug your fridge and vacuum the coils. A brush may able to remove any dirt and dust a vacuum might miss.

Other problems which involve the motor and coolant system are too difficult for DIY repair. When you are unable to fix the fridge yourself or you are not sure about the source of the problem, consult a reliable local professional.

If your problem causes the refrigerator to shut off, you generally have about a day or so of cold to keep your food fresh -- just cover the appliance with a blanket for insulation and minimize opening the door. And remember that a new refrigerator can be cheaper than some repairs.

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