5 Tips for Troubleshooting Your Refrigerator

When the fridge won't cool

Your refrigerator works hard every day to keep your beverages cold and provide safe storage for your cooked and uncooked food. Under the strain of this constant workload, even high-quality models can develop problems that reduce their function or stop them from working at all.

Some refrigerator problems are extensive or complicated and therefore call for expert troubleshooting and a repair performed by a trained service technician. However, you can also troubleshoot a number of other common problems yourself and make your own quick and easy fixes. Let’s look at five of the most useful and simple do-it-yourself repair solutions.

1. Clean Your Fridge’s Condenser Coils

Condenser coils are key to your refrigerator’s cooling capabilities. Essentially, these components, situated at the bottom, back, or top of your fridge, make it possible to pull the heat out of your unit’s refrigerant as this liquid/gas circulates through the system.

Over time, dust and dirt can accumulate on the coils’ surfaces, when this happens, heat builds up and your refrigerator gradually loses its ability to maintain cool temperatures. Eventually, this situation can lead to more extensive damage and a shortened fridge lifespan.

You can avoid unwanted heat buildup and other condenser coil-related issues by periodically cleaning these components. All you’ll need to complete this important task is an inexpensive coil-cleaning brush and a vacuum equipped with a nozzle attachment. After unplugging your fridge, push the specially designed brush through the coils to loosen the dust and dirt. Then use the vacuum to suck up the loosened debris.

2. Clean Your Fridge’s Condenser Fan

If your refrigerator has condenser coils mounted on the bottom or top of the unit, it needs some way to vent the heat pulled from the coils during normal operation. (Fridges with rear-mounted coils don’t share this need as long as they have proper clearance from your kitchen wall.) This is the job of the condenser fan. However, because of their location, condenser fans can suffer from the same dirt- and dust-related issues that affect the condenser coils.

If the condenser fan can’t perform its work efficiently, you can experience the same types of issues that occur when dust and dirt accumulate on the coils’ surfaces. Use your refrigerator’s owner’s manual to locate the position of the condenser fan. After unplugging the unit, remove the grill covering this location and wipe down the fan blades. Also look for and remove anything else that could get sucked into the fan when you turn the fridge back on.

3. Clean Your Fridge’s Door Gasket

The door gasket on your refrigerator is the strip of raised material that runs around the door’s inner perimeter. When you close the door, this material pushes against the body of the fridge and produces a tight seal. In turn, this seal prevents leakage and helps ensure that the cool air stays on the inside where it’s needed.

Problems can arise if you spill any kind of sticky substance (e.g., jelly or syrup) on the gasket or on its corresponding spot on the door frame. Basically, the increase in stickiness can make it significantly more difficult to break the gasket seal when you try to open the door.

In these circumstances, the extra force you exert while breaking the seal can rip the gasket loose from the door or even tear it. In turn, both of these situations set the stage for a relatively expensive repair job. You can ensure the proper function of your fridge’s door gasket (and save yourself a couple of hundred dollars) by wiping it down periodically, or whenever you notice any kind of spill or unusual difficulty breaking the door seal.

Just wet a sponge with warm, soapy water and rub down the gasket and door frame until you remove the source of the problem. Don’t add any detergents to the water; chemicals in these cleaners can actually weaken the gasket and lead to further problems.

4. Clean Your Fridge’s Drip Trays

All modern refrigerators outfitted with freezer compartments have a built-in mechanism designed to do one of two things; melt any unwanted ice accumulations or prevent those accumulations from occurring in the first place. In both of these scenarios, the excess water produced by the system must have a way to exit your fridge.

This goal is achieved through dedicated openings, called drip openings, typically located on the refrigerator’s back wall or beneath the crisper drawers. These openings direct the unwanted water to the fridge’s compressor, which in turn eliminates the water through evaporation.

Over time, the drains in your fridge’s drip openings can develop clogs. When clogs form, they can lead to an accumulation of water at the bottom of the refrigerator under the crisper drawers. They can also lead to spills on the floor surrounding your fridge. Use your owner’s manual to identify the location of the drain openings.

Once you know their location, check them periodically. If you notice water accumulations, an examination of these openings should be part of your DIY troubleshooting routine.

5. Remove Any Obstructions From Your Fridge’s Interior Vents

All refrigerators equipped with freezer units require unobstructed airflow between the fridge compartment and the freezer compartment. Basically, cold air from the freezer side passes to the fridge compartment through one vent and then re-enters the freezer side through a second vent. Without this free exchange of air, you can experience a range of problems, including:

  • Frost buildup inside the freezer compartment.
  • Unusual moisture accumulation in the refrigerator compartment.
  • An unusually low or high temperature inside either compartment.
  • Unusual temperature fluctuations inside either compartment.
  • Unexplained freezing of items located in certain locations inside the refrigerator compartment.

Items particularly susceptible to freezing when placed in the path of your refrigerator/freezer vents include beverages and eggs. If you notice any of the listed issues, check the amount of vent clearance available in both of your unit’s compartments. Problems can occur when something physically blocks the flow of air through the vents on either side.

You can also overly restrict the flow of air if you fill your freezer compartment more than roughly three-quarters full. Consult your owner’s manual for the exact location of your unit’s freezer — and refrigerator-side air vents.

Call a Repair Service You Can Trust

If you’re more comfortable having professionals repair your refrigerator, look no further than Chief Appliance. We’re always available to head over and fix any appliance problems you may have. We will work efficiently and pinpoint the problem, making sure you’re aware of our plan of action before we make any repairs. For reliable service that you can trust, contact West Coast Chief Repair today!



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