Refrigerator Repair FAQ

Refrigerator Diagnostic & Repair Guide
Problem Possible Causes
The fridge compartment is warm, but the freezer seems ok.
Freezer keeps frosting up real fast.
  • The defrosting system could be bad. Check defrost timer, defrost heater, and defrost thermostat to locate faulty component. Read more about diagnosing defrost system failures.
  • A fried evaporator fan motor can cause this problem, too. Usually accompanied by a warming-up beer compartment.
The whole fridge just isn’t as cold as it should be or it’s warming up.
  • No voltage at the outlet. Go ahead and check the simple things first. And make sure that circuit breaker ain’t tripped.
  • Dirty condenser coil. Pull the bottom grill off and get down on your hands and knees to look. Use a flashlight and a condenser brush if you need to clean the condenser.
  • The condenser fan motor (the one underneath) is fried. If it’s not running, replace it even if it starts running when you start it off by hand. Oh, you may think you fixed it if you get it started again but, believe me, it’ll crap out on you again real soon.
  • You should still check the stuff listed in the previous problem ’cause you might be in the early stages of defrost system failure and it just hasn’t gotten that bad…YET.
  • The cold control is open (that’s "thermostat" for those of you in Palm Beach). I like to jumper out the two wires on the cold control contacts. I don’t know what you like to do but you’re liable to get your gluteous flabeous shocked if you’re not careful doing this.
  • The compressor ain’t starting. This is the dreaded "hummm…CLICK" sometimes heard when a compressor can’t start. There are several things to check if this is the case:
  • The compressor start relay could be fried. The newer solid state relays are especially bad for this.
  • One of the compressor motor windings is opened up. How do we check open circuits, boys and girls? That’s right, we use our ohm meter! These should measure on the order of single digit ohms. The start winding should have slightly higher resistance than the run winding.
  • Current leakage from compressor motor winding to ground. You need to use a special instrument called a megohmmeter.
  • Procedure for checking the compressor.
  • You sprang a freon leak or you got an iceplug in the cap tube. Go shopping– it’s not worth fixing.
  • The light could be staying on in the compartment. You’ll need to check and replace that light switch.
  • Someone (kids usually) left the door ajar. "Oh no, I never do that." Yeah right, I’ve heard it all before.
  • Fridge is leaking water all over the place.
    • The defrost drain opening or drain hose is plugged up with ice or crud. If the drip pan is bone dry, it’s a sure sign that the drain opening or drain hose is clogged. Trace the drain hose back to see where it pick up the condensate in the refrigerator cabinet. Remove whatever pieces you need to to clean that sucker out.
    • On some models, you may need to rig up a drain heater.
    • Door gaskets are torn or not making good contact with the cabinet. No? Well then where’s all that water coming from, Einstein? It can only come from the humidity in the outside air–your fridge can’t make water, dontcha know.
    Other problems not listed here.
    [RV or Gas Refrigerator Only]
    I opened the door and the smell of cat piss ’bout made me hurl that mess o’ Spam and grits I just ate!
    • The cooling unit’s rotten, Homer. Time to either buy a new cooling unit or have yours rebuilt. Word up: the cooling unit is 90% of the cost of your fridge, so plan out shelling out some serious jack if you buy a new cooling unit. Rebuilt means the cooling unit has been:
    • completely removed from the fridge cabinet,
    • stripped of urethane and had the boiler pack removed,
    • completely sandblasted,
    • repaired and rust-proofed/repainted,
    • reinstalled into the cabinet with fresh urethane.
    [RV or Gas Refrigerator Only]
    It cools fine on electric but doesn’t get all that cold on gas.
    • Fouled or dirty gas burner. You should remove the brass orifice plug and clean it out with alcohol and compressed air. Brush off any crud on the burner face, too.

    [RV or Gas Refrigerator Only]
    Works on gas but not electric.
    • Burnt out heating element.
    • Corroded wire terminal connection.
    • Check for 120v AC or 12 v DC, depending on whether yours is a two-way or three-way fridge.

    [RV or Gas Refrigerator Only]
    Doesn’t get cold on gas or electric.
    • Listen for a percolating sound in the boiler pack. If you hear it, your cooling unit replacement nightmare has begun.
    • Bad thermostat. Try jumping it out and see if the fridge will fire up.

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