What to Check When Your Refrigerator or Freezer is Warming Up; refrigerator warm; refrigerator repair

Whenever I’m on a warm refrigerator complaint, here’s the fire drill I follow:

  1. Instruct the customer to step away from the refrigerator as I walk into the kitchen so she can show me how gawd-awful warm it is. Within seconds of opening the door, refrigerator space temperature jumps. See, I’ll use my infrared thermometer to get an instant temperature reading the moment I open the door. Getting an accurate temperature read on the two compartments both forms the empirical basis for proceeding and helps to define the problem. For example, if the freezer is at 0ºF or below but the fresh food compartment is at 53ºF, I’ll bet you my last warm can of Bud that the problem is with air distribution and I’m going straight for the air supply or air return ducts. Oh yeah, I got lots o’ little tricks like that. Stick around and I’ll show you a few.
  2. Is the condenser fan running and the condenser clean? The condenser is the dirty, icky black coil-thingy at the very bottom of your fridge, right above the floor (unless your refrigerator cools its condenser by natural-convection, in which case, the condenser would be mounted on the back of the refrigerator cabinet and you wouldn’t have a condenser fan). If the condenser fan ain’t running or the condenser is matted up with Rover’s hair, well, hope you like warm beer, that’s all I gots to say.
  3. Is the evaporator fan running? That’s the one in the freezer; you won’t see it but you can hear it. On some models, it stops running when the freezer door is opened, but you’ll hear it when the door is closed. Turn down Shania Twain and Garth Brooks long enough to really listen to the sounds your appliances make. You know, when you’re troubleshooting, you’re using all five of your senses. Does something smell different? Does something sound different? Well, how you gonna know if’n you don’t listen to them when things are running well? Hmmm? Ok then. Y’see, Slick, all your cold air is made in the freezer and that little fan in there blows some of it into the beer compartment. No fan == warm beer. Is simple, da tovarish?
  4. Does the evaporator itself look abnormal: either too much frost build-up or too little? Too much frost indicates a defrost system failure == easy, inexpensive fix that’s definitely worth doing. Too little frost means either a freon leak or a worn compressor; either way, junk the refrigerator and get a new one… unless you got suckered into buying a Sub-Zero and now you’re married to the beeotch.

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