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Poor cooling is often the result of a heavy frost build-up on the evaporator coils. A frost build-up usually indicates a problem in the self-defrosting system or damaged door gaskets.The refrigerator is supposed to self-defrost approximately four times in every 24 hour period. If one of the components in the self-defrosting system fails, the refrigerator continues to try to cool. Eventually, though, so much frost builds up on the evaporator coils that the circulating fan can't draw air over the coils, reducing the cooling in the refrigerator.I would remove all of the food from the refrigerator and freezer and turn the thermostat in the refrigerator to off, leaving the doors open for 24 hours. This will manually defrost the refrig. and make sure you have plenty of towels to soak up the water. After this period, turn the thermostat back to a normal setting. If the refrigerator then cools properly, it indicates a problem with one of three components in the self-defrosting system: The defrost timer, the defrost thermostat or the defrost heater.If it still does not cool properly and begins to ice up again, there may be a problem with the refrigerant level or the compressor and I would recommend hiring qualified technician to further diagnose the problem.
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Best of Luck, Brian
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As I stated in my question, the refrigerator cools OK after it is defrosted, so I know it's not a problem related to the seals. The other thing that I mentioned is that I must set the freezer temperature slide between zero and one (scale is from zero to nine) to prevent the compressor from running continuously. At this setting refrigerator and freezer temperatures seem to be in a normal range. If the defroster was the primary cause, I would think that the refrigerator would run with OK at a "normal" setting.
If you have checked the seals and they are fine, then you should look at the self-defrosting system. Since the refrigerator is cooling properly after the manual defrost, it indicates a problem with one of three components in the self-defrosting system: The defrost timer, the defrost thermostat or the defrost heater. One of these items being defective can cause the refrig. to get warm and not cool properly.
The thermostat cycles the freezer on and off. If the temperature inside the freezer is cold enough, but the thermostat doesn't cycle off, the thermostat may be defective and you would need to replace it.
Do you have any idea which of the defroster components are most likely to fail in this refrigerator and is there any easy way to test any of these components with an ohmmeter or some other simple method? Any ideas on this particular model refrigerator (Maytag MSD2556AEW)?
You will need to test each one.
Here is a link that will help you test each one and you can also purchase the parts from them, if you like.
Here are parts diagrams and lists for your unit.