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Refrigerator Troubleshooting

Sometimes even the most well-maintained refrigerators may develop problems.   Knowing how to troubleshoot your refrigerator can help save on food replacement and repair costs.

How to troubleshoot common refrigerator problems

Dirty condenser coils

The refrigerator is cooled by coolant that runs through the condenser coils. If the condenser coils become covered in dirt and debris, the refrigerator will struggle to maintain the right temperature. Periodically check and clean the condenser coils of debris or frost. If too much frost builds up on the condenser coils, part of the defrost system likely needs replaced.

Frequent cycling

Another reason for a frequently cycling refrigerator is the temperature is set too low. If the temperature is set too low, the refrigerator can become overworked, and may also start giving food freezer burn.

Freezer will not shut off

If the temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the freezer is too warm to preserve food properly. It will run constantly to maintain the proper temperature. The proper freezer temperature is approximately 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Faulty heater assembly

The heater assembly turns on periodically to melt frost that can accumulate on the evaporator coils. The freezer may not defrost properly if the heater assembly is defective. Frosted coils cause the refrigerator to work harder to keep food cold.

Use a multimeter to test the heater assembly for continuity. If the multimeter does not detect electrical continuity, replace the heater assembly.

Leaky refrigerator

There are two common reasons a refrigerator leaks.

  • Blocked defrost drain – Food particles and other debris can clog the drain hose, making it hard for water to flow. The water begins to puddle inside the refrigerator, eventually leaking out into the floor.
  • Clogged or frozen water supply line – If the water supply line gets clogged, it can prevent the ice and water dispenser from working correctly, causing the water to overflow.

To resolve an ice blockage, unplug the refrigerator for two hours. After defrosting, plug the refrigerator back in to see if the issue resolved.

Ice buildup in the freezer

Ice buildup in the freezer may be caused by a couple of different issues. The first is an open freezer door. When this happens, the humidity level can build in the freezer, causing frost and ice buildup.

The second problem occurs when you have a faulty door seal. When the door seal becomes cracked or broken, it may allow warm air in, causing the freezer to overwork. Check and replace the freezer door seal if it is worn or broken. Check the owner’s manual for the correct door seal for your model.

Fixing a refrigerator that is not cooling

Below are some common problems that could prevent a refrigerator from cooling properly:

  • No power - Check the outlet for power using a different appliance.
  • Thermostat settings - Check the thermostat temperature setting and make sure it has not been moved. Lower the setting to trigger the refrigerator to switch on again.
  • Blocked ventsBe sure the exhaust vents are not blocked by food. The vents need space for proper cold air distribution.
  • Clogged coils - If the coils are clogged, the refrigerator will not receive adequate air flow. To resolve this issue, pull out the refrigerator, and clean the coils with a vacuum.
  • Obstructed compressor fanSometimes dirt or other particles clog the fan preventing it from rotating. To fix this issue, pull out the refrigerator and unplug the power cord.  Clean the fan blades and make sure nothing is preventing their rotation. Spin the fan manually to make sure it is not stuck. Then, plug the refrigerator back in, and push it back flush with the wall.

Repairing dispenser problems

Dispenser control board issue

The control board is the component that controls the dispenser functions. If one component of the control board fails, the dispenser will not produce the function it is meant to control, such as water or ice. Use a multimeter to test each component. If one of the components does not produce a current. replace that component. If both components are faulty, replace the dispenser control board.

Dispenser control switches

The switches send signals to the dispenser control board telling it what selection the user needs. If one of the switches stops working, the control board will not function for that selection. To troubleshoot the control switches, test the continuity of each switch using a multimeter. If one or both switches do not produce an electrical current, replace the switches.

Troubleshooting light and door switch issues

If the refrigerator door is open, the door switch will turn off the ice and water dispenser. To troubleshoot a refrigerator door switch, test the door switch for continuity. Replace the door switch if it does not return electrical continuity.

Light Bulb Does Not Turn On

Check for a burnt out light bulb. Replace the light bulb if needed.

Light or door switches

To troubleshoot a refrigerator light and door switch, test them for electrical continuity using a multimeter. Replace either switch if they do not produce continuity.

Light Socket

Check to see if the light socket is getting electrical current, by testing it with the multimeter. If it is getting power but the light still does not work, the light socket is defective. Replace the broken light socket.

Light Board

Use a multimeter to see if the light board is receiving electrical current. It may be defective if it receives electrical current, but the light still will not turn on.

Light assembly

Many manufacturers sell light assemblies separately. If the light assembly quits working, you may need to buy a new one.

Troubleshooting refrigerator noise

The most common source of refrigerator noises is the condenser fan or fan motor. The condenser fan and evaporator motors run at the same times as the compressor, which sometimes causes loud noises.

To troubleshoot the fan motor, unplug the refrigerator and take off the rear access panel. Check for obstructions that could be preventing fan rotation. The fan and motor housing need to be free of obstruction to allow proper air flow.  Also, check for and replace worn fan blades or fan motor.

Sometimes the simplest things can go wrong with your refrigerator. Even simple things can lead to big expenses if you do not know where the problem lies. Before throwing out a problem refrigerator, arm yourself with the knowledge to troubleshoot the problems.

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