how to diagnose common refrigerator repair problems (photo by:

Your refrigerator is an essential appliance in your home, and when it’s not working properly, you can have real problems: puddles in your kitchen, spoiled food—even spoiled parties! And while dealing with refrigerator problems can be difficult, the good news is that they often have simple solutions. All you may need is a simple coil cleaning or easy part replacement to get back on your way. Read on to learn about common refrigerator problems and how you can repair them.

The problem: Your refrigerator isn’t working at all.

How to fix it: If your refrigerator is not running at all, and the light is not working, you probably have a power problem. Check to ensure that the refrigerator is plugged in securely, and make sure there is no damage to the electrical cord. You should also look for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker, and test the power outlet to ensure it’s receiving a current. Do not use an extension cord to power your refrigerator; plug it into the wall directly.

The problem: Your freezer isn’t cold enough.

How to fix it: If your freezer isn’t cooling properly, first, you’ll need to feel the back wall of the freezer. If it’s not cold, you may have a problem with the compressor. If it is cold and you can feel air flowing from the rear vents in the freezer, there may be a problem with the evaporator fan.

The problem: The refrigerator is too warm, but the freezer is fine.

How to fix it: The most likely cause of this problem is an air flow issue. Your freezer may be too full, which does not allow the air to circulate throughout the freezer and move into the refrigerator. Remove food from the freezer or rearrange it so that there is more room for the air to circulate. You may also have dirty condenser coils, which should be cleaned to improve performance.

The problem: The freezer and refrigerator are both not cold enough.

How to fix it: If there’s frost on the back wall of the freezer, you may need to defrost it, as ice may be blocking air flow to the freezer and refrigerator. However, if the compressor is running and you can hear the fan in the freezer working, your refrigerator may need repair or replacement.

The problem: The refrigerator is cycling too frequently.

How to fix it: A refrigerator that cycles too often uses more energy than normal. This is usually due to a build up of dust or hair under the condenser coils. Clean them of dust and other debris to see improvement. If your refrigerator continues to cycle on and off after cleaning, call a professional. Or, you may simply have your freezer set too high at above 10 degrees. Set your freezer temperature between 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The problem: The refrigerator is freezing food.

How to fix it: If you have frozen food, and it’s not in your freezer, check your temperature control thermostat. You should rotate it all the way from stop to stop. If you hear a click, it should be OK and reset. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to call a professional to check the thermostat, thermistor, or temperature control board.

The problem: Your freezer has a lot of frost.

How to fix it: This often happens when the freezer door is accidentally left open. Or, your door seal may be torn or dirty with debris. First, try closing it shut securely and allowing it to automatically reset with a defrost cycle. You can also turn off the light in your kitchen and look around the freezer door to see if there is any light leaking out: if you can see light, cold air is getting out, while warm air is going in. If your door seal is dirty or damaged, have it repaired or simply clean it. Another solution may be replacing the gasket. You may need to move your food, unplug the refrigerator, and allow it to defrost.

The problem: Your refrigerator is leaking water.

How to fix it: Your refrigerator may have a clogged or freezing defrost drain. Find the drain in the rear panel of the freezer and thaw any ice that may be blocking it. You can flush the drain by using a turkey baster filled with hot water. It’s also a good idea to check the water supply line for leaks.

The problem: Your refrigerator doors are sweating.

How to fix it: Your refrigerator works hard, but you don’t want to see it sweat. This is usually a sign of excess moisture from damaged gaskets. You should replace gaskets to ensure that doors are closing properly and not interfering with the defrost cycle.

The problem: No water is coming from the water dispenser.

How to fix it: Your water supply tube may be frozen. Try removing the hose and allowing it to thaw out. Maintain a freezer temperature between 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, as a lower temperature may freeze water in the line. Alternatively, you may have a problem with your water inlet valve if the water pressure is good. This is a simple replacement. It’s also a good idea to check your water filter, as it may be clogged. Most refrigerators require regular replacement of the water filter.

The problem: Water accumulates in the refrigerator.

How to fix it: Water accumulation is often caused by a blocked defrost drain. You should call a professional to unclog or defrost your drain. Or, unplug your refrigerator, locate the drain tube, and use a turkey baster to force a solution of half warm water, half bleach into the tube. You’ll need to remove and clean the drain pan under the fridge as well.

The problem: Your ice maker isn’t making ice.

How to fix it: This one is usually easy. Check the wire next to the ice maker assembly. A raised wire means the ice maker accidentally got turned off. Lower the wire with the red lever. Or your freezer may be too warm to make ice. At temperatures above 10 degrees Fahrenheit, your ice maker may not work properly, so be sure to set it between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. There could also be a problem with the water inlet valve, or the water filter, which would need replacing.

The problem: The freezer is noisy.

How to fix it: Sizzling noises are nothing to worry about and are part of the normal defrost cycle. A buzzing noise is more trouble, as it could be electrical problems, or your evaporator fan hitting ice build up. It’s best to call a professional if you hear a buzzing noise.

The problem: The light in the refrigerator isn’t working.

How to fix it: This is usually just a case of a burned out bulb. Locate the bulb and replace it, and you should be on your way. You may also have a problem with your door light switch, which can be replaced if it’s defective.

The problem: Your freezer is leaking oily residue.

How to fix it: A leaking oily residue often means you’re losing coolant. It’s best to call a professional to deal with these leaks, as the coolant can be toxic.

The problem: Your refrigerator has an odor.

How to fix it: Refrigerator odors may be due to spoiled food. Remove food from your refrigerator, wipe it down with hot water and baking soda, and throw out any old food before returning the food to your refrigerator. You should also clean the door seals, as they may retain mold and odors as well.

Whatever the issue may be, proper diagnosis can help you determine if it’s a simple fix or something that requires a professional. If your refrigerator is continuously causing issues, it may be cost effective to look into a home warranty to lower the cost of continued maintenance.

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