How To Repair A Refrigerator

If you want to know how to repair a refrigerator, this home refrigerator repair guide is here to help. When a repairman approaches a refrigerator that is not cooling or not running, there are a few questions they ask themselves before the first screw is turned. This checklist will help you think like a professional to help you pinpoint your refrigerator problem quickly and accurately. Read each section and click on the link that best describes your symptoms. You will need to keep this page up and go back and forth to your refrigerator to answer questions until you reach the root of your problem.

Is the refrigerator not cooling at all or is it cooling some but not enough?



Cooling some but not enough



Not cooling at all



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This section tells how to repair a refrigerator that is cooling some but not enough

Open the freezer door.

Is the fan running? (Note that on some models you will have to press the door switch for the fan to run).



Yes.



No.

This section shows how to repair a refrigerator that is cooling some but not enough and the fan isn't running. Make sure the compressor is running and if not click here.



Compressor not running

If the evaporator fan (fan in freezer) isn’t running, unplug the refrigerator and access the fan. It will be behind the cover in the back of the freezer. Once the fan is accessed see if it will turn freely by hand and if not, check to see if ice is blocking the blade. If there isn’t any ice blocking the blade replace the fan.

Note that on some models the door has got to be closed for the fan to run so you may have to check the door switch as well. If you have a GE electronic refrigerator this page will help GE refrigerator fan motor diagnostics.



This section tells how to repair a refrigerator when the refrigerator is cooling some but not enough and the fan is running.

Look on the back wall of the freezer.

Is there heavy frost?



Yes.



No.





This section tells how to repair a refrigerator that has heavy frost on the back of the freezer

Refrigerator cooling some but not enough, fan is running and there is heavy frost on the back wall of the freezer.



Unplug the refrigerator and remove the cover out of the back of the refrigerator and take a look at the freezer coils. Are they blocked with heavy frost from top to bottom such as the example below?



Yes. You have a defrost problem and this page shows how to repair a refrigerator with a defrost problem. Refrigerator defrost problem.

No. If the coils are not blocked from top to bottom but you still have frost/ice on the coils then the there can be a few problems.

The icemaker (if there is one) may have leaked water onto the coils causing ice to build up on the coils. This will block airflow significantly and can cause the refrigerator not to cool as well as it should. If this is the case, typically the tube to that feeds the icemaker water will be clogged with ice. Remove the ice from the tube and replace the water valve that feeds the icemaker. This should resolve your problem.

If the door to the refrigerator was at some point left open for a few hours then ice can start to build around the coils. This will block airflow significantly and will cause the refrigerator not to cool. If this is the case, simply remove the ice and all should go back to normal.

The refrigerator can be short cycling. A dirty condenser or a bad condenser fan can cause this. Clean the coils under the refrigerator and make sure the fan next to the compressor is running. If the fan isn’t running check to see if there is something hung in the blade and if not, replace the motor.

There may be a refrigeration problem, such as the compressor is bad, it is low on refrigerant or you have a restriction. There is a picture below that shows what the coils will look like if there is a refrigeration problem. This is a major problem that should only be repaired by a professional. However, expect a very high repair bill so it may be time to consider a new refrigerator.





This section tells how to repair a refrigerator when the refrigerator is cooling some but not enough, the fan is running and there is no frost on the freezer cover.

Remove the back wall of the freezer (evaporator cover) and take a look at the freezer coils. There should be a thin layer of frost along the entire coils and if not you may have a refrigeration problem. If there is a thin layer of frost along the coils then you know the compressor is refrigerating, as it should. At this point you can almost be sure you have an airflow problem. Something could be blocking airflow into the fresh food section such as ice in the damper/return duct or a stuck damper.


This section shows how to repair a refrigerator that is not cooling at all.

Is the compressor running?



Yes.



No.





This section tells how to repair a refrigerator when the refrigerator is not cooling at all and the compressor is running.

If the compressor is running but the refrigerator isn’t cooling at all there is a very good chance there is a refrigeration problem. At this point you will need to check the frost pattern. Remove the cover out the back of the freezer to access the freezer coils. If the compressor is running there should be a thin layer of frost along the entire coils. If there is no/very little frost then there is a refrigeration problem. This is a major problem that should only be repaired by a professional. However, expect a very high repair bill so it may be time to consider a new refrigerator.

Refrigerator not cooling at all and the compressor isn’t running.

Is the freezer fan running?



Yes.



No No. (both fans are off)

Refrigerator not cooling at all, freezer fan is running and the compressor isn’t running.

If you are working on a GE electronic refrigerator with this symptom more than likely the main board is bad.

Is the compressor hot?



Yes.

No.

Refrigerator not cooling, the freezer fan is running, the compressor isn’t running and the compressor is hot.

If the compressor is hot what you want to do is wait until the compressor tries to start. This can be 30 seconds or 10 minutes depending on how hot the compressor has gotten.

When the compressor tried to start did the fan beside the compressor run?

Yes.

If so you have a bad start relay or a bad compressor. Remove the start relay and shake it, if it rattles you know for sure it is bad. If it doesn’t rattle then there is a good chance it is ok but at this point you are better off trying it just to be sure because the only other thing is the compressor.

No.

If the fan didn’t run when the compressor tried to start then you may have a bad fan motor. Make sure there isn’t anything hung in the fan blade and if not replace the fan motor.

This means that the compressor is bad or the overload is bad. Disconnect the refrigerator and remove the overload. The overload is the white part on the side of the compressor. Test for continuity between the wire terminal and the terminal that plugs onto the compressor. If it is open, replace the overload. Note that some refrigerators have overload/start relay combinations and if this is the case replace it.



This section tells how to repair a refrigerator when the refrigerator is not cooling, both fans are off, the compressor isn’t running and the compressor is room temperature.

This indicates that there is a control problem.

It could be stuck in defrost, locate the defrost timer (if there is one) and turn it clockwise about ½ inch. If the refrigerator comes on and starts to cool as normal, replace the defrost timer.

If your refrigerator is controlled by a cold control (mechanical temperature control) locate it and tap on it. If the compressor starts up when you tap on it, replace the cold control. If not unplug the refrigerator and access the cold control. Test for continuity across the two wire terminals and if it is open replace it.

A main board, which in this case may be the problem, controls some refrigerators but it will be very hard to tell for sure. At this point (with these symptoms) you can be reasonably sure the control is the problem, replace it.

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Appliance repair since 1996
2-years refrigeration courses
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