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Fridge Repair 101 – Fixing Basic Refrigerator Issues

shoe and other items in a refrigerator

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

Fridge repair doesn’t always require professional service. Many repairs are simple and straightforward, and knowing how to perform these easy fixes can save you hundreds.

Of course, more complex repairs may require professional attention, but before you call a repair technician, it’s worth checking if the fixes in this article work first.

Preliminary Fridge Repair Notes

Before we get into the specific repairs, there are a few items to keep in mind.

First, if you are at all uncomfortable with working on your refrigerator, call a professional. It’s not worth damaging your unit or risking injury if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you might even void the unit’s warranty if you’re not careful.

Second, when replacing refrigerator parts, make sure you get the right part for your fridge’s make and model. That information may be found on the unit or in your owner’s manual. To find replacement parts, use a quick Google search for the brand and “replacement parts.”

Thirdly, you’ll need some tools. The following list should have you covered:

  • Screwdriver (4-in-1 is best)
  • Nut driver
  • Brush for cleaning
  • Level
  • Hair dryer
  • Shop vacuum or rags
  • A sheet of cardboard (for moving the refrigerator)

Finally, before attempting any kind of fridge repair, make sure you unplug it first. Refrigerators have a number of moving parts and wires, and you want to make sure those don’t come alive on you while your hands are inside.

Easy Fix 1: Noise Problems

One common problem with refrigerators is noise. This typically results from one of two places:

  1. Fan motors
  2. The compressor

Noisy fan motors are a simple fix that you can do on your own. If the noise is coming from the compressor, however, you’ll probably need either professional fridge repair or total replacement. It’s pretty easy to diagnose the core issue, though.

Start by opening the freezer door. If the noise gets louder, then the evaporator fan is the problem. It’s easy to replace—just empty out your freezer, remove the back panel inside, and carefully unscrew the fan and its mounting plate. Make sure you disconnect any attached wires. Disconnect it from the mounting plate and replace it with a new fan. Reverse the process to reinstall.

If the noise doesn’t get worse whenever you open the freezer, you’ll need to pull your refrigerator out. In most cases, you can do so without scratching your kitchen floor—just make sure the area is clear of debris. Once the back of the fridge is accessible, listen for where the noise is loudest. If it’s coming from the bottom, you’ve got a bad compressor, in which case your refrigerator will likely need replacement. At the very least, you’ll have to call a repair service.

If it’s not coming from the bottom of the unit, the condenser fan in the back is the culprit. As with the evaporator fan, this may be behind a covering which you’ll have to remove. The process from there is pretty much the same as with the freezer fan.

Easy Fix 2: Cooling Problems

Another common cause for fridge repair is lack of cooling. In many cases, there isn’t a problem at all with the unit itself—you’ll just need to make sure your fridge is set to a cool enough temperature and has proper airflow. If your refrigerator isn’t cooling properly, check these first:

  • The inside thermostat dial—make sure it’s turned high enough
  • Inside vents—they may be blocked by food containers
  • Refrigeration coils—many units have coils on the back or bottom, so make sure those areas are clean and free of obstacles

If your refrigerator still has problems after checking the abovementioned items, you may have issues with the circuit board or thermostat calibration. In those cases, you may be best off calling a professional.

Easy Fix 3: Leaks and Pooling Water

If you have water pooling inside or under your refrigerator, it may be the result of one of the following:

  • Tilted refrigerator, which causes the drain pan underneath to spill
  • Water supply lines to the ice maker or water dispenser
  • Clogged drain tubes

If you have water pooling under the fridge, it may be the unit isn’t completely level. To fix this, take a level and place it on top of the unit, centering it as much as possible. If it seems your refrigerator is a bit slanted, rotate the level to figure out which side isn’t high or low enough. Many refrigerators have adjustable feet, but if yours doesn’t, using some small coins or shims can help level things off and stop spillage.

ice cream container inside ice encrusted freezer

Photo by Dev on Unsplash

If leveling it doesn’t help, the water supply lines to your ice maker or water dispenser may be leaking. Pull your fridge out and check the plastic or copper tubing. If it’s leaking at the valve, tightening the nuts should stop it. Replacing the tube itself shouldn’t be necessary unless it’s cracked or ruptured.

The last cause of leaking is a clogged drainage line. The drainage pipe is accessed through the freezer, and it may be blocked by ice. This is easy to fix by thawing it with a hair dryer. Once you’ve melted the clog, mop it up and blow out any remaining debris inside the tube. This can be done with a bit of PVC pipe or an air pump.

Complex Fridge Repair

In the end, these types of repairs often boil down to basic appliance maintenance. That said, if nothing seems to work or if you’re not comfortable working on your own refrigerator, it’s probably best to call a fridge repair service.

Along with knowing how to service your own refrigerator, another way to keep it running is with a home warranty. Home warranties cover numerous appliances, including refrigerators. It’s worth taking some time to consider your options, whether you want to cover a new unit or get coverage for your current one.

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