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Refrigerator (Fridge) Troubleshooting & Repair

What is Wrong with Your Refrigerator?

It's stopped completely
It's not cool
Cooling is poor
It's noisy
It leaks
The freezer compartment is icing up
The food in the refrigerator freezes
There's water dripping inside the refrigerator
The refrigerator never cycles off
The ice maker has a problem
There's an ice- or water-dispensing problem
More about refrigerators
Refrigerator replacement parts

Still haven't found, what you looking for here? We have more details on refrigerator repair for you to detect what's wrong with your home appliance.

Note: If your repair problem isn't listed, click here to email or chat with a repair expert.

It's stopped completely

First, check to see if the light comes on or if there is any fan, motor, or other sound coming from the appliance? If so, the refrigerator isn't really completely stopped--go to the specific problem you are having. If not, try adjusting the thermostat to a colder setting. If that doesn't work, read on.

Second, check to see if there is power getting to the refrigerator. To do that, plug a lamp or other device into the same outlet the refrigerator is plugged into. If there's no power, check the fuses or circuit breakers. If the fuses or breakers aren't the problem, contact a qualified electrician to restore power to the outlet.

If there is power to the appliance but it still seems to be stopped, there may be a problem in one or more of these:

  • Wiring
  • Thermostat
  • Defrost timer
  • Compressor
  • Overload and/or relay

Unfortunately, we can't describe all of the possible problems and repair solutions here. If you are unable to troubleshoot the problem from here, you may need to contact a qualified appliance repair technician.

It's not cool

If the refrigerator isn't cool, you need to answer some questions, then see if the compressor is running.

First, answer these questions:

  • Is the refrigerator completely dead? If so, see "It's stopped completely."
  • Is the thermostat knob turned to the proper setting? If not, reset it.

Next, see if the compressor motor is running

The compressor is a football-sized case with no apparent moving parts. It's on the outside of the refrigerator at the back near the bottom. If it is humming or making a continuous noise and your refrigerator is still not cooling, there may be a more serious problem with one or more of several different components, we recommend contacting a qualified appliance repair technician for further help.

If the compressor is not running but you do have power to the refrigerator, there may be a problem with one or more of these:

  • The compressor
  • The Thermostat
  • The overload, relay, or capacitor
  • The defrost timer
  • The condensor fan motor

Cooling is poor

For an overall understanding of how refrigerators should work, read about refrigerators in the How Things Work section of our website. A refrigerator or freezer that is cooling, but cooling poorly, may have a problem in one of several areas:

Evaporator coils
Condenser
Poor cooling is often the result of a heavy frost build-up on the evaporator coils or a condenser that is clogged with dust, lint, and dirt.

Evaporator coils

Poor cooling is often the result of a heavy frost build-up on the evaporator coils. You can't see these coils without removing a panel on the inside of your freezer. A sure sign that there is a build-up is the presence of any frost or ice build-up on the inside walls, floor, or ceiling of the freezer. Such 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. There may still be a small amount of cooling because the coils are icy, but with no air flow over the coils, cooling in the refrigerator compartment is quite limited.

Here's an inexpensive, though inconvenient, way to determine if the problem is with the self-defrosting system. Remove all of the perishable food from the refrigerator and freezer, turn the thermostat in the refrigerator to Off, and leave the doors open for 24 to 48 hours. (Be sure to have several towels ready in case the melting frost and ice causes the drip pan to overflow). This allows the refrigerator to defrost "manually." When the frost and ice build-up has completely melted away, 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 (also called the bi-metal switch)
  • The defrost heater

If it still does not cool properly, there may be a problem with the refrigerant level or the compressor. You may need to consult with a qualified appliance repair technician to further diagnose the problem

Condenser

Self-defrosting refrigerators all have a set of coils and a cooling fan, usually under the refrigerator, that need to be cleaned regularly. If these coils get coated with dust, dirt or lint, the refrigerator may not cool properly. The coils may appear to be a thin, black, wide radiator-like device behind the lower kick-panel. To clean them, disconnect the refrigerator from the power source, use a refrigerator condenser brush (see the Appliance Accessories section) and your vacuum cleaner to clean the coils of any lint, pet hair, etc. You may not be able to get to all of the condenser from the front, it may be necessary to clean the remainder of the condenser from the rear of the refrigerator.

It's noisy

Noise can come from these areas:

The inside of the freezer
The outside back of the refrigerator
The bottom of the refrigerator

The inside of the freezer

Self-defrosting refrigerators use a circulating fan to move the air through the freezer and refrigerator compartments. This fan runs whenever the unit is cooling. The fan is located in the freezer, as follows:

  • If the freezer is on top, the fan is on the back wall, near the top or bottom, in the center of the freezer.
  • If the freezer is on the bottom, the fan is on the back wall, near the top of the freezer.
  • If the freezer is on the left, the fan is on the back wall, halfway up or near the top.

Over time, the fan may become noisy--usually making a chirping or squealing sound, though it may make a loud groaning noise instead.

To find out if the fan is causing the noise, just open the freezer door and push in any fan/light switches. If the noise is louder when the door is open, the evaporator fan motor is the cause. You can't lubricate or repair this motor. You must replace it.

The outside back of the refrigerator

There are three components on the outside back of the refrigerator that may become noisy: the compressor, the condenser fan motor (if self-defrosting), or the defrost timer (if self-defrosting).

  • The compressor is a football-sized case with no apparent moving parts. You can see it on the outside of the refrigerator at the back near the bottom. It is usually black and has black or copper-colored tubes and various colored wires attached to it. If the compressor is the device making noise, there is probably no repair that will reduce the noise. You will have to replace it--which can be quite costly.
  • If the condenser fan is making noise, there may be a build-up of lint or other debris on the fan blade. The fan is located near the back of the machine, sometimes behind a thin panel. To clean it, first unplug the refrigerator, remove the thin panel, and use a soft bristle brush to clean it. If there is no lint build-up or debris on the blade, you will have to replace the motor.
  • The defrost timer is often located at the bottom of the refrigerator, near the front and behind the kick plate. Occasionally the electric motor inside the timer may become noisy. The timer must be replaced to solve this problem.

The bottom of the refrigerator

Noises detected at the bottom of the refrigerator almost always originate from the back of the refrigerator. However, sometimes the drain pan under the refrigerator will rattle. You may need to tape the pan in place to stop a rattle. Also see the "Outside back of the refrigerator."

It leaks

Water can leak from these areas:

The bottom front of the refrigerator or freezer door
The back of the refrigerator
The inside ceiling of the refrigerator
The inside back wall of the refrigerator
Underneath the front of the refrigerator

The bottom front of the refrigerator or freezer door

Self-defrosting refrigerators usually dispose of the water generated during the defrost cycle via a tube or channel that directs the water to a pan at the bottom of the refrigerator. From the pan, the water normally evaporates. (See a more detailed explanation of this in the How Things Work section of our website).

If the tube or channel is clogged or obstructed, the water backs up and leaks into the inside of the refrigerator compartment. Then the water builds up at the bottom, inside of the refrigerator. When the water has built up for a time it may spill out of the front of the door opening. To fix this problem, clear the drain tube or channel and allow the defrost water to flow down to the drain pan.

In some refrigerators, the defrost water is intentionally directed down the back wall of the refrigerator, where it then flows to the bottom of the refrigerator compartment and out to a small drain--usually located beneath one of the drawers at the bottom of the refrigerator. If the drain becomes clogged or blocked, the water may back up. To fix this problem, clear the obstruction.

Another cause may be the following. The refrigerator may have doorframe heaters to evaporate any condensation on the cabinet frame. If your refrigerator is equipped with a switch inside that says "energy saver" or something similar, while running in that mode the door heaters are disabled. Turn the switch to the opposite setting and wait 24 hours. If the condensation disappears the problem is solved.

The back of the refrigerator

Water coming from the back of the refrigerator usually comes from either the ice maker water valve or line (if there is an ice maker), or from the defrost drain pan.

Here's what to do:

  • If the water is coming from the ice maker water valve, check to make sure the water tubes are attached properly and are fastened tightly.
  • If the water seems to be coming from any part of the valve itself, replace the valve.
  • If the water appears to be coming from the defrost drain pan, inspect for holes or cracks, and replace the pan if necessary.

The inside ceiling of the refrigerator

Water accumulating on the ceiling of the refrigerator is usually caused by a clogged drain in the freezer section beneath the evaporator. The clogged drain will cause water from the self defrost cycle to leak into the divider between the freezer and refrigerator. This water may then freeze and cause condensation build-up on the refrigerator ceiling. The solution to this problem begins with unclogging the drain. It may also be necessary to remove the entire freezer/refrigerator divider to thoroughly dry the insulation in the divider. Occasionally the insulation needs to be replaced to prevent a recurrence of the problem. This can be a big job – you may want to hire a qualified appliance repair technician.

The inside back wall of the refrigerator

In some refrigerators, the water from the defrost cycle is intentionally directed down the back wall of the refrigerator, where it then flows to the bottom of the refrigerator compartment and out to a small drain - usually located beneath one of the drawers at the bottom of the refrigerator. If the drain becomes clogged or blocked, the water may back up. To fix this problem, clear the obstruction.

Underneath the front of the refrigerator

If the refrigerator is equipped with a water dispenser on the freezer door, check if the water line to the dispenser is leaking. Also, check the drip pan to be sure it isn't out of place, broken or cracked.

The freezer compartment is icing up

See the "Cooling is poor" section above.

The food in the refrigerator freezes

This is a common problem that often doesn't have a clear, permanent solution. The first thing to check is the overall internal refrigerator temperature (see the Appliance Accessories section for a refrigerator/freezer thermometer). The proper temperature should be between 35 and 42 degrees. Here are some things to try:

  • If your refrigerator temperature is closer to 35 degrees, try turning the temperature up slightly.
  • If you find that the temperature varies a lot from the top shelf to the bottom (where it is coldest), try putting produce and other sensitive products on a higher shelf.
  • If the temperature is too low and you can't make it warmer by adjusting the thermostat, you probably have a defective thermostat. If so, you need to replace the thermostat, because they cannot be repaired. Other possible problems are a leak in the sealed (refrigerant) system, cold air migration (in side-by-side models) or a defective air damper. These problems can be quite difficult to locate and correct, we recommend you contact a qualified appliance repair technician.

There's water dripping inside the refrigerator

Self-defrosting refrigerators dispose of the water generated during the defrost cycle, usually via a tube or channel that directs the water to a pan at the bottom of the refrigerator. From the pan, the water normally evaporates. (See a more detailed explanation of this in the How Things Work section of our website).

If the tube or channel is clogged or obstructed, the water backs up and leaks into the inside of the refrigerator compartment. Then the water builds up at the bottom, inside of the refrigerator. When the water has built up for a time it may spill out of the front of the door opening. To fix this problem, clear the drain tube or channel and allow the defrost water to flow down to the drain pan.

The refrigerator never cycles off

The thermostat cycles the refrigerator on and off. The refrigerator normally runs as long as the temperature inside the refrigerator is higher than the set temperature. If the temperature inside the refrigerator is cold enough and the thermostat still does not cycle off, the thermostat may be defective. If so, you need to replace it, because it cannot be repaired. If the thermostat is not defective, you may have a problem with the sealed (refrigerant) system, in which case you should contact a qualified appliance repair technician.

The ice maker has a problem

The ice maker is a separate appliance within the freezer section. Please see the How things Work section of our website to learn about the normal functioning of ice makers. Some common problems with ice makers are:

The ice maker has completely stopped producing ice
The ice maker is producing ice poorly

The ice maker has completely stopped producing ice

Check to see whether the ice maker has been turned off. Here's how to check. Look for a wire along the right side of the ice maker that looks a bit like a coat hanger. If this wire is in the raised position, the ice maker is turned off. On some units you simply lower the wire to the down position to turn the ice maker on. On others, you lower a small red plastic lever to lower the wire. If the wire is in the proper position check the freezer temperature, it should be between 0-8 degrees Fahranheit. If it is warmer than 10-12 degrees, the ice maker may not produce any ice. Check your door seals and thermostat, repair/replace as necessary.

The ice maker is producing ice poorly

When an ice maker is producing ice poorly--when it produces just a few cubes or none, or when the cubes are too small--it's usually because of a clogged water line or a defective water inlet valve.

First, check the water line attached to the back of the refrigerator for good water flow. To do that, first turn off the water supply valve. Then remove the water line from the back of the refrigerator. Next, place the water line into a bucket and momentarily turn the water valve back on to test the flow. If the flow is poor, you need to repair, clean, or replace the tubing or the shut-off valve that supplies the water. If the flow is good, you may have to replace the water inlet valve.

There's an ice- or water-dispensing problem

The ice and water-dispensing system of your refrigerator is quite complex. Many components work together to provide the ice and water. Aside from a simple problem of a leaky water tube or a jammed ice chute, most other components are not user serviceable. We suggest that you contact a qualified appliance repair technician for such repairs.

Still haven't found, what you looking for here? We have more details on refrigerator repair for you to detect what's wrong with your home appliance.

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Where can I find the model number?
The model tag is usually in a visible location, on the front of
the appliance (not on the back). Example: LSQ8243HQ0

Warning! To avoid personal injury or even death, always disconnect your appliance from its power source--that is, unplug it or break the connection at the circuit breaker or fuse box--before you do any troubleshooting or repair work on your appliance. Also, because some components may have sharp edges, use caution while working on your appliance.

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