If your refrigerator is giving you problems, the good news is that several quick fixes are extremely DIY friendly. Even if you choose not to repair it yourself, knowing what might be wrong saves time and stress. First, get a basic understanding of how a fridge operates. With that basic understanding, narrow down the possible causes by examining the symptoms.
For repairs that require getting “under the hood,” so to speak, or for which you cannot determine the cause or solution, always consult a qualified refrigerator service technician.
Underneath the refrigerator, in the rear, is a compressor. The compressor, as the name suggests, compresses a refrigerant gas, which makes the temperature rise. The warm refrigerant then circulates through the tubing on the rear of the refrigerator, called condenser coils, where it releases the heat to the room. The refrigerant gas, which is now cooler in temperature, returns to the refrigerator interior and flows through an expansion valve, where the pressure drops. As gas drops in pressure, the temperature drops as well.
Inside the freezer compartment, a fan blows air across the chilled refrigerant tubing. As the cold air flows across the tubing, it absorbs heat. The now-warmed refrigerant then returns to the compressor, to start the cycle over again. Meanwhile, cold air circulates from the freezer to the fresh food compartment, though in some models the refrigerant tubing flows through the fresh food area as well.
The “brain” behind the process is, like most heating and cooling items, a thermostat. The thermostat monitors the refrigerator’s internal temperature and tells the compressor when to kick on. The result is the humming noise you hear when your refrigerator is in an active cooling cycle and cold air blowing inside the refrigerator.
A side effect of cooling is condensation. In the fresh food compartment, you likely never notice the moisture. In the freezer, on the other hand, the condensation turns to frost and eventually ice, if left long enough. Most modern freezers are frost-free, otherwise known as automatic defrost. These fridges turn off the compressor and turn on a heater to melt the ice periodically, following with a cooling cycle to maintain the refrigerator temperature. This saves time and is convenient in contrast to older freezers that needed to be manually defrosted every so often.
If your refrigerator has an automatic ice maker or fresh water dispenser, it must also be connected to a plumbing line for a water supply. From the water line the water flows to a fresh water tank – usually located beneath the fresh food compartment – and then to the water dispenser or ice maker.
Before attempting any repair work on a refrigerator, unplug it. Do not attempt more complicated repairs involving parts around the motor unless you have the knowledge to do so properly and safely. On some refrigerators, the compressor has a capacitor located inside a housing at the top of the motor (compressor). Capacitors are always “live” – even when the fridge is turned off, some electricity is stored inside the capacitor. Qualified repair technicians know how to discharge the capacitor to prevent a severe electrical shock.
Observe your refrigerator closely and note sounds and irregular operation. Here are some common refrigerator problems along with potential causes and solutions:
Refrigerators are designed to last for years. Usually, if neither the fridge nor the light inside it comes on when you open the door, something is interfering with the power flow. As with all troubleshooting, start at the simplest and most obvious causes before digging deeper.
If the refrigerator light comes on when you open the door, the fridge is definitely getting power. Still, the fix might be something simple.
Other potential causes include a faulty temperature control, a bad evaporator fan, a compressor motor failing, and malfunctions of the defrost timer, compressor relay or overload relay protector. Contact a service technician for these more intensive repairs.
Many a child has stood in front of the refrigerator opening and closing the door to see if the light really goes off when the door shuts (yes, it really does). As the door closes, it hits a protruding prong on the refrigerator frame. This tells the light to go off and sometimes controls the fan as well.
When suddenly the light doesn’t work at all, it’s not critical to the fridge cooling, but it is inconvenient. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of the light bulb burning out. Replace it with a low-watt bulb designed for your appliance.
If the bulb isn’t burned out, manually push in the switch to see if it’s stuck. It’s possible, however, that the switch itself is bad. This isn’t a complicated repair. Typically the switch is held in place with a retaining screw. Remove it, pry it up from the frame, and disconnect the wiring. Ask a professional for assistance if you’re unsure of the process.
If your fridge suddenly makes an unusual sound, watch it closely. If it still works fine, most of the time the refrigerator is okay.
The light comes on and the refrigerator appears to work. Why, then, isn’t anything cool – or as cool as it should be? If you’re asking yourself this question, first verify the temperature inside the fridge with a thermometer. Proceed to DIY-friendly causes and solutions before consulting a professional.
Other possible causes include the defrost timer, the defrost heater, the evaporator fan, and a faulty temperature control or thermostat. A bad compressor can also be the culprit – normally you will hear a clicking sound when the compressor goes out. These are more in-depth repairs. Contact a service technician for more information.
One possible cause is a bad temperature control on the thermostat. The temperature-setting dial actually pulls away to reveal the control. A fairly inexpensive part, it’s also easy to test with a multimeter and to change out – it connects to colored wires. Contact a service repair technician for more information.
Other than cleaning the coils and testing the voltage in the electrical outlet in which your refrigerator is plugged, there’s not much you can do yourself to fix a refrigerator that struggles to stay running. One of several items could be causing the problem, including a bad compressor, a faulty condenser fan or compressor relay, or a malfunctioning overload protector. Hire a qualified professional to diagnose and repair the problem for you.
If your refrigerator won’t stop running, or rarely stops, usually it indicates a struggle to keep the interior cool.
If you find water or what you suspect is water on the floor behind or underneath your refrigerator, it could be the drain pan overflowing. Another possibility is that the water line coming into the fridge is dripping or leaking. For leaks inside the refrigerator, check the drain tubes and clean them as necessary. If your refrigerator is equipped with an automatic ice maker or ice and water dispensers, a water supply line may be broken or leaking, or the unit itself. Consult a repair technician if you’re unable to determine the source.
Our fridge set in the garage for a few months we tried putting groceries in there and it froze everything. So we tried to put it inside, once we put it in , now the ice maker and water doesn’t seem to work. Any ideas. It makes noise and a little water trickles out .
I bought a house and noticed the light on in the top of refrigerator with little bugs flying around. Can not open bottom of freezer drawer and was told the person living in the house prior left food in the freezer and power was turned off. House sat for two years! Can this problem be fixed!
Maytag refrigerator just three years plus. When I squeeze the up or down arrow sign it run briefly what should I do .I need refrigerator fix
I put some warm soup in the refrigerator one evening and noticed that the temp in the ref the next morn was at about 57 deg , the temp one day later is still only about 52 deg but the freezer is at about 2-3 deg any ideas, was it just a coincidence that the temp went down after putting the hot soup in the ref?
my Samsung double door fridge refrigerator compartment not cooling .i check no cold air comes from freezer but when we open freezer door ,cold air started coming in the refrigerator compartment.
Hy. I hve a small fridge, when ever i put it on its works normaly the freezer compatment becomes cold but after half an hour the compressor stops working and become very hot. I need assistant
Sounds a lot like the Evaporator fan is not functioning properly causing the compressor to overheat and the high limit overload is doing its job cutting off the compressor to protect it from damage.
My 1 yr LG fridge makes loud bang like noise.The sound is like a paper being busted.What could be the problem.
I have a fridge that is making a loud humming/buzzing noise, but works great. Wondering if its as simple as unlevel,dirty, compressor or bad fan?
I have a refrigerator that has the freezer compartments down closer to where the compressor is and the refrigerator compartment up. The problem us the freezer compartment closest to the compressor freezes normally, those above only cools, while the refrigerator compartment doesn’t cool at all. What could be the problem, pls?
my fan blow water dispenser is no cooling, i checked the fuse is blown i replaced the fuse but still the dispenser the work as before
my fridg is on the same circuit as two other out lets. one is my computer. if I
have my computer on when the fridg is running the fridg stops and so does
my computer. (separate plug ins] after a while the fridg comes back on, as
does my computer. the circuit never trips during the shut down
brown out !!! up the amps on the breaker from 10 to 20
My two door fridge turnes itself off after a few hours and then won’t turn itself on again until you turn it off and on again
About a month ago we started hearing an occassional knocking noise a couple of times a day coming from the kitchen. It has progressed from a couple times a day to about once an hour. We have determined it to be coming either from the bottom of the refrigerator or possibly the wall behind the fridge. Do you have any idea as to what could be causing this noise that is getting very annoying?
I would check that the rubber isolation mounts on the compressor and check that they are intact and that none of the locking pins have come off on the mounts.
My partner and I recently got an old fridge. We recently have turned it on and have left it on running all night. The next morning we ended up tipping it on and angle to clean under the fridge. it was for a short time on an angle as we started hearing and seeing a large amount of gas exit the back of the refrigerator. we have turned it off to let the gas leak out..we then turned it on to see if would still work , when we did so more gas expelled out of the fridge and so died down and settled. Our fridge is still on but would like to know is: with the gas leak will it blow up if i turn the stove on? its not and open flame. will ? my fridge continue to freeze and cool my food? is the gas leaking bad to our health ?
I am a superintendent for an apartment complex. No it will fail to cool, gas coming from the fridge itself is freon gas which is what is needed to cool the fridge. It is cheaper to buy a new fridge than it it is to fix the leak. The only other gas would be if you fridge runs on propane and you had a propane gas leak, but it would have to be hooked up to a propane gas tank which is an alternative to electricity.
Yesterday, a new Samsung side by side (RS22HDHPNWW) was delivered. Today, I occasionally hear a loud ‘whiney’ noise. I think it’s something to do with the water line/ice-maker. It’s very loud, but brief. I emptied the 3 gallons of water last night through the dispenser like the manufacturer suggested.
Any suggestions? Thank you!
Before you turn it in as a claim, check the water valve in the wall or the saddle valve for full water preasure. I like using a wetvac to suck up the water as I turn on the valve. The saddle valves are know for hardwater deposit build up around the needle, sometimes just closing it and opening it fixes it. Also if you have a supply line with a backflow preventer, replace it with a supply line without the backflow preventer as these cause sparatic preasure problems.
adjust your water pressure up and down until you find a point that the icemaker likes
My refridgerator is working properly but it trip down the ectricity i don’t know the problem.
This is all due to your compressor.. Get it check or repaire from customer care officer
I just bought a new Maytag 19cu ft fridge with freezer on the bottom. they ran all night and when I woke up it was 65 in both the fridge and freezer. I called the people I bought it from and they came over. They looked it over and the compressor ran but no cold air. It never tripped a breaker once not once. They tested the outlet that they plugged it into but told me I should drill a hole in the floor and use the plug in down the basement because it would be the only thing on that outlet. I did this right away. When they put the tester on the outlet it shorted out and blew a breaker ( the original outlet) they said that is why the compressor didn”t blow cold air and took they took the fridge and said they would talk to the sales rep and see if they would take it back and bring me a new one. My husband is really upset and said if the compressor worked and the lights then it wasn’t any outlet. They did say if it shorts out the brain it won’t tell the compressor to blow cold air. What the heck???????
sorry for the poor typing , I have arthritis and can’t type very well.
For last several months–the Freezer side of my Kenmore refrigerator — as you open door, excessive ice keeps forming on front side of ice cube container/ice maker. Problem has gotten worse and I have to chip away ice caking on door makes it harder to open. Any tips on how I can solve this issue would be appreciated….hate to call technician cause high cost of repair…. Thanks.
Interesting; we have what appears to be the same problem. I see cold air vapors blowing down by ice maker and ice cakes up in the ice dispenser and the door release bin. We have to chip away the ice every week or so. The fan is always on. The defrost coils are cold, but not caked with ice. I wonder if the fan is not directing the air properly in freezer compartment. Fridge and freezer both keep foods cold OK.
I had the same problem and found the sounce to be that the mechanism below the ice maker that dispenses the ice had detached so the little trap door to send the ice out was not closed propearly and was letting air in. As a result I had ice crystals forming in just those areas (as both have described). I just fixed the latch so the release flap stays closed…and no more issues. Hope that helps
Thanks Jamie—-sealed opening with clear wrap 2 days ago—to see if keeping air out would help…and looks like problem may be solved. Now I have to fix trap door for ice chute so it seals correctly. Thanks for helping solve problem. (I hope) Thanks again.
My GE refrigerator won’t stop running.
hi i have a frost free two compartments fefrigerator the freezer compartment is woking fine but the lower fresh food compartment is not cooling at all , the ffc fan is running and i have checked all the electrical system and found o.k pse advise.
We had the problem of the fridge nor the light turn on at our home and it was due to water build up in the freezer circuitry. Every time we turned the fridge on, it would short the entire house. We recently had a power outage for a few hours which caused water in the freezer to drip on its circuitry. We emptied the fridge let it dry completely and removed the inner panels of the fridge. I used a blow dryer to completely dry the circuitry for a whole 10 minutes. Turned the fridge back on and it worked! A technician we called had said its most likely a water problem that needed to dry out, and thankfully he was spot on.
My dear, It is an excellent and exhaustive explanation on the working philosophy of a refrigerator . I want to know about about the working of timers in electronic time controllers in autodefrost . Does the clock in timer circuit keeps moving irrespective of peripheral parameters. Secondly in case of electric supply cut off it restarts from begining or continues from its previous time where it stopped. Thanks. I shall be obliged .
I am a superintendent for an apartment complex. Our fridges purchased in 2000 have what is called a Bi-Metal defrost module that clip onto the inside coil, they are temperature based and have no circuitry inside, they quit working when the filler material is forced out of place by constant temperature changes until the contacts inside if the bi-metal defrost loses connection then frost builds until air flow is cut off. They are pricey too some cost around $50.