Refrigerator Malfunctions

Problem: Refrigerator doesn’t work, or doesn’t work properly.

Background: Newer refrigerators are largely self-sufficient, and many models have electronic monitor and diagnostic systems. Added features, such as ice makers, complicate the mechanical system and require more attention. Keep your owner’s manual handy; if you don’t have one, order a copy to have on hand. For efficient operation, try to avoid locating the unit next to a range, a heating vent, or where the sun shines directly on it. The tips below include some suggestions for handling minor problems you can correct yourself. For other tips, see your owner’s manual, or contact a qualified technician.

What to do: If there is no touch- panel response, or if the unit does not operate, check to see if the interior light is on. If not, the unit may not be plugged in at the wall outlet. If the plug is secure and the refrigerator still doesn’t operate, plug a lamp or small appliance into the same outlet to see if there is a tripped circuit breaker or burned- out fuse. Also check to be sure that the temperature control is not in the “off’ position. (Note that the unit may be in a defrost cycle, in which the motor doesn’t operate for about a half hour.) If the unit is getting power, and an interior light doesn’t come on, a light bulb may be burned out or the door switch may be defective. If the motor runs for long periods, it may be caused by large amounts of food placed into the unit to be cooled or frozen, by hot weather, frequent door openings, because a door has been left open, or because the temperature control is set too low. The grille and coils may also need cleaning; clean at least once a year to remove dust from the fin-and-tube assembly either on the back or underneath the unit. A special brush designed for the job is available at appliance parts stores.
   If the refrigerator vibrates or rattles, it is probably not resting solidly on the floor. If the floor is weak or uneven, the roller screws or front leveling legs may need adjusting. If the door doesn’t close properly, check to see that the door gasket on the hinge side isn’t sticking or folding over. To fix, put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the face of the gasket. If water leaks onto floor under the unit, the drain from the freezer may be clogged. On newer models, remove ice from the freezer bottom and clean the drain by flushing a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 cups hot water through the drain line using a meat baster. If your automatic icemaker doesn’t work, make sure its feeler arm is not in the “off” position or pointing up ward. Also be sure that the water supply is connected, turned on and not clogged, and that ice cubes haven’t piled up on the bin causing it to shut off. If cubes don’t dispense, irregular ice clumps in the bin may be the cause.

Special advice: Generally, temperatures inside the refrigerator compartment are kept between 35° and 40°; temperatures inside the freezer should be near 0 grade. You can test the refrigerator compartment’s temperature by keeping a thermometer in side half a glass of water on a shelf for 8 hours, or by doing the “milk test.” Put a milk carton on the top shelf and check it a day later; if it is too warm or too cold, adjust the controls. You can test the freezer compartment by putting a thermometer between 2 packages of frozen food overnight, or by using the “ice cream” test. Put the ice cream in the center of the freezer compartment and check it after a day. If it’s too hard or too soft, adjust the controls. Premium ice creams with a high cream content normally require slightly lower temperatures than the more “airy” brands that have a low cream content.
   (Note: If the temperatures in your home drop below 60° at night, it may cause the compressor to operate less often, allowing the freezer compartment to warm somewhat. You may want to adjust the freezer control so that it is I setting colder to protect frozen food—especially when the thermostat is turned down for an extended period. If freezing occurs in the fresh food compartment, adjust the control so that it is I step warmer for that side.)

Helpful hint: Unplug the refrigerator before making any repairs. Also unplug it even if you are only replacing a burned-out light bulb. A light bulb may break when being re placed; unplugging the unit allows you to avoid any contact with a live wire filament. Note that turning controls to the “off” position does not cut off the power to the light circuit.




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