Common Refrigerator Problems and How to Solve Them

woman looking into open refrigerator
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The refrigerator has become a must-have appliance so when it has issues, it motivates a quick response. Like with most appliances, refrigerator problems never happen at a convenient time so knowing what the problem might be gets you on your way to repair faster.

Running Away

Refrigerators have many functioning mechanisms to maintain temperature and keep the refrigerator and freezer compartments at the ideal temperature. As the unit works towards temperature control, you’ll hear the unit humming, but it shouldn’t do so all the time. If your unit is loud or constantly running, you likely have an issue with your condenser coils.

You may be able to remedy the situation with a thorough cleaning. Food and dust debris can coat the unit, blanketing its ability to function effectively. Cut power to the unit by unplugging and then locate the coils, typically placed near the bottom of the unit. Wipe or vacuum the coils to clear debris.

Also check the temperature setting for your unit. If it’s set too low, the motors and fans might just be overworking. The ideal temperature is at or below 40 degrees fahrenheit.


leaking puddle in kitchen near refrigerator

The point of the fridge is not only to house food, but to contain all of the liquids involved in the cooling process. When you notice water dripping or pooling, you have a problem--likely with the defrost drain. This drain hose is typically located on the back of the fridge, near the bottom. If the hose is blocked by ice, try feeding warm water through the house from the inside of the fridge or, better yet, defrost the refrigerator, clean out lines, and fire it back up.

The hose may also be blocked by debris, in which case you can remove, clean, and replace. Also check the water supply hose, where water comes into the refrigerator. While handling hoses, check for cracks or tears that could be causing drips.

Ice Maker and Water Dispenser Issues

freezer ice tray

One of the most common issues with modern fridges is the water dispenser or ice maker failing to dispense at request. It is essential you regularly replace the filter inside your refrigerator, which can become clogged. You may also have an issue with the supply line being clogged or the water getting shut off at the source, typically beneath the kitchen sink.

For the ice maker, ensure it wasn’t inadvertently shut off either by the electronic controls or the metal flap inside the ice tray that manually shuts off ice production. Also look for frozen hoses and ice jambs throughout the system. If the motor fails to run, there could be a host of issues, some of which require replacement.

Failure to Be Cool

If your refrigerator isn’t maintaining the preset temperature, check those condenser coils again and listen to ensure the evaporator fan is blowing. If the problem isn’t there, it could be the condenser fan motor. Another likely culprit is the defrost thermostat. You may also have an issue with the motherboard, or main circuit board. While these are all DIY options, the costs associated with some of these repairs are prohibitive and it’s better to invest in a new unit.

Rock, Rattle, and Roll

If your refrigerator makes a lot of noise, it’s probably one of the fans running in overtime. Check the condenser fan and the evaporator fan as the most likely fault points.

Frosty Freezer

freezer with ice trays and frost buildup

Yes, the freezer is supposed to create ice, but not all over your packaging and protected foods. If your unit is causing food to become freezer burnt or resulting in sheets of ice inside the unit, first check the freezer setting. Next, perform a freezer defrost. Remove all items, unplug the unit, wipe away water and debris inside and check all the hoses. You may have a clogged defrost drain dripping water into your freezer, which then freezes into a sheet of ice. Once put back together, check the seals on the freezer door as well as any seals around the ice machine. An air leak in either place will cause ice build up inside the unit.