Refrigerator Q and A

A hand on a white fridge door handle.

Problems with refrigerators are not uncommon, so it should come as no surprise when someone else goes through the same issue you're having with yours. Check out some of the concerns other community members had with their fridges and see if you can find something to help you!

Q. I have a side-by-side fridge with an icemaker and water spigot in the door. A few days ago I noticed I could not get any water out of the spigot. I also noticed that the fridge was no longer making ice. I checked the water supply in the back and it is getting water. It appears that there is a small pump or some type of device that controls the water and feeds for both of the items. I am guessing that when ice needs to be made the pump turns on and opens the water line to fill the ice tray, which is when the spigot is pushed, and the pump and water line are turned on. At first glance, I thought I needed a new pump. However, I have now noticed the strange part. Nothing is staying cold anymore, however, the freezer part does seem to be somewhat colder. The other thing is that it almost feels like the bottom half of the fridge is a lot colder than the top half. The fridge sounds like it's running.

A. There are two things that are the most likely causing the problems you are describing. First, is the evaporator fan motor running in the freezer area? You should be able to hear it when you open the door. If not, then you probably have a bad fan motor. If the fan motor is running, check the back wall of the freezer area. If it has frost on it, then you may have a defrost problem. The defrost system has three basic parts: the defrost elements that defrost the evaporator coils, the defrost termination thermostat that keeps the freezer from getting too warm, and the defrost timer that controls defrost. Usually it will defrost three or four times a day. One of these components is probably bad. This would cause the fresh food side to be to warm, cause the refrigerator to run too much, allow the cold air to pool at the bottom of the refrigerator area, and cause the water bottle to freeze up, keeping you from getting water at the door dispenser.

Q. Since last week, my fridge door has started squeaking while opening and closing. It's a two-year-old fridge. What should I be looking out for?

A. Remove the doors and lubricate the hinges. Lithium grease or any good grease will do. Also, clean the door seals and frame with warm soapy water and wipe dry so the gaskets won't stick to the door frame. If it were an older refrigerator, I would be worried about the nylon shims under the doors wearing down, but you shouldn't have to. Just make sure to put them back where they came from.

Q. My Frigidaire door water/ice control won't stop spitting out ice and water. How do I take it apart? I have tried to get it apart and see what I need to get for a replacement part, but I can't see exactly how to remove it without breaking something.

A. Your actuator switch is gummed up. To take it apart, remove two small Phillips screws on each side up under where the nightlight is. Pull off the front panel they were securing. Next, remove six larger Phillips head screws, four near the top of the dispenser housing, and two behind the drip tray. Next, unplug the refrigerator, and pull the whole dispenser housing away from the freezer door. You'll have to pull it away firmly and slowly, because the factory will have secured it to the door with double-sided foam tape. Now you have access to the micro-switch that is gummed up and sticking.

Q. My refrigerator has been great, except for one habit it has developed in the last year or so. The water inlet for the icemaker freezes up. It just freezes right where the water comes out. I use a blow drier to thaw it every month or so, and it works for a while. But then it happens again. What would cause this?

A. Looks like a water supply problem, meaning either the water inlet valve in the back of the fridge is allowing water to seep past it even when it's turned off, or if you have one of those small saddle shut-off valves, it may be partially restricted and not allowing enough water pressure to get to the inlet valve. Both causes freeze up at the fill tube. The saddle piercing the shut-off valve is a common culprit when it comes to ice maker problems.

Q. Our fridge light suddenly went very dim, so we replaced the bulb, but it's still the same. What's this mean?

A. You may have a short in the wiring. 95 percent of the time, the contacts in the door switch get corroded or the wires that plug into the switch get corroded, making a bad connection.

Q. Regarding airflow around the refrigerator, how much space do we allow?

A. You can't completely enclose a refrigerator on the sides (u-shape) especially if your condenser is on the back of the fridge. The condenser needs to have free air flow across it to release heat to the air. The more air flow, the easier your compressor cools the box. Newer refrigerators have the condenser on the bottom of the fridge and a fan to blow air across it. If you enclose it, the air will have nowhere to go and the compressor will have to work overtime to cool. I would leave two to three inches in the back regardless of what kind of evaporator you have.

It is of utmost importance to keep the coils on the condenser clean—maybe the most important thing you can do. If you don't, the dust insulates the coil so even if there is enough air flow, it never gets to do the job, and the refrigerator and freezer will not get cool enough even on the highest settings. If you find that the fridge is not cooling, then clean the coils and/or give it more room in the back.

Q. A smell was coming out of my old refrigerator. The repairman came out and said it was probably coming from the non-removable pan. It was only noticeable when the fan was blowing, but was getting worse every day. Frigidaire willingly brought me a new one. Now, this one is doing the same thing. What in the world is going on?

A. Probably there is something inside your refrigerator mixing with the defrost water and going into the drain pan. Try putting about a tablespoon of Clorox in the drain pan to kill the smell. Or go into the freezer area and wash out the drain pan and drain tube under the evaporator coils with hot water.

Q. My refrigerator icemaker is not making ice. I replaced the water valve in the back. There is good water pressure going into the valve but no water in the tube from the valve to the icemaker. What should I check?

A. Maybe it would be a good idea to check with the local appliance part stores. Retail appliance parts dealers can also help determine what the possible problem may be. Bring the make, model, and serial numbers with you when you go. Appliance part stores and parts dealers are listed in the phone book.

Read the manufacturer's online web site for additional product information, problem possibilities, causes, solving methods, part locations, disassembly, reassembly methods, repair procedures, pictorials, schematics, downloadable repair, and/or owners manuals.

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