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Home > Appliances > First Aid for Refrigerators

First Aid for Refrigerators

By Brett Freeman
First Aid for Refrigerators

Your refrigerator has been humming along, perfectly healthy, for years when suddenly…it's having accidents on the floor. Or it's got chills and a fever at the same time!

Fear not. The condition almost certainly isn't fatal. Put down the phone, you don't need to call around to see if anyone still makes house calls. If you take a minute to identify the symptoms, you might find that the cure is as simple as a hot bath and a rub down.

Water on the Floor

This one can be a puzzler. You notice water under the refrigerator, so you mop it up. The refrigerator doesn't appear to be leaking. You wait awhile then check again. Everything is still dry. You leave the room, come back later, and there's another puddle under the refrigerator. When this happens, it can feel like someone must be playing a joke on you, but actually the culprit may be your refrigerator drain. Frost-free refrigerators (and they are all frost-free nowadays) eliminate frost by briefly heating the freezer periodically. This melts any frost that has formed and the water runs to the bottom of the freezer and down the drain. But if the drain is clogged, that water can end up on your floor. For side-by-side models or over-under models where the freezer is on the bottom, the drain is in the bottom of the freezer. For over-under refrigerators with the freezer on top, there is one drain leading from the freezer into the refrigerator and another at the bottom of the refrigerator. Once you locate the drains, clear any noticeable blockage, and then flush them out using a turkey baster filled with hot, soapy water.

If you find that water is collecting on the floor slowly and steadily as opposed to all at once, the problem may be that your freezer door isn't closing all the way. First check to be sure nothing is blocking it. If that's not the problem, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the gasket, which helps it seal. If the problem doesn't go away, you have to replace the gasket.

Running Hot and Cold

If the yogurt on the top shelf is frozen and a bottle of water from the bottom shelf is lukewarm, the problem is almost certainly that something is blocking the air flow from the top of your refrigerator to the bottom. Your refrigerator's cooling system blows cold air in at the top and the thermostat is at the bottom. Newer refrigerators typically have glass shelves that don't allow air to flow like the wire metal shelves of old. To allow the cold air to circulate, a gap of an inch or so is left at the back of the shelves. If this gap is blocked with pizza boxes or stacks of bottled drinks pushed all the way back , the cold air gets trapped up at the top. And because the thermostat is down low, more cold air is constantly being blown in, causing the air to drop below freezing. If this happens, simply rearrange whatever is blocking the air flow.

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