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Troubleshoot Problems with Your Fridge or Freezer

By Karin Mangan
Troubleshoot Problems with Your Fridge or Freezer

Knowing how your fridge or freezer works can help you figure out what's wrong if the appliance stops working properly.

Common Problems with Fridges and Freezers

  • Loss of Gas. Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gas is used as a cooling agent in modern fridges and freezers. The gas is passed through coils at the back or bottom of the appliance. Compressed gas heats up, so an electric compressor compresses the HFC, then the pressure is released and the gas cools down. This cooler gas is passed in coils through the fridge or freezer and draws the warm air out.

    If gas leaks out of the coils at any point, the cooling process won't work. Unless you can easily see where the problem is, you may not be able to repair the appliance. You may be able to re-gas the appliance if you can get the coils fixed.
  • Faulty Compressor. An electric compressor compresses the gas in the coils of your fridge or freezer, which is how the cooling system functions. If you hear clicking but the appliance isn't working, your compressor is most likely faulty.
  • Faulty Thermocouple. Fridges and freezers are never completely sealed so the temperature inside must be regulated. A thermometer, called a thermocouple, senses the temperature and switches the compressor on and off in order to maintain that temperature. That is why you hear your fridge or freezer turning on and off.

    If your fridge or freezer gets too cold, the thermocouple is probably stuck in the on setting and needs to be replaced.
  • Insulation Failure. If ice is forming underneath your freezer and you see water coming from under the appliance, you most likely have a problem with your insulation.
  • Too old. If your fridge or freezer is quite old, you should probably replace it rather than fix it. Older appliances are not as energy efficient as today's models, which use about a tenth of the electricity required 20 years ago. Older appliances also use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) as a coolant gas. CFC is no longer used in appliances because we now know it is harmful to the atmosphere when released.
  • Electrical wiring problem. Before you think about any of the above, make sure you have checked the electrical power to the appliance. The problem could be damaged wiring, a faulty outlet, a blown fuse, or a tripped circuit breaker.

Other potential problems can include faulty door seals, a problem with the automatic defrost function, or clogged drain tubes. Refer to your manual and, if you can't identify or fix the problem easily, call a professional to repair your appliance.

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