Fault Finding and Repairs for Fridge and/or Freezers
As usual, before you can start to talk about repairs, the very first thing you must do is to disconnect your appliance from the mains electrical supply. This is obviously very important whatever electrical appliance you wish to repair, but it is far more important when dealing with a large item, such as a fridge freezer, especially when you add in the potential for water to be included in the scenario. At the very least you would receive a major shock, but a shock of this size can also be fatal. You have been warned.
Whilst talking about safety, some people may not be aware that if you have a faulty fridge or freezer, the overheating or overfreezing problem can have a detrimental effect on your food. Overheating will cause your food to deteriorate quickly and allow bacteria to thrive, this may not be noticeable but should not be forgotton. By the time you see mould forming, the damage has already been done. A broken fridge and food poisoning is not something you want!
Problems you may come across
The problems you may encounter will obviously depend on the type of fridge freezer that you have.
Falling Air Fridge – this basically means that the internal temperature of the fridge is controlled by cold air literally falling from an evaporator, usually located at the back of the fridge. This method of cooling is not the most efficient, but is reliable as there are so few moving parts to fail. Under this system regular manual defrosting is required to keep the fridge running smoothly. One of the obvious problems with this type of system is that when you open the door, the cold air will obviously fall out of the compartment, requiring the unit to work hard to regain the required temperature.
One thing you might encounter with a falling air appliance is overfreezing. The thermostat simply turns off the power to the compressor when the fridge freezer achieves the correct temperature. If you believe the thermostat is faulty, you can test it yourself if you have a multi-meter. Thermostats can generally be changed quite easily, but you must be very careful to buy the correct replacement part, as there are so many variants on the market.
You must be extremely careful replacing a thermostat that you do not kink, cut or break the phial, which is the long pliable wire that goes to the back wall or plate, as it is filled with gas. The expansion and contraction of that gas is what makes the thermostat work.
Forced Air Fridges and Freezers – As the name implies, air is forced into the fridge and/or freezer by being blown over an evaporator. This type of system are designed to control the frost free operation. The frost does built up on the evaporator, just as it does in a falling air unit and has to be removed to avoid a blockage.
The defrost cycle will be determined by the thermostats or thermistors, in conjunction with the defrost timer or electronic controls. This cycle will generally run in multiples of four hours.
Bear in mind that the frost free style of appliance is far more complex than a standard fridge freezer, and you may well need to call in professional help to identify the problem.The following problems can be encountered in either type of fridge freezer, the only difference is in the way these problems may need to be overcome.
Door Seals faulty/doors not closing
If you have noticed the fridge compartment is not as cool as it should be, try checking the seal on the door for damage. If you notice the seal is squashed, you can try gently warming the seal with a low heat hairdryer for a few minutes. If the seal comes back to shape, problem solved. However, it this doesn’t work, or there are splits in the seal, it is a fairly easy job to replace, and costs very little. If the seals are fine, check to see if the door/s are level and giving a tight fit. If not you may need to adjust the hinges of the door to tighten the closure.
Compressor PTC, Themostats etc.
If the fault seems to indicate a more complex solution, especially with an American style fridge freezer, you may need to enlist the help of a qualified engineer to, at least, identify where the fault lies. You then have the option to obtain the spare part yourself and carry out the repair. However, you must bear in mind that the electronics in a modern fridge freezer are delicate and easily damaged. There is also the chance that the part is in a very awkward position, and may give you difficulties in reaching and replacing. It may be a false economy to carry out this work yourself, as you could end up damaging the new part, or even causing more problems elsewhere. On a bad day, you may even end up having to replace the appliance altogether, therefore, think carefully if you are not used to carrying out this kind of repair
Fridge not operating to right temperature, but Freezer working
If the fridge is not operating at the correct temperature but the freezer compartment is working as you would expect, it can be a sign that there is either a blockage, or a shortage of gas. If indeed it is a shortage of gas, this can only be caused by recent damage to the pipework, as a gas leak becomes noticeable almost immediately. This is definitely something that you will need to assistance of a qualified engineer to rectify.
Other reasons for this problem could be a blockage or choke in pipework, or a changeover valve could be faulty. Comments above on decision on having professional help or the more DIY approach apply.Obviously, the same comments apply if the fridge is still working but the freezer has become faulty.
On a frost free appliance, you may notice that water is running down the back of the freezer, or that ice has formed at the base. When the ‘defrost’ mechanism operates, the liquid produced runs down to a defrost channel. Check to ensure that no food particles or crumbs have blocked this channel, causing water to flow down the back of the freezer. You will also need to check if any ice has formed at the bottom of the freezer, as the defrost channel runs into a small drain, and this again can be blocked by particles or crumbs, causing the water to accumulate and turn to ice.
It is good practice to add these two areas to your general cleaning regime. If either area is blocked, try using a warmed cloth to melt any ice particles, this will then allow you to unplug the blockage.There are other reasons for this problem, including an insulation failure, defrost tray overfilled or damage or even a spillage.
If you do have an insulation problem, this is probably the end of the run for your appliance, as it is not possible to replace insulation. If you have a chest freezer, you may even see an ice ball at the bottom of the freezer, but it means the same thing – time to go out shopping.
Condensation around the door
This is very common, and is known as the anti-condensation line, which is a pipe of hot gas that runs behind the door opening to stop condensation forming at the door seal. Although it is quite normal, it could be that your room temperature is too low. This is far more likely if you keep your appliance in an outhouse or garage.
You are far more likely to notice noise from the electronic models rather than the more traditional fridge freezers. This is because there are less moving parts in a mechanical type of appliance. On the electronic models you will have at least one fan and fan motor. These can become noisy if there are any blockages and ice is allowed to build up. On the American style fridge freezer, there will also be a cooling fan, which again can be the cause of noise if a build up of ice is present.
The most common problem is the fan coming into contact with an ice build up, causing a horrible screeching sound. The general problem here is that a thermostat has failed leading to the ice build up. It could also be caused by a failure of a defrost element or an electronic controller.
You should also check your door seals, as detailed above.
The above is just a simple guide to potential problems but is obviously not definitive. The main advice is still the same, unless you are a very capable person you are more likely to cause further damage trying to repair a fault, thereby costing you even more money than if you had used the services of a qualified engineer.