Common Fridge Problems, What Causes Them And How To Cure

Common fridge problems, faults, fixes and maintenance

Dealing with fridge problems is a fact of life, and at some point everyone has had to deal with some type of malfunction. Certain refrigerator problems are quite simple to tackle and may be easily solved by most people. However, any issues related with the pressurized gas system utilized by the fridge for cooling, will require specialized help. Before you start any home repair project, it is important to understand that there are basically 2 types of refrigerators, falling air fridges and forced air fridges. A basic understanding of their working can help you understand some of the more common fridge faults.


Falling Air Refrigerators utilize a metal evaporator to produce cold air. This is generally a small plate located towards the rear end of the fridge, or behind the rear fridge wall. In smaller fridges, the evaporator might even be located in the icebox. While, this might not be especially efficient, it is a proven, robust technology. In addition, there are very few actual moving parts required that makes such fridges easy to service. In this type of fridge, cold air drops off the evaporator into the cavity. However, the natural tendency of cold air is to rest at the bottom of the fridge, so it is not unusual for the upper section to be warmer than the lower section. Another general issue is the fact that cold air tends to escape the fridge any time the door is opened. This forces the unit to generate more cold air in order to maintain the set temperature.

This type of fridge also requires frequent manual defrosting to limit the formation of ice in the freezer box. A characteristic feature of this fridge is the use of a single controlling thermostat to maintain the temperature.

Forced Air Refrigerators force air over the evaporator which cools it, before blowing it back into the fridge. This method has certain similarities to a blast freezer which drives cold air through the unit to deliver a freezing effect. Most frost free refrigerators utilize this cooling method. However, frost free does not indicate the complete absence of frost on the evaporator.

This type of refrigerator will normally make use of an automated defrost cycle to ensure that there are no ice build ups within the appliance. The defrost function is generally electronically controlled and depends on the readings from the thermostats. In some fridges, the defrost cycle is automatically activated every 4, 8, 12, or 24 hours.

Refrigerator is Over Freezing

This type of situation can result in food freezing within the refrigerator and in most cases is the outcome of a faulty Temperature Control Thermostat. This thermostat is responsible for regulating the power flow into the compressor, evaporator and condenser fans. Check the temperature control thermostat by rotating it all the way. You should be able to hear an audible click sound when you reach the end. If there is no sound, the thermostat should be removed and tested with a continuity checker.

A defective Thermistor may also be responsible for over freezing. This device is essentially responsible for monitoring the temperature of the air within the fridge, and is 

generally attached to the PCB. Any type of problem with the thermistor can result in the fridge being unable to stop its cooling cycle.

This type of problem could also indicate a flaw within the Temperature Control Board that controls the voltage provided to the compressor and fan motors. This type of fridge fault may be quite difficult to diagnose.

In extremely rare cases, this might indicate a problem with the main PCB of the fridge.

Refrigerator is not cooling properly

Lack of cooling within the refrigerator could point to the fact that the Condenser Coils are dirty. Similar to a car radiator, the condenser is responsible for heat dispersal within the refrigerator. This must be kept clean in order to perform its task efficiently. A dirty condenser results in higher temperatures inside the fridge.

This type of problem might also indicate a defect in the Evaporator Fan Motor. As discussed earlier, most refrigerators acquire their cooling effect from the evaporator coils. Typically, you will find a fan and motor located next to the coils that are responsible for pulling in air over the evaporator before circulating it back across the fridge. If there is a failure in the evaporator fan motor, the freezer box continues to stay cold but the main fridge loses its cooling.

Another cause for this situation could be a problem with the Condenser Fan Motor, which is responsible for drawing cool air over the condenser coils to make sure that they do not overheat. If the condenser fan motor is faulty or if some external object is trapped within the fan motor blades, the condenser will overheat. The fan motor is usually accessible via the panel underneath the back of the fridge.

Damage to the Start Relay located near the corner of the compressor might also result in inefficient cooling. This device is responsible to powering the start winding of the compressor and also controls the run winding. If there is a flaw in this relay, the compressor may not function or will constantly keep switching off. This part must be replaced if it is damaged.

A burned out Start Capacitor can prevent the compressor from starting up and will cause a lack of cooling. This device functions as a battery and provides power when the compressor starts up. You can inspect the functioning capacity of the capacitor with the aid of a capacitance meter. In case of damage, it must be replaced.

Poor cooling within the refrigerator can also be associated to problems with the Compressor. This is essentially the motor responsible for compressing the refrigerant and ensuring that it is properly circulated via the evaporator and condenser coils. Replacing a faulty compressor is not a simple task and it is advisable to seek the aid of a trained service engineer.

This type of problem may also be related with a faulty Thermistor, the sensor responsible for tracking air temperatures within the fridge. Other causes for lack of cooling power may be related to failures within the Temperature Control Board or the Main PCB. 

Refrigerator Water Dispenser does not function

A non-functioning Refrigerator Water Dispenser could be a result of frozen water in the supply tube located within the door. One solution is to try and locate a point of connection and dismantling the hose at this junction. You may attempt to blow air through the tube and dispenser to try and locate any obstructions. If air does not pass, you may have to let the tube thaw out for a while. If this is a recurring problem, you will require help to try and determine the cause of the freezing.

Quite often though, the water dispenser will not function when the water pressure from your home's water supply is too low. The Water Inlet Valve is designed to operate at pressures in excess of 20 psi and if this is not met, water will not pass through the valve. If the water pressure is adequate and the filter is in good working condition, this valve will need to be replaced.

Most modern refrigerators utilize an electronic Dispenser Control Board to control all the functional aspects of the water dispensing system. If there is a complete breakdown in this dispensing system, this could be indicative of a failure in the water dispenser control board.

A defective dispenser switch can also hamper the efficiency of the water dispersal system. The operation of this switch is generally controlled by the dispenser actuator. The dispenser switch may be tested with an Ohm meter to ensure continuity. If it fails this test, the switch must be removed and replaced.

This type of problem will also occur when the Water Filter is excessively dirty or clogged. In such cases, this filter should be replaced.

Malfunctions in the freezer Door Switch may also result in the occurrence of such problems. Typically, this switch is responsible for turning on the freezer light and shutting down the water and ice dispensing systems any time the freezer door is pulled open. A defect in this switch results in the failure of the water dispensing system. If the door switch fails the continuity test, it should be changed.

Refrigerator Ice Maker does not work

Sometimes, this could be the outcome of a situation where the freezer temperature has been incorrectly set. Ideally, the ice maker operates best when this temperature is set between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -15 degrees Celsius). If the freezer temperature exceeds 10 degrees F (or -12C), the ice maker will not function as expected.

Make sure that the Icemaker Switch has not been turned off. If it is in the right position, you can check its continuity with an Ohm meter. In case of a defect, the switch can be replaced. 

A malfunction within any of the parts that make up the Ice Maker Assembly, in particular the controlling circuits will result in this type of problem. Most of these components cannot be fixed and the entire Assembly might have to be replaced.

Problems with the Ice Level Control Board can also prevent the ice maker from functioning properly. Most fridges utilize an infrared sensor to track ice formation within the ice bucket. When ice starts to fill up the bucket, the infrared beam is blocked, which automatically switches off the ice maker. If this control board develops a flaw, and the sensor does not function, the ice maker will stop producing ice.

The control unit of the ice maker includes a thermostat called the Icemaker Mold Thermostat that tracks the ice mold/tray temperature. When the mold achieves a particular temperature, ice cubes are ejected from the tray, which is then filled with water. A non-functional thermostat will leave the ice maker stuck in its current mode and it will no longer produce more ice. In such cases, this thermostat should be changed.


Refrigerator Does Not Defrost

Other issues affecting the proper functioning of the ice maker could include a defective Water Inlet Valve, inadequate water pressure from the house water supply (below 20 psi), a malfunctioning freezer door switch or clogged water filter.  

This type of problem may frequently originate from within the Defrost Control Board that controls the defrosting process and regulates the activation of the defrost cycle. If this board develops a problem, the defrost cycle may not be activated at all leading to ice build ups over the evaporation coils. When this occurs, your fridge can lose its overall cooling power. Before replacing the board, it is advisable to individually check the defrost thermostat and heater with an Ohm meter to determine their continuity.

A defect in the Defrost Timer that controls the functioning of the defrost heater will also result in this type of problem. In this case, the heater is not activated and frost accumulates inside the fridge.

The defrost heater performs the task of melting away any frozen deposits on the evaporator coils. If the Defrost Heater Assembly overheats and burns out, there will be no defrosting within the fridge.

The Defrost Thermostat is responsible for tracking the temperature on the evaporator coils. When this temperature drops below a certain level, the heater is activated. This thermostat needs to be checked for continuity at low temperatures to ensure its proper functioning capacity.

Most refrigerators will also have a Defrost Sensor. This sensor has a corresponding fuse as a safety mechanism. The primary function of the sensor is to ensure that the heater is deactivated once the evaporating coils reach a particular temperature. In case of a sensor failure the fuse will blow, shutting down the defrost heater. Once this has occurred, the fridge will no longer have any defrosting capability. The fuse should be replaced if it has blown.

Refrigerator Is Unusually Loud

If you are dealing with noises that are evident while the freezer door is open, this could point to a problem with the Fan Blade. Located inside the freezer's back panel, the fan blades can get noisy if they encounter any obstructions. You can also check the blades of the condenser fan located underneath the fridge towards its rear end. This could also indicate a failure in the condenser fan motor or its bearings.

Refrigerator noise may also be the outcome of a worn out Evaporator Fan Motor. This type of noise is also more pronounced while the freezer door is open.

While Compressor noises are common, an unusually loud compressor can indicate that the part is worn out and is approaching failure. 









Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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