Appliance Outlet Service - Maintenance, Care and Repair Help

Refrigerator Troubleshooting Information Guide

Remember Safety First!  Unplug your appliance or disconnect power to your unit before you begin any repairs.  Wear gloves and use common sense.  If you feel you lack in the common sense department, please do not attempt any service.

Not Getting Cold AT ALL in the Freezer or Fridge Side

Is the Compressor Running?

Yes - If the compressor is running and the machine is not blowing cold air inside the freezer.  You may have either a restriction inside the sealed system or have a leak in the sealed system and all the Freon has

Refrigerator Freon Problem
Freon Problem

 escaped.  No Freon, No Cool.  Not a DIY job.

No - If the compressor is not running.  In order for the machine to get cold at all, the motor has to run.  If the condenser fan (fan by the compressor) is running and the compressor is not running then you have one of a few problems.  Either the motor is not getting power and that's why its not running, or its getting power and the windings inside are shot and that's why it's not coming on.

Check your Condenser Coils

When the condenser fan is running you need to check to see if voltage is getting to the relays on the side of the Comp.  More often then not, these are the parts that go bad.  First Check for voltage to the relays and see it they have 120 Volts AC.  If so, check the pins on the compressor that the relays connect to.  From this point you are going to need to removeCompressor Relay Cover the clip that holds the relay to the side of the compressor, then unplug them from it and take them off.

To check the Compressor you are going to need a Multimeter.  Set the meter to ohms.  Now put one of the leads on the meter and touch it to the top pin.  Take the other lead and touch it to the other two pins, one at a time.  You should get a reading of almost 0 ohms.  Repeat this process with all the pins.  If you get an open circuit reading between Testing the Pins

any of the pins, the compressor is bad.  One more test.  Place one lead of the meter on a pin and the other to the outside of the compressor.  You will have to scrape away some of the black paint to get to the bare metal.  This test checks to make sure the windings inside are not shorted out on the housing inside.   Repeat this with all the pins. When Checking from pin to housing you should get an open circuit reading.  You should  get a reading of about 0 ohms when checking the resistance between any of the pins, if not the compressor is bad.   Not a DIY Job to replace the motor.  If the compressor passes the above test and the relay going to the compressor is getting 120 volts, the the relays are bad.  To fix this just replace the relays.  If the relays are not getting voltage then read on.  That means either the defrost timer control or the thermostats are likely the cause of the failure.

Is it Stuck in Defrost?

If the Evaporator fan is running this will not apply. Every so often your refrigerator automatically goes into Defrost mode.  This is when the machine shuts down the motor, turns off the fans and kicks on a heater located inside the freezer.  If the machine has entered defrost and the Defrost Timertimer has malfunctioned this may be your issue.  How to check this is going to depend on which type of timer you have.  Most machines have a timer that looks like the one pictured here.  They can be located anywhere from back behind the compressor to behind the controls where you set your temperature.  To check this type of timer to see if it has entered defrost and got stuck is rather easy once you locate the timer on your machine.  All you are going to need is a flat head screwdriver and all you need to do is advance the timer.  To do this, turn the dial on the timer clockwise looking at it straight on.  You will notice that as you spin the dial around it clicks.  At a certain point you will hear a different distinct click.  That is the timer going into defrost.  If you turn the dial just a little bit further you will hear that distinct click again.  That is the timer going out of defrost.  Turn the dial to make sure it is just passed the second distinct click.  At that point the freezer fan should be running.  You will hear the fan shut off when the timer gets to the first "click" and come back on after the second one.  If the timer is not in defrost and the relays are not getting voltage you need to do one more test to see which is the problem.  From here you will need to locate the thermostat on your refrigerator.

Testing the Thermostat or "Cold Control"

Most older style refrigerators have a thermostat that controls the temperature of the refrigerator.  The freezer has an air diverter that directs a portion of the air from the freezer to the fresh food section.  Usually the only thing inside a refrigerator that detects temperature is the fresh food thermostat.  The freezer stays frozen because of the amount of time the unit calls for cold inside the fresh food side.  When it cools the fridge side, its also cooling the freezer.  It basically will continue to freeze the freezer as long as the machine is not in temperature that is as cold as the fridge should be.  Like your garage in the winter time.

To test this Cold Control you basically need to run a jumper wire between the two wires going to it.  The contacts inside are either open or closed.  If it needs to cool, they close.  If it's happy with the temperature inside the fresh food side, it opens.  You need to test it to make sure that it is not stuck "open".  You can create a direct short between the two wires going to it.  At this point, if the defrost timer is not in defrost mode and the compressor tested good, jumping the thermostat should start the compressor.  If not, replace the defrost timer.  If the compressor starts up, replace the fresh food cold control.

Not Cooling Properly - Freezer Working and Fridge Side is not

This complaint is usually the result of a defrost problem.  The first thing to check in this case is the freezer area.  Look at the back panel inside the freezer.  If you notice frost covering the back panel, you have defrost problem.  Read this page on Defrost Systems to get more information on this.

Also Check your Freezer Fan

If the problem is not a defrost issue you may have a problem with the damper that goes between the freezer and fridge compartments.  This is usually an adjustable "flap" that opens to allow cold air from the freezer to enter the fresh food side.  Most top freezer and certain side x side refrigerators have an adjustable flap.  That means its set open at a certain point and doesn't open and close when the machine runs.

Most newer side by sides and bottom freezer refrigerators have an electric damper that opens and closes as the machine runs.  These are machines that have separate thermostats for the freezer.  The machine can call for cold inside the freezer without affecting the fridge side temp by keeping the damper closed. 

To test this will require you to locate the damper assembly.  Once you find the damper on your machine, make sure the thermostat is on and you hear the freezer fan running.  Normally at this point you can feel the air coming through the vents on the damper.  Certain models will close the damper when the fridge door is open.  So you will have to hold in the light switch or tape it so the machine thinks the door is closed.  After you do that and you still don't feel air, remove the damper cover.  Check to see if the damper door is closed.  If the door is closed, make sure it isn't froze shut.  Manually open the door with your fingers to make sure it can move freely.  If it can move freely then replace the damper.  Sometimes some insulation or foam can fall into the path of the damper and cause it to jam.  If you look inside the damper and it's open but you don't feel air, check your evaporator freezer fan.

The Evaporator Fan

The Freezer Fan should be running if the machine is not in defrost mode.  If the refrigerator is warm and the compressor is running, the freezer fan should be running also.  If not you are going to have to gain access to the freezer fan and check to see if it has 120 volts.  If the fan is getting the proper voltage and is not running, replace the fan.  If the fan is not getting voltage and the compressor is running, you more than likely have a problem with the defrost timer.  Try turning the blade on the fan to see if they move freely.  I have seen where a fan has developed rust and that prevented the motor from turning.  It may start up if your get it a turn so watch your fingers.  If it has rust and that's why it stopped, you should replace it anyway.  It will just happen again.  But at least your machine will work for the time being.

Freezer not Freezing but Fridge Side is Working Fine

This complaint is usually associated with the following.  Most cases this turns out to be a Freon issue.  If the evaporator coils inside the freezer are only partially froze, the freezer cannot get down to the proper temperature.  However, the refrigerator side doesn't need to be as cold, so it appears to be fine.  When you have a compressor failure or a Freon issue it's best to have a professional repair the problem for you.  It takes special tools and licenses to work with the Freon.

Another thing that may cause the freezer to appear not to be working is the ice maker.  If your freezer has an ice maker installed an you are not using it, make sure that it is turned off.  The icemaker will continue to run through it's cycles even if there is not water.  The only problem is that it goes through the cycles much faster.  And every cycle it goes through the heater under the icemaker tray comes on.  So anything that is close to the icemaker will thaw.  Bread will not freeze in this case and your ice cream will stay soft.  I encounter this all the time on the road and the call usually starts with, "My Freezer is not working right."


Ice Maker not Working

Possible Reasons:

You may be at the early stage of defrost problem.  The ice maker needs to be at a certain temperature to make ice.  If something is going on inside the freezer and the temperature is to warm, No Ice production.  Try putting a thermostat inside the freezer to see what the temperature is.  It should be at least Zero.  If not, turn the temperature of your refrigerator to the next coldest setting inside the freezer.  Let it go for a day and see if the machine starts to make ice.

The Fill tube for the Ice Maker may be froze.   There is a tube that runs up the back wall of your fridge and enters the cabinet through a hole right behind the ice maker.  If you look at the ice machine inside your freezer you will notice a tube entering it from the rear wall.  This is the tube I'm talking about.  Inspect the tube carefully with a flashlight to see if it's blocked with ice.  If so, there's your problem.  Use a hairdryer to thaw it out and your machine will be making ice before you know it.

If the tube feeding the ice maker is solid round. Like a paper towel roll. Cut a slit along the top of it to prevent it from freezing up again.

Check your Water valve for any loose or bad connections.  On whirlpool and kenmore style ice makers you can easily check the valve using the hole in the front of the module.  Watch this video below to show you how to do a quick test on your valve.  This is assuming that the fill tube is not frozen and you have verified that water is getting to the water valve.

Plugged Defrost Drain

This is usually the problem when a sheet of ice forms on the floor of the freezer.

In automatically defrosted models, water from the melting frost flows out a drain in the floor of the refrigerator and into a pan, where it evaporates. Food particles can be carried along, clogging the drain and causing odors. Clean the drain regularly by following these steps:

  • Remove the stopper.
  • Use a pipe cleaner or similar device to push any accumulations through to the drain pan below.
  • Force a solution made from soap, ammonia, and water through the drain.
  • Empty the pan and wash it.

From time to time the drain systems on some frost free refrigerators can become clogged.Blowing out a Blocked Defrost Drain Line When this happens, cleaning water from under the crispers may become a daily task. On designs that have the freezer near the floor, you'll notice more and more ice building up. Whatever the design, this situation should be repaired as soon as possible, for if allowed to continue, more serious problems to your refrigerator cabinet could result. Problems such as wet insulation, burnt out drain trough heater, fan or light switches shorting out just to name a few.

Because of the vast number of variations of designs that have evolved over the years, how to clean out and flush your particular drain system will require a bit of innovation on your behalf. This is not a complicated procedure, and once you understand some of the general principles, how you do this will become straight forward.

The purpose of the drain system is to provide a path for the condensate water to flow by gravity from the drain trough under the freezer coils to the condensate evaporator tray. Here this water will be evaporated back into the air by heat, once the hermetic system starts up again after the defrost cycle is complete.

Note: Some newer uncommon designs don't use any fittings or tubes. The defrost drain water trickles down the back of the refrigerator section and flows down a drain underneath the crisper, which is very prone to clogging.

No Cool at All
Freezer not Freezing
Fridge Side not Cold
Icemaker Not Working
Plugged Defrost Drain

How to use a Multimeter - PDF Manual
Refrigerator is "Clicking"
Test Ice Maker Water Valve Video