How to troubleshoot your refrigerator

Identifying and fixing common problems for your refrigerator

One of the most important appliances in your home is your refrigerator. If there is a problem with your food storage, you will quickly find that you need to fix the problem. However, before calling a repairman or dishing out money for a new appliance try these common troubleshooting issues to see if you can resolve the problem. Please note that you will need to refer to your user’s manual before doing any repairs or troubleshooting on your appliance in order to ensure that you do not void the warranty.

Step One: Check for the simple solution

Before you start to check the back of the refrigerator and the more complex components, check the simple stuff first. This means, yes, check to see if the appliance became unplugged. Secondly, check to see if the breaker for the refrigerator has been tripped. This is a common issue. Breakers have an allotted amount of electricity which they can support. If your wall has the refrigerator, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker all on the same breaker using these simultaneously can cause it to trip in some instances. If this is the case, move the smaller appliances to another wall outlet/breaker.

Shaking noises or rumbling in a refrigerator may be the simple problem of having loose shelves. As the shelves of a refrigerator are plastic and plastic is an expandable material, over time the fittings may not be as tight as they used to be. Either tighten the shelf supports (if applicable) or purchase new shelf inserts. Additionally, if you commonly store glass products near the rear of the refrigerator, it may be that the glass is hitting against the back wall and that the vibrations are causing the noises you hear.

Step Two: Check the temperature

Both the freezer and the refrigerator have a temperature setting knob. If the temperature has been changed within the last 24 hours, the changes can greatly affect the cooling of the interior, even if the temperature is set back to its original positions. For example: If the refrigerator is set to coolest and someone puts the knob at the middle (straight up and down) for an hour or two, the refrigerator will adjust the temperature. It will neither be coolest or in the middle. Generally, the temperatures will pan out after 24 hours.

In addition to the temperature settings of the fridge, check the room temperature. Refrigerators which are continuously cycling on may be doing so because the room is too warm. Rooms which have a higher temperature should focus on:

  • Keeping the door closed
  • Ensuring that the door gasket is not damaged (the lining around the door)

Step Three: Check the coils

There are two main coil issues which you can troubleshoot in order to repair your refrigerator. First, check to see if the coils have enough space from the wall. Refrigerators have to be able to “breathe”. At minimum, there should be 4 inches of space between the back of the refrigerator and the wall. Secondly, the coils have to be clean. Debris, especially dust accumulation, can cause the coils not work as intended. Ensure the refrigerator is unplugged, and with a rag gently remove the dust from the coils. Do not use cleaner on the coils. If you must, use cold water to remove excess grime.

Step Four: Check the fan

Weird noises and rattling may be the result of something being caught in the fan. Again, ensure that the fridge is unplugged. Remove the backing of the fridge (keeping in mind that the backing is typically a little better than cardboard, you need to be careful with the screws). If your refrigerator has a metal backing use a screwdriver with a rubber handle to avoid any electric current which may be present. Once the back is removed and you can see the fan carefully remove any debris which may be present. If no debris visible, check around the back of the fan, sometimes dust, hair, or other debris can get wrapped around the shaft of the fan causing the fan to make noise or not work properly. Do not open the casing of the motor as this typically has stored electricity (of rather high voltage).

When NOT to troubleshoot

If you are uncomfortable with working around the electronic components of your refrigerator, hire a technician, like this Phoenix appliance repair company. It is better to err on caution than to electrocute yourself. Secondly, if you smell smoke see visual sparking of any component, turn off the breaker and have the refrigerator professionally serviced. In all troubleshooting refer to your owner’s manual and if possible contact the manufacturer’s customer support line for the best solution based upon the trouble that you are having with your appliance.