Here's how to troubleshoot a failing fridge that's lost its frosty feel. This step-by-step guide will show you how to identify the problem and possibly even fix it yourself. Even if the repair requires a pro, you will be able to show them the problem thus saving them time and you money.
There are several possible causes when a refrigerator doesn’t keep your milk cold or your ice cream frozen. Before you attempt more complex repairs, try these simple fixes:
Remove the cover to inspect the evaporator and to access the evaporator fan. The screws may be covered with plastic plugs that you pry out.
If your refrigerator has a fan cover, remove the screws that hold it in place. Then remove the cover to reach the fan.
Replace the evaporator fan if it's noisy or doesn't spin. First unplug the refrigerator. Then remove the screws that hold the fan to the wall of the freezer.
Replace the old fan with a new one. Remove the mounting bracket from the old fan and attach it to the new fan. Unplug the wires and switch them from the old fan to the new fan. Reinstall the fan and replace the cover.
Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you zero in on the problem. If you can hear the compressor running but the fridge isn’t cooling, the problem is most likely either frost-clogged evaporator coils or a stuck or broken evaporator fan. Evaporator fans often squeal or chirp when they start to go bad. You’ll know it’s the evaporator fan if the noise gets louder when you open the freezer door. The evaporator coils and fan are located behind a cover in the freezer compartment. Photos 3 and 4 show how to replace the fan if it’s necessary.
If you remove the cover inside the freezer and find the coils completely filled with frost, take everything out of the freezer and fridge, unplug it and let it thaw for 24 to 48 hours. Keep a few towels handy to soak up water that may leak onto the floor. When all the frost is melted away, plug the fridge back in. If it works, the problem may be a defrost timer, defrost heater or defrost thermostat. Replacing these parts isn’t difficult, but figuring out which is faulty requires troubleshooting that we won’t cover here. Call a pro if you suspect a problem with these parts.
Normally the condenser fan and compressor, located near the floor on the back of most refrigerators, come on the back of most refrigerators, come on when the thermostat calls for more cooling. If you don’t hear the compressor running after the door has been left open for a while, it could mean the condenser fan is stuck or worn out or that the relay or compressor is bad.
Replace the condenser fan if it's noisy or doesn't run. Depending on your fridge, you may have to remove the fan bracket first, and then unscrew the fan from the bracket.
Cut the wires close to the old fan. Strip the wires and connect the new fan with wire connectors. Screw the new fan to the bracket and reinstall the fan and bracket in the fridge.
Pull the fridge away from the wall, unplug it and remove the thin panel on the back near the bottom to access the compressor and condenser fan. Next plug the fridge in and wait for the compressor to come on. The fan should also come on. If the compressor runs but the fan doesn’t, or if the fan is noisy, you need a new fan. If neither runs and the compressor is hot, unplug the fridge and point a fan or a hair dryer set to “no heat” at the compressor. Wait for the compressor to cool and try again. If the compressor runs but the fan doesn’t, the fan is bad. Unplug the refrigerator and replace the fan (Photos 5 and 6). If neither runs, then you may need a new relay or compressor. Call an appliance repair technician to find out.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.