Introduction: Basic Refrigerator Repairs

In this instructable I will be going over a few simple repair tasks that you can do on your refrigerator. THIS WILL NOT HAVE THE REPAIR FOR EVERY SOLUTION, if you feel uncomfortable doing any of these, or if you are not sure of the problem, call a repair service. Remember that there are professionals out there trained to deal with refrigerators, and if you feel unsafe, or are worried about damaging the device, contact one of them to take care of it for you. All this instructable is, is a way to show a couple of easy home repairs that can save you some money, not a fix all for your refrigerator.

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver (4-in-1 is best)
  • Adjustable wrench (not all models need this)
  • vacuum
  • long brush
  • level
  • cardboard/hardboard
  • hair dryer

Not everything uses all of these tools, but if you have all of them, you'll be able to handle most simple repairs for your refrigerator.

Step 1: Check the Electricity

I can't tell you how many times friends have asked for help with their refrigerator, and the only issue was that the circuit breaker was flipped. If you notice that your device has stopped working, the first thing you should always check is that it is in fact plugged in, turned on, and that the circuit is on. To check this, go to your fuse box and look for the specific breaker for your fridge. If it is on and your machine is plugged in, then you can start to look for the other issues it may have. Always check the electricity first though.

Step 2: Unplug Your Refrigerator

This is an incredibly important step. Once you realize that there is an issue, and you have decided to take care of it yourself, you want to unplug your device. Several of the repairs that will be discussed involve work around the wires and motors of your device, and if it is still on and running, they are highly dangerous. The fan blades of the refrigerator are capable of easily cutting through a finger if left running, so remember to put safety above everything and unplug your device. I'm sure many of you have it in a location that the plug is behind the refrigerator and hidden from view unless you move your device, take care when moving it and know that you may scratch or damage your floor. To avoid this you can lay down a piece of cardboard, or if you are willing to spend the money on it, a piece of hardboard that can be bought at any hardware store.

Step 3: Repairs for Loud Refrigerator Noises

There are two possible causes for refrigerator noises, either a faulty compressor, or issues with one of the fan motors. If the compressor is the one with the issues, the easiest, and many times cheapest in the long run, solution is to just buy a new refrigerator. In order to determine which of the fan motors is acting up open the freezer door, if the noise gets louder then the fan inside the device is the one with issues and you can fix it without pulling the refrigerator away from the wall (except to unplug it of course). If the noise stays the same level with the freezer door open, remove the back cover from the refrigerator by unscrewing the screws holding it in place. Once it is off listen for where the noise is coming from, if it is beneath the refrigerator it is the compressor and you will need to either call someone or replace your device, if the noise is from the fan there is an easy fix. This fix works for both the fan inside the freezer, and the condenser fan in the back. Unscrew the covering for it if there is one, typically the one inside has a cover, the back one only has the back panel for the whole refrigerator. Once the fan is exposed, use your screwdriver to unscrew the fan from the device and carefully remove the wires. Once the wires are disconnected, remove the fan from its mounting plate, the fastening method varies for each model, but many times there are a couple of screws holding it in place. Once the fan is off place a new fan onto the mounting plate, reconnect the wires, and carefully reattach the fan to the refrigerator being sure to fully fasten it.

*Note: My refrigerator is an older model and uses the cover as the mounting plate as well which can be more than a little difficult to reattach properly, so the pictures will only show the covered fan, not the removed and disconnected ones. There are many clear pictures online of this process though, and if you look up the exact model you have you can often find detailed instructions specific to yours.

Step 4: Instructions for Dealing With Cooling Problems

Many people are willing to put up with a noisy refrigerator, but if it doesn't cool properly there is almost no point to one. These fixes will solve the majority of problems that people encounter, but not all of them, if you are not sure what is wrong, or feel uncomfortable, call a professional.

Check the temperature control knob

This may seem like an obvious one, but it is actually the cause of many problems. Sometimes the knob is turned by someone carelessly brushing against it when putting something away, and sometimes a child will turn it out of curiosity. Whatever the reason, if the knob is turned to too high of a setting, the refrigerator will not cool the way you expect and you can lose some of your food.

Check the vents

Food products are sometimes placed in front of the vents in a way that can block the flow of air throughout the device, preventing it from cooling properly. Take a moment to double check that the vents are clear and unobstructed.

Clean the fan

The simplest way to clean the fan motors is with a vacuum cleaner. Simply remove the cover from the fan using a screwdriver, then using a narrow tube attachment on a vacuum, proceed to clean out any dust or obstructions that may prevent the fan from spinning as well as it should. If the fan can't spin, the refrigerator won't cool down.

Clean the coils

Depending on the model of your device, and especially on the age of it, the location of the coils will change. Older models tend to have the coils on the back, while the newer ones are often on the bottom. For all of them, it is important that a solid steady airflow is available to get to them, and not blocked by boxes, trash, or dust. The new models with the coils on the bottom usually get clogged with dust that has built up underneath the device, or with trash that people may not have even noticed go underneath. The old models also had an issue with dust, but rather than trash, their airflow would be obstructed by things like cereal boxes put on top of the refrigerator. In either case once you have located the coils on your device (your owner's manual should tell you where they are) carefully position the refrigerator in a way that you can access them. For the one's on the bottom, if you are able to reach under with a brush, don't lift it, if you are not able to then find something that you know can hold the weight to rest it on. Once you have access to the coils, use a long brush to clean them of whatever has gathered on them. Ideally this should actually be done annually to keep the machine running smoothly.

Step 5: What to Do If Your Refrigerator Is Leaking

A leaky refrigerator is always an annoyance, and a danger because of the slipperiness from a wet floor. There can be a couple of issues that lead to these leaks appearing. The first is that something has caused the device to tilt slightly. To check for this, take a level and place it on top of the refrigerator, preferably close to the middle. If it shows that the refrigerator is not level, move your level around to determine where the change is being caused from, and place something underneath to lift the device up enough to level it off again. Many newer models have a built in height adjustment feature, to use this, pull the front grille off of the bottom, and then using a screwdriver, either tighten or loosen the adjustment screw to reach the desired height. Once again my old model does not have this feature so I have to resort to the stacking coins or some other material underneath to level it off. The next check is if your device has an ice maker or water dispenser. If it does, pull your refrigerator out and look for a leak in either the inlet valve, or the tubing. Since my model does not have these I cannot show a picture of them as an example, but you can find examples of the parts online very easily. If the inlet valve has a leak, tightening the nuts around it often solves the problem, for the tubing they have to be replaced. The final check is for the drain tube in the freezer. This can sometimes get clogged or can be blocked by ice build up. To take care of this, remove the back cover panel from over the drain hole. If there is any ice build up around the hole, either break it off carefully, or melt it. The easiest way I have found is to use a hairdryer to melt the ice, and then a sponge or towel to soak up the water. Once any ice is gone, clean the area around the drain hole to make sure there isn't more dirt that can get into it. After you have cleaned the area, fit a tube into the drain hole and blow air into it, this will clear out anything stuck inside. To check if it's clear pour a little bit of water into it and make sure it actually drains away.