Fix your own refrigerator yourself. Some troubleshooting issues!
It’s fair to expect your fridge to last a long time (check the reliability score in our fridge test to see which brands last the longest, according to our members). But breakdowns are bound to happen at some point and it’s good to be prepared. No one wants to waste money on spoiled food due to power loss or a poorly performing fridge.
If you can figure out how to fix simple problems yourself you can save on call-out fees which will leave you more money for tasty snacks – everyone loves tasty snacks better than repair fees! Read on for some useful instructions, but don’t forget your user manual – it’ll have some good tips for maintenance and can even break down some troubleshooting issues for you.
Fridges make noise, like many other electrical products. This can include:
- fan sounds (moving cold air around different areas of the fridge)
- pops (defrosting ice)
- gurgling (liquid refrigerant circling the fridge)
- hissing (difference in pressure between warm and cold air)
- compressor noise.
Make sure you have enough air space around the fridge. If your fridge is making a lot of noise it may be because it doesn’t have enough room to move hot air away to the surrounds, and needs to work harder to cool the fridge. The right amount of space can usually be found in the manual but if not, leaving at least 5–10cm around the sides, top and rear is generally enough. Install the fridge away from direct sunlight and any heat-generating appliances such as heaters, ovens, cooktops or dishwashers.
Check the controls to see if they are set to very cold. The colder they are, the more likely the compressor is to run. This is also likely to happen if a large amount of food has just been placed in the fridge, as the fridge tries to cool the food down, or if you’ve put something hot (like uncooled leftovers) into the fridge or freezer. The fridge compressor is also likely to run more often in warmer seasons.
Check what’s on top or balanced against the fridge – something could be vibrating against the fridge when the compressor starts up. This can also happen on the inside if something is awkwardly stored inside the fridge and vibrates against something else in response to the compressor vibration.
Check that your fridge is balanced. If it’s unbalanced, meaning the doors don’t close properly, it’s costing you money as the compressor tries to replace cold air that leaks out the door. It can also cause increased noise. Fridges usually have feet that can be adjusted once you’ve got them installed. Balance issues can also occur if the floor is weak or uneven.
If your compressor is working hard but your food isn’t getting cold, check that none of your food items are covering internal outlets. Cold air is always being pushed into the fridge through outlets in the fridge and freezer area. If you block these with an overloaded fridge you’ll make the fridge work harder. Leave space around the outlets so cool air can circulate. Check that nothing is in the way and that the door is closing properly. Opening the door too often or leaving it open for too long will also make it difficult for the fridge to cool food.
These days most fridges are frost-free. If yours has frost build-up, check the doors are fully closed and that the seals are air-tight. Seals that are dirty, faulty or deteriorating with age will allow humid air to leak in. Faulty seals mean the compressor can’t deal with the amount of moisture in the fridge, which then freezes to the sides of the freezer door. If it’s really serious, you may have issues opening the fridge.
Most manufacturers will tell you to turn off your fridge before cleaning, so it’s best to clean when your food supply is low. Use a mild unscented detergent and lukewarm water with a soft cloth on the interior and the outside of the fridge. Make sure all parts, including the seals, are thoroughly dried after washing and avoid wetting any controls or electronic areas. Thoroughly wiping up any spills as they occur will help in the long run. Try not to use any abrasives.
This can be related to what you’ve put in the fridge. Check what’s in there, as something may have spilled and started to spoil, or may not be covered properly. Some containers and wrappers can cause smells or react with food to create smells.
If water is leaking outside the fridge, check the back of the fridge to see if the defrost water tray is in the right position and that the drainage tube that leads to it is actually pointing at the drip tray. This water should evaporate naturally over time.
If water is leaking inside the fridge it could mean there is a blocked drain or outlet. There are drainage channels in some fridge cabinets, so check to see if there is a blockage of food or dirt and clear it. If drainage channels aren’t blocked, the leak could be from condensation so check the door is closing properly, isn’t left opened for too long and that the seals are working well. This can also happen when there are periods of high humidity in the environment.
If water is leaking in the vegetable/fruit compartments it could be because of the low humidity in the fridge that vegetables and fruit will lose water which can cause condensation on the compartments they are stored in. If your fridge has a humidity setting, try using this to see if it makes a difference. You could also use storage bags to store the vegetables and fruit in the compartments.
Food is freezing in the fridge
You’ll need to check the temperature setting. Adjust the temperature and see if food is still freezing in the fridge. Leave the fridge for 24 hours to register any changes you’ve made to the temperature settings. Cold-sensitive foods (easily frozen) placed in front of vents used for the cold air circulation are likely to be affected, so make sure you keep vents free of products.
If you move your fridge, you don’t want to hurt yourself or cause damage to your fridge in the process. Cooling down will take two or three hours. After that, close and tape drawers and doors and make sure the power lead is tucked into the back or taped to the fridge.
If the fridge needs to be laid down on its side, when moved upright again leave it to rest for a while before turning the power back on. Check your manual for resting periods but it ranges from 10 minutes to a few hours.
Ice and water-dispenser issues
For fridges containing ice and/or water compartments, check for any water leaks at all water connection points. Follow manufacturer instructions for replacing any filters. If the ice maker doesn’t make ice, it could be that it’s turned off or that the fridge isn’t level. Also, check the filter for blockages and that the tap supply to the fridge is turned on.