Learn how to repair a fridge with our easy-to-follow guide. We'll show you basic appliance repair, refrigerator fixes, and signs that it's time to call a professional.

By Tim Laehn

Refrigerators work hard day and night to keep food cold. If yours stops functioning properly, don't give up on the old model right away. Try these refrigerator service tips first. 

Keep in mind, do-it-yourself home appliance repairs vary in difficulty depending on your handiness level. If you are uncomfortable working with electricity, limit yourself to mechanical issues, such as a clogged drain or stuck motor fan. Refrigeration problems, such as low gas, a clogged capillary tube, or a bad compressor, are typically for professionals only because they require special knowledge and tools. If you've tried the suggestions provided here and your refrigerator is still not cooling properly, give your local service technician a call.

If Food Isn't as Cold as It Should Be

Obviously, the most common sign your refrigerator or freezer isn't functioning properly is food that isn't as cold as it should be. According to Pete Argos, an appliance repairman and author of the e-book Appliance Repair Made Easy & Cheap, the first step in refrigerator repair is to find out if the problem is the result of a compressor, defrost, or air circulation issue. "If both the refrigerator and the freezer are getting warmer, then it is most likely a thermostat or compressor issue," Argos says. "If just the refrigerator is getting warmer, it is most likely an automatic defrost or air circulation issue." A defrost failure will also cause ice to build up on the freezer walls or floor. If you determine the problem to be a defrost issue, Argos recommends starting your fridge repair by unplugging the refrigerator and leaving the doors open for 24 hours. (For food safety, be sure to remove the contents and find an alternate storage place that will keep foods at refrigerator temperature.) Then reset both temperature controls to middle settings and plug the refrigerator back in. "The refrigerator should resume normal temps within a day," he says. "If the defrost problem reoccurs within two weeks, you will need to call your service tech."

If You Want to Prevent Future Problems

Argos offers these tips for keeping your refrigerator functioning properly—even if there's not a problem right now. It's easier to prevent disrepair than fix refridgerators completely.

  • Clean the condenser coils, located under or behind the refrigerator, on a regular basis with a brush and wet/dry vacuum.
  • Check the condenser cooling fan, located behind the fridge near the bottom, for any obstructions.
  • Clean door seals with warm, soapy water and inspect for large cracks or tears. Replace if necessary.
  • Keep food and packages away from air vents. "An overpacked refrigerator or freezer could restrict proper airflow," Argos says.


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