Common Refrigerator Problems and How to Fix Them

Refer to our guide below on quick fixes that don’t require you to call a professional or purchase a new fridge entirely.

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Your refrigerator is arguably one of the most important appliances in your home - after all, it keeps your food from spoiling, saving you from many trips to the grocery store. However, refrigerators are not indestructible. They suffer from daily wear-and-tear, just like other home appliances. While some problems are more severe than others, many can be solved by a quick fix without the help of a refrigerator repair technician. However, before you can fix the problem, you must pinpoint its source.

Pay attention to the symptoms exhibited by your refrigerator to find the source of the problem. It may just be a case of simply unplugging and re-plugging or purchasing some replacement parts.

1. Water Leaking on the Floor

Not only is this problem dangerous to people who are walking around your kitchen, but it is also a little bit tricky to solve as a couple of things can cause it.

Luckily, the two most common causes have a quick and easy fix that usually don't require the help of a professional. One cause of water leaking onto the floor is a blocked defrost drain. The defrost drain is typically located on the back wall of the freezer, right above the slope from the floor to the back. A buildup in food particles or debris can clog the drain hose, leading to ice buildup and water leaking out of the freezer and fridge. To fix this, try draining the hole from the inside using warm water. Use a long, slender instrument such as a pipe cleaner or turkey baster to remove the clog.

If this doesn't get the job done, you might have to manually remove the buildup clogging the valve at the end of the drain hose. Locate the defrost drain hose in the back of the service panel by pulling your fridge away from the wall. This hose should have a rubber valve that helps catch debris and prevent clogging. Wash the valve with hot water, and soap then reinstall.

A clogged or frozen water supply can also cause water to leak on the floor and puddle under your fridge - this can also prevent the ice maker and water dispenser from working correctly. To fix this, unplug the refrigerator and locate the shut-off valve. This valve could be located underneath your sink, behind the fridge, or below the fridge in a basement or crawl space. Once you locate it, make sure the shut-off valve is closed and check for any problems in the plastic supply line. If it is broken or torn, you need to replace the water supply line.

If your water line is damaged, you can still use your refrigerator to keep your food cold. You just won't be able to use the ice or water dispenser.

2. Freezer Isn't Cold Enough

Is your perishable food spoiling quickly, or are you just noticing that your freezer isn’t as frosty as it should be? This is a common problem that is usually easy to fix. If you notice this problem in your freezer unit, check if the back wall of the freezer is cold.

If it is cold, check if you can hear the evaporator fan running or if you can feel air flowing from the freezer vents. If you can’t, then it is most likely a problem concerning the freezer evaporator fan. If you can feel the air flowing and hear the fan running, you should check on the refrigerator’s compressor. These are condenser coils that release heat from inside the fridge into the room. Clean any dust that could be preventing air from moving across the coils. If your condenser coils are clean, it may be time to invest in that spiffy French door refrigerator you’ve had your eye on.

3. Refrigerator is Cycling Too Often

Nobody likes a noisy fridge. Not only is it inconvenient because of the constant noise, but it can also cause your energy bill to run high, taking quite the toll on your wallet. A few things can cause your fridge unit to cycle too often – one being a buildup of debris or dust around the condenser coils.

To fix this, you want to begin by unplugging your fridge. The condenser coils are usually located on the very bottom of your fridge are accessible from the front or the back. To find the condenser coils, locate the “grill” and remove it by popping out the snaps that hold it in place. After doing this, use a small vacuum to remove the buildup of dust or debris around the condenser coils. You may even need to use a cloth to remove any buildup in those hard-to-access places. Once all debris and dust are removed, put the grill back on and plug the refrigerator back in. Problem solved!

Another common cause of your refrigerator unit cycling too often is setting the temperature too low. Not only will this cause some of your food to spoil, but it also results in the refrigerator working overtime. A good rule of thumb is to set your fridge temperature at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that you check the thermostat on your refrigerator from time to time to ensure that it is running at the correct temperature. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, it may be time to call in a repair technician as it might be the case of a defective part such as a condenser fan motor or thermostat sensor.

4. Fresh Food Compartment Is Warming Up

Before discussing the solution to this problem, it is essential to understand the connection between your refrigerator and your freezer unit. Typically, the cold air generated by refrigerators comes from the freezer unit, which then flows into the fresh food section of your fridge. Therefore, if your fresh food compartment is warming up, it is most likely because you have an airflow problem.

Your freezer contains an evaporator fan responsible for moving the cold air from the freezer into the fresh food compartment in the fridge. This air moves through a diffuser located in the back of the fresh food section of your fridge. If you can hear the evaporator fan running or feel air blowing from the freezer vents and are still facing an issue, your diffuser duct may be clogged with ice. This clog prevents air from passing through the system and is often caused by the door being left open for long.

If you can’t hear the evaporator fan running or hear an uncommon humming noise, you most likely need to invest in a new motor for your evaporator fan.

5. Sheet of Ice on the Freezer Floor

A blocked defrost drain can cause a sheet of ice on the floor of your freezer. You may also notice water dripping into the fridge every once in a while. This problem is usually a quick and easy fix. Store your food somewhere else, for the time being, unplug the fridge, and allow it to defrost.

However, if you want to be extra thorough, carefully remove the back wall of the freezer compartment before you plug the unit back in. Check for and remove any food or particles clogging the small hole at the base of the evaporator coils. If the problem remains, consider adding a drain heater to help the defrost process.

6. Buildup of Frost in the Ice Dispenser

This is a prevalent problem with a relatively simple fix! For ice to fall from your ice dispenser, it needs to be able to open and close. This “door” that opens and closes, allowing ice to fall, is called a damper door. Your damper door is lined with a special material that seals against the ice shoot and creates an airtight seal. If this material on the door gets malformed or dirty, it might not be able to seal tightly, allowing moist air to enter into the freezer compartment. When this air cools down, it turns into frost, causing airflow issues and cooling problems. Therefore, if you encounter this problem, inspect the damper door for anything that may be causing air to leak through. It may be a case of simply cleaning up the dirt, or you may need to buy a replacement part.

7. Ice Maker is Overflowing

This is a relatively common problem with a variety of potential causes. The primary problem usually is the water inlet valve. If the water pressure in this valve is too low, it may not fully close when the power is shut off. This will result in the valve leaking water into the icemaker, causing the ice maker to overflow. To resolve this issue, ensure that the water pressure is at least 20 psi. If you check and the water pressure is appropriate, you may have a defective water inlet valve. It may not be shut off entirely or stuck open, causing water to leak through the valve. Therefore, consider replacing the water inlet valve if the ice maker is overflowing at sufficient water pressure.

8. Refrigerator is Freezing Food

If you notice that your refrigerator is freezing your food, it is likely a problem with the temperature control thermostat. This thermostat controls the compressor and evaporator fan motor; therefore, if it isn’t working correctly, it might cause the refrigerator system to run longer than necessary, causing the unit to be too cold.

Determine if the thermostat is faulty by rotating it from the lowest to the highest, listening for a click. If you hear a click, rest assured that it is likely not defective. However, if you don’t hear a click, use a multimeter to test the thermostat for continuity. If it doesn’t have continuity at any setting, replace the thermostat.

9. Water Dispenser Not Working

There are three possible sources that may stop your water dispenser from working.

The first and most common reason is that your water tube in the door is frozen. To determine if this is the source of the problem, disconnect the tube at the bottom of the door and blow air through it. If the air doesn’t pass through, it is a telltale sign that your water supply tube is frozen. To fix this, thaw it out. To prevent this from happening again, make sure to periodically check that your freezer is set at the proper temperature. You should set it somewhere between 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is any lower than this, the water line could freeze.

Another possible cause for this issue is a faulty water inlet valve. This valve opens the water supply to the dispenser; therefore, if the valve is defective or if the water pressure is too low, the water valve won’t open. Before jumping to conclusions and buying a replacement part, check if the water pressure to the valve is at least 20 psi.

If your home has insufficient water pressure, it may result in your water dispenser not working. Because the water inlet valve requires a minimum of 20 psi to function correctly, this may be the cause of your problem. Check the water flow from your house supply to determine if the water pressure is at least 20 psi.

Your fridge is one of the most important appliances in your home. Knowing what symptoms to look out for and understanding how to fix them can save you a lot of time and money. If you encounter any of these problems and cannot fix them, call a repair technician for assistance. If they tell you that it might be time to invest in a new refrigerator, we hope you turn to AJ Madison. We carry a wide selection of side-by-side refrigerators, French door refrigerators, stainless steel refrigerators, and counter-depth refrigerators at affordable prices, ready to ship.