5 Common Refrigerator Problems

Question 1: Why doesn’t my refrigerator work at all?

Answer 1: The first thing to check if your refrigerator stops working completely is to make sure that there is power to the appliance. To see if there is power to the refrigerator, plug a different electric device that you know works into the same outlet. If there’s no power, check your fuse or circuit breaker. After verifying that there’s power to the refrigerator, and it’s still not running, then your problem lies in a different area. You’ll want to check the compressor, overload/relay, thermostats, and wiring, or contact a professional appliance repair person.

Question 2: Why is my refrigerator not cooling properly?

Answer 2: If the refrigerator isn’t cool, check to see if the light comes on when you open the door. Next check to see if the thermostat is set properly. If both of these are OK, then check to see if the compressor is running.
See if the compressor motor is running. The compressor is in a case with no visible moving parts. It is usually located at the back of the refrigerator near the bottom. If it’s humming, or making a steady noise, and your refrigerator is still not cooling properly, there could be a problem with one or more various components.
Refrigerators have either a mechanical defrost timer, or an ADC (Adaptive Defrost Control). If your refrigerator has a mechanical timer, set the cold control to the coldest setting and then advance the defrost timer. You can manually advance the timer with a screwdriver. Insert the screwdriver into the advancement pinion and turn clockwise a 1/4 to 3/8’s of a turn. If the compressor starts, replace the defrost timer. For further help, you’ll want to call a professional appliance repair technician.
Sometimes you can hear a click-buzz-click sound coming from the compressor. This is the relay/overload at work. If you hear this, power is getting to the compressor. If you do, something is wrong with either the compressor or the compressor starting components. If you have a newer model with solid-state starting components, you may not hear anything at all. If there is power to the starting components, you may be able to test each part and replace any bad parts. There is also a 3-in-1 unit that may work on your model which replaces all the components in one unit. If the compressor still won’t start, you have a bad compressor and need to replace it. If it does start, wire the 3-in-1 part in permanently. Make sure the one you buy is rated for the horsepower of your appliance.
If you don’t hear anything, you can take the cover off the side of the compressor and test for voltage at the two leads. If no voltage is present, it’s time to check the cold control. To test if the cold control is bad, you can temporarily jump the two wires at the cold control. If you get power to the compressor after doing so, the cold control needs to be replaced.

Question 3: Why is there a strange noise?

Answer 3: Refrigerators typically make a lot of sounds when they operate. The cause of the problem can usually be narrowed down once you determine where the sound is coming from. If you hear something coming from the bottom, the source is probably somewhere else. There is not much under a refrigerator to make noise. You may hear noise coming through this area of the fridge, but it is probably originating in the back of the refrigerator.
Regarding any water sounds, refrigerators have a drip pan behind the kick plate. During a defrost cycle, melt-water from the freezer ice typically drains through a tube and down the back of the refrigerator into the drip pan. You may hear water dripping into it or it may rattle. Usually evaporation empties the drip pan, but you can remove it and empty it if there is a lot of liquid in it. If it rattles, you can check the supports holding the pan to make sure they haven’t been damaged, you can replace the pan, or you can try to secure it with tape. Another water flow sound would be if you have a built-in icemaker. You may hear the water flowing into the
If the noise is coming from the back, there are a few things that could be causing the problem. If the unit seems louder when the compressor starts, it’s probably a normal sound. The compressor starts with a high pressure, but as the pressure balances, the noise should become normalized. The compressor is in a black case with no visible moving parts. It’s located at the back of the refrigerator near the bottom and has wires and a bunch of tubes going to it. If it’s humming, or making a steady noise, and your refrigerator is still not cooling properly, there could be a problem with one or more various components. If the compressor is making noise, there’s probably no repairing it. You’ll have to replace it. This is often a very costly job and needs to be done by someone with the necessary EPA certification to work on sealed systems.
You can usually hear air rushing, or a swooshing sound from the condenser fan motor and blade. If it sounds abnormal or different than usual, check for dirt or dust on the blade and fan motor. If this area is dirty, make sure the power is off and wipe it with a clean towel. If the fan blade is metal, make sure that it is not hitting anything and that it is attached securely to the motor. If the noise is still coming from the motor, you will need to replace it. The damper door opening and closing may cause a chirping or howling sound.
The defrost timer can also make noises. It usually will make a click when it advances. As the timer gets old, the motor that runs the defrost timer can begin to make noises as well. If the timer motor is making a loud sound, then you should replace the entire timer. Noises related to the defrost timer are: snapping, crackling, or popping sounds. This is most likely caused by the defrost heater getting warm, and cold water dripping onto it. You may also hear some metallic sounding expansion or contraction creaks as the coils warm or get cool.
Other clicking or snapping sounds may be caused by the water valve opening to fill the ice cube tray. This valve is operated by a solenoid, and most solenoids make a snap sound as they open and close.
If you notice a sound coming from the freezer, you’ll want to check the evaporator fan motor. This is the fan that circulates air through all parts of the refrigerator and freezer. When the compressor is running, this fan should run as well. The fan blows the air over the evaporator coils to cool it. As the fan gets older and worn out, the moving pieces in the fan motor can start to make strange noises. When you hear the noise, quickly open the freezer door and manually press the door switch. If the noise is louder, then the motor is causing your problem. The motors are not repairable, you just replace the entire unit.
Vibrating noises are often caused by dishes or other containers vibrating on a shelf inside. You can move the dishes around to see if that helps. Other times the vibrations may be caused by something on top of the refrigerator. These items could be touching and rattling around on top of the refrigerator. Verify that the refrigerator is not touching any nearby walls or counters.

Question 4: Why won’t my icemaker dispense ice?

Answer 4: This could be because the ice is clumped in the ice bin. When the automatic defrost cycle occurs, heat is transferred to the freezer area. This can cause the cubes to melt slightly and refreeze back together. You can take the bin out and give it a good shake, or simply discard the cubes and start over with a fresh batch of ice cubes. By increasing the amount of food in the freezer compartment, you may be able to buffer the heat that comes from the defrost cycle and avoid clumping issues.
If you have a large ice bin and hardly use any ice, it is possible that the cubes have gotten stuck together just from the weight of the cubes on top of others.

Question 5: Why does my freezer door pop open when I close the refrigerator?

Answer 5: On models that have the freezer built into the refrigerator, this is because the freezer and refrigerator compartments are connected via air channels or baffles. When you slam a door hard, it creates a pressure wave by compressing the air in the cabinet and forces the other door open. This can also work in the reverse order.
You want to make sure the gaskets are sealing properly, and that the gasket is clean and lubricated. If you need to lubricate the gasket, you can use some paraffin wax or Vaseline, which are very soft substances. Rub the wax or Vaseline along the surface of the gasket to cover the whole thing. If needed, wash the gasket first with some baking soda and water and let it dry thoroughly before lubricating it.
You want to make sure that the leveling legs cause the refrigerator to tilt slightly backwards. This will help to keep the door from popping open, as well as making sure the door closes if you don’t actually push it shut. You can also add some heavier items to the freezer door compartment to add some extra weight. This may help to keep the door from popping open. The freezer door is more likely to pop open than the refrigerator door as it is much lighter.

For more Appliance Repair help, please search this blog and for appliance parts visit us at www.apwagner.com

33 thoughts on “5 Common Refrigerator Problems

  1. Frig makes a popping sound (like popcorn) all the time the motor is on. When the motor shuts off, the sound stops. Why?

  2. The fan inside my refrigerator does not run and the compressor cuts off after about 20 seconds. The fan under the refrigerator is working. What could be wrong with it.

  3. Sounds like your compressor is overheating. It likely clicks when this happens. Then a short time later it re-starts only to repeat the pattern. Have the compressor changed out or replace the unit.

  4. My ref. makes a one rather large bang or popping noise at the end of a cooling cycle, I think? What could it be & can I fix it myself?

    • @ Larry – Have you figured out what that Large Bang is? I have an Admiral Ultima fridge and after a cycle it makes a very large bang (w/ a resounding shutter).

      • Same sound here. It sound to me like, when the comperssor finishes its cycle/”spinning down” and it gives that last little ‘shutter’ for some reason?

      • Thanks. Mines been doing it for a full year evertime it finishes a cycle. Has yours been doing it for some yime? Mine seems to be getting gradually louder as time passes by. We checked the rubber washers/ shock absorbers under the compressor, however they look alright. Even jammed chunks of rubber to help brace it. Sounds like it may be an internal problem because bracing has not helped.

  5. I have a westinghouse fridge where I think the bottom (fridge) part is not cooling but the freezer is working. What’s wrong? How can I fix it myself?

  6. i have a westinghouse side by side cyclic deforst fridge…twice in the last 3 wks, it has just stopped working.The light inside went off, as if no power.Wall switch works with other appliances.The first time i played with the inside lightswitch and a short time later it just came back on.Then today it went off again so i emptied the water receptacle at the back bottom of fridge, that sits on top of the compressor(it was full of water), cleaned that container and then switched it back on, and it again came back on.Can someone tell me whats going on, and if i need to take pre-emptive action to prevent this occurring ,in case i have to go away for a few days


  7. My refrigerator has stopped cooling but the freezer compartment is working properly. also there is lot of vibrating noise coming from it.

    • My Samsung french doors fridge continually runs very loudly-when I OPEN the door it shuts off-when I CLOSE the door it starts to run continually loud-I’m going to have an extremely high electric bill… what is it??

  8. My Kenmore french door fridge is freezing items in various parts, like the lower vegie bin and the middle shelf. I have ice forming on a cup of tea I placed there to drink later. Can this be fixed?

  9. I have a Frigidaire Gallery refrigerator. Above the light in the back of the refrigerator a hole is developing. The bulb that is in the refrigerator is the original bulb that came with the unit. I purchased an extended warranty. I am being told by the warranty holder that the warranty covers electrical and mechanical problems. I asked if this would be considered either; however, they said they could not tell me. I called the company where I purchased the unit to ask if they could give me a definition/description of a mechanical/electrical problem or if this would be covered. They told me it was against company policy to tell me over the phone. So, can you possibly give me your opinion? Would this be considered either an electrical or mechanical problem? Can this be repaired? The unit is only 2 years old!!

  10. my samsung cooltech fridge is not cooling r freezing anything the light is on but its not making anysound and a few days ago there was water draining out the bottom what could be the problem

    • The same thing happened to us called a few engineers who said we had a gas problem however after contacting which we were put on to a service company who operate in the london area http://www.agsrefrigeration.co.uk they came out and fout that the fault was with condenser fan which they replaced all fine now

  11. Noone is using this fridge. I started it up for the next tenant. when you open and close the doors there is a gurgling sound. Really loud when you close the door. why?

  12. I have maytag refrigerator/freezer. The freezer is on the bottom. I just had the freezer worked on because the drain was frozen up. This was a month ago. Now when I open the freezer door I hear a hissing noise. It comes and goes. What could be the problem?

  13. My FRIG makes a very loud annoying humming sound intermittently whenever I believe the thermostat kicks on. It currently functions but the noise is very annoying and can go on for hours. the sound appears to be coming from the freezer. Could this be a simple problem requiring just a partor a big job requiring disassembling the entire refrigerator?

  14. My refrigerator freezer was making almost like an electrical sounds, and the back bottom part of freezer is warm. What is wrong with my fridge?

  15. Have an LG refrigerator that is making a chirping noise. The outer compartment around the frame seems a bit warmer than usual. What could this be. Thank you very much!

  16. Hello i hav a kic refrigerator the freezer works perfectly but tjw top fridge is not cooling what must i do please help

  17. “Vibrating noises are often caused by dishes or other containers vibrating on a shelf inside.”

    My refrigerator gets this. I move stuff around, and that helps, but it comes back. The appliance works great in every other way, but this drives me nuts. It’s very definitely the shelves, and I definitely can’t get it to stop with any regularity.

    Do you think it might help to have a handyman check how level it is, and level it if its balance is off?

    Thanks for your time.

  18. Pl. Let us know if in case we should worry about the kelvinator brand refrigerator that is in comtinous operation past 5 months as we are out of station

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