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Refrigerator not keeping constant temps

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by bfunk13, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    I went to get a glass of milk yesterday and before i even poured it, it seemed warm.
    After checking it out our fridge was about 55 degrees. I turned it to its coldest setting and in a few hours it was about 38 degrees. Later in the day it was back to about 55. We have a second fridge and freezer so we moved everything to it. Overnight it went down to 20 degrees. Any ideas? It's an older fridge but not really looking forward to spending 2K on a new one.
    Thanks for any suggestions on what to check.

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  2. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Something to add, the two times the fridge got warm i removed and shut off the ice maker so the ice would not melt.
    Maybe coincidence but the fridge and freezer temps recovered. Think the ice maker has something to do with it? Drawing too much cooling power? Just a thought.

    I did pull the fridge out and vacuum the dust bunnies out of the coils and underside. There was quite a build up. We will give it till monday and see how it performs before looking for a new one.
  3. seige101

    seige101 Minister of Fire

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    On older fridges there is usually only one coil inside the freezer the keep the fridge and freezer cold, a fan will duct cold air into the fridge and shut a small damper when it is cold enough. This can get clogged up with stuff or frozen with moisture. The other problem could be the defrost heater timer is failing and the defrost heater is staying on longer or not shutting off. Usually located under the plastic shroud on the roof of the fridge part. Every so many years the condensate line on ours gets plugged up or frozen so i have to clean it out or water drips on the damper and freezes and puddles on the top shelf of the fridge.

    Since you all ready have all the food out you could easily pull off the shrouds and check. Or for the lazy/easy way unplug the fridge and let it completely warm up and defrost, then plug it back in.
    bfunk13 likes this.
  4. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    +1 on the defrosting. You may have a mechanical timer, or like mine, it's part of the control board. My fridge did the same thing - turned out the firmware on the board never called for a defrost cycle, and the evaporator was a solid chunk of ice. When I got it melted (in the wee hours of the morning with the kitchen lights off) I had a lake of water on the floor. There was so much ice the melt overflowed the drip pan and ran all over the floor. I replaced the control board and all has been good for a couple of years now.

    I had an older fridge that did the same, but it had a mechanical timer. It was made so I could open it up, and I repaired a bad connection inside.

    Somewhere on your unit, probably underneath, behind the kick panel, there's probably a little envelope with a schematic and data in it. That might help you determine what's wrong.
    bfunk13 likes this.
  5. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks seeker!

    It has run fine all day and is actually running pretty cool. About 35 degrees.
  6. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Most common problems I've encountered with fridges:
    - defrost relay
    - inadequate airflow over condenser due to bad or obstructed cooling fan, or dirty condenser coil
  7. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    I did vacuum a bunch of dust stuck to the coil under the fridge.
    Did not realize it was that dirty.
  8. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    i hope its that easy. Many forget to to do this.
  9. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Is the ice maker still making ice? Mine went bad after ~7 yrs. Could be a heater stuck on??
  10. boatboy63

    boatboy63 Member

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    You never mentioned whether it is a traditional freezer over fridge or side by side. This can make a difference too. I agree with the above posts about a defrost issue. Most of my experience has been with side by sides and I can share issues I have had with 2 of them.

    Most recent is a Whirlpool SxS that is about 3 years old. We had noticed ice built up in the bottom of the freezer and as it thawed, water would drip from the front. The refrigerator side was doing similar to what you said...cold sometimes and warm at other times. I cleared out the freezer side and put it all in our deep freeze. I then noticed a stream of ice coming from behind a thin metal plate on the inside of the freezer at the back. I removed this cover and found that my drain at the bottom of the freezer was stopped up. It also had a large block of ice on the coil inside. This is the coil that the fan blows over to allow the cold air to move toward the refrigerator part. I took a hair dryer and thawed all the ice out and cleaned out the water. Talked to a tech a few months later about this and he said it was common. He said sometimes a large chunk of ice can fall over the drain hole during defrost and stop it up. The defrost cycle is either every 12 or 24 hours during which, a heater comes on and melts the ice. This large chunk never had a chance to thaw so it would build up and cause what had melted to drain into the bottom of the freezer. He told me if it ever happened again, simply hang a piece of wire from the heater coil to the drain hole and it would cause the wire to heat at each defrost and keep the hole cleaned out.

    Other issue was about 20 yrs ago with a refrigerator we bought from a used appliance store. They claimed they took everything apart on these used machines and checked them out. Problem with it, couple months after buying, ice cream would stay soft and never harden. An older lady I worked with had a retired husband who loved to tinker with stuff. He came out and pulled the same cover off the coils. When he did, we found a solid block of ice in there. As the ice started melting, he found the culprit...an empty chicken liver bag. This empty bag had got behind there and created a dam which kept the water from draining out. Everytime it would go back to cooling, the dammed up water would freeze back and block the air flow. At this time, I learned never to trust a used appliance shop because we had not bought chicken livers the whole time we owned the fridge.

    Another common issue you can check for is the air duct going from freezer to fridge side. On a SxS, it is up at the top shelf. It is common to have something pushed to the back of the shelf and this can either block or restrict the amount of air coming from freezer to fridge. The only set of cooling coils you have are in the freezer and the air supplied to the fridge comes from this fan in the freezer.

    If you are mechanically inclined in any way, go ahead and give it a shot. If you have had it unplugged, chances are that it has already thawed and all is now fine. If it is still plugged up, see if you can feel any air coming thru this duct and then remove cover in freezer to see what it looks like. If it is a defrost timer, you can get a new one for $10-20 online or a little more from a repair shop.
  11. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    It is still making ice , yes.

    Thanks for the post boatboy, makes perfect sense. It is a side by side with in door ice maker.
    I have had a thermometer in it all day and is running about 35-38 degrees.
    I will take a closer look at what you mentioned. Might be a quick fix, THANKS!
  12. blujacket

    blujacket Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like the temp control t-stat. If it was a defrost problem, it would just not get cold in ref. compartment period. Since it it intermittent, sounds to me like temp control.
    bfunk13 likes this.

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