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Troubleshooting Refrigerator Problems

woman looking inside fridge

Before you pick up the phone, check the following list. It just might save you some money and a bit of embarrassment.

Got power?

  • Check the circuit breaker or fuse box to be sure power’s coming to the outlet.
  • Is the cord plugged in tight? Wiggle it around a little. A worn receptacle could let the plug fall out just enough for the connection to fail.
  • Plug a light or any other electrical device into the outlet to see if it works. If it doesn’t, you’ve got an electrical problem, not a refrigerator problem.
  • Check for a loose, worn or frayed power cord. Rodents often chew through a wire. Sometimes cords loosen when the fridge is moved.

What if you have power but poor cooling?

  • Make sure the thermostat is turned on and set right. On some models the dial is easily bumped, shutting the fridge down.

Your fridge is running all the time but the food’s still warm.

  • Vacuum the coils. Dirty coils can eventually cause the overload protector on the compressor to shut the fridge down. It’ll automatically come back on when the compressor cools, but by then your food is usually warm.
  • Is the light turning off when the door’s closed? That little light bulb can raise the temperature in the fridge substantially. To check it, close the door and use a butter knife to pull the gasket slightly away from the frame. If light shines out, the switch is bad or slightly out of alignment. Until you fix the switch, loosen the light bulb so it goes out.
  • Look for ice buildup (frost-free fridges only) bulging on the inside walls or the floor of the freezer. Manually defrost the freezer by unplugging it. It’s only a temporary fix, so call for service.
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