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Fix It Yourself: Refrigerator Tips for Homeowners

December 30, 2009

P R O P E R T Y   S E A R C H

R E S T I V O – H E C H T M A N    T E A M

 lemons and limes in jar

Truly, I’m not particularly knowledgeable as a repairperson.  I piddled with a dryer once, and fixed it, so I figured it was worth a try then an out-of-warranty refrigerator started making odd noises. 

So many things go sour now days with appliances. They don’t seem to be made as solidly as they were when I was growing up! (Any lemon law for appliances?)

There’s an old adage that  appliances kick the bucket the minute a new buyer moves in.  (That’s one reason to have a “home warranty”.)  Anyway, I really did just  fix a side-by-side refrigerator and since I’m not particularly adept at fixing things, I thought I’d share what I dug up… for any of you homeowners or home buyers who aren’t afraid to wield a screwdriver.

Problems and fixes:

Not cooling or freezing properly?  It might be the thermostat, frost build-up, condenser coils or the gaskets.  Anything from a simple repair… to a costly one.  Some ailments,  you really can fix yourself.

If it’s 1) the gasket( which creates a seal, and keeps the cool air in)… or 2) the condenser coils (which get dirty and don’t allow the unit to cool properly)  many homeowners can handle those two “issues”,  fixing the problem on their own

1) Rubber gasketsseal the doors closed  can bend or twist (even on a brand new unit).  I just came across one during an inspection of a brand new luxury high-rise condo. The developer just sent the refrigerator back to the manufacturer for replacement.  If your refrigerator isn’t new,   check to see if the door seal is tight by just closing the door to the fridge or freezer onto several dollar bills.  If they slip,  the seal is loose. Order the part, unscrew the seal, and install the new gasket.

2)Condenser coils (can easily get caked with dust).  Pull out the fridge, brush and vacuum them…  Unplug the fridge first.  The coils are usually located on the back of the unit, although sometimes they are in the very front, down by the kick plate.  

If the thermostat or compressor is making a rattling or thumping sound,  you might want to  call a repair service. (That is, unless you really don’t care whether you mess it up and have to toss the whole appliance…which was my rationale for fiddling with mine! )  Sometimes a refrigerator just doesn’t seem to be worth a service call… especially when it’s the ‘garage’ variety.)  Compressors can be expensive. If the compressor is shot, you might want to consider investing in a brand new refrigerator! 

Tempermental ice-maker?    The water line might be clogged, and if so,  someone can come out and service it.  Before you make the call though, check the bale lever (which could have accidentally flipped to the ‘off’ position). When it flips ‘off’, the machine stops making ice until you change it back  manually.  It looks something like a hanger. ( ‘On’ is usually ‘pointing downward’).

Check out the warranty and manual.  There are usually identifying numbers inside the appliance, and phone numbers for the manufacturer.  You can always troubleshoot via their hotline … for both service and parts.  Or go to appliancejournal.com and you can download appliance manuals at no charge there.

If you have to ditch your appliance for a newer version, there are some pluses:  The more recently manufactured units tend to be more energy efficient (and greener!) and your energy consumption will likely be (considerably) lower.

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