Saturday, December 4, 2010

DIY Fridge and Freezer Repair

The Fridge. Home of our stockpile,
keeper cool of our foods, and
cause of our current trouble.
I put some stuff in the freezer yesterday and saw that it was still unfrozen today. I wondered- could that have anything to do with the really odd noise I heard from the fridge yesterday?

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that quite a few of other things in the freezer had defrosted as well.
To my extreme chagrin, I discovered that the items in the fridge were not either as cold as they should have been. 
"Oh no..." I groaned, sure that our fridge motor had died. I did not want to need to buy a new appliance nor pay to replace busted fridge innards. While we probably had enough money in our emergency savings to fund such a move, I did not want to see all our hard earned and diligently saved money go to replace or even fix a relatively new appliance.
Making the situation even more frustrating was the fact that my freezer was packed to the brim with my stockpile of meats, cooked beans, and home preserved frozen vegetables bought on major sale. To top it all of, it was the weekend, and I had no chance of snagging a repairman soon enough to prevent my stockpile from going to waste and my refrigerated food from spoiling.

I decided to see if I could figure out the problem and fix the fridge all on my own.

I moved some items from the freezer to fridge that I would use in the next little while to make the fridge into an icebox of sorts, and got to work, trying to figure out the cause of the problem. inspected. There was a telltale piece of ice at the top of my fridge, blocking one of the vents that allow the cool air to flow from the freezer to the fridge.
Aha! I exclaimed! This is good news! If there is ice where it shouldn't be, that could very well mean that there is even more ice where it shouldn't be, which could be the source of the problem! My step dad worked as an appliance repair man, and I'd heard from him that one of the prime reasons for refrigerator/freezers to not work is because of the insides freezing over. Removing the ice will often kick-start the motor into working again. (The other reason why fridges die sometimes is because of electrical surges after blackouts, which can kill a motor. This killed our last fridge, and now we have a surge protector preventing this from happening in the future.)
I unplugged the fridge, determined to fix the problem entirely by my lonesome, not even letting my husband do the work. I wanted to prove to myself (and to the world), that even a woman with no background in mechanics can repair her broken fridge all by herself.
I emptied out the bottom two shelves in the freezer and took a good look.
Nope, no ice to be found on the bottom there.
I didn't care- I wasn't going to give up so easily!

At the bottom of our freezer towards the front, I saw two screws, and with the aid of a Phillips head, they were out in no time. They were holding down the plastic bottom shelf of the freezer, and I was hopeful that the source our our troubles would be found underneath. Figuring out how to get off the plastic piece off was a tad tricky, but eventually I figured out that it could be slid out to reveal the innards of the freezer.

After taking off the freezer bottom.
I was greeted by the sight in the picture above. Some metal and wires covered by Styrofoam... but no ice! My husband shook his head at my silliness at wanting to do this myself, and pointed out that you couldn't see any ice there, so what I did was pointless. The freezer obviously had not iced over.
But no, Penny was not going to give up yet! I knew that if there was ice in the fridge, there must be some extra ice in the freezer as well, and I was determined to find it.
With my husband's help, I carefully pried the layer of Styrofoam and metal off of what appeared to be a metal grate, and discovered this beneath.

The innards of our freezer.
 There was a little bit of ice in the front, but nothing significant. In the back, all the way behind the grate and near the fan, I found a mother-load of ice! There must have been a layer there at least 2 inches thick, stopping the fan from moving, and completely blocking the passage from the freezer to the fridge. To the right of the fan was an extra thick layer of ice, blocking another opening to the fridge, which was directly above the ice that had appeared in our fridge.
Eureka! We now knew that our problems were as simple as removing the ice!
The question was- how? Ice doesn't melt so quickly, and the longer our freezer stash stayed out of the freezer, the more likely it was to defrost and need to be used up. With at least a hundred dollars worth of groceries inside, I didn't want to just unplug the fridge and wait for a few days for it to all defrost. Whoever decided that that was the ideal way to take care of the problem obviously wasn't taking into consideration people that have well stocked freezers...

My way of doing things? I took some water, brought it to a boil, and then poured it directly on the ice. That first crack I heard from the ice melted was the sweetest sound ever! More and more times I poured boiling water, melting the ice in bits and chunks. I used a towel to soak up the water, and then repeated this process until no more ice remained at the bottom of the freezer.
But yet that chunk of ice was still there in the fridge, so I knew our problems weren't over yet!
I then spied that the hole above the ice chunk was still completely blocked by ice, and concentrated pouring the boiling water there. At the same time, I took a dull knife, heated it on the stove, and used it to melt off chunks of the ice in the fridge. Too bad I didn't record the sizzling sound the knife caused when it melted the ice- it was absolute music to my ears!
Eventually, probably less than an hour from when I first emptied out my freezer, the chunk of ice from my fridge was removed, the freezer was no longer filled with ice, and we put our appliance back together. On went the metal and Styrofoam layer, on went the plastic freeze bottom, in went the screws and in went the frozen foods...
We plugged the fridge back in and waited for the motor to start running. It did! Yay! Now all we needed to do was see if the fridge would get cool again and if the foods in the freezer would freeze, and then we'd know that my DIY fridge and freezer repair actually worked.

More than 24 hours later, I'm proud to share that my appliance is working smoothly! I spent zero dollars fixing my freezer, had no special equipment and no special training. Doing so saved me at least a hundred by not needing to call a technician, at least a few hundred more by not needing to replace the fridge/freezer... and definitely saved another large sum of money by being able to fix it in time for my freezer stockpile to not melt on me and get ruined!
(P.S. I called my step dad and asked him if there was any problem with turning on my fridge immediately after doing what I did. He said there was none whatsoever. The only reason to keep your fridge off is if a) you're waiting for the ice to melt b) you put the fridge on it's side or back while transporting it, which could mess up the freon and stop it from working.)

I share this story so that you too can learn how and gain the confidence to repair your refrigerators and freezer, should it stop working as well. Most issues with this appliance come from this exact reason (according to my repairman relative, anyhow), so just knowing this method of repair can help you in many situations.
Just remember- if your appliance stops working as it should be, try taking off the bottom of the freezer, and see if there is any ice blocking the mechanism before you spend the money on a repairman.
Oh, and get a surge protector for your appliance as well. It may be a lot of money, but a new fridge/freezer costs even more money!

Have you ever fixed your fridge or freezer yourself? What was the problem?
If you haven't, has this post given you the confidence to try it yourself?

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome post!! My freezer seems to be dying but now I am going to try this!! Thank you!!


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