Fault Finding For Fridges, Freezers and Fridge Freezers

How To Repair A Fridge Freezer, Freezer Or Fridge

Almost every single home in the UK will have some sort of refrigeration, be it a small fridge with an icebox or a grand American style side by side fridge freezer and, on occasion, they do go wrong. When they do fail they are also, probably, one of the more specialised areas of our industry as they employ a gas system, which is under pressure, to act as a heat exchanger.

The gas system, including the compressor and the changeover valves which will be mentioned in this guide are specialist areas only and you will require a professional repairer as this is not a DIY area.

In essence there are two types of refrigeration system used on domestic fridges, freezers and fridge freezers; falling air and forced air and it is important that you know what you are looking at.

Falling Air Fridges

Inside a normal fridge

Falling air means that the effect of refrigeration relies upon cold air "falling" off of an evaporator which will normally be a metal plate at the back of the fridge, the actual icebox in a small fridge or often now, that plate will be mounted behind the rear wall out of site.

This really isn't that efficient but it is very reliable as it minimises the use of moving parts and is very old technology, but also very robust. One of the big problems is that you get temperature differentials between the bottom, where the cold air falls to first, and the top where the heat rises to. It also means that when you open the door, either fridge or freezer, that the cold air at the bottom rushes out making the unit work hard again to re-establish the correct temperature.

Manual defrosting is a must in any unit using this system that has any freezing capability.

These units are normally controlled by a single simple thermostat although electronics are increasingly being employed to improve the efficiency somewhat.

Forced Air Fridges And Freezers

Forced air is where the air is "forced" by being blown over an evaporator into the fridge and/or freezer. The effect of this is similar to that of a blast freezer where the freezing cold air is driven into the unit and this produces the result, to cut the story short, of the appliance being frost free. Of course it isn't really frost free as the frost builds up on the evaporator just as it does in a falling air unit and has to be removed to prevent a blockage.

This is where the problems mainly lie with frost free units, the defrost.

Periodically the machine has to run what we refer to as a "defrost cycle" and this will be determined by the thermostats or thermistors in conjunction with the defrost timer or the electronic controls. These defrost cycles will generally run in multiples of four hours depending on the machine, so 4, 8, 12, 24 hour defrost cycles and commonplace.

Safety First When Repairing Fridges And Freezers

Please remember to keep yourself and your family safe by following our simple basic electrical safety guide. Quite simply it is not worth someone's life or an injury just to save a few pounds calling in a professional repairer.

To get the best possible service we would recommend our appliance repair search which will refer you to a local repairer that operates to a standard that we have set in our own code of practice. It is your guarantee that the service that you receive will be a quality repair that is fairly priced and guaranteed.

The problems here are frequently asked about in the forums and you may well be able to help yourself before posting a question or calling an engineer however we must stress, above all else, that your own safety is your primary concern.

However when it comes to refrigeration there is another danger, one that you may well not have considered at all.

Food "goes off" by the cellular structure breaking down and then bacteria forming, hence the blue mould on the cheese if it is not used in time. In order to prolong the life of the food you keep it chilled or frozen which slows that degradation of the food and this has to be done in a fixed temperature range to maximise the food's lifespan. If you "botch" a repair and that temperature is not maintained then you could have early degradation of the food, it may even seem okay but not really be fit to eat.

Refrigerated food should be kept between +1?C and +5?C, any more or less and it's dangerous. Frozen food should be kept between -18?C (optimal) and -20?C. Whilst the temperature may swing either way a degree or so the mean should lie within those ranges, if not then it is dangerous.

If you're freezer has defrosted or the food appears to be "soft", you've lost it already DO NOT re-freeze this sort of food as it will have degraded and there is a disease risk with some foods, such as poultry and other meats (including fish) especially.

Common Fridge & Fridge Freezer Problems

Fridge or freezer over-freezing

This can be caused by air ingress to the fridge or freezer but it is a common symptom of a failure in the control system, be that electronic or good old electro-mechanical.

On a simple thermostat controlled machine you can check this easily with a multi-meter as electro-mechanical thermostats are simple, pretty dumb actually, on/off devices. They simply switch off the power to the compressor when the machine achieves the desired temperature. For the most part these are easily changed but there are a huge number of peculiar thermostats although many of the standard ones will cover a vast amount of machines (which you can buy from this link) but if you are not sure then please email us on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it as it is very easy to get the incorrect one, especially for fridge freezers. You will require the make, model and serial number as they do get changed during production quite often and from version to version.

It is absolutely vital when replacing a thermostat that you do not kink, cut or break the "phial" which is the long pliable wire that goes to the back wall or plate as it is filled with gas. The expansion and contraction of that gas is what makes the thermostat actually work.

  • Door seal/s faulty or not sealing allowing air ingress
  • Thermostat faulty
  • Evaporator door (icebox fridges) not sealing correctly
  • Insulation failure
  • Blockage in gas system (can cause an ice-ball)

Much more information to help with this common fridge and freezer problem can be found in this article

For frost free or electronically controlled machines refer to the frost free section below.

Fridge not cooling

This can be caused by a thermostat failure (refer to the above section) but that is rare to be honest. More likely the compressor is not running or not running properly for some reason.

  • Compressor failure
  • Compressor PTC
  • Compressor relay
  • Thermostat
  • Electronic failure
  • Thermistor failure

If the fridge cools a little on a fridge freezer and the freezer section seems okay then it can also be a sign that there is either a blockage or a shortage of gas. Please note that a gas shortage will not manifest itself magically after a few years unless there has been physical damage to the pipework.

Basically this is pretty much an experts area, but the causes are as follows in the main:

  • Shortage of gas on appliances under a year old
  • Blockage or choke in pipework
  • Changeover valve faulty
  • Compressor pumping weak (highly likely on older machines 8 years or more old)
Freezer not cooling

See above as it's pretty much the same as for a fridge.

Bad smell coming from the fridge

This is covered more in-depth in its own article about smelly fridges which should cover almost every instance of this fault being reported. You can read this article from this link

Fridge leaking water

For a fridge the following applies, from this article

"How a "self defrosting" system works using this principal is that every now and then the appliance cycles and the ice formed by condensation on the plate, or back wall, liquefies and runs down to a defrost channel. It is with this part that problems happen.

Tiny bits of foodstuff or dust slowly clogs that defrost channel for the water to run away and you see water in the fridge. There is, basically a hole in the centre of the defrost pan it is this small tube that gets blocked and water can no longer drain away as it should and then you get water in the fridge. Easy to cure, just poke a bit of flexible wire down the drain hole and you've fixed it!"

What happens is that the water runs forward and produces a "leak from the fridgeÃ" and this is the most common reason for it by far.

Of course there are other possible reasons as well including:

  • Insulation failure
  • Defrost tray on compressor overfilled or damaged
  • Spillage inside the unit

If you get a leak from a chest freezer it will almost certainly be an insulation failure which is, pretty much as far as practicality goes, unrepairable.

I punctured a small hole while defrosting and now the fridge freezer won't cool, what's wrong?

Oops, you've just killed your fridge, freezer or fridge freezer.

We see this a lot I'm afraid and it's this simple, don't ever go near the inside of a fridge with anything sharp and metal to defrost with as there is an extremely high probability that you will pierce a pipe in the fridge. This lets all the gas out, so no cooling, then because most people run them thinking it might be okay, oil gets dragged up from the compressor and chokes the pipework. Invariably the machine is a total write off.

If this is your problem, sorry but there's not much that anyone can do to help you I'm afraid.

Having said that some of the American style fridge freezers, such as GE and Maytag, can be saved and can be worth saving due to the cost of a replacement, but on cheap refrigeration it's simply not worth the trouble as you are facing a £100+ repair bill with no guarantee of a successful repair in most cases.

I get condensation around the door, why?

This is very common on a host of fridge freezers especially. What this is, is what is known as the "anti-condensate" line, a pipe of hot gas that runs just behind the door opening to stop condensation forming at the door seal. Sadly in a cold environment the result is that you will get condensation forming as a result.

It is perfectly normal but may signify that the room temperature is too low, below the accepted operating temperatures as given in your use manual. You can read more about this and the common climate classes for domestic refrigeration in this article

Common Frost Free Fridge Freezer Problems

Frost free refrigeration offers a whole new set of problems and first we would advise that you read the excellent article by Mark Garner on the subject which you can access from this link to get a general overview.

Frost free isn't as straight forward as normal refrigeration as Mark points out in the article, in fact it can sometimes be a real pain to analyse the failure and pinpoint the problem or problems. Part of the issue is that, as with almost all refrigeration, it takes a long time to see a noticeable result. Temperature changes and defrost cycles can take hours to happen, often longer than a working day to actually see the result. In many cases the refrigeration engineer will have to rely on good diagnostic skills, the use of a multi-meter and pure experience to put things right.

There are some problems on some machines, notably the Samsung RS series and Hotpoint Mistrals that can be user repaired but for the most part we don't recommend DIY repairs to frost free appliances as it's just too hit and miss unless you know exactly what you're doing. It can also be very expensive to take guesses at the problem as, once you've used the part, it's usually yours.

If you look carefully though, you may spot a pattern with many of these failures. Determining or working out why is the trick, not seeing it in the first place.

Fridge freezer is noisy

This can of course be caused by a few things, in a normal fridge you are pretty much limited to the compressor or excessive gas noise as that's all that moves, but in frost free things get a whole lot more complex. On this type of refrigeration you introduce, at least, a fan and fan motor, both of which can become noisy through blockages, ice build ups and bearing failure in the motor.

Many American style fridge freezers also have a cooling fan to cool the compressor, another possible source of noise. We've also seen air stats jamming the flap between the sections causing an ice build up and, consequently, noise.

The most common is an ice build up and the fan will strike the ice formation giving a screeching noise, the reason is normally a thermostat failure of some kind leading to the build up of ice. However a defrost element failure can produce the same result, as can an electronic controller.

Don't forget to also forget to check the cabinet for air ingress as that too, as explained previously, can cause an ice build up. It is also worth noting that, on fridge freezers with an ice and/or water dispenser that a leak from either of those can also cause excessive ice and, if it reaches the evaporator in the freezer, it may well be the culprit.

In some machines there is a fan to drive air in the fridge as well as one if the freezer connected by an air channel, if this blocks or the second motor fails then abnormal noise is almost certain to occur.

  • Fan motor failure
  • Ice build up, fan clipping the ice
  • Thermostat failure leading to ice build up
  • Air channels blocked or obstructed
  • Compressor failure - noisy
There's lots of ice in my freezer, what is wrong?

See previous and read Mark's frost free explanation of how it all works.

Main culprits will be as follows;

  • Fan motor failure
  • Ice build up, fan clipping the ice
  • Thermostat failure leading to ice build up
  • Air channels blocked or obstructed
Fridge not cooling but freezer cold

This will happen more on American type fridge freezers but can happen where there are two fan motors as well. Basically the cold air used in the fridge to cool is drawn off from the freezer section and something is stopping that from happening.

  • Fan motor failure
  • Ice build up, fan clipping the ice
  • Thermostat failure
  • Electronics failure
  • Compressor weak
Fridge freezer not working at all

This is pretty simple usually for the repairer, but often not for DIY.

First things first, check the electrical supply, plug and fuse are okay. Assuming that they are then the following are the most likely causes;

  • Compressor failure
  • Electronics failure
  • Compressor PTC
  • Compressor relay
  • Terminal block
Fridge Freezer Icemaker not working

Nightmare stuff, usually we just get told to replace everything!

Obviously that's not really practical in the real world so we have to think about it a bit.

If there's no water in the ice tray then chances are that the water valve is faulty or that the inlet in blocked in some way, this can happen especially if the filters get clogged up.

Usually the icemakers are really pretty simple things internally but recently, as with the likes of the Samsung and Whirlpool machines, we've seen the increasing use of electronics. For examp le, the Whirlpool ones use an infra-red beam to cut off the ice making (why?!) the boards fail and are very expensive to replace.

Of course the ice-making unit itself can go faulty, but it's rare and they do appear to be very reliable on the whole, so long as they are not electronic.

Where do I get a water filter for my fridge freezer?

From this link, sorry blatant plug.

Bottle holder broken in fridge

This happens a lot, there are quite a few available in the shop but it's almost impossible to list them all, but please ask as we can obtain almost any part for any fridge so please send us an email on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we're usually cheaper than most.

Do note however that there are often multiple kinds of these door storage trays and we will require the model number from your fridge or fridge freezer in order to ensure that you receive the correct bottle storage tray for your fridge.

Glass shelf in fridge broken

Same as above and we do stock a Plexiglas one that can be cut to suit almost any fridge.

As with all electrical appliances, if you are unsure then DO NOT attempt a repair yourself. you could injure yourself or anyone that uses the appliance!

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