Refrigerators are known for their dependability and longevity. When they do malfunction, however, a quick repair is critical to avoid food spoilage. The rising cost of repair services is turning more people into do-it-yourselfers. One of the benefits of being a "home handyman" is that if the refrigerator does go on the fritz, you can troubleshoot the problem before seeking professional help. In many cases, bringing in outside sources can be avoided altogether by performing some simple repairs. When troubleshooting refrigerators, it is important to know that multiple issues may be responsible for the same problem. The key is to eliminate as many as possible to pinpoint the source.
Basic refrigerator repair can be performed by anyone--regardless of skill level--if they are equipped with the proper tools and knowledge. Thanks to the Internet, a myriad of online resources are available to aid in diagnosing and fixing the problem. Two recommended sites are the Repair Clinic website and the Acme How To website (see Resources). Many sites provide step-by-step, easy-to-understand instructions complete with diagrams, while others may offer refrigerator repair guides on CD-ROM or as downloads.
Identifying what is wrong with your appliance is half the battle. Repairing your refrigerator is the easy part. Regardless of the model or manufacturer, the solutions to basic problems are similar. A noisy refrigerator could be caused by an unlevel appliance, the drain pan, the condenser or evaporator fans or the compressor mounts. If the refrigerator runs nonstop, defrost the freezer, examine the door seals and switch, and check for dirty condenser coils. Refrigerators and freezers whose temperatures need adjusting may have problems with temperature settings or controls, door seals or switches, defrost heater or timer, clogged drain tubes or a malfunctioning evaporator fan.
Minimize refrigerator repair by performing routine maintenance on the appliance. Check the timer and temperature controls--the most common sources of malfunction--periodically to ensure they are working properly. Ideally, a freezer should be set between -5 and 5 degrees F, while the "crisper" section should be in the 36- to 38-degree F range. Set up a maintenance schedule that includes cleaning condenser coils and verifying that all power sources are functioning, that there are no blown fuses or "tripped" circuit breakers and that the refrigerator door seals are intact.
A basic misconception when it comes to repairing a refrigerator is that freon--a common gas used as a refrigerant--is the culprit. On the rare occasion that freon has caused problems with your appliance's sealed system, a repairman's expertise is required to rectify the problem. In these instances, it may be more economical to replace rather than repair the refrigerator.
When it comes to refrigerator repair, it is all about safety. That includes taking the obvious precautions, such as unplugging the appliance from the source of power before troubleshooting or repairing it. It also makes good safety sense to disengage any fuse box or circuit breaker connections to the equipment. Be aware of sharp edges found on some refrigerator parts, and always keep children and pets away from disassembled appliances.
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