How to Troubleshoot Frost Free Refrigerators

Most new refrigerators are of the frost-free variety, which means they have automatic defrost functions that prevent frost buildup throughout the unit. While refrigerator repair may seem daunting, diagnosing some refrigerator problems can be done at home, which can cut the cost of hiring a repair person. There are many common issues with temperature control in frost-free refrigerators you often can determine on your own.

Frost-free refrigerator troubleshooting can be done at home.
  1. Check the plug, outlet and circuit breaker, if the refrigerator does not operate. Make sure the plug has not been removed from the outlet. Reset the circuit breaker if it has been tripped.

  2. Make sure the compressor is running. The compressor is located at the bottom of the back of the refrigerator. You should hear it turning on and off as it adjusts to the cooling needs of the refrigerator. if you hear no noise, or the compressor does not vibrate or turn on, this is most likely the problem. Call a repair man to diagnose the specific compressor problem. If it is running, proceed.

  3. Check the temperature control. The temperature control, usually located at the top of the back of the refrigerator compartment, can be easily jostled, causing the refrigerator to become too warm or cool. If you’ve recently added a lot of food to the frost-free refrigerator, the refrigerator may be adjusting to properly cool the food. Wait a few hours for it to adjust or turn the temperature control dial to decrease the temperature. If the temperature in your home is warmer than usual, decrease the temperature in the refrigerator.

  4. Check the refrigerator door gasket. If there is moisture on the walls of the refrigerator, if the temperature is too warm or the door will not close properly, the gasket may not be forming a seal. Clean the gasket of any dirt or debris to help it make a stronger seal. Make sure the door is not being opened too frequently or left open. If this does not help, the gasket may need to be replaced. Check the door gasket to make sure it’s sealing properly. If not, have it replaced.

  5. Check the evaporator system’s cooling coil. This may be the problem if the refrigerator does not cool at all. Open the freezer door, unscrew the back panel with the screwdriver and examine the coils behind it for excessive frost buildup. Frost buildup can prevent air circulation and cooling to the rest of the refrigerator. Remove items from the freezer and refrigerator and defrost it completely. Call a qualified repair person if the problem occurs again as you may have a problem with the defrost timer or thermostat that is preventing the coil from defrosting itself.

  6. Check the evaporator fan. This is located behind the back freezer panel and circulates air throughout the refrigerator. Make sure it is running whenever the condenser is running. If the motor in the fan is running slowly or making squeaking noises, air is not being properly circulated. Call a professional to repair or replace the fan.

  7. Inspect the condenser and condenser fan. The condenser fan is the fan on the back of the unit near the compressor that removes hot air from the refrigerator. Make sure it is running at full speed whenever the compressor is running. Check it for dirt and dust buildup. Clean it with a condenser coil brush several times a year to keep the refrigerator properly cooling. If the condenser fan is not running, call a professional for service.

About the Author

Megan Martin has more than 10 years of experience writing for trade publications and corporate newsletters as well as literary journals. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.