Troubleshooting Your Refrigerator

Pocket Guide: Troubleshooting a Faulty Refrigerator

You Break 'Em, We Fix 'Em Appliance repair Tips, Guides & How-To's, Refrigerators

Your refrigerator is the most important appliance in your home. When it malfunctions, it can create a big headache, and be a drain on your wallet. We want you to call us for all your repair needs. But before you call, we want you to know how to identify the problem and provide you with the tools to make those easy fixes yourself!

Getting to Know Your Refrigerator

Before we get into the problems and how to solve them, it’s important that you learn a few basics. There are key components of your fridge where problems can occur.

Study this diagram so you know where they are, read below to learn what they do.

Diagram of a Refrigerator

Image from

Condenser Coils

The condenser coils are found on ether the back or bottom (as pictured above) of the fridge. They cool and condense the refrigerant so that the fridge’s internal temperature can be maintained.

Door Switch

The switch, though it may seem insignificant, is an important part of how your fridge operates. When triggered upon closing the door it activates the thermostat which brings the temperature of the fridge down to the desired level. In models with a Water and Ice Dispenser, the door must be closed before the dispenser will work.

Defrost Heater

This component is different in frost-free fridge unlike the one pictured above. The defrost heater runs on a 24-hour cycle in order to keep frost from building up on the evaporator coils affect the internal temperature.

Evaporator Fan

Most modern units have two of these. One is found inside the coils and is used to cool the compressor and force air in. The other is inside the fridge to circulate the air.

Evaporator Coils

The coils play a key role in cooling the fridge. They turn the pressurized coolant into vapour that is circulated through the fridge and freezer.


The compressor is key to circulating coolant in both liquid and vapour form. It acts as a pump that circulates the coolant to the coils and draws the vapour away.

Diagnosing the Problem


Though it may sound like the cliche tech support line, ‘did you try turning it off and on?’ The question of power may be the answer to your issue. If you open your fridge and feel its warm, there’s no light or you do not hear the fan running, power supply may be the culprit.

A simple test to determine where there is no power is to first unplug your fridge. Next, plug a lamp into the outlet to determine if that is the issue. If the outlet turns out to be fine, we recommend you call us as the problem is most likely a fuse inside the fridge.

Frost Buildup

Source: iFixIt

The evaporator coils of your fridge are prone to frost build up. If they are not functioning properly, your fridge can become too cold. The coils are typically located on the back of the fridge under the back panel. A frost build up can affect the temperature of both the fridge and Freezer.

Some of the newer models of appliances have frost free Freezers. They run a self-defrost cycle every 24 hours.

In some cases, frost can build up if the freezer door is open for too long or won’t close. This can raise the humidity in the freezer and cause the buildup of excess frost.


The condenser coils are located under the fridge. Remove the kick plate to access them. A buildup of dust and debris can cause electrical issues. This will lead to your fridge running non stop in an attempt to keep cool. It can be a drain on your electricity and your wallet.

Door Switch

You may encounter an instance in which your fan won’t engage, but there is still power to the fridge. This may be due to a faulty door switch. If its sensors are not engaged then the thermostat won’t start the fan.

Malfunctioning Ice/Water Dispenser

Though not pictured in the model above, many modern refrigerators have ice and water dispensers. These can often malfunction for a number of reasons. If ice is still coming out and water is not, the water tub may be frozen.

These dispensers can often malfunction as a result of a faulty door switch. Dispensers don’t often work due to a faulty door switch. Most do not function with the door open.

Fixing the Problem

While we encourage you to call in the professionals for your repair needs, there are some simple fixes you can do yourself.

Don’t forget: we are your appliance repair experts! If you need help, we’d love if if you called us!


You can purchase a replacement door switch online or from a local parts dealer. To replace it you must first unplug the fridge. Next, locate and remove the faulty switch. On most models, the switch is held in with a few small screws. Rome the screws and the switch from the door frame.

The switch will be connected to the fridge by way of a couple of terminals. If the switch controls only the light there will be two wires, if it controls the light and fan there will be four. Label the wires so you remember which is which. Next remove them from the faulty unit and reconnect the wires to the new unit. Finally reconnect the power.

Frost Buildup

You may notice frost building up on the evaporator coils at the back of the fridge or excess frost in the freezer . This could be as simple an issue as the freezer door not closing fully. When the door stays open long term, the humidity builds up inside and causes a buildup of moisture inside the freezer. One solution to that is to elevate the legs on the front of the freezer so that you can have the unit leaning back, ensuring the door closes properly.


If your fridge is seemingly running non-stop there is an easy fix. Remove the bottom grill plate to access the coils. Unplug the fridge and vacuum dust and other debris from the space. If there is still excess dirt on the coils, wipe them down with a cloth. Once clean, replace the grill plate and reconnect the power.

Door Switch

You may encounter an instance in which your fan won’t engage, but there is still power to the fridge. This may be due to a faulty door switch. If its sensors are not engaged then the thermostat won’t start the fan.

Malfunctioning Ice/Water Dispenser

If your water dispenser isn’t working but the machine is still producing ice, then the water supply tube may be frozen. Freezing can occur near the end of the tube and is as simple a fix as thawing it. First disconnect the tube from the bottom of the refrigerator. Next ether blow into or heat it up using a hair dryer. After a minute reconnect the hose and and test the water supply.