The Ultimate Refrigerator Repair Guide

Woman Repairing Her Own Refrigerator
Getty Images / Paul Bradbury

Your refrigerator is the workhorse of the house, diligently keeping food cool or frozen all day, all night. So it's no wonder that troubles might happen from time to time. You may be pleased to learn that refrigerator repair is not solely left to the professional technicians. Owners can troubleshoot common refrigerator problems by using simple tools (like a manual screwdriver and cordless drill) and with parts that are easy and inexpensive to obtain.

  • 01 of 04

    Water on the kitchen floor? What about pools developing on the inside floor of the fridge? This common problem is usually easy to fix, as there are only a few possible culprits: your door gaskets, defrost drain and drain pan.

  • 02 of 04

    Fridge Is Too Loud

    Does your fridge make noise? Yes, refrigerators do make sounds. Expected and normal are sounds of ice clattering into the storage bin and refrigerant hissing through lines. But buzzing, humming, whirring and vibrating noises are not normal, so try these fixes:

    • Level the Refrigerator: Your fridge has leveling legs that likely were set in place years ago. As your home and kitchen floor age, the fridge needs to occasionally be leveled again. Use a wrench to turn the legs. It is recommended that...MORE doors be able to shut on their own when opened halfway (45 degrees). So, adjust the legs with the door halfway open and keep adjusting until the door swings shut.
    • Place Fridge on Soundproofing Mat: Special dense foam mats can be purchased online which go under the fridge, reducing vibration that passes through the legs onto the floor. This fix is especially valuable if people living below you complain about fridge noise.
    • Adjust Icemaker: If your fridge emits a buzzing sound every 10 to 15 minutes, with each buzz lasting only about five seconds, the icemaker may be trying to make ice but cannot because the water is turned off. Stop the buzz by turning the icemaker off (with the on-off switch) or raising the ice sensor arm. Check that the supply value is turned on (usually found under the sink). Also check behind the fridge to see if the line is still attached to the fridge and is not leaking.
    • Replace Evaporator Fan Grommets: You can access the evaporator fan inside your freezer compartment. Unplug the unit, then remove all items and shelves from the freezer. With a screwdriver, open the access door at the very back of the freezer and remove. The fan is responsible for distributing air from the coils to maintain an even temperature. This fan may be rattling due to worn or broken rubber grommets. Inexpensive grommets are available online.
  • 03 of 04

    Fridge or Freezer Are Not Cold Enough

    Is the milk spoiling faster than it should? When you put your hand on the wire rack, does it not feel as cold as it should?

    • Adjust Temperature Settings: While this fix may seem obvious, remember that it may have accidentally been adjusted to a higher temperature. You will find this thermostat inside the refrigerator.
    • Inspect Door Gaskets: Door seals need to form a perfect seal in order to keep in all of the cold. First try cleaning the seals with warm water, then applying a thin layer of petroleum...MORE jelly. If this does not work, replace the seals.
    • Check for Blockage: Tall items may have been placed in the refrigerator or freezer, blocking the flow of cold air. Move all tall items away from the back.
    • Clean Condenser Coils: Dirty condenser coils will reduce your unit's cooling abilities. For homes that have pets or a significant amount of traffic, it is recommended that you clean the coils every two to three months.​
      Move the refrigerator away from the wall and unplug it. Remove the grille at the bottom, typically by pulling straight back. It should unsnap. Use a household or shop vacuum with a long attachment thin enough to reach underneath. Carefully vacuum around the coils, watching your progress with a flashlight. If you push too vigorously, you risk snapping a coil--an expensive fix requiring a technician.
    • Add More Items: Freezers and fridges that are low on food items (especially large containers of liquids) do not stay cool as well as those packed with more items, which retain and maintain the cold. 
  • 04 of 04

    Fridge Is Too Cold or Freezes Over

    Yes, you want your fridge and freezer to be cold. But is it getting to be too much of a good thing? After you have tried readjusting the thermostat, here are some other repairs:

    • Check the Damper: Cold air may be continually rushing into the compartment, unchecked by a damper stuck in an open position. The damper is located between the cooling and freezing compartments and is controlled by the thermostat. 
    • Replace the Thermostat: Refrigerator thermostats are easily obtainable online for your exact...MORE model number.
      1. Unplug the fridge first, then open the cooling compartment.
      2. Using a Phillips head screwdriver, remove the cover located at the top of the cooling compartment (inside the box). Usually there are no more than a couple of screws holding this in.
      3. Using the same screwdriver, remove the plastic control assembly cover.
      4. Lift the cover down gently, as it is attached to the fridge with wires. The thermostat will be a bronze-colored metal device attached to copper wires and a plastic capillary tube.
      5. At this point, you may find it helpful to take a photo of the wire arrangement so that you can duplicate it with the new thermostat. Pull the wires straight out by hand and remove the tube.
      6. The new thermostat installation is a one-for-one replacement: two black wires that are doubled up and attached to one terminal; one orange wire; and one green ground wire.
      7. Attach the capillary tube.
      8. Replace the assembly covers with their matching screws.