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Keeping the Drain Pan Clean
Refrigerator Door Gasket
Refrigerator Temperature Settings

Troubleshooting Refrigerators
Refrigerator isn't running, no sound can be heard and the light is out
Refrigerator isn't running, the light is on and you hear occasional clicking
Refrigerator constantly cycles on and off
Refrigerator doesn't cool well or runs all the time
Frost forms rapidly or the unit does not defrost at all
Refrigerator makes an unusual noise
Refrigerator smells unusual
Water is leaking underneath or inside the unit


Giving conscientious routine care, a refrigerator will usually perform its tasks for years with a minimum of problems. Refrigerators are categorized according to the way frost is removed from them.

  • Standard Refrigerator - Defrosts when the power is turned off and the frost is permitted to melt slowly away on it's own or with the aid of pans of hot water placed in the freezer.
  • Cycle-Defrost Model - A heater that is turned on when the temperature on the evaporator reaches a preset point, keeps the refrigerator compartment free of frost, but the freezer requires manual defrosting every few months.
  • Frost-Free Refrigerator - Frost from both compartments is continually melted away by a heater that turns on for 20 -30 minutes, two or three times a day. Clearly, this type of refrigerator offers the ultimate in convenience, though it's somewhat more prone to problems and is considered less energy-efficient.

Keeping the Drain Pan Clean

In automatically defrosted models, water from the melting frost flows out a drain in the floor of the refrigerator and into a pan, where it evaporates. Food particles can be carried along, clogging the drain and causing odors. Clean the drain regularly by following these steps:

  • Remove the stopper.
  • Use a pipe cleaner or similar device to push any accumulations through to the drain pan below.
  • Force a solution made from soap, ammonia, and water through the drain.
  • Empty the pan and wash it.

Refrigerator Door Gasket

The door gasket, if washed often with soapy water, will usually last as long as the refrigerator. Check to see if it is sealing well by closing a dollar bill in the door. If you feel a resistance when you pull it out, the gasket is holding. Repeat the test in several places. If your gasket does not pass this test, it should be replaced.

Refrigerator Temperature Settings

Temperature settings for refrigerator and freezer compartments are given arbitrary numbers for example (1 through 9, warmest to coldest) by manufacturers, but generally 37 degrees F is ideal for the refrigerator compartment and 0 degrees F for the freezer. If you suspect a problem, test the temperatures with a refrigerator or outdoor thermometer.

Troubleshooting Refrigerators

The refrigerator has stopped running. No sound can be heard and the light is out.

Check for:

  • No power at the outlet.
  • Damaged power cord.


  • Check the fuse box/circuit breaker.
  • Check the outlet with a VOM or lamp.
  • If refrigerator blows fuses, put it on its own circuit.
  • Replace the cord.

The refrigerator has stopped running, the light is on and you hear occasional clicking.

Check for:

  • Dirty condenser coils.
  • Defective condenser fan. (frost-free types)
  • Incorrect voltage reaching the unit.
  • Defective thermostat.
  • Defective compressor.


  • Clean the coils.
  • Check the fan.
  • Check the voltage with a VOM, then call the power company if it's not between 105 and 125 volts.
  • Test the thermostat and replace if necessary.
  • Call a qualified contractor.

The refrigerator constantly cycles on and off.

Check for:

  • Wrong voltage reaching the unit.
  • Defective compressor.
  • Leaking refrigerant.
  • Dirty condenser coils.


  • Run the unit its own circuit and check the voltage at the outlet.
  • Call a qualified contractor.
  • Call a qualified contractor.
  • Clean the coils.

The refrigerator doesn't cool well or runs all the time.

Check for:

  • Thermostat on wrong setting.
  • Dirty condenser coils.
  • Damaged door gasket.
  • Sagging door.
  • Heavy frost accumulation.
  • Door is open too much.
  • Hot and humid weather.
  • Inside light on.
  • Wet insulation in the door and sides
  • Room too warm.
  • Damaged evaporator fan.
  • Damaged condenser fan
  • Defective defrost timer.
  • The refrigerant has leaked out.


  • Change the thermostat temperature.
  • Clean the coils.
  • Check the gaskets.
  • Straighten the door.
  • Defrost the unit more often.
  • Open the door as little as possible.
  • If the unit runs continuously, but cools well, there is no problem.
  • Check the door switch.
  • Open the unit on a dry day and let it dry out. Also, repair or replace cracked door jambs and panels.
  • Move the refrigerator to a cooler place or start cooling the room.
  • Check the fan for damage.
  • Check the fan for damage.
  • Check the timer for defects.
  • Call a qualified contractor.

Frost forms rapidly or the unit does not defrost at all.

Check for:

  • Door open too much.
  • Sagging door.
  • Damaged door gasket
  • Uncovered food.
  • Clogged drains.
  • Damaged defrost timer, heater, or thermostat.


  • Open the door as little as possible.
  • Straighten the door.
  • Test the gasket and replace it.
  • Cover or seal all foods, especially liquids.
  • Open and clean all drains.
  • Check the timer, heater and thermostat for defects.

The refrigerator makes an unusual noise.

Check for:

  • Unit is not sitting level.
  • Rattling drain pan.
  • Hard or broken compressor mounts
  • Blocked fan blades.


  • Adjust the position of the unit.
  • Move the pan so it doesn't touch sides of the unit.
  • Replace the mounts.
  • Check the evaporator and compressor fans for obstructions.

The refrigerator smells unusual.

Check for:

  • Clogged drains.
  • Dirty drain pan.


  • Open the drains and flush them.
  • Clean the pan and disinfect it.

Water is leaking underneath or inside the unit.

Check for:

  • Broken drain hose or drain pan.
  • Clogged drains or full pan.


  • Replace the broken parts.
  • Open the drains or empty the drain pan.
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