View Full Version : Freezer works, Fridge doesn't -- diagnosing and advice?

Art Mulder
12-27-2012, 8:21 AM
Hey Folks,
Lot of smart and helpful folks out there in SMC land that I tend to trust so...

- Came home yesterday after being away for 3-4 days and found that our fridge was now at room temperature, even though the freezer was cold. (Does weird things to the milk, let me tell you... :mad:)

- This is a Kenmore 596.69272 Bottom Freezer (no water or ice maker or any extraneous doodads) And I forget exactly but probably 12+ years old.

- Did some poking around and googling and tracked it down to the fact that something was obstructing the airway that brings cold air from the freezer to the fridge. I could feel that there was no air movement at all out of the air channel in the top/center of the fridge. Another option was that the fan that blows air up from the freezer was busted.

- Took off the bottom back cover and the compressor was running fine, and no fuses there to check. Vacuumed out a ton of dust bunnies and closed it back up.

- Took off the inside back cover of the bottom freezer compartment. The coils/fins there were totally frosted up. The fan was still working, but the return air channel was chock full of frost/snow. (The fan blows air up a duct in the middle of the fridge which exits at the top of the fridge compartment. In the back/bottom/left of the fridge compartment there is a return-air duct which opens into the hidden compartment where the coils are located. There is a duct that guides the return air to the very bottom of that compartment.)

- Totally defrosted everything, closed it back up, and plugged it back in. It was now blowing cold air out of the top channel into the fridge. We left it over night (It was now empty) to get back down to temperature. This morning both the top and bottom compartments are cold. The fridge is about 3-5 degrees Celsius (37-39f) and the freezer is on the cold side at -12-15c (5-10F)

- My brother had a similar issue when his freezer was brand new, and the service tech defrosted his unit and reseated the heater coil and it has been fine since. The tech's comment was that sometimes the drain to the evaporation pan can get plugged by some small particle and then the unit freezes up. This seems a bit unlikely, but of course it would be nice to hope that our unit is fine now.

- I popped off the back cover and the coils/fins are NOT a solid block of ice, which is a good sign, I think.

- Here comes my question to any experienced folks out there. There still is SOME frost on the pipes that run through the fins. Any idea how much is okay? (Some of this is within 1" of the heating coil, which is why I wonder if there should not be any frost.) Any idea how to tell when the unit is cycling into a heating cycle so that I can check if the heating coil warms up? Any other suggestions out there?

Thanks in advance, this is not how I was planning to spend my vacation!

Robert Kirk
12-27-2012, 9:16 AM
Had a similar issue, turned out to be the timer, the timer controls when the defrost coils heat and for how long. the timer was behind the toe plate at the front about 1 inch from the floor. there is a clock motor that turns a cam, the cam makes and breaks contacts.

Brian Showalter
12-27-2012, 11:16 AM
I had a similar problem with a bottom freezer Samsung fridge. After some research it turns out it was common for the defroster circuit to fail. Frost would eventually build up until the coils froze on the fridge side.

Art Mulder
12-27-2012, 11:25 AM
Pretty sure it is the defrost thermostat. I'm heading out to get another one.

I found this web page (http://www.appliance-repair-it.com/defrost-problem.html) which had photos of a "bad" thermostat. He did not explain why, but it seemed to be bulging, which mine was also.

Then I found this web page (http://www.american-appliance.com/old_Site/service_pages/general_tips/defrostrefdiag.htm) which walked me through initiating a manual defrost cycle. I pulled the thermostat, and connected the heater directly to the circuit. I confirmed that the heater turned on -- burned my finger a touch actually. So I know it is just the thermostat.

I'll report back in a few days on results, just to close this out.

Brian Elfert
12-27-2012, 2:41 PM
I had a similar issue and it was the defrost coil itself on a GE fridge. Hopefully the new timer will fix it in your case.

Art Mulder
01-01-2013, 10:38 AM
Five days later and the fridge is staying cool...

Say what you like about sears, but it was VERY convenient to be able to call them up, confirm that they had the part in stock at the local parts warehouse, and pick it up the same day and fix the fridge. Cost about $55, which I am not complaining about. I'm betting I would have hit $300 easily if I'd had a service tech come out, let alone the $1500 for a new fridge! (well, a *nice* new fridge! :rolleyes:)

The real test will be if it is still good in 2 months. I've read that it can take a month for the coils to frost up enough to block the airflow to the fridge

Jim Becker
01-01-2013, 12:40 PM
'Glad you got it to work with the replacement part, Art.

There is some advantage of considering a replacement the next time, however...these things have come a long way in a dozen years, with nicer features, more space and much, much better energy consumption. We recently replaced ours and have no regrets about it. (other than the cost...2012 was "Appliance-mageddon" in our home with a need for a new dishwasher, new refrigerator, new rice cooker, new phone system and a new espresso machine. Microwave and toaster/convection oven are next...)

Art Mulder
07-20-2013, 2:34 PM
I'll report back in a few days on results, just to close this out.

Five days later and the fridge is staying cool...

Mid-July now, so six months post fix... and I'd totally forgotten about it. I just stumbled on this thread while looking up an old post of mine.
Thought I'd pop in and confirm that the fridge is still working just fine now, six months later and in the heat of summer.

Vera D. Lindsey
07-22-2013, 2:35 PM
I have a problem like you. I am not so sure, it could be the defrost thermostat. Hopefully the new timer will fix it in your case.

phil harold
07-22-2013, 10:21 PM
had this happen last week 56 dollar fix from the serviceman

he was fast!

Ken Fitzgerald
07-23-2013, 12:02 AM
Hey folks...he's reporting back.....6 months ago he replaced this part and it is still working fine.......

Shawn Pixley
07-23-2013, 12:42 AM
It must be the season for Refrigerator / freezers. We had to clean the coils (deep cleaning) on the freezer on our 24 Y/O Sub Zero. Now it freezes ice again.

Bonnie Campbell
07-23-2013, 1:49 AM
Had the same problem last week. All I can say is thank goodness for whole house warranties!