General Question

grrgold's avatar

My refrigerator stops cooling, can you help me diagnose?

Asked by grrgold (88points) July 18th, 2011

I have a Kenmore 596.71102101 bottom freezer unit. I have had it for almost 13 years. Over the past 6 months, the refrigerator won’t be cold enough. The freezer will be frosted over with ice. If I unplug the refrigerator and defrost the freezer for a day or so and plug it back in, it works fine.
My assumption is that the freezer gasket needs replacing but I would prefer to hear from someone with more experience.

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5 Answers

YoBob's avatar

I appreciate your desire to repair your existing unit. However, it being 13 years old you will probably save money in the long run and be happier with performance if you replace it with a newer high efficiency model.

There have been HUGE advances in the energy consumption of home appliances like refrigerators over the past decade and in many cases the energy savings alone will cover the replacement cost within around 5 years of use.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’m with @YoBob. The difference between over a decade ago and now is immense. The efficiency is unbeatable.

First of all, it sounds as though you’d need a new compressor. Compressors are costly. Too costly to replace on that age of a fridge.

Second, a new fridge will cost you much less to power.

Best Buy and others tend to run 0% for 3 year plans during summer. You could own a new unit for less than $50 per month.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Third vote for compressor, not worth a repair call and replacement of compressor. But first clear out all lint and hair under and behind coils.

CWOTUS's avatar

If the freezer is freezing, but building up frost inside, then it’s not the compressor. The unit is “working”, but it’s not staying frost free.

What has happened is the drain line from the freezer unit has become clogged, and the machine’s attempts to “self-defrost” are causing more and more ice buildup in the freezer. (Your coils may be dusty, too. The coils are on the back or bottom of the refrigerator. That’s where the unit gives up the heat that it extracts from the things you put inside. If the coils build up too much dust, then that insulates them and makes the whole machine have to work harder to extract “and give up” heat. In other words, some of the heat that it extracts goes back inside the box.)

Your refrigerator should have a tray at the bottom that (when things are working properly) may have a small puddle of water in it from time to time. This water evaporates into the room, and indicates that the fridge is working.

What happens on a self-defrosting refrigerator is that the freezer allows the frost buildup along the edges to melt a little bit every hour or so and drain down to that tray. That keeps the frost from building up. When the drain is plugged, the frost still melts, but now it can’t drain, so it re-freezes and continues to build up.

Find and clear that drain line, and the fridge will probably work fine.

But I’d also recommend that you consider a newer one. It will run more efficiently, probably have features that you’d like a lot (even without “in-door water and ice dispensing”) and be quieter to boot.

prioritymail's avatar

It sounds like all the “cooling” is going to your freezer rather than being split between the fridge and freezer. I had the same problem once. I forget what controls this – if it is some electrical switch or something or a mechanical thing or what. I don’t think it is the compressor or any of the major parts required for refrigeration since your freezer is plenty cold.

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