Refrigerator Repair 101: How to Fix Your Broken Refrigerator

Is your refrigerator not cooling? Maybe the ice maker stopped churning out perfect cubes? Calling a handyman can rack up a pretty expensive bill. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to fix your fridge, we’ve broken down some of the most common refrigerator issues and how to repair them. This is refrigerator repair 101!

Here’s how to DIY your refrigerator repair:

If your refrigerator is on the fritz, it can be hard to know whether you should call a handyman, fix it yourself or just replace it. Spoiled milk, rotting vegetables and even a waterfall of melted ice can seriously ruin your day. Here are the first things you should check when your refrigerator isn’t working right:

  1. Make sure your refrigerator is plugged in. This sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how often this confuses people!
  2. Check the coils to make sure nothing is caught. You can find the refrigerator coils on the back of your fridge. Here’s how to clean your refrigerator coils.
  3. If your ice maker or water dispenser isn’t working, try replacing the water filter. You can also check to make sure no ice is causing a jam in the dispenser.
  4. Make sure none of the contents of your refrigerator are blocking the air ducts. This can affect the temperature and make it seems like your fridge is broken. Here’s the best refrigerator temperature to set your fridge to.
  5. If you’re having an issue with your ice maker, make sure you didn’t accidentally turn the ice maker off.
refrigerator repair how to fix a broken fridge

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If you’ve gone through the checklist above and you still can’t seem to figure out what the problem is, you might want to call your handyman or read on to find out how to do it yourself.

If you do call a handyman, how do you know if the cost of your refrigerator repair is worth it or if you should just upgrade? A general rule is that you should replace your refrigerator if the cost of the refrigerator repair is more than half the cost of the fridge.

Here are the most common issues with refrigerators and how to fix them yourself:

Common Issue 1: Your Refrigerator Isn’t Cooling

If your refrigerator isn’t cooling (and you’ve already gone through the checklist above), it’s likely you need to replace the evaporator fan. If you hear squealing or loud humming, that’s your first clue. You know it’s definitely an issue with the evaporator fan if you open your freezer door and the noise gets louder.

You can find the evaporator coils and fan behind a cover in the freezer compartment. If you open the cover and the coils are covered in frost, take them out of the freezer, unplug the entire fridge and let it all thaw for 48 hours. Make sure you put towels underneath the coils while they thaw. It’s possible a lot of water may leak out.

Once the coils are thawed, put them back in and turn on the fridge. If the noise goes away, you might have solved the cooling problem for now but will probably need to call a handyman to fix the defrost thermostat so this doesn’t happen again. If you still hear the noise, it’s time to replace the evaporator fan.

Here’s how to replace your refrigerator evaporator fan:

Tools Needed: 

  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Wire stripper/cutter
  • New evaporator fan and/or condenser fan

Step 1: Remove the evaporator cover.

Refrigerator repair evaporator fan cover

Family Handyman

Step 2: Remove the fan cover.

refrigerator repair evaporator fan cover

Family Handyman

Step 3: Remove the evaporator fan if it’s noisy or isn’t spinning. First, unplug the refrigerator, then remove the screws that hold the fan to the wall of the freezer.

refrigerator repairevaporator fan and coils

Family Handyman

Step 4: Replace the fan. First, remove the mounting bracket from the old evaporator fan and attach it on the new one. Unplug the wires and switch them from the old evaporator fan to the new one. Next, reinstall and then put the evaporator cover back on.

refrigerator repair evaporator fan

Family Handyman

Common Issue 2: Your Refrigerator Is Leaking

refrigerator repair leaking fridge

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Finding a puddle of water leaking out from your refrigerator is never a good sign. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common refrigerator repair issues. Don’t panic. The good news is it can be pretty easy to fix a leaky fridge yourself. Here’s how to figure out where the leak is coming from and stop it from flooding your kitchen.

Cause 1: Blocked Defrost Drain

This is one of the most common causes of a leaking refrigerator. Food, melted ice and other debris can clog the defrost drain hose. Ice then builds up and water starts to leak out of the drain hose. Here’s how to troubleshoot this issue:

Step 1: Unplug your refrigerator.

Step 2: Grab your turkey baster or a funnel and fill it with warm water. Don’t use scalding hot water. The water should be warm but not so hot that it burns when you touch it.

Step 3: Flush the clogged drain from inside the freezer with the warm water and then use a coat hanger or pipe cleaner to clean out any remaining debris.

Step 4: If it’s still clogged or not working after unclogging the drain hose from inside the freezer, pull the refrigerator out from the wall. Find the end of the defrost drain hose on the bottom back service panel. You should see a rubber valve at the end of the drain hose on this side.

Step 5: Clean the valve out with warm water and a little bit of soap. Remove any debris you see.

Step 6: Plug your refrigerator back in and check that it’s working. If it’s still not working, it’s time to call your local handyman.

Cause 2: Clogged or Frozen Water Supply Line

Sometimes a clogged or frozen water supply line can cause a puddle under your refrigerator. It can also cause your ice maker to stop working and water to stop running out of your dispenser. If you notice all three problems, this is the cause of your leak. Here’s how to do this refrigerator repair:

Step 1: Unplug your refrigerator and find the shut-off valve. The shut-off valve is usually found underneath your sink, behind the fridge or underneath your fridge.

Step 2: Once you locate the shut-off valve, make sure it’s closed and check for any leaks, tears or clogs in the plastic tube.

Step 3: If there’s a tear, you need to replace the water supply line. If there are no tears, there may be some blockage in the tube. Most tubes are clear; if yours isn’t, feel around for anything clogging water flow.

Step 4: To clear blockage, keep your refrigerator turned off for two hours to defrost the buildup.

Step 5: After two hours, plug your fridge back in and test to see that it’s working again. If it’s still having issues, call a handyman.

Common Issue 3: Ice Overflowing in the Ice Maker

refrigerator repair broken ice maker

Repair Clinic

Even if your kitchen is party central, no one wants a winter wonderland of ice flowing out of the refrigerator. A broken ice maker is one of the most common refrigerator repair issues. We’ve got you covered on how to fix this freezing fridge issue.

Cause: You Left the Freezer Door Open Too Long

Sounds like no big deal, but leaving the freezer door open for too long can raise the humidity level inside the freezer. Frost and ice buildup will follow. Here’s how to fix this problem:

Step 1: The easiest solution is to remove the buildup of ice with warm water and an ice pick and then stop leaving your freezer door open! If the issue is that your freezer or refrigerator door doesn’t shut all the way, pull your fridge away from the wall and have a friend help you lean it back so you can reach the feet.

Step 2: Screw the two front pedestal feet out a few turns so they’re raised higher than the back feet. This will help the broken doors close a little more on their own and make sure water is draining properly from the fridge and the freezer. If you’re still having the same issue with your fridge, it’s likely you have a broken defrost timer. You guessed it: Call a handyman.

To prevent refrigerator repair issues from happening in the first place, follow these quick tips:

1.) Don’t overload your refrigerator with groceries. This will help the air circulate and keep your compressor from working overtime to keep the fridge cool enough. As a reminder, here’s the best refrigerator temperature.

2.) Limit the number of times you open and close the refrigerator and freezer doors. The temperature rises every time you open the door, and this forces the compressor to work harder.

3.) Vacuum the refrigerator coils once a month. You’ll avoid clogs and save money in the long run. Remember the coils are found on the back of your fridge.

4.) Discard spoiled and rotten food in the fridge ASAP. No one wants a smelly fridge, but this also helps avoid contamination and bacteria buildup.

5.) Keep the door gaskets clean so that they close properly. Wipe them with warm water and a rag once a week to save money on your refrigerator repair bills.

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