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7 Common Refrigerator Problems

Refrigerator Problems

Refrigerators use a simple property of physics: compress a gas and it gives up heat, allow a compressed gas to expand and it absorbs heat.  Mount this system in a box, compress the gas outside the box, pipe it inside and allow the gas to expand, and you transfer heat from the inside of the box to the outside.  Ta da, a refrigerator!

The equipment used to work this wonder is pretty straightforward and often runs reliably for years… until it starts to act up and you have refrigerator problems.

These Are Some Common Refrigerator Problems:

Compressor & Motor

The heart of this compression-expansion system is the compressor and the motor that drives it.  These are located down low and in the back.  When it runs you can hear a humming sound and feel vibration if you place your hand on the fridge.  If your fridge is not cooling, listen for the compressor motor.  If it does not come on – ever – your motor has gone out.  If it runs all the time, it may be the compressor.  Motor and compressor are replaced as a unit.

Circulation Fan

Inside the refrigerator (usually in the freezer) is a fan unit.  This pushes cold air around the inside of the freezer and refrigerator.  If the compressor is running and your fan is not running, this unit needs to be replaced.

Dripping Water

If there is water dripping from the top of the inside of your refrigerator you probably have a plugged drain tube causing your refrigerator problems.  This small tube takes melt water from the defrost cycle of a frost-free freezer and moves it to an evaporation pan underneath the fridge, near the compressor.

If you have a puddle forming under the fridge, the evaporation pan is leaking or has overflowed.  This pan is removable by taking off the grille under the refrigerator door.  Drain and replace the pan.  If the puddle returns, you have some other refrigerator problems.

Torn Door Gaskets

The gaskets around the refrigerator and freezer doors are to your fridge what weather-stripping is to your house.  If these are worn or torn, air migration will reduce efficiency,  creating refrigerator problems.  If they become damaged, have them replaced to restore the performance of your fridge.

Out of Level

A refrigerator is designed to sit level side-to-side and tipped just slightly backward.  This stance helps melt water in the evaporation pan run to the back of the pan where the greatest heat is and will help keep the doors firmly closed.


If your refrigerator is not cooling properly, the first thing to check is the thermostat: has it been bumped or adjusted to a different setting?  If that is where it usually is, the thermostat causing the refrigerator problems may be bad and in need of replacement.


Even a brand new refrigerator will make some noises – that just comes with the process.  Wailing or groaning (like a stomach growling) is normal.  A loud click or pop is common with the auto defrost timer.  If it gets louder than normal, have it looked at.

Dripping water sounds are also common as the freezer melt drips into the evaporator pan.  Running water is normal if you have an ice maker — as long as water is not flowing out of someplace!  If an ice maker water line breaks, there is a shut-off valve, look behind the fridge, inside the cabinet next to the fridge and in the basement underneath the fridge.  Shutting off the water will fix the immediate problem and your fridge will work normally (except without the ice maker) until we come to replace the feed line for you.

A rhythmic ticking noise is most likely the circulation fan.  If a blade is contacting something as it whirls around it will make this sound.  The fan probably needs adjusting.

If you hear a rattling or clanking sound, before calling for repairs, check the stuff stored on top of the fridge.  Most often these sounds are coming from up there because vibration has brought a couple of items together and they’re rattling against each other.  Easy fix!  If that’s not it, something has come loose somewhere.  These are not common refrigerator problems, but not impossible ones either.

This gives you a run-down of common refrigerator problems and when you do and don’t need to contact us for repair services.

James Rathbun

I am a local appliance repairman based in O’fallon, Missouri. Born and raised in the St. Louis area, I’ve always been intrigued by repairing appliances. I enjoy meeting new people and believe good customer service is the key to long-lasting business relationships. I’d love to earn your business, so if you’re in St. Charles County, Lincoln County, Warrenton County or St. Louis County, please give me a call at 636-980-3377 or 314-335-9796!

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