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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Refrigerators

Please read some of our answers to frequently asked refrigerator questions. At M G Appliance Services we look forward to continuing to be the pre-eminent appliance repair company throughout the Ottawa Area. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a service appointment.

Our refrigerator FAQs file can assist with common issues such as:

Top mount refrigerator

If freezer door not level, loosen (do not remove) top freezer hinge bolts. This allows hinge assembly to move and the door to be raised or lowered. Adjust to level and re-tighten hinge bolts.

If refrigerator the lower door not level then usually because the lower hinge assembly is worn. It could also be because the refrigerator feet or wheels are not adjusted properly. Feet can be raised or lowered to correct, while wheels are often adjusted via an adjustment bolt at front of refrigerator. Check Use and Care manual.

Side by side refrigerator

On a side by side refrigerator door alignment is more critical because a misalignment is more obvious. To correct the issue, use same methods as above. Always start with the refrigerator section door, because it is often easier to realign than the freezer door.

Before adjusting remove heavy items from the door shelves to see if this corrects problem. Move heavy items to inside of the refrigerator. Use the door shelves for lighter items.

Check if feet or wheels have sunk into the floor. Correction may be a simple matter of moving refrigerator enough to provide firmer support.

Door clicking noise

In their drive to increase efficiency manufacturers have added door closers to the hinges. That is why many doors now lift slightly as they open or close.

Referred to as a cam, its job is to give the door a slight push as you release the handle. It provides a more positive sealing of the door and gasket. If door cam malfunctions it will be heard as a clicking or tapping noise. Easily diagnosed because only occurs while door is opening or closing.

Door – when bottom door closed the top door pops open

This issue usually stems from modern refrigerators being made more air tight. When lower door closed the air inside this section is compressed and rushes into the freezer via interconnecting passages. The freezer air being denser can transfer the force to the door allowing it to flutter open for a second.

Doors – Why are they so thick on new refrigerators?

Doors on modern refrigerators are twice as thick as in the past. Thicker doors allow the addition of more insulation to help increase refrigerator efficiency and lower electrical consumption.

Drain pan – Should I clean it?

Do not clean the defrost water drain pan in a modern frost free refrigerator. It contains water and debris that has been sitting in this warm drain pan for long periods of time. It can contain bacteria harmful to humans. If it must be cleaned, be sure to use rubber gloves.

Dries out food

The problem is not the food drying but rather the moisture being drawn out of the food because cold air is flowing over it.

Keep all liquid laden foods covered so they don’t become dehydrated. You do not have to use expensive containers. A plastic wrap, a bread wrapper, or even a plate covering a container will work. The purpose is to stop the cold dry air, circulating within the refrigerator, from coming into direct contact with the moisture laden foods.

Economy switch – Will it save me money?

The economy switch is there to save money by turning off a small electric heater in the refrigerator. Turn switch to economy setting in spring, winter, and fall. Turn back to non-economy during the humid summer season. The savings are minimal for individuals, but add up if we all do our part to lower electrical consumption.

Energuide – What does it tell me?

The Energuide sticker is important when purchasing a new appliance. Comparing them will tell you how much electricity will be used for each, size, model, and style.

The large black numbers indicate the approximate electricity consumed per year. Multiply this by the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour in your area and you will know how much it will cost to operate per year. Next, look at the horizontal bar below the large numbers. It shows the approximate high and low electrical consumption for other appliances of the same size. There is an arrow at the top of this bar. The farther the arrow is to the left of the horizontal bar the better. Left means less electrical consumption when compared to other manufacturers of a similar size.

Extension cord – Can I use one?

Operating a refrigerator on a standard household extension cord can cause the compressor to overheat or burn out. Never operate an appliance on something such as a lawn mower cord, or a light lamp cord. Move the refrigerator close enough to an electrical wall outlet so it can be plugged directly into it. If an extension cord is necessary then only use one made specifically for appliances. They are only available in short lengths to a maximum of about 12 feet.

Freezer burn

Although the refrigerator is usually blamed, it is most often the result of food dehydration, not refrigerator temperature. Typical symptoms are drying of foods, darkening of foods, and ice crystal buildup.

If improperly wrapped, foods can very quickly become dehydrated by the refrigeration action. Any food left in a freezer more than 6 weeks, no matter how well wrapped, will often show signs of dehydration.

Feet & Rollers – Protecting floor

Many new style kitchen floors will need protection from the weight of the refrigerator, particularly vinyl and hardwood. You can provide protection by using foot pads under each foot. They are similar to those used under furniture legs, but made for appliances.

Also available are pre-made plastic strips called “Glide N Guard” for approximately $29.95. These work well. They come with four heavy plastic strips. One is placed under the right feet, another under the left feet. The other two are stored under the refrigerator until required. When the refrigerator needs to be rolled, the extra two strips are brought forward and locked into the stationary ones, thus extending the floor guards under the feet. The refrigerator can then be pulled away from the wall, allowing access for repairs or cleaning.

Can I put hot food into cold refrigerator?

Most refrigerators can accept hot food.

Foods such as pies or meats that are bubbling or spattering should be left until their initial cooking process is complete. Most foods will continue to cook internally for a few minutes after being removed from the heat. Once the internal cooking has stopped the hot food can be safely placed into most refrigerators.

Use added caution when refrigerator has glass shelves. Glass can crack if excessively hot items are placed directly onto the cold glass surface.

Ice cubes – melting together

If ice bucket is large the weight of ice on the top can compress the ice cubes at bottom, causing them to melt together. Usually occurs when ice has been sitting inside bucket for extended period of time. To stop problem do not allow bucket to fill more than ½ full. Do this by turning off ice maker when this level reached. If the icemaker cannot be turned off then dispose of excess ice once per week.

Do not remove bucket to dispose of excess ice. It can be difficult to reinstall. Instead, simply dispense into a bowl until proper ice bucket level achieved. Rather than disposing of ice, use it to water household plants.

Ice cubes – have funny taste

This problem is more prevalent in non-icemaker refrigerators. Ice cubes produced using standard ice cube trays may sit in the freezer section for weeks. During this time ice cubes can pick up odours, just like any form of uncovered food. To reduce this problem in non-icemaker refrigerators transfer ice cubes into a closed container to avoid contamination.

Ice cubes will accentuate any taste associated with the water they are made from, so if your water source has changed recently expect this to be reflected in the ice cubes.

We often taste impurities in an ice cube more than we do in the water they are made from. Therefore many people add an aftermarket filter to the refrigerator water line to counteract this phenomenon.

If unusual tastes persist or increase consider having water source tested for increased amounts of particulates such as iron or sulfur.

Ice cubes – taste like plastic

With a new refrigerator discard the first 2 or 3 productions of ice. This allows any plastic residue from the water supply system or supply lines to be washed out of the lines.

If using ice cube trays wash them regularly, they can pick up odours. If taste continues, replace old trays. They may be starting to deteriorate due to age.

Ice cubes – shrinking

Ice cubes can shrink when left exposed to the air inside the freezer section. Like other food products they will become dehydrated by the cold air flowing over them. If long term storage of ice cubes is required then transfer them to a sealed container.

Icemaker – How much ice should it produce?

An icemaker will produce approximately 2 to 4 pounds of ice per day. It can often produce ice faster than it is consumed. For this reason you may have to turn off the icemaker so that it does not overflow the container. If away on vacation either turn off icemaker or water supply to refrigerator.

Icemaker – bucket overflows with ice

Many refrigerator icemakers operate 24 hours per day to match the increasing amounts of water and ice being consumed by customers. Some icemakers will stop once ice bucket full, but many do not. Therefore, if ice produced faster than you consume it the bucket can eventually overflow.

Turn off icemaker via a switch on front of it, or by lifting up the metal bale arm on the body of the icemaker. Or remove ice bucket and dispose of unwanted ice. Alternately, dispense excess ice into a bowl, which is then dumped into the sink. Excess ice can be used to water household plants.

Icemaker – no ice production or no water entering

Check the water filter for blockage. If filter more than 6 months old, replace. Check that hand valve feeding the water to refrigerator is fully open. Check that water supply line to refrigerator is not kinked.

Moving – Can I lay my fridge down during a move?

Refrigerators should be shipped in an upright fashion. If laid down during a move return it to an upright position as soon as possible. Allow proper recovery time (between 2 to 4 hours is usually sufficient) before restarting. If any unusual noises are heard during start up turn refrigerator off immediately and call a service company.

Noises – strange noises when operating

Modern frost free refrigerators can make many strange noises while operating. Noises such as whistling, high pitched whining, gurgling, ice cracking, increased noise level during start up, air blowing sounds, or water dripping noises are common. These noises are often due to the new ozone-friendly refrigerants and have changed the overall sound characteristics of refrigerators. If you have purchased a new refrigerator these noises can be very different from what you were accustomed to hearing.

See our consumer Info Articles section for further details.

Noises – water running noise

May be water entering the ice maker. This will occur approximately every 4 hours. May also be water draining into the drain pan at end of the defrost cycle. This will occur approximately every 6 to 8 hours.

Odours – from interior

If an odour occurs in refrigerator check the operating temperature with a good quality thermometer. The temperature should be approximately: +5 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer, and +38 degrees Fahrenheit in the refrigerator section. A refrigerator that is too warm can cause the plastic interior to become odorous.

An odour in a refrigerator is usually from a food spill. Clean interior with warm water and mild detergent. Check inside the crispers, underside of crisper cover, around the gasket, and air holes and crevices in the freezer section.

Do not add spray chemicals to the refrigerator interior. Most only mask the odour rather than remove it. Do not add any odour producing devices to refrigerator interior.

Odours – Can I use baking soda to remove them?

Yes, but not when left in the box. Instead, spread a small amount (3 or 4 tablespoons) of baking onto a saucer before placing into refrigerator. This will greatly increase its surface area. When the surface of the baking soda starts to harden its effectiveness lessens. Replace it with fresh baking soda to restart the process.

Do not hide the baking soda away in a corner of the refrigerator. Place it where it will pick up the most odours. Best location is directly in the air flow of the refrigerator or freezer fan.

Run time – runs all the time

Many things affect the run time of a refrigerator. In hot humid weather the run time will increase. So will the frequency that the refrigerator starts. Frost free refrigerators often run up to 20 hours per day in hot weather.

Check if gaskets are worn or cracked. Check if gaskets are sealing over their total circumference.

Run time – runs more than my old refrigerator

Refrigerators manufactured prior to 1990 had larger motor-compressors. After 1990 their size was reduced to conserve energy. This resulted in longer run times and more frequent starting. During hot humid weather a frost free refrigerator will operate an average of 16 to 20 hours per day.

Scratches on exterior finish

Use only paint recommended for appliance touch-ups. When using touch up paint on an exterior painted finish try the following:

  • Dip applicator brush into paint
  • Remove brush and wipe applicator on rag until almost dry
  • Apply paint with a light dabbing motion. Do not use painting motion
  • Allow paint to dry few minutes
  • Repeat and continue until scratches covered
  • When finished allow to dry thoroughly

Stainless Steel – finger prints

Stainless steel will pick up fingerprints very easily. Oils from your hands leaves residue that will become visible. To alleviate this use a stainless steel cleaner. It will put a coating on the steel that helps this problem. It is applied about once per week to maintain the clean look of stainless. If small children in the house you may have to apply more frequently. If used, do not get into eyes and keep out of reach of children.

A new product to do this comes in the form of disposable quick wipes. This allows for quicker applications with much less mess. See Parts section for product.

Temperature – What is normal?

The operating temperature of a modern frost free refrigerator is approximately 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer and 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit in the refrigerator section. Within the meat keeper (not on all models) the temperature will be approximately 34 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperature – middle shelf too cold

This is primarily a problem in refrigerators with glass shelves. Glass shelves restrict the air flow compared to wire shelves. Therefore, cold air can become trapped between shelves causing one shelf to become colder than the others. Usually because the open space between the outer edge of the shelves and the cabinet interior is being blocked by food or food containers.

Do not allow food or containers to overhang the shelves. Do not allow food or containers to bridge between shelves. Do not allow food or containers to bridge between shelf and cabinet walls. Redistribute food to allow maximum air flow around and between shelves.

Temperature – one side of interior colder than other

Usually because of the path the air follows as it enters the refrigerator section. Cold air entering the refrigerator section is very cold. Any air that falls directly onto a shelf or down the rear wall into a crisper this problem may occur.

May be more pronounced at the end of the cooling cycle. At this time the cold air stops moving and can quickly fall onto food at bottom of refrigerator.

What can you do about this problem? First, determine where the cold air enters the refrigerator section. Once determined, remember this will be the coldest point in the refrigerator section. Therefore keep all delicate foods (fruits and vegetables) away from this area. Place something less prone to problems from temperature fluctuations in the area. Lastly, move delicate items to the side of the refrigerator section opposite this cold air entry point. If cold air enters on the right side, move delicate items to the left side; if it enters on the left side, move delicate items to the right side. This applies to the crisper drawer also. If air entry point is on right side put delicate foods (tomatoes) inside left crisper and move hardier food (potatoes) into the right crisper.

Vacationing – Should I turn off my fridge?

Refrigerators consume a significant amount of electricity even when away on vacation.

When vacationing for a short period of time: leave operating but turn thermostat to a low setting, turn off icemaker, and remove or dispense ice from ice bucket.

For an extended vacation: unplug refrigerator (or turn thermostat to off position), remove food, clean out any moisture buildup and wipe interior walls using a low strength non-odourous detergent. Also remove or dispense ice from ice bucket and leave doors propped open to avoid odours or mildew. Attach note to outside of refrigerator door to remind house sitter that forty-eight hours before you return home they should close doors, plug-in (or turn thermostat to on position), and turn on icemaker.

Walls or interior is cracking

Interior wall cracking is usually due to stress caused by overloading of shelves. The shelf can warp, applying uneven pressure to the shelf mounts, which in turn pulls and stresses on the interior walls.

If heavy item such as a large frozen turkey is stored, remove the bottom crisper and its shelf and with the use of a cooking pan rest turkey directly on the bottom of the refrigerator. Most vulnerable is the area at the bottom front of refrigerator. Any heavy object dropped here can crack the interior. This most commonly happens when transferred foods from refrigerator to counter top.

If cracks appear on the interior walls they can sometimes be patched. It may stop further cracking but the patch is visible and not cosmetically pleasing.

Water dispenser – water not cold

These devices are water dispensers, not water coolers. They are always associated with an ice dispenser so that ice can be added to the glass first, thus making the water cold once it enters the glass.

Some refrigerators contain a water reservoir. They can give the impression of colder water entering during first few glasses of dispensed water since they only hold a small amount of water. Their purpose is not to store cold water but rather to compensate for warm water that initially enters the glass from the water line at the back of the refrigerator.

To cool the water an amount of ice should be added to glass before water is dispensed.

Water dispenser – water tastes unusual

An unusual taste from a water dispenser may indicate it is time to change filter.

If used infrequently water may be picking up odours leeching from the plastic water lines. This is usually resolved by clearing lines of stale water by disposing of first few glasses dispensed before drinking.

Water dispenser – push water dispenser, but get ice

This is usually an electrical problem with the touch pad, water valve, or computer board. It will have to be resolved by a service company.

Water filter – When do I change?

The water filter inside the refrigerator section should be replaced about every 4 to 6 months, even though they will successfully filter your water for up to a year.

All water contains particulate material and bacteria which the filter will strain and then hold within its core. But every filter will eventually reach its limit. After about 4 months the bacteria level within the filter can exceed it maximum, and therefore may start to redeposit the bacteria back into the water as it passes through filter.

Water filter – How do I change?

Most water filters simply screw or snap into a receptacle inside the refrigerator section. Some are accessed near the bottom front edge of refrigerator. Most are mounted on the rear wall inside the refrigerator section. If filter cannot be located, look for a tag or sticker inside the refrigerator indicating its placement. If you cannot find filter look for plastic water lines in the corners, or behind the crisper drawers, then follow the water lines.

Some filters require a special tool to remove. Others require that an O-ring or seal be changed in conjunction with the filter. Before replacing read all instructions associated with the new filter.

For step by step directions see your Care and Use guide. Each manufacturer uses a different type of filter, and filter-mounting method. They are not interchangeable.

If you already have a new filter the installation instructions may be printed on the box.

Most manufacturers will answer this question on their website.

Water filter – Can I add external filter to the water line?

Yes, a filter in the water supply line feeding the refrigerator will provide filtering.

If added to the water line the weight of filter (and the water inside it) must be supported by securing filter assembly to wall behind refrigerator.

Before installing verify that will provide same quality of filtering as type provided by the refrigerator manufacturer.

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