Is your fridge broken? Lots of little things can happen to fridges. Some are serious, some as simple as giving it a quick clean. With these 15 signs your refrigerator is dying, you’ll soon discover how to know if the fridge is working properly — or if it’s time to call in the experts.
So let’s jump right in.
1. It’s not cold enough & food is spoiling
Even a slight temperature change of a few degrees is enough to spoil food. This fault can go on unnoticed for weeks. Telltale signs include milk turning sour before the expiration date, mould growing on bread and the butter going soft.
It could just be that you’ve knocked the temperature gauge putting food inside. Or it could be a problem with the fridge itself — in which case, you will need to get it fixed as the fridge will likely be using a lot more electricity as it fights to stay cool.
If your fridge is not cold, check the temperature gauge is at the desired temperature and keep an eye on things.
2. It’s too cold & the freezer is full of frost and ice
Yes, your fridge freezer can even be too cold. The UK Food Standards Agency states that the cold temperatures of a domestic freezer should be -18°C in order to prevent the growth of germs.
But if your freezer seems a lot colder and more prone to frost build-up, it could be down to two issues:
- There is a gap in the door seal allowing warm, moist air to get in and turn into frost.
- Something is wrong with the refrigerator defrosting sensor.
Frost and ice shouldn’t be in the freezer. If you’ve got a build-up, it could be that your unit is struggling to keep to the right temperature.
Frost and ice build-up isn’t always a big problem. Sometimes it just happens. To experiment, take your time and eat all of the food in the freezer as you normally would.
Then when you’ve got a few hours, turn the fridge freezer off, open the freezer door, and let the ice thaw. (Make sure to put a towel underneath to collect any water!)
Once your freezer is cleared of all frost and ice, turn it back on again. If the frost and ice start building up again, then it’s time to call a specialist out to make the repairs.
Some fridge freezers have defrost timers built into them that you can manually set to help clear away the frost and ice. They normally resemble little black boxes and are usually on the ceiling area of the fresh food section. Consult your user manual to see if you can defrost your freezer this way.
3. The fridge is not making noise but the light is on
Is your fridge silent? Normally your fridge should ‘hum’ periodically throughout the day. A silent fridge freezer is never good news and, in this instance, it could be that the compressor is broken. Try turning the thermostat to a really low, cold setting and if this doesn’t kick the compressor into gear, it could be broken and in need of repair.
But it could also be the defrosting system that’s faulty. Which is much easier (and cheaper!) to fix if your fridge has stopped making noise. To test whether the defrosting system is at fault or not, you could also try:
- Defrosting your fridge freezer
- Switching the whole thing off for 24 hours
- Turning it off and on again to see if the ‘humming’ noise starts again
Either way, a fridge not making noise is usually a sign that it’s time to call someone for repairs.
4. The refrigerator light always stays on
The light in your fridge should always turn off automatically once the door is closed. If the light stays on, it will gradually warm the interior of your fridge — making it less efficient.
Check if the bulb switches off by opening the door a crack or closing it almost fully over and peering into it. The light should normally only switch on after the door has been opened by about an inch. Or feel the light bulb with your hand. If it’s hot, it has probably been on all night.
Often the fault is down to the light switch button itself. If this is the case, this is an easy repair and you might be able to do it yourself. You can buy replacement switches over the Internet. Just make sure to buy the correct one for your model.
But if you expect there’s more to it than just the light switch, call a specialist.
5. There are puddles of water around the fridge
Leaking puddles of water on the floor could mean any of the following:|
- The doors aren’t closing properly — Check what’s causing this. It could be that the seals on the door are worn out and need replacing. Sometimes, if your fridge freezer is packed, the door can be obstructed or even pushed open by something inside.
- A broken drip pan — If you have the right kind of fridge, it’s easy to check if this is a problem by pouring water into it.
- Dislodged hoses from the drip pan — If the hoses are damaged, loose or dislodged, that could be the cause of the puddles.
- Lots of frost and ice is building up inside — as it builds up it melts. Forming puddles. Sometimes this just happens but if you find ice and frost building up a lot of the time your fridge could be on the way out.
- A clogged freezer drain — will also give you puddles.
The drip pan should be cleaned once every year. If it gets too dirty, then the drain tube might clog — which could also cause puddles to form on the floor. You can easily clean a clogged drip pad with bleach or some water and baking soda. Turn the fridge freezer off before attempting to clean the drip pan.
6. You’re noticing excessive condensation in the fridge
A little condensation isn’t a huge problem — but there shouldn’t be lots of it. If there is, your fridge might not be cooling correctly.
Usually, a faulty door seal is the culprit here. Rubber seals can crack and tear open as they age, and this lets the cool air from the fridge seep out even when the door is shut.
Live in the UK? Describe your fridge freezer to us & we’ll send out a replacement door seal in 5 days.
7. The freezer appears to be working but the fridge is too warm
If the fridge is too warm, it could mean that the motor fan is broken and not functioning properly. You can replace a motor fan — but it can be pricey. In fact, you might actually be better off with a brand new fridge.
Sometimes it might seem like the fridge is still working slightly. But in actuality, it could just be lingering cold air blown up from the freezer into the fridge compartment. If in doubt get it inspected.
8. The back of the fridge is hot
It is normal for the back of your refrigerator unit to feel warmer than the front because that’s where the motor is located.
But if the fridge feels too hot it could be malfunctioning. A hot fridge can be a sign of lots of problems. From a dirty condenser to a faulty ventilation system. Regular maintenance and cleaning is the best defence against this sort of problem. Some of which you can do yourself by giving the condenser coils on the back a quick vacuum cleaning. (Check out our 5 crucial fridge maintenance tips here.)
If you do clean it often but it still seems to be getting hot, it may be time to call in the pros.
9. The fridge is suddenly very loud
Should fridges make noise? Yes. Refrigerators tend to be a little bit loud at times anyway. But if it suddenly sounds a lot louder than it used to be, then it could be an issue with the temperature control board. This board supplies the power to both the compressor and the fan motors.
Sometimes the control board can malfunction, sending a surge of continuous voltage to both the motors and the compressor. This is what causes the louder noise — wasting energy in the process and making the fridge much colder than it needs to be.
Is a noisy fridge dangerous? It can be. A very loud fridge may be a sign that something is going wrong and could even be a fire hazard. The only way to know how to quiet a noisy refrigerator compressor is to get a specialist in to fix the job.
10. Your electricity bill has increased
Everyone’s electricity bills are going up all the time. But if there has been a recent upswing that you can’t attribute to your energy company’s policies or to events around the world, then a faulty fridge could be the culprit.
Normally the problem here is that cold air is escaping through a broken or ageing seal around the fridge door. In which case, every other part of the fridge — the evaporator, fans, thermostats and condenser — has to work extra hard to keep things cool.
Food particles can also sometimes build up on your refrigerator’s seals, leaving behind a sticky residue that can accelerate the tearing process. You can prevent this by regularly cleaning the seals with warm, soapy water.
One final reason could simply be that your fridge freezer is too old. Many people put off buying a new model because they think it’s cheaper to hang on to the old one. But the opposite is the case. As this article shows, new refrigerator models are more energy-efficient and actually save people money in the long run.
Which is a nice segway onto the next point…
11. Your fridge freezer is 10+ years old
How long do fridge freezers last? About 10 years. Fridge freezers by default will be coming to the end of their lifecycle after around a decade in use. They can last much longer (even up to 20 years) BUT the likelihood is that, if they aren’t already causing you problems and costing more to run — they soon will do.
So the answer here probably isn’t ‘how long do fridge freezers last’ but ‘how long SHOULD a fridge freezer last?’ After 10 years I would recommend thinking about a replacement.
12. Your fridge smells
A funny-smelling fridge usually isn’t a sign of anything serious, even with all of the suspicious food items removed. It probably just needs a thorough cleaning with warm soapy water. So unplug it and give all the drawers and shelves a rinse.
If your refrigerator has a drip pan, it may be worth checking that out too. It’s probably mouldy and funky after not having been cleaned for so long.
And if the smells STILL haven’t gone away, try placing a few charcoal briquettes inside the fridge compartment in some shallow bowls. They should help to absorb any lingering odours.
13. It’s rattling
Rattling and vibrating noises usually mean something has come loose. The main culprits are loose condenser coils or compressor tubes — and even sometimes the rollers/feet that the fridge sits on if they are uneven.
If you can identify what’s rattling, you may be able to tighten it yourself with a screwdriver or wrench. Feel the fridge. If it rocks then it isn’t supported equally by all its feet. In that case, you can adjust the feet sizes, so that the fridge rests on all four the same.
14. The refrigerator door swings open
This is generally a simple fix. Sometimes with repeated use over long periods of time the door hinges (sometimes called “cams”) loosen up, become worn and need adjusting. You could try some WD-40 to lubricate the hinge, but mostly likely it’ll need replacing.
Replacing it is also pretty straightforward. Here’s a video on how to do it:
15. It never turns itself off
How often should a fridge start and stop? All fridges are ‘on’ most of the time. And by that I mean — it is typical for a refrigerator compressor to run anywhere between 4 and 8 hours before turning ‘off’.
Newer models run even more frequently — about 80% of the time. This actually helps them maintain their energy efficiency levels thanks to new increases in technology.
But if you’ve noticed your model NEVER turns off then it will eventually burn itself out. The culprit is often a faulty defrost timer.
Locate your timer (they’re usually at the back of the fridge, behind the kick plate or in the control panel — but check your manual) and check to see if it’s running on an electrical or mechanical timer. If the timer is mechanical, you may be able to use a screwdriver to manually turn the timer around until you hear a clicking sound which should activate the heater switch.
If this doesn’t work — or if the timer is electrical — then it’s time to call in the experts.
Spotted signs your fridge is about to die? It’s probably time to call in the experts.
All sorts of little things can go wrong with fridge freezers. Some are very minor and can be fixed with a screwdriver or a quick clean. But others may require a specialist diagnosis and repairs.
But be warned: it could get you into trouble if you attempt to make the repairs yourself without the right training or know-how. It isn’t advisable, and it might put off some repairmen and women from wanting to work on them if the problem isn’t resolved.
If you’re living in London or the South-East of England and your fridge is showing one or more of these telltale signs of dying — then I’d like to suggest you give one of our specialists a call.
Some reasons to consider us include:
- Our engineers can get out to you in just a few hours.
- Our call-outs are set at fixed prices — with no sneaky hidden extra charges.
- We carry lots of spare and replacement parts, so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have to wait round for us to order one.
- We can guarantee a 90-day warranty on all our repairs
Find out more about our domestic fridge freezer repairs & get an engineer out ASAP.