Refrigerator Repairs

These easy repairs are extra cool.

Occasionally a refrigerator needs minor adjustments and repairs. Before you call in a professional, do a little trouble-shooting yourself. Many small refrigerator repairs can be done in a few minutes. All you need is the know-how and the right tools.

Leveling A Refrigerator
A refrigerator that is not level is likely to have a door that sags or rattles. To determine if your appliance is level, place a carpenter’s level on top of the unit. Check it first from side to side and then front to back. Look at the legs or casters. If one is not touching the floor, or if the unit is not level, adjust them.

First, remove the bottom grille. For threaded legs, adjust their height by turning the legs themselves with an adjustable wrench (below). For casters, use a screwdriver to turn the leveling screw (a clockwise turn raises the unit). To work on the legs, you need to tilt the unit and rest it on a piece of lumber. When you’ve finished, retest the unit with your carpenter’s level as before.

Fixing The Light
If the bulb will not light when you open the door, make sure that the unit is plugged in and that the bulb is not loose. Then buy a 40-watt appliance light bulb. (Do not use a standard light bulb.) Unplug the unit and replace the bulb, removing any protective covering first. Plug the unit back in. If the light still does not work, the problem may be the door switch or the wiring.

To replace the switch, unplug the unit and pry the switch loose with a putty knife. Remove the wires from the terminals. Take the switch with you to an appliance store and buy a replacement. Connect the wires to the new switch, slide the switch back into place, and plug the unit back in. If the problem persists, you may have a more sophisticated electrical problem that requires professional help.

Replacing The Door Gasket
Refrigerators usually run for many years before needing replacement parts. The gasket, however, does become worn relatively quickly. You can buy
a replacement gasket at an appliance store. Before you go shopping, make a note of the exact model number and size of your unit. It should be listed on a label on the door. The gasket is held in place by a retaining strip. Lift the old gasket to see how it is attached. Remove the screws and the old gasket. Clean the mounting surface. Start at a top corner and install the new gasket, working toward the opposite corner. Don’t overtighten the screws.

Changing Door-Swing Direction
If you have a unit that has the hinges of the door (or doors) on the wrong side for easy access, you may be able to reverse the hinges and handles so that the door opens from the other side. Typically, the holes are factory-drilled and capped for this purpose. Switching the doors will also let you move the refrigerator to a better spot in the kitchen or keep the door from blocking traffic when it is open.

Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions; on some refrigerators, this can be a fairly challenging job. A service person can do it quickly if you don’t have the manual.

Fixing An Ice Maker
Water is usually supplied to an ice maker through a 1/4 inch line that runs from a nearby pipe — often beneath the sink or in the basement — to the back of the refrigerator. If your ice maker isn’t producing ice, check that the stop arm controlling the on/off switch is in the down position and the valve supplying water is open. If the ice cubes the unit is making have hollow centers, chances are that they are not getting enough water. If there is water standing in the bin, they are getting too much water. Adjust the water supply screw to change the water flow. Each half-turn of the supply screw changes the water flow by about 9 cubic centimeters (1/3 ounce); don’t make more than 11/2 turns in either direction. If these adjustments don’t solve the problem, you should call a professional.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest