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Ultimate guide to fridge freezer fault finding for end users and service technicians aka 4F guide

This general-purpose guide is produced by the Fridge Service Company London for DIY service and service technicians to improve the quality of fault finding and repairs of common and widespread problems of the household fridges, fridge-fridges, American style fridges, freestanding fridges and integrated fridges. In some cases, integrated fridges don’t need to be moved out of the kitchen unit for fault assessment and service.

A domestic fridge is the most widespread household appliance throughout the whole planet. Which appliance comes second in this ranking has no importance for the purpose of this article. In western society, every household has a fridge. On average we have one or two refrigeration applications per household. That’s a fridge-freezer and/or additional fridge or freezer, that’s it. As the need for domestic refrigeration grows we add more fridges in the form of air conditioning systems, bottle coolers, ice machines for home bar and a walk-in coldroom, which is not a rarity in London area. 

Every child and adult in the family loves the fridge. We check in the fridge when we are hungry, we check in the fridge when we are bored, we check in the fridge when we take a break, we go to the fridge for a cold drink and we sometimes check in the fridge without any reason at all. We give our fridge a weekly sponge bath, we work hard to keep the fridge full and when the stock goes low we go to the supermarket to re-stock. If anything to go wrong with the fridge our culinary habits get thrown in chaos and family members would immediately be checking on their smartphone how to make the fridge work better and restore our accustomed lifestyle. The popularity of the fridge can be explained by the following:

  1. it satisfies our need for low temperatures to prevent our groceries from going off
  2. the appliance is readily available in all sizes
  3. initial investment is low to medium to high, depending on your needs
  4. low day-to-day running cost
  5. reliable
  6. available on finance
  7. free delivery
  8. no installation, just plug and play 
  9. maintenance free
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Welcome to The Fridge Service Company

REFRIGERATION | AIR CONDITIONING | ELECTROTECHNICAL EXCELLENCE

DIY FRIDGE REPAIR PROS AND CONS

Pros of DIY service

  • Save time and money on engineer callout and start service without delays
  • Save time and money on engineer re-attendance and labor to fit parts
  • Save money on the spare part markup by the service company
  • Choose yourself if you want to use expensive spares or cheaper spares
  • Dont need to take a day off your work to meet the engineer
  • Be smart and save money in case the fault of the fridge is too expensive and disruptive to service
  • Save planet from building another fridge and handling it all the way to your home
  • Save the planet from disposing of another big fridge because of a small problem
  • Get job satisfaction of your own repair and boost endorphins in your body

Pros for using a service company:

  • No need to get out of the sofa, just get on the smartphone and find a local service provider
  • No need to expand your learning curve, just concentrate on what you do best and let the fridge people handle everything from attending to faultfinding to ordering spares and fitting them
  • You dont need an electrical tester, screwdrivers, cable ties
  • Pros carry electrical and refrigeration skills and tools, with a good amount of experience and background knowledge.

Life before fridge

For sure people have managed to live without a fridge for about 40 000 years, but the life quality was not high, amongst other reasons because of poor and humdrum diet, vitamin deficiency and seasonal lows of agricultural products due to long and cold winters, spoiling of agricultural products during seasonal high due to poor storage conditions, illnesses and health problems due to spoiled and contaminated food are just a few of the tags to describe the life in the good-old-days. It is hard to imagine our day-to-day life without a fridge: where would I keep my milk for the morning coffee, butter, ham, bacon, sausages, eggs, fish, pizza, prawns, ice cream, frozen peas, potato waffles, chips, where to store the dinner leftovers, how to keep the drinks cold, how to keep the veggies fresh? If we cannot store our groceries at home then where would we eat, who would we eat with, what would it cost and what would be the social implications of this, because as we know, sharing meals is one of the pillars of any society. The peculiar attribute of humans storing beef and tuna in our fridge and not the other way around is a sign that humans have taken the top place in the food chain on the planet earth today, is hopefully an early sign of our ability to retain the top place in the intergalactic future.

We know that most of the global warming and the holes in the ozone layer is related to the refrigeration industry in general. Over the past 20-30 years, all nations on the planet earth have collectively come to an agreement and implemented measures for the RAC (refrigeration, air conditioning) industries to deal with F-gas, how much of it to produce and use, how to monitor and catch it, how to handle it, how to dispose of it, we have started to fight contraband refrigerant and we stopped topping up leaking systems and started fixing them instead.

With nearly 100 years of domestic refrigeration experience we do not know how many fridges have we built in total so far, but we will need to build a hell of a lot more unless we will start to effectively manage our existing domestic and commercial refrigeration equipment. It’s a duty of The Fridge Service Company to adopt and promote eco-friendly approaches to help us permanently avoid or temporarily postpone unnecessary pollution until technology reaches the point where we don’t have to produce refrigeration equipment that is heavily polluting the environment.

Manual defrost vs auto defrost

Manual defrost: FF’s built to this system are designed to be manually defrosted as and when required. The term manual defrost refers to a freezer compartment of the fridge. The freezer is due for defrosting when the drawers of the freezer stop moving freely, get stuck and need to be jiggled to open or close. It is advisable to run low on your stock in the freezer before commencing to manually defrosting the fridge because you shouldn’t consume any of the food that has been out of the fridge for hours or re-freeze defrosted groceries, however, I remember my mum used to put any remaining frozen product back in the freezer after the defrost and she probably still does so.

The defrosting procedure is simple presuming normal operation of the FF:

  1. turn off the fridge at the thermostat or pull the mains plug
  2. open the freezer door and remove the drawers to allow warm air in the freezer
  3. leave all doors of the appliance open to avoid funny smell occuring
  4. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHIP OFF THE ICE BUILDUP USING ANY SHARP ITEMS DUE TO THE HIGH RISK OF PUNCTURING THE REFRIGERATION LOOP.

Lack of defrosting components makes this type of fridge simpler, more reliable and cheaper compared to the auto-defrost technology. In the manual defrost system the frost periodically builds up, on the fridge back wall as the fridge is in the cooling cycle. When the cooling cycle ends the frosting in the fridge compartment stops. Ice thaws and defrost runs down into drip tray and then disappears into the drain opening. If you constantly experience ice buildup on the back wall of the fridge compartment it is likely the system is out of balance. Without seeing the equipment we can assume the freezer is iced up or maybe one of the fridge doors is not fully closing. If you find water inside your fridge it is likely the drain opening is blocked, thus thawed water cannot find the way out of the fridge and starts accumulating in the bottom of the fridge compartment. If this happens check there is no plastic or lettuce blocking the drain opening or worse, entered the drain tubing.

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  • Freezer view of the manual defrost fridge-freezer

  • Drain opening at the bottom of the plain back wall of the manual defrost FF.

  • A plain back wall is a feature of the manual defrost FF. The fridge is in the cooling cycle and the back wall is building frost.

Compare refrigeration contractor prices around London area

48h ATTENDANCE ATTENDANCE AND TROUBLESHOOTING ONLY

99.00 GBP
ATTENDANCE WITHIN 48h*
FURTHER SERVICE 60 GBP P/H
SPARE PARTS CHARGED ON SITE
ATTENDANCE ON DUE DATE - 50%
ATTENDANCE BEFORE THE DUE DATE - 49%
ATTENDANCE ONE DAY LATE - 1%
ON THE SPOT FIX RATE 65%
SECOND FIX RATE 34%
THIRD FIX RATE 1%
WARRANTY ON SERVICE 6 MONTHS
RE-CALLS PROVIDED
NEXT DAY ACCESS TO NEW EQUIPMENT
WE USE LEGAL REFRIGERANT
DECISION MAKING MAY BE REQUIRED BY MANAGER
EXCLUDING BANK HOLIDAYS AND WEEKENDS

AUTO-DEFROST

Auto-defrost is a system designed automatically defrost your freezer. If the system is fully functional the defrost takes place periodically, does not require any interaction of the end-user and does not affect the quality of the frozen product. Depending on the system design, a typical control circuit for the defrost system usually consist of the following: thermostat, timer, high limit switch, fuse, heater rod(s), drain. Sometimes a “hot-gas” system is used to defrost the freezer coils instead of the electrical system. In this scenario, a stream of hot-gas is directed into the evaporator in order to achieve a defrost.

 

FREEZER IS WORKING BUT THE FRIDGE HAS STOPPED

One of the most common fridge freezer problems our customers log with us is that the freezer is still cold but the fridge compartment is warm. Without seeing the equipment we can only speculate about the cause of the problem, but usually, this symptom occurs because of a permanent or intermittent fault of one or the combination of the following components:

  • defrost system fault – one or multiple components of the defrost circuit cease. The defrost cycle fails to take place. Ice builds upon and around the evaporator, air ducts and fan blades thus blocking the cold air from entering the fridge compartment. The symptoms of this problem can be temporarily cured by full defrost of the appliance. In case of auto-defrost appliances, the manual defrost must be carried out over 48 hour period as a minimum, both doors open and all shelves removed in the freezer section. In a state of a fault the ice will build up in between the tubing and fins of the coil and it takes a long time to fully defrost by natural means. This is because of the cooling coil integrated into the back wall of the freezer room, there is no natural air circulation around the coil, the whole thing is semi-isolated even if both freezer and fridge doors are left open. 

Defrosting your appliance can actually help you to localise the problem. Once fully defrosted do not go to the supermarket to stock up on groceries just yet. Find two disposable empty water bottles and fill 1/3 with tap water. Place one of the bottles in the fridge and the second one in the freezer. Leave for 2 hour test, do not open fridge doors during the test time. After two hours open the fridge and feel if the water bottle is proper cold or not, open the freezer and see if the water in the bottle is frozen.

2 hour test results

Fridge bottle cold, freezer bottle frozen – cooling system ok, fan ok. Check defrost circuit.

Fridge bottle warm, freezer bottle cold but not frozen – check fan.

Fridge bottle warm, freezer bottle warm – check cooling system

  • fan motor fault – fan motor is not spinning and thus not circulating air inside the appliance.
  • controls fault – a fault of the controller, not actioning a cycle.
  • refrigeration loop fault – refrigerant leak, compressor fault, blockage of the loop.

 

to be continued…

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