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How to know if your fridge has a fault

  • 10 min read

Written by Domestic & General

How do they work?
Understanding how something works can make it easier to spot when it’s not working properly. As with everything; the quicker you can identify something’s wrong, the easier it is to fix.

Fridges and freezers used to use a gas called Chloro-Flouro-Carbon or CFC, but the newer models tend to avoid these due to them being harmful to the atmosphere. Instead, they probably use another type of gas called HFC-134a, which becomes a liquid at -26.6C. This gas is better for the atmosphere but can still be harmful to us if breathed in.

  • A motor inside the appliance compresses this gas to heat it
  • Then it turns into a liquid when it cools.
  • Once cooled, the gas flows as a liquid through a valve, which forces it back into a gas.
  • The gas then goes through the coils in your fridge and freezer to keep the whole thing cool.

What should I be aware of?

Strange smells
Bear in mind the smell of your fridge and freezer in general. The inside will usually smell a little of food - depending on what sort of food you are keeping inside it - but any other type of smell should put you on alert.

Be aware of an ammonia smell. This could be a sign that there is a fault with the appliance and the gases within are leaking. If this is the case, you need to get it fixed as quickly as possible and you may even need to evacuate the house. It may seem like an extreme measure, but leaking ammonia is not something you can risk being around for any length of time.

If your food and drink is not as cold as you would expect, check to see if the thermostat is turned to the temperature you expected. If the temperature on the dial does not seem to match the coolness inside, then there could be a problem.

How your fridge and freezer sounds
Familiarise yourself with the various noises your appliance makes and then you’ll be able to tell when something’s wrong.

Humming is perfectly normal and is a good sign. What you’re hearing is the compressor running, which is switched on between 60% to 80% of the time. It indicates that your fridge and freezer are running as they should, so it’s actually more of a problem if you don’t hear this noise.

If your fridge or freezer starts making loud, unusual noises, try locating the source of the sound first; Open the freezer door. If the noise is louder after doing so, there’s a good chance something’s wrong with your circulating fan.

If you notice no change, then check the compressor for noise – it’s the black unit on the back of your appliance with various wires and tubes leading to it. If this is the source of the sound, you should get an engineer out to review.

If you have a frost-free fridge freezer and are hearing whirring or scraping noises, this usually indicates a build-up of ice around one of the fans. If this is the case, you’ll also notice your fridge freezer isn’t as cool as it should be.

You could have a faulty fan motor. Turn off the appliance, check for debris or buildup that could be disrupting air flow and keeping your fan from moving freely. If you spot any obstructions, use a soft bristled brush to remove them. Reconnect the power and if the sound persists, it’s time to call an engineer.

If the drain pan under your fridge or freezer has come loose, it will cause an annoying rattling noise. Luckily, this can be easily fixed. All you have to do is tape the pan back in place.

The sound of defrosted water dripping into the pan under your appliance is no cause for concern.

If your appliance has a water and ice dispenser on the door, you may notice a buzzing sound every time you use it. Again, this is perfectly normal; no repairs are needed.

How can I help to prevent it breaking down?
You can help prevent faults with your fridge or freezer by just keeping it clean. Defrost your freezer at least twice a year to keep it from getting clogged with ice. Clear out mouldy food on a regular basis, wipe down the surfaces inside and make sure its drain is unclogged - do this once a week if possible.

If you notice any other noises or anything else unusual and your appliance’s performance is suffering as a result, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call a licensed engineer to investigate the problem.