Appliance Repair Blog
Thoughts and commentary about appliance repair topics including common failures and repairs, plus links to frequently used parts, industry news, along with information to help you better understand your appliances. Resources available for the technical professional and the do-it-yourselfer. Over 650 Posts


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GE Refrigerator not cooling

Model #GDS18SBRARSSicon, this bottom mount refrigerator stopped cooling properly in the fresh food section up top, while the bottom freezer seemed to be functioning and cooling like normal. To the customer, everything seemed to be running since it sounded like it always had, but the 60 degree temperature in the fresh food section was well above acceptable. After disposing of the spoiled food item’, and taking advantage of the empty refrigerator to clean it out, a call was placed to get this unit looked at.

Refrigerators use a sealed system of refrigerant in order to provide cooling within the unit, and this cooling relies on air circulation in order to effectively keep everything properly chilled. And contrary to popular believe, refrigerators don’t actually make cold, but rather remove heat. It all follows the laws of thermodynamics, which one states, heat moves from a warmer area to a colder area. This is why any heat within either the fresh food or freezer section, will move toward a colder area, which in a sealed refrigeration system is the evaporator coils. These coils are usually located within the freezer section, but there may be a set in the fresh food side as well. As air circulates by a fan motor, the warmer air will move toward the colder evaporator coils where any heat will be absorbed leaving cool air behind. This may sound odd, but trust me, this is how it works. The cool air continues around the cavity attracting any heat within, only to return to the evaporator section to do it all over again.

The actions of the sealed system are very reliable and fortunately require little maintenance other than periodic condenser cleanings, but the system is dependant on a couple other parts to help maintain this flow of air. And when one of them fails to do it’s job, the result is usually throwing away some spoiled food items.

When diagnosing any cooling issues on refrigerators, I usually try and separate the sealed system calls from non sealed system calls just to make things easier. If a sealed system component were to fail, the entire unit would stop cooling, where as if one of the other components failed, the cooling problem will usually be limited to a partial failure. Since this unit was cooling properly in the freezer section, I knew the sealed system was functioning, now it was time to identify which part was no longer working.

Upon my arrival, I started by using my senses to not only see what was going on, but also to hear what was, or was not in this case, functioning. The normal compressor and fan sounds from behind where noticeable, but the familiar sound of a fan running coming from the freezer section was not heard. Without this fan moving the cool air from top to bottom, the fresh food section up top was never going to be properly cooled.

The evaporators are usually located behind the rear panel inside the freezer, but this design allowed for a deeper freezer section by placing the evaporator in the space between the freezer top, and the fresh food bottom. So by removing the floor inside the fresh food section, I was able to get to the evaporator coils and found the evaporator fan motor not moving at all. A flip of the fan started it working again which means there was no physical blockage preventing it from moving. But an indication the motor had seen better days.

With the power off to the unit, I removed the old motor, and installed a new evaporator fan motoricon into the mounting. Don’t be surprised if the new motor looks different than the old motor. Designs change and upgrades are common with these motors. Once the fan was back on the new motor shaft, the refrigerator was plugged back in, and the fan came on with the compressor just as it should. After the bottom panel was put back in place, I could feel cold air again coming from the rear air vents up top which is a sure sign this unit was cooling and after a few hours, would be ready for food again.

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