Level of DifficultyA Bit Difficult
Time to do repairMore than 2 hours
Age of Appliance5 - 10 years
Robert From Sunnyvale, CA
Feb 07, 2010
5 out of 6 people found this instruction helpful
I ended up taking apart too much of the the refrigerator before figuring out how it was broken. Maybe this will save others some time.
How it works normally:
The freezer is kept cold by pulling heat into an exchanger behind the back wall of the freezer. The fridge part is kept cool by letting some cold air down through a chimney like hole. The defrost heater runs periodically on a timer to keep the chimney and the exchanger from building up frost and ice.
If the heater stops working, the chimney can get get full of ice and no cold air makes it to the fridge.
Three things can fail in the defrost system.
1. The defrost heater element.
2. The defrost thermostat.
3. The defrost timer
Step one: Unplug the fridge or turn off the breaker.
Step two: Remove all of the food from the freezer.
Step three: Look for frost around the grate at the lower back wall. If your defrost system is broken, you will likely see lots of frost. You may need to melt some of it to get to the screws holding the back wall on.
Step four: Remove the ice-maker.
Step five: Unscrew the back wall and remove it. The wall may have some electrical wires connecting fans, lights, and ice maker to other parts of the fridge. Work carefully so that you'll know what needs to be reattached later.
Step six: Melt the frost and ice off the heater element.
In my case the heater element was so broken that it was obvious what had failed once it was removed from a huge block of ice. The glass tube which normally houses the element was shattered and the coil was in two pieces. If everything looked ok, I would have had to use a ohmmeter to diagnose which part was faulty.
Step seven: Remove heater element, reassemble freezer, and plug back in.
Step eight: Order replacement part and wait for it to arrive.
With the ice melted out of the chimney, the refrigerator was being cooled again.
Step nine: Unplug, repeat the disassembly and melt the new frost (much less than the first time).
Step ten: Install new heater element.
Step eleven: Reassemble the freezer and plug in.
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Part Number: PS2058610