ApplianceGeneral Electric Refrigerator
Level of DifficultyEasy
Time to do repair1- 2 hours
Age of Appliance1 - 4 years
First I posted the symptoms on appliance repair forum. Within a very short amount of time, an expert responded with suggestions (that ended up being right on!) and links to How-to articles, diagrams, and the correct parts catalog. They diagnosed it as a failed defrost heater or a bad defrost thermostat that caused the heater to go bad.
I removed all the food from the freezer, removed the shelving and ice maker tray, then removed the back panel (nut driver). The coils were severely iced over. I let the coils defrost (didn't take long in the summer heat). The water from the melted ice completely saturated about two full size bath towels. DO NOT let the coils drain into the normal drain hole. Then I removed the defrost heater (2 screws) and the glass element was dark and cloudy like a burnt-out light bulb.
I placed my order on Parts Select with normal priority shipping. The defrost thermostat was listed as in-stock and the defrost heater was listed as "on order". Both parts arrived 4 days later. The thermostat was a genuine GE part and the heater was a universal aftermarket. My original was a single element heater and the replacement was dual element. The wiring was slightly different, but they included instructions on how to wire up the dual element. The heater wires had to be re-routed and extended (wire cutting, stripping, and crimping are required). The extra length of wire and the wire crimp connector were included with the replacement heater. I also (per the instructions) sealed the crimp connector with RTV sealant. After completing the wiring, I re-attached the heater using the 2 factory screws. Then I had to cut the thermostat wires and splice in using wire nuts (not included) and RTV to seal the connection (not included).
Then I re-attached the back panel using the factory screws and attached the grounding clamp. I installed the shelves and ice maker tray and started the unit. It has been running fine for two weeks now.
The overall repair experience was fantastic. This fridge is only 3 years old and has broken twice in the last year costing me over $500 in food (total for both failures). I also bought a chest freezer last year when the fridge failed the first time. That minimized my frozen food loss this year. The failure last summer was the controller board. I paid the GE technician to come out and fix that because I did not know about this website. I am an engineer and I much prefer the DIY approach, especially when they make it so easy on this website to diagnose and get the right parts.
My only complaints (and they are so minor that complaint might be too harsh of a word) are:
The repair was easy, but would have been significantly easier if they had supplied a direct replacement single element heater.
I wish they would have included the RTV sealant in the repair kit. I happened to have it, but I have to imagine that not everybody will and they won't know that they need it until they read the instructions.
The replacement dual element heater was slightly wider and thus a slightly tighter fit than the original equipment.
Lastly (and this really is no big deal). I got my "Order Shipped" e-mail 6 days after the parts had arrived.
Overall 2 thumbs up!