It’s never a good thing when your fridge stops being cold. But it’s a bit of a weird thing when it’s still running and there’s no problem with the freezer.
Most modern fridges aren’t that complicated and don’t really have that many parts that can go wrong. Especially so for the standard ones with a freezer on top and fridge on the bottom. They usually use they same cooling mechanism for both sections, so why would the freezer be cold and not the fridge?
Put simply, the Westinghouse RJ422V sucks cold air out of the freezer and blows it into the fridge section. You can tell it’s working properly because it’s a) cold in the fridge and b) you can feel a slight breeze coming out of the vents. No breeze means either the fan is not working or something is blocking the vents.
Best case scenario – there’s a build up of ice in the freezer and air ducts. This will cause the whole unit to run inefficiently and eventually stop cooling the lower fridge section.
Things you will need:
- A sponge for sucking up excess water and spills
- A towel, tea towel or paper towel for drying
- Several large containers for hot water – glass or ceramic is best
- Phillips head screw driver
- Needle nose pliers
- Knife, spoon and/or paint scraper
- A little patience
The quickest way to fix this, and still keep most if your frozen goods is as follows;
- Turn the fridge off at the wall to stop it cooling the freezer. Perhaps unplug it for safety as there will be water involved.
- Move as many frozen items as possible into the fridge (or a spare freezer if you have one) to keep them frozen as long as possible. Put them close to perishables like milk to help keep them cool.
- Avoid opening the fridge door throughout the process to keep as much cold air in there as possible.
- Eat the ice cream. You may be able to do this quick enough before it melts, but what better excuse to binge.
- If there are visible chunks of ice in the freezer, try to remove these being careful not to break any plastic , particularly if you bash or chip at the ice.
- Fill some large bowls or tubs with very hot water – the hotter the better. Put as many of these as you can fit into the freezer and close the door so it gets nice and steamy.
- Glass containers work best as they conduct heat better than plastic. This will give you more hot surface area to work the defrosting magic.
- Wait patiently. Check the water every now and then as it will cool quickly and may need to be changed a few times during the defrosting process. Keep as much heat and steam in the freezer cavity as possible when changing the bowls.
- Once the ice you can see is melted, it’s probably a good idea to check for build up on the condenser coils. These are behind the rear panel of the freezer, so grab a Phillips head screwdriver and some needle nose pliers.
- Remove the screw covers with a knife and unscrew the two screws at the top of the panel.
- Now get your needle nose pliers and firmly grip one of the fins in the top vents and give a decent pull. The rear panel is held in place with plastic clips (that you can’t get to) so it should just pop out from the top. Repeat on the other vent if necessary until the panel comes away.
- As you can see below, the rear panel is backed with polystyrene foam and a metal sheet. If the panel is hard to remove, that metal sheet may be stuck to the ice on the coils behind it, so stick some more bowls of hot water in and wait a little while longer.
- In the shot below you can see there was ice built up in the cavity behind the bottom vents – this was most certainly preventing air getting sucked through to the fridge section below.
- So with this panel removed it became pretty clear that there was a bigger ice problem than what could be seen previously. In the shot below you can see the ice is clogged up right down to the bottom. This was causing poor air circulation and blocking a drainage hole, which was probably not a good thing.
- You can carefully remove quite a lot of ice manually using a spoon, a knife and/or paint scraper. This will help speed up the defrosting.
- NOTE: Those ‘fins’ are thin bits of metal and are very easy to bend, and a bit sharp, so be careful. Also be careful of the various wires and stuff as well. You don’t want to damage any of those. See the final picture for more detail of what goes where to help avoid those bits.
- Time to get the tubs of hot water again. Again, a few water changes may be necessary.
- When all the ice is melted, remove the water tubs and give the freezer a good clean and dry it – this helps prevent the ice building up again.
- Turn the unit back on and see if you can feel the breeze coming through to the fridge section now.
Success! You’ve saved you food, your fridge and yourself a costly repair bill. Hooray!
Now stick all that stuff back in the freezer before it melts!
—— UPDATE: 20/12/2015 ——
The fridge finally gave up the ghost. I clearly didn’t fix the underlying cause and eventually it gave out completely. Was able to make it last another 18 months+ since the problem began though. For anyone else experiencing the same sort of issues I’d recommend to start saving for a replacement fridge or get a service man in to try and fix it properly.