Can we eat food from a broken fridge and how can we fix the fridge?
March 19, 2010 6:50 PM   Subscribe

My refrigerator isn't running, so I can't go catch it.

I walked into my kitchen this afternoon to see a pool of water on the floor.

I opened my fridge and the freezer half (it is one of those awful vertical split ones) is melting. The ice cube maker on top was about 2/3rd ice, 1/3 water.

The fridge half is not room temp, but not cold either.

So (after getting a friend to come help, as I was alone with a 16-month-old), I threw away most everything in the freezer - bags of veggies, some meat, frozen waffles, etc.
95% of the frozen stuff may be eaten by my toddler, so I didn't want to take any chacnes.

I put some of the fridge stuff (cheese, milk, fruit, yogurt, butter) in our deep freezer.

- I have NO idea how long the fridge/freezer was melting, but with 1/3rd water in the ice cube maker, seems like a while to me.
- It is powered on, but no cold air is blowing into the unit.

So, question 1 - once everything is fixed, CAN WE EAT THE FRIDGE STUFF?

And question 2 - we called a repair guy, but any other thoughts on something that we could do to fix this? I already tried flipping the fuse and the back of the fridge isn't warm.

Thanks! Now off to eat more Spaghetti-Os. :(
posted by k8t to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
If you can hear the pump running, but it's not cold, I believe this indicates a coolant leak. Repairing it is complicated and difficult to do reliably, so it's probably time for a new fridge.

I would eat the fridge stuff.

When this happened to me, the $65 repair guy visit was a waste of money, since he just said what I said above.
posted by alexei at 7:14 PM on March 19, 2010

Q1: Cheese and fresh fruit for sure, probably yogurt. Nothing like leftovers/prepared food.

Q2: Don't take this wrong, but you did check the temp setting dial, right?
posted by donnagirl at 7:18 PM on March 19, 2010

In case he doesn't see this question, you may want to send a MeMail to Mitheral. He diagnosed my fridge problem perfectly on AskMe some years ago, and his estimate for repair costs was within $5. He's a saint.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 PM on March 19, 2010

Did you check the breaker/fuse panel?
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:24 PM on March 19, 2010

whoops,...missed that bit
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:24 PM on March 19, 2010

1 - It depends
2 - When it happened to me, it was because the freezer frosted up and fucked up the motor dealy. Also: It's plugged in, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: There is power, just no cold air.
posted by k8t at 7:58 PM on March 19, 2010

There may be a timer whose little clock motor has failed while the defrost cycle was under way, some times you can advance the timer manually to turn on the compressor, to get things cold again.
posted by hortense at 8:24 PM on March 19, 2010

If the food isn't moldy or weird and it doesn't smell other than it should, you can eat it. But IANAPHI. (I am not a public health inspector. They have more vigorous standards.)
posted by pkreutzer at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2010

Along with your other symptoms if your fan(s) aren't running (you may have to manually depress the door switch to hear them) then your fridge thinks it's cold enough. This is 99% caused either by a defective (or turned off) cold control (IE: thermostat) or a broken defrost timer that happened to quit when it was in defrost. Much more rare but possible is a control system that only advances the defrost timer once a defrost thermostat opens; if the thermostat (not the one with a knob you can access) breaks closed the fridge gets stuck in defrost.

Easiest thing (and what I'd start with) is to manually advance the defrost timer. I can't tell you where it is because it varies but commonly located at the bottom of the fridge facing either forwards or back. Most of them are about a the size of king size package of cigarettes. The manual override is a one way slotted screw driver head ~1 centimetre across. Turn it till you hear a click, maybe 1/10-1/5 of a revolution and then check to see if your fridge is running (usually you hear the compressor kick in right away). If it does you probably need a new timer. Short term you can leave your fridge run until the tech comes. Your fridge will eventually freeze up from lack of defrost but that can take weeks and in the mean time you have refrigeration.

If that doesn't work you can try jumping the cold control. This involves messing with line current and partially disassembling your fridge so if you aren't comfortable with these things it's best to wait. If you proceed unplug your fridge. Disassemble around your cold control until you can get it free then unplug the two wires going to it and jam them together (usually they will loosely interlock). Wrap the bare connectors with some electrical tape and then plug your fridge back in. If it runs then the problem is your cold control. You can just let the fridge run at this point but fairly soon it'll freeze everything in the fresh food compartment. You can manually run the fridge (unplugging it when the temp in the fresh food drops to 2-4C/34-38F and then plugging it back in when the temperature rises above 4C).
posted by Mitheral at 11:16 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Mitheral! You are amazing!

Earlier this evening, based on hortense's comment I started exploring defrost timers. I have a Kenmore 106 9made by Whirlpool) and it appears that the defrost timer is digital in my model. i submitted a help request question to Sears' tech site though to find out for sure.

I did try, based on forums and Sears' help site (actually decent!) to do a manual advance even with the digital system - it is more like tricking the system. I turned the thermostat off, turned off the power for 20 seconds, then turned the thermostat back on.

The fridge is making a different noise now and it seems colder, but I'm going to leave it overnight to see how it goes.

Thanks again!
posted by k8t at 11:29 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Not cold the morning after. Will continue to wait. We're renting, so I don't want to make the problem worse. Thanks all!
posted by k8t at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: Was the compressor.
posted by k8t at 2:24 PM on March 22, 2010

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