Is your refrigerator running? No, it is not!
April 20, 2014 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Sometime in the last 24 hours, my refrigerator (Kirkland Signature by Whirlpool, aka the cheapest fridge you can buy at Costco*) gave up the ghost. The light is still working and it seems that the back panel of the freezer is cold, but the fan is not blowing and the fridge itself is not cold at all.

We've had lots of power outages lately, and I'm sure some surges as well. However, no other appliances in the house are wonky. We've pulled the fridge out, checked to make sure that there's nothing blocking the coils, turned it off, unplugged it, and then replugged it. Nothing. The fridge is less than a year old.

This is a massive pain and the ruined food is going to be costly and really difficult to replace (we live in remote Alaska with limited access to groceries). We'd really like to get it working again as soon as possible, but have no idea what to do beyond what we've done. The guy who does maintenance is off island at the moment.

The other fridge questions have mostly resulted in "call a repair person!"-type advice, which is... not applicable. We're looking for DIY-type advice. I can take pictures if it would be helpful, but as far as I know, nothing looks externally wrong.

*Please note: despite their wonderful return policy, returning to Costco is NOT an option. The nearest Costco is 1200 miles away and returning it would require paying airfreight. Not happening.
posted by charmcityblues to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I think this sometimes happens if the vents between the freezer and the fridge section get blocked (iced up). When this happened to me, I followed the advice of turning off the fridge to wait for the ice to melt, and it worked fine after that. But you would need to do something with the food - remote makes it sound like you don't have a neighbor who could take the stuff that really needs to be kept cold (there's plenty in my fridge that would survive just fine outside it for a limited time like condiments and hard cheese).
posted by AnnaRat at 5:49 PM on April 20, 2014

Most of the appliance parts shops online have online troubleshooting wizards...locate the make and model of the fridge, run through one or two and see where you land regarding the part(s) required to fix it. I've had decent luck with the one at

Offhand - do you have ice blocking the air vents? If the compressor is running and the coils seem to be warm, check to make sure that air is circulating correctly. This has happened to me before with other refrigerators and the fix amounted to chipping away the ice/letting it melt and turning the temperature up a little bit.
posted by jquinby at 5:51 PM on April 20, 2014

I'm pretty sure the compressor is not running as it's not making any noise. However, the back panel of the freezer is cold, which might indicate that it is? The fans are definitely not blowing.

Vents between the fridge and freezer are clear of ice.
posted by charmcityblues at 5:53 PM on April 20, 2014

Is the freezer still cold? If it is, the compressor is still running and something is impeding the flow of cold air from the freezer to the fridge compartment. The coils should feel warm to the touch as well.

If the thing is dead silent - no fan, no compressor, nothing - the troubleshooting wizards would be my next step. Also, try to locate the Whirlpool make/model and start googling them to see if there are known issues/quick fix sorts of things. These things sometimes get hashed out on appliance repair forums, some of which are haunted by repair techs.
posted by jquinby at 6:09 PM on April 20, 2014

The freezer part of our fridge/freezer combo has stopped working a couple of times in the past year. Each time, the fix was taking out the "floor" of the freezer and sort of flicking the fan. It has just gotten stuck, and a little motivation and maybe some lubrication were the only things it needed. Perhaps a similar issue with your fridge?
posted by papayaninja at 6:15 PM on April 20, 2014

Defrost timer , sometimes you can manually advance it to restore cold,
posted by hortense at 7:44 PM on April 20, 2014

Compressor and fan both not running.
Light comes on when your open the door.

First thing to check is that the fan is indeed not running. By this I mean some refrigerators have the fan controlled by the door switch and they turn off when the door is open. So verify that the fan does not turn even when the door switch is depressed.

If that is the the case then the likely cause is either a cold control or the defrost timing circuit.

Are you or anyone you know handy at all? If so you can check the cold control: unplug the fridge, expose the cold control leads and short them together and then plug the fridge back in. If the fridge starts you have a bad cold cold control.

Otherwise it's probably the defrost circuit. The defrost circuit is quite a bit more involved so without having a wiring diagram it's impossible to tell how to proceed.
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2014

I know you said that other appliances are running fine, but do you know if any other appliance that uses the 240v 'big utility' style power/plugs are? Once, in an old apartment, one of the 'lines' that powered our refrigerator and washer/dryer went out. The fridge light would still come on but it couldn't keep food cold. Our dryer could still tumble but it would not actually heat up. Just something to check out, if you can! I apologize for lack of technical terms.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:45 PM on April 20, 2014


We had something very very similar happen to us here.

Lots of power outages (more than three every day) and the fridge wasn't working. When we unplugged the fridge the power outages stopped.

Called a fridge repairman, he charged us $120 to tell us to turn off the fridge to make sure the vents hadn't iced up. We did, everything melted, but the damage was done. The fridge kept throwing the power out when we plugged it back in again.

We had to buy a new fridge. ):
posted by Quilford at 4:51 AM on April 21, 2014

Two things:
1. Kirkland Whirpool refrigerators appear to have a two year warranty.
2. The following link indicates that the fan blowing from the freezer to the fridge stops working:

Based on what you said, maybe it's the fan(s)? (I know zero about appliance repair.)
posted by cnc at 9:49 AM on April 21, 2014

Refrigerators are pretty simple machines. What Mitheral said: Your problem sounds like either a defrost timer or a thermostat problem. Both of which are fairly cheap parts and easily DIY-able with some googling. Might as well just replace both, they're commonly carried at appliance parts stores.

If the compressor is broken, you're screwed. But those almost never break.
posted by ctmf at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2014

Thanks for the help, everyone! Turns out it was a bad outlet, and we (very elegantly) ran an extension cord to a better one. Our wiring is... interesting.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:16 PM on May 21, 2014

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