Are all "French Door" style refrigerators inherently flawed?
October 30, 2015 6:47 PM   Subscribe

When we close either door of our new French Door refrigerator, the opposite door often pops open, and doesn't close completely. The KitchenAid authorized repair guy who came in to look at it said that there's nothing he can do to fix it, because "ALL French Door refrigerators do that".

My wife and I recently purchased a KitchenAid KBFS22ECMS French Door refrigerator/freezer for our apartment. We have a recurring issue with it, where the opposite door will pop open slightly when we close the open door. More often than not, the opposite door will not securely close back on itself, and will remain slightly ajar.

This model has a "Door Open" alarm on it, but I have determined that this alarm is triggered not by fact that the door has been physically open for a long time, but rather, by the internal temperature of the refrigerator. This means that when my wife or I are rushing out the door in the morning to go to work, and we aren't careful about the refrigerator doors being securely closed, the unit won't sound the Door Open alarm until well after we've left the apartment. On at least 3 occasions, we've come home after work with the goddamned thing beeping, with the internal temperature of the fridge well within the food safety Danger Zone. This forces me to angrily throw out all of the perishable (and expensive) food that was in the fridge at the time.

When I demonstrated this--in person--for the KitchenAid service guy, he told me that this is normal behavior for French Door style refrigerators. He even went so far as to say that it's the main reason why he recommends Side-by-Side refrigerators. His only suggestion was to "make sure that both of the doors are closed every time you use the fridge." Thank you, Captain-fucking-Obvious!

Maybe the designer in me is fueling my anger about this, because to my way of thinking, something as simple and important as a refrigerator door system should not require the user to have to actively think about it's normal operation, every time he or she uses it. And even more so if the consequences of its operational failure results in something as horrible as massive food waste, which is the whole reason why the product even exists.

So this is essentially a two-part question:

1. Is this repair guy full of crap? I refuse to believe that this is an inherent problem in all French Door refrigerators, otherwise Consumer Reports would be advising against them. But in fact, they don't.

2. Assuming that the repair guy is right, does anyone have any suggestions/hacks to prevent this issue from happening again? I've been thinking that maybe there's some sort of "contact switch" solution that I can rig on the doors that will trigger some sort of alarm mechanism to beep if the switch is open for a certain period of time. But I don't know the first thing about these types of devices, so I wouldn't know what to get, or how I should rig them up.
posted by melorama to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We bought an LG French Door style refrigerator about five years ago, and have never had the problem you're describing. It may have happened once or twice, but if it happened frequently I'd consider it a design flaw as you do.
posted by skewed at 6:55 PM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Whereas I have a KitchenAid side-by-side and ALWAYS have the same issue. It's no consolation, but you do eventually train yourself to close both doors.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

1. Full of crap. My French door fridge doesn't do this, and never has in the nearly seven years we've had it. Granted, mine is a GE, but yeah. Full of crap.

2. He's not right. Ask KitchenAid to send you another repair person. If that person says the same thing, I'd be demanding my money back and getting a fridge that doesn't have a "flaw" in the design.
posted by cooker girl at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2015

Our French Door refrigerator (Kenmore) doesn't do this, and the door alarm is definitely triggered off of time, not temperature (it happens really quickly even if the door is only just slightly ajar).
posted by brainmouse at 6:59 PM on October 30, 2015

Is this repair guy full of crap?


It sounds like maybe there's a bad seal on one of the doors? With both doors closed, if you run your hand along the line where each door meets the freezer/fridge, do you feel cool air?
posted by mudpuppie at 6:59 PM on October 30, 2015

Our Kenmore doesn't do it although you can sometimes feel a little suction on one door while opening the other one.
posted by tamitang at 7:19 PM on October 30, 2015

Yes, this guy is blowing smoke. Go back to the company and ask for another repairman to take a look at it at no charge to you. Hopefully he'll be able to fix it. If not, the company should take it back.

I have a french door Kenmore Elite, and I don't have this problem. Good luck - be persistent.
posted by summerstorm at 7:21 PM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've had several different French door fridges (including one currently) over my life and I've never once had this problem.
posted by Itaxpica at 7:22 PM on October 30, 2015

It sounds like maybe there's a bad seal on one of the doors? With both doors closed, if you run your hand along the line where each door meets the freezer/fridge, do you feel cool air?

The seal is fine when the doors are closed.

According to the repair guy, the reason why it does this is because of the "Mullion Heater" flap thingamajig on the left hand door.

Now that I think of it, I do notice that the problem occurs more frequently when the right-side door is closed. Since the water dispenser is on the inside left wall of the unit, it would make sense that we often see this problem when we come home from work, since both of us tend to fill up our water bottles as the last thing we do before we leave the apartment.
posted by melorama at 7:31 PM on October 30, 2015

I have two new refridgerators in my life, one at home and one at work, and they both do it. I've had to change my habits to check both doors as I close one but now I'm used to it and it doesn't happen anymore.
posted by gerryblog at 7:40 PM on October 30, 2015

Here's some videos of the problem in action

Top View
Side View
Mullion Flap on left door
Left door closing
posted by melorama at 7:42 PM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

A very crude hack: leaning the fridge sliiiightly back. I can already think of possible drawbacks and probably so can you, but you can run the experiment.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:34 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Come to think of it, check that it's level in the first place.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:40 PM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

Repair guy is full of crap. Our last fridge was a Whirlpool and it never had this problem. Our current LG has it all the time.
posted by 26.2 at 8:52 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second checking the level of the fridge, because we have a very similar fridge at the family cabin (I didn't purchase it and I'm not there right now so I can't check to see whether it's the same brand or a similar model but I'm pretty sure it's a GE model which I am also pretty sure is manufactured in the same factories as Kitchenaid fridges) and we do not have this problem at all, and it does seem like something that might be easily resolved by checking the level. If you don't have that in your toolbox, there are some pretty good smartphone apps that work almost as well as real levels, and it might at least get you to a diagnosis stage.

I grew up in a house with a sketchy fridge so I learned to be really gentle and thorough about closing refrigerators, but the family cabin has a lot of folks running in and out and I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law would have already committed a felony murder if she thought people weren't closing her fridge properly, and that hasn't happened yet, so I'm guessing ours is seated in a way that doesn't cause that issue, and yours isn't.
posted by padraigin at 8:57 PM on October 30, 2015

At my work there's a Whirlpool fridge that does this all the time.
posted by zsazsa at 9:21 PM on October 30, 2015

I have that exact fridge or the previous model year of it and mine does NOT do what your videos are showing.

When the left side closes, it looks like mine does while closing, but the right side acts completely differently. Yes, when my left side closes, the right side pops out and back in, but it fully closes almost 100% of the time.

Definitely check your level. How heavily are you loading the doors?

Overall, though, keep escalating through KitchenAid.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:42 PM on October 30, 2015

We have a nearly-one-year-old Kenwood fridge that has never had this problem.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:43 AM on October 31, 2015

Samsung, 6 years old, never, ever, not once have we had this problem. You got a lemon.
posted by Etrigan at 4:40 AM on October 31, 2015

Had a Whirlpool with French doors at my old house and never had the problem you describe.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:10 AM on October 31, 2015

Fwiw, my fridge has a similar Mullion Flap and doesn't do the not closing thing at all, ever.
posted by cooker girl at 7:15 AM on October 31, 2015

I have a Kitchenaid just like yours and mine doesn't do it. The door shelves are fully packed, too, with milk and condiments, so I don't think that's the issue.
posted by raisingsand at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2015

Also, after watching your video and looking carefully at mine, I also think it may not be level. When the vodka bottle on top of yours "jiggles" a little when you close it, mine absolutely does NOT do that. Mine is as solid as it possibly can be, with no movement when the door closes.
posted by raisingsand at 8:53 AM on October 31, 2015

I think there may be some legs to the idea that the unit is not level. I just used a bubble level to check on the top of the fridge, and the bubble definitely leans towards the back of the unit, so I guess it would make sense that it's imperceptibly tilted forward enough that the the doors are popping open simply by nature of gravity.

Lo and behold, after hunting down the PDF manual for this fridge on the internet, it effin' says right there on page 9 of the installation manual to make sure that the unit is level so that the doors "close easier"

I guess this repair guy never got the memo.

I'll check this later today and report back on my findings. Thanks everyone!
posted by melorama at 11:15 AM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Our Maytag has the same door design with the flap. As long as we close the left door gently, the right door doesn't pop open. Forceful closing/slamming, like shown in your video, pops the right side open like yours.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:54 PM on October 31, 2015

Is this repair guy full of crap?

Yep. Wow, i got angry just reading that. I've had CRAPPY side by side/french door fridges that didn't do this. Ones in houses i've rented didn't do this. The one in my office doesn't do this. The closest i've seen is the other door pops open a tiny bit and instantly closes itself again.

I wrote a longer comment before i read your updates, but yes, check if it's level. And don't be afraid to lean it backwards slightly. That won't cause anything too weird/bad and it should only need to be done slightly.

When the vodka bottle on top of yours "jiggles" a little when you close it, mine absolutely does NOT do that. Mine is as solid as it possibly can be, with no movement when the door closes.

I second this assessment, and wanted to add: Is one foot not flat on the floor? Can you "wiggle" the fridge at all? I, personally, would get locked in a cycle of pulling it out and slightly tweaking feet until it was not only tipped back slightly, but didn't waggle like this at all.

What a full of shit repair guy though, jesus, he's like the dad from Matilda.
posted by emptythought at 2:41 PM on October 31, 2015

According to my son when that happened with his rental french door it was because I did not close the door properly. Thanks for letting me know there is a technical problem with the fridges. That said my Whirlpool (a year old) has never had this problem. Quite the opposite sometimes the doors close in a way that causes a stronger vacuum and it takes more strength to open the fridge side.

Not all service men are equal. A narrow counter space had the first service guy abandoning the install. I called Sears and insisted they send someone else the very next day. I had paid for a refrigerator and scheduled delivery. I told them I would not take another model or wait for a later delivery. The second guy wheeled it through the space like a knife through warm butter. I agree that you should demand proper service from your vendor. Let them know the first tech was mistaken in his assessment.
posted by Jim_Jam at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2015

Chiming in to add that I recently bought the identical KitchenAid French Door fridge, and we have noticed the same occasional problem with the right side door popping slightly ajar. We replaced another French door refrigerator, a Kenmore, that had the same problem, but worse. It lasted about 14 years, though, and we got used to it and learned to close the left door gently. It seemed to make a lot of difference.

Since we got the new KitchenAid we have had a few instances of the right door being slightly open, especially if the left door closing was a little enthusiastic, but the temp has never been out of range because of it, and the door alarm has never gone off. FWIW, the installers checked the level side to side and front to back, and it was level - yours may be better if leveled, but I think it might still occur if you close the left door hard. We were so happy with the inside filtered water dispenser that we made it a priority to have that feature in our new purchase, and this is the only KitchenAid that fit the bill. We've learned to live with it.
posted by citygirl at 7:07 PM on October 31, 2015

Thanks everyone. It was indeed, the front-to-back leveling of the refrigerator that was causing the problem. All I needed to do was turn the Leveling screws at the bottom of the fridge until it tilted back enough for the door to close easily.

I had to turn those screws many, many times before I was able to get an acceptable incline. From the way it looked, the installation guys didn't even bother to adjust them from the default!
posted by melorama at 8:24 PM on October 31, 2015

As a side note to anyone else who has this problem and reads this thread later, i had an after the fact insight to offer:

On a lot of fridges the door mounts are not just bolts going through O shaped holes on the brackets into the nuts built into the fridge. The brackets have [] shaped slots so you can adjust them a bit. Not a huge amount, but if you loosen the bolts it should have some play. These bolts also come loose over time, on some fridges, causing the door to not line up or not want to close firmly because it's closing off-level.

I remembered this because i just had to tweak the hell out of my moms small secondary fridge. The bolts were loose AND the position of the bolts in the bracket-slots made no sense. Closes like a champ now, and was a complete failfest that would bounce open and stick or stop firmly an inch before closing before.

And yes, this bracket situation is also true on at least some side by side fridges. My kenmore side by side worked this way.
posted by emptythought at 9:27 PM on October 31, 2015

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