Fridge not cooling but lights are on
February 6, 2018 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to debug a broken fridge but being completely new to debugging fridges, I'm not really sure where to start...

I've got a display cooler (which seems to cool in exactly the same way as a fridge) I bought for £20 on's not going to be our family fridge - I want to use it for occasional dough retarding. Anyway. That's beside the point. I'm just explaining why I bought a cheap fridge...

Anyway strange issues...the fridge has two fans, one in the top of the fridge compartment (presumably to move the cold air about) and one at the back next to the compressor. Neither of these seem ever to come on...

The fridge has an interior fluorescent tube light. This works.

The fridge has an adjustable thermostat. However, adjusting it doesn't seem to affect the running of the compressor or the fans.

The back panel inside the fridge compartment does get pretty cold, about 3°C as measured with my thermometer, but the rest of the fridge compartment doesn't seem to get any colder - presumably because the internal fan isn't active(?)

The external condensor coils on the rear of the fridge do get warm.

I can hear and see the compressor working (it slightly shudders when it stops etc).

Any ideas?? Could it be that the timer is stuck in defrost, even though the fridge hasn't a freezer compartment?.

I understand these fridges have a relay which sort of controls what mode they're in etc...could this be dead? How would I check?

The drains etc don't seem to be blocked.

The the fridge in question is a Helkama C165G
posted by dance to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possibly on "display mode"?
posted by kiwi-epitome at 7:19 AM on February 6, 2018

I'd stick a battery-powered fan in the fridge. If fridge works normally (turning on and off correctly), problem is with internal fan. If it still doesn't work normally, problem is with temperature sensor.

Fixing is harder, to the point where I'd only bother if I wanted a temperature- and humidity-controlled box, rather than a simple chiller (a surprisingly useful thing for proving bread, making cheese, growing mushrooms, fermenting beer and a bunch of other stuff). If you don't want that, I'd just look for another one on ebay/gumtree/etc.
posted by Leon at 7:26 AM on February 6, 2018

One time we couldn't figure out why the fridge wasn't working properly. The light worked, the fans worked, everything. The problem was that the light didn't turn off. One lightbulb continuously on inside the fridge was enough to keep the fridge from getting cold enough.
posted by GregorWill at 7:58 AM on February 6, 2018

Does the fridge fully close? Ours didn’t, just very barely, so it never got fully cold even though the back was cold like yours. You can test w turning on phone video and putting it in fridge - see if your fluorescent bulb turns off when you close the door. Ours, it turned out, didn’t.
posted by sestaaak at 9:55 AM on February 6, 2018

I think some people are missing the word 'display' in 'display fridge'. It has a gigantic glass window in the door, you can see whether the light is on or off.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:44 AM on February 6, 2018

Either you have the bad luck to have two fans go out at the nearly the same time (unlikely but happens) or there is some problem with your controls/wiring.

The condenser fan should run any time the compressor is running. The evaporator fan should run either all the time or also when ever the compressor is running.

Check to see if the fans are seized up and then if you are electrically handy see if voltage is present when the compressor is running (the more commercial your fridge the greater chance it just plugs in). There should be a wiring diagram on the fridge somewhere (often stored in an envelope near the compressor) or you might be able to find one on line with a model number search. If you don't have voltage at the fans use the diagram to find the faulty control. If you do have voltage then replace the fan motor.

Could it be that the timer is stuck in defrost, even though the fridge hasn't a freezer compartment?.
Not usually, the heat or defrost circuit is generally a double throw control meaning only one can be engaged physically at any one time.

PS: avoid running the fridge until you get the fans running; high head temperatures caused by the condenser fan failure will eventually take out the compressor.
posted by Mitheral at 4:37 PM on February 6, 2018

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