Will I damage my refrigerator if I transport it on its side?
March 29, 2006 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Will I damage my refrigerator if I transport it on its side?

I’m getting a fantastic deal on a refrigerator from a coworker. Another coworker has offered me free use of a cargo van to move it. I’m anxious to avoid spending money on a rental truck to get it home, but I’m worried that I will damage the fridge with a van move.

The fridge would have to travel for about an hour on its side while I drive it home. Can this cause damage to the refrigerator? I don’t want to destroy the thing because I’m trying to save money on the truck.

Anyone done this? Any advice or tips?
posted by Sheppagus to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This will almost certainly not cause the slightest bit of damage, with one caution: wait overnight after you stand it up before plugging it back in. Fluids may need to resettle.
posted by piro at 7:44 AM on March 29, 2006

As long as you rest it on it's side, and not on it's back, you'll be fine. most dridges have the coils on the back, and you don't want to bend those. Also, load the fridge so the hinges on the door are on the top side. That way, the doors don't flop open on you.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2006

It is possible damage will result. Your fridge's compressor motor is suspended inside the compressor housing on three or four springs. These springs are designed to hold the motor load in a vertical position. Transporting a fridge on it's side can stretch or break these springs which can cause a shudder stop condition (the fridge makes a shuddering banging noise everytime the compressor stops and sometimes when it starts).

It's a good idea to let a fridge sit for a bit anytime it is moved. Over night won't hurt but an hour is more than enough time.

Make sure you remove the doors from your old fridge unless you are immediately getting rid of it or it is stored somewhere kids cannot get to it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:06 AM on March 29, 2006

I have an ice cream maker with a refrigeration unit built in. A sticker on the side says "warning: turning this unit on its side or upside down can permanently damage the unit."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:39 AM on March 29, 2006

According to what I have read, it is definitely possible to damage it. However, I have transported a used fridge I bought on its side with no apparent ill effects. The fridge was $10 and I was willing to risk it.
posted by Tallguy at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2006

I looked into this issue for myself recently - the internet consensus seems to be that you should limit the amount of time the unit is not upright. And as stated above, leave it upright at least overnight before starting it. Apparently damage can arise from mixing of lubricant and coolant, so damage is more likely in an older unit with worn seals.

I moved a brand-new fridge (to use for homebrewed beer), leaving it sideways for about 6 hours, and it has been working fine for months.
posted by exogenous at 8:51 AM on March 29, 2006

I've had no problem transporting several ageing refridgerators on their sides. Things to keep in mind:

1) pad it well to minimize shock from impacts so that your compressor won't rattle incessently in the middle of the night from being dislodged.

2) as everyone else has said, let it sit upright for at least 12 hours before turning it on.

3) if you notice any fluid leakage after moving it, don't turn it on.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:05 AM on March 29, 2006

I was recently working with a Kenmore compact fridge. I was making a new door for our kegerator to allow it to fit full sized kegs. While I fiberglassed the door the fridge sat on it's back with an empty keg inside it for about 2 weeks. I made sure to let it stand upright for a day or two before turning it on. It seems to work fine? This was about 2 months ago and it's still going strong. I could be lucky? or those warnings could be like the tags on the bottom of mattresses.
posted by Mark5four0 at 9:20 AM on March 29, 2006

I'd be concerned about the coils [which you don't want to puncture] the compressor [which is suspended on springs as mentioned upthread and isn't meant to be shaken around] and the connections from one to the other.

If you have to transport it on its side, don't set it down on the coils, and use some soft-but-firm material like firm pillows or dense upholstery foam to secure the compressor in place so it doesn't get dislodged or move so much as to break the connections to the coils.

Several years ago, my dad brought a fridge about an hour to my house, probably laying flat on a trailer [I say probably because I don't recall specifically, but dad has lots of trailers, and would never rent a truck for something like that]. He used some foam to secure the compressor, and the thing worked fine for several years until we sold the house [it's still working so far as I know].
posted by chazlarson at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2006

exogenous writes "Apparently damage can arise from mixing of lubricant and coolant, so damage is more likely in an older unit with worn seals."

This is a nonsensical statement for sealed units like found in practically all domestic refrigerators made since the 1950s. There are no seals to go bad. The refrigerant and oil are mixed by the compressor on a continuous basis when ever the motor is running.

mrmojoflying writes "pad it well to minimize shock from impacts so that your compressor won't rattle incessently in the middle of the night from being dislodged."

You can't pad the part that causes rattles because it is inside the black ballish looking thing at the bottom rear of your fridge.

Mark5four0 writes "I could be lucky? or those warnings could be like the tags on the bottom of mattresses."

Just laying a fridge on it's side won't cause a problem. It's all the bouncing around when driving that can damage things.

I'm not saying every side transport will cause damage there are way too many variables. It's probably a 100:1 fine:damage chance. but it does happen, I've replaced many a compressor that started shuddering after it was transported on it's side.
posted by Mitheral at 9:42 AM on March 29, 2006

When I purchsed a new fridge a few years ago, I asked the salesman the same question. He said it was fine to transport it on its side, but to let it sit overnight before plugging it in to let all of the freon resettle to the bottom. It was still in its box, so surface issues weren't a problem. We leaned it over onto the bed of the pick-up truck, got the fridge in place, let it sit, and it is still working quite well.
posted by tbird at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2006

With a used fridge, the problem is particles (from wear) that normally lay at the bottom, get stirred up and then clog orifice (that the freon expands through to cool). Try to avoid laying it on its side and let it sit as long as you can before plugging it in.
posted by 445supermag at 12:31 PM on March 29, 2006

I ended up moving the fridge on its side.

We carefully loaded it and transported it with as little jarring and bumps as possible.

After unloading it, we let it stand for about 30 hours before plugging it in.

It seems to have survived the trip fine. The compressor kicks on without shuddering, and the icemaker is working perfectly.

Thanks to everyone who gave advice. I really appreciate all the input.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:18 PM on April 4, 2006

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