Frost forming in a frost free refrigerator.
March 13, 2008 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know much about refrigerator repair? Frost is forming right around the ice tray on a frost free refrigerator. Easy fix, or do I call in the repairman?

I have one of those side by side refrigerator freezers with an ice maker and water dispenser built in. Just about underneath, and to the front of the ice tray, frost has started forming. If left alone, it keeps growing and getting more solid. My freezer is supposed to be frost free, and until recently that was true. Frost also doesn't seem to be appearing anywhere else in the freezer.

The only thing that has changed recently with the freezer is I changed the water filter several months ago. I think there was at least a month gap between that and this frost growth though (I'm not the most perceptive person, so that could be wrong). I've already tried removing the ice tray and letting it melt. Frost comes back when I replace the ice tray. Also, though I'm not sure, frost may be forming even when it's not there. It's hard to tell because it happens slowly. Oh, and the area around this doesn't seem super packed in or anything.

So, can you help me?
posted by kingjoeshmoe to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Oh, and if it helps any, this is the closest I can find to the model I have. Not sure if it's the same one.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2008

We just had our 9-year-old GE side-by-side repaired by GE for a similar problem. Something about replacing the "timer" - cost $200 to get fixed. Needless to say, my advice is that you call the appropriate repairmen. We tried defrosting the fridge the old-fashioned way first of course, but the problem soon returned. In our case it would stop making ice after a certain amount of frost had built up.
posted by thomas144 at 11:51 AM on March 13, 2008

Whatever you do, do not chip away the ice with a sharp implement. Many people have learned a very expensive lesson using that technique.
posted by reeddavid at 12:01 PM on March 13, 2008

Before you call a repair shop, make sure the door is sealing all the way. If there's a leak in the seal, things will frost up. You can find a leak by listening carefully for a whistling seal. Also make sure the refrigerator is level.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to do over-the-phone consumer refrigeration tech support, for whatever that's worth (and yeah, that was about as much fun as it sounds :) ).

If there's frost, rather than ice, on the icemaker tray, there may be air leaking into the freezer. If your icemaker tray is turning into a solid block of ice (or if it's got icicles hanging from it) the thing may be overfilling (or filling twice before emptying), which could certainly be the result of a whacked-out icemaker timer.

Take a look at the door seal up near the icemaker. Is it intact? Is there moisture or frost on it?

Also take a look at the little flap that closes the ice dispenser chute to see if that's closing properly. A good clue that it isn't: clumpier-than-usual ice in the dispenser bucket.

Is there frost or ice forming anywhere else in the freezer, say, on the back wall?
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:14 PM on March 13, 2008

It could be the defrost timer, defrost heater or defrost thermostat. More help here at
posted by caddis at 12:23 PM on March 13, 2008

Thanks guys. I will check the seal (and the timer, if I can find it) as soon as I get home. No, I don't intend to chip at the ice with a pick. I've known people who have made that mistake.

Ice in the ice maker seems to be okay. There's frost, not ice, but it's not *in* the tray, it's *under*, and *in front* of the tray. The hole in the bottom of the tray where ice would normally go out fills up with frost pretty good.

That makes me wonder, could the problem not be the door seal, but instead the seal from the ice maker dispenser? That would fit perfectly with where the frost is forming. What would I do about that?
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:48 PM on March 13, 2008

could the problem not be the door seal, but instead the seal from the ice maker dispenser?

I think you're on the right track. It dispenses ice through the dispenser, without you having to open the door, right? So there is some kind of seal to close off the shute or whatever the ice comes through, when it's not coming through. Probably that's leaking. Way to test for this might be to tape plastic right across the entire dispenser on the front of the fridge. That seals it up; leave it in place for several days; the normal defrost cycle should get rid of the frost, and then no more should form.

To fix, check the parts list in the manual. It might be a simple thing to order and replace. Or, at least, you'll be able to tell the repair folks what the problem is.
posted by beagle at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2008

Your picture looks similar to our Whirlpool Refrigerator-Freezer. To test the door gasket. close the door on a piece of paper. If you can pull it put, the gasket is not sealing.
It does sound like your problem is the ice chute flap not closing tight. Hope sealing that off for a few days will point you to a solution. Bummer when the factory guarantee has expired.
posted by Cranberry at 1:44 PM on March 13, 2008

Okay guys. Thanks all. I think I've got the source of the problem. Now I just need to figure out what to do about it.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 2:48 PM on March 13, 2008

And an update, in case anyone is actually still checking this. It's definitely the ice dispenser seal. It looks totally busted, not sealing at all. I think I need to bring someone down to fix it.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2008

They will charge you something like $75 just to install what is likely a $10 part. If you are even mildly handy you might want to consider ordering the part. The repair clinic link in my comment above sells parts. You might even have a local store which sells appliance parts. In the meantime I would keep it sealed with some masking tape (masking tape will leave little or no glue residue when it is removed).
posted by caddis at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2008

We DO check back! Thanks for letting us know.
posted by beagle at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2008

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