Trust the manufacturer…except don’t always.

My fridge is practically new: November of 2012

The freezer is a drawer on the bottom of the fridge. So there’s this plastic tray/shelf thing below the drawer; the bottom of the cavity in which it sits. About a year ago I started noticing this annoying behavior where that tray would fill up with ice over a period of weeks until it was full, then the fridge would start piddling on the floor. Break up and remove the ice and it’s fine for about 6 weeks until it gets full again.

A few weeks ago I had finally had enough of that. I called the manufacturer’s “technical support” line.

They call it technical support. But what it really is is the number you call to schedule a service call. She took my info, looked up the (expired) warranty and after I described the problem she immediately started trying to sell me “the most cost-effective option” for a service visit; a flat rate that covers all labor, parts, everything, and confers a new 1-year warranty.

That’s about 1/3 the cost of the fridge.

I said as much. She said the basic service call was $149 just to walk in the door, plus parts, labor, and…

I said “Hold on. I’m calling for technical support. I want you to help me figure out what’s wrong, not schedule a service visit.”

“Well with this problem, especially since you said it’s happening with the water feed shut off, we need to send someone out to figure it out.”

“Is there no troubleshooting we can do?”

“OK. Did you change the filter recently?”

“It has no filter and also I already said it happens with the water shut off.”

“Could there be a leak in the water feed line?”

“It happens with the water shut off.”

“Is it very humid where the unit is installed?”

“It is often humid in Chicago, yes.”

“Have you noticed any of the door seals torn?”

“No.”

“Then the only way to figure out what is wrong is to send out a technician. The Plus One Option, which includes all labor and parts…”

“Thank you for your time.”

And then I turned to Google. It took me about 5 minutes to find the right keywords (“ice sheet bottom freezer”) to find other people posting all over the Internet about this issue, which is apparently endemic to bottom-freezer units from all manufacturers. The drain tube from the coil area to the drip pan is iced over. The solution is to defrost my frost-free fridge: shut off the unit, take out the drawer, take the back panel out of the freezer, and pour a cup or two of boiling water down the drain until it drains into the pan.

So this weekend I did that…mostly.

The Internet suggests that you have to take the back cover off the fridge to get at the drip pan, and the back of the freezer out to get at the iced-over coils. But the back of the freezer is blocked by other parts, like the track the drawers run on. So getting it all apart is a Major Project, and all you are trying to do by taking that all apart is speed the process. Getting at the coils allows you to pour boiling water over them.

It was 93°F on Saturday. A quart of boiling water seemed…gilding the lily. So I didn’t see the need to disassemble the whole freezer.

So I emptied the freezer into a cooler, made sure nothing in the fridge could not survive going from cold to cool, shut off the water, and unplugged the fridge. Took the back panel off, pulled the little rubber nipple off the drain. It had a tiny lump of styrofoam lodged in it. Maybe 4-6 beads-worth. This was undoubtedly a large part of my problem. I removed that, cleaned the nipple with soap (it apparently gets gummy with oil over time as oil in the air of the kitchen gets into the freezer, condenses on the coils, drips down with the water…) (The nipple is there to keep cold air from constantly flowing out the drain pipe)

Then I waited. In that heat it took just over an hour for water to start dripping into the drip pan. by 90 minutes it was mostly cleared of ice. A couple of turkey-baster squirts of boiling water along the bottom edge of the coils where they sit in the drain area and it was all done. I put everything back together, plugged it back in, turned the water back on, and waited.

Water went all over the kitchen floor.

The water connection to the ice maker was leaking. Just a little. The moving around had worked it loose.

A little wrench action later, the leak was solved. My fridge is frost free again. For real. Without any help from “technical Support.”

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About

A guy in his 40s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

Posted in Appliances, Plumbing, Uncategorized

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