It starts with noticing water on the floor. Or maybe milk that’s warm to the touch. Yep — you need to get someone to come out and look at your refrigerator.
We talked to top-rated Thumbtack pros Daniel Horton of Horton Maintenance in Houston, Texas and Craig Kimble of We Can Fix That in Crowley, Texas to get a read on what’s usually wrong, what you should fix and when it’s time to shop for a new fridge.
When to Fix: Common Fridge Issues
Daniel says most problems have to do with faulty thermostats, dirty coils or clogged drain lines. If you hear a repair pro say these words, you’re more likely in for a straightforward and (relatively) affordable fix.
Bad thermostats and dirty coils usually have the same warning signs: a fridge that won’t hold its temperature—and both take about an hour to fix. Daniel says he charges his hourly rate plus the cost of the part, so these fixes could run you $80-100.
“Coil cleaning is actually something a customer can do as preventative maintenance,” Daniel says. “But if it builds up over time, you need to professionally clean it out because your fridge won’t keep cool with dirty coils.”
When you see the fridge leaking, it’s probably a freezer drain line that’s clogged, causing water to build up and freeze at the base of the fridge (and eventually leak out). The cost of fixing this may vary a bit more, depending on how bad the problem is, says Daniel. “Price depends on how long you’ve let that layer of ice build up in bottom of the freezer and what it takes to remove the clog from the drains.”
When to Replace: Do the Math
If fixing your fridge will cost more than half the cost of buying a new fridge, just get the new appliance, says Daniel. “I always tell my customers it’s not worth it otherwise.”
It might be time to shop for a new fridge if your repair pro says you’re low on refrigerant or you have a compressor problem. Both of these issues take a long time to fix, driving up labor costs.
Daniel explains, “Low refrigerant is a sign of a leak in your sealed system. You don’t want to pay me to take apart your entire fridge to find it. And the compressor is the main workhorse of your appliance. The part is $200 – $300, plus at least 3 hours of labor. Plus your refrigerant. So you’re looking at minimum $500 for the job.”
How to Avoid Issues
Craig of We Can Fix That says, “Keep the factory settings on. The company has them set for a reason. Definitely don’t turn your freezer or fridge up to the coldest settings. If you do, the the compressor will run all the time and won’t be able to cycle on and off. Eventually you’ll burn out the system.”
Try this maintenance schedule to keep things running smoothly:
- Every week: Clean out your fridge so you don’t end up overpacking it, which can wear out the cooling system.
- Every six months: Change the water filter; otherwise your water lines get clogged with calcium.
- Every year: Locate the condenser coils in the back and front of every fridge. They clog with lint, dust, pet hair, etc. If your coils go out it can cost you $500. Avoid that! Blow them out with compression air and then vacuum them out with a shop vac.
- As needed: Call a repair pro as soon as you see a problem developing. The longer you run your fridge past unusual performance, the more damage you’ll do.
Read more posts in our “Repair or Replace?” series here.