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Sub Zero refrigerator/freezer warming up

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Hey everyone. My refrigerator and freezer have both been warming up gradually over the past month. I can't say it

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 04-25-2009, 12:26 AM
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Default Sub Zero refrigerator/freezer warming up
Model Number: 211RFD   Brand: Sub Zero   Age: More than 10 years   

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Hey everyone. My refrigerator and freezer have both been warming up gradually over the past month. I can't say it was a steady decline in cooling but right now the refrig. is at about 50 degrees and the freezer at about 30.

Condensor coils have been cleaned...both condenser fans work (freezer and refrigerator), Compressor comes on about 4 times or 5 times in a 24 hour period which seems suspicious and it stays on for about an hour each time.

No frost or ice on the coils.
Nothing really happened to spur any changes.

My first thought is that it's the compressor unfortunately but I'm wondering if there are any components that may have gone bad that would cause these symptoms and keep the compressor from running too long.
Maybe it's overheating and kicking off too frequently?
Thermostat a possibility?

I would just call a repair man but I'm out of work so money is tight. The sub-zero was not my idea...it came with the house. I had no idea how expensive they are or how expensive they are to fix.
It was purchased in 1983...obviously an old unit but again, holding out hope there are at least a few things I can try on my own before throwing in the towel.

Someone had suggested an element that is connected to the compressor called a "clicks-on" with a thermo-protection unit since it's an older model.
Any help is greatly appreciated in advance.


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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 04-25-2009, 01:57 AM
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I really donít work on sub-zeros much but the ones that I have worked on had two compressors. One for the fresh food section and one for the freezer is this how yours is?
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Old 04-25-2009, 02:08 AM
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Applianceman,
Thanks for the response. This particular model is a bottom freezer version from the early 80s. It has one compressor and the cooling is created from a convection and condenser fans that circulate the air (I assume) from the freezer to the refrigerator...which I hadn't actually considered until now but it makes some sense that since one is warming the other one would be too.
So the freezer isn't freezing which is keeping the refrigerator warmer as well.

Hope that clarifies it some.
I have all the electronics schematics, original receipt and manual from 1983 but there isn't much info between them.
The electronics schematic and circuit layout would be helpful for finding specific things like relays if necessary but I don't know a whole lot about circuitry and electronics unfortunately.
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Old 04-25-2009, 12:15 PM
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Wanted to post a few images of the coils from the freezer. No signs of frost..one small piece of ice and about 4 oz. of condensation. Temp at the time was 34 degrees in the freezer and it's been turned on continuously (though the compressor is still running only about 4x per day for an hour each time.

overall coils

far right

far left

underneath

lone ice
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Old 04-25-2009, 07:41 PM
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Again I donít know much on sub-zero but if its not cooling the compressor should be running almost continuously. So for one you need to see if itís refrigerating when the compressor is running. If it is refrigerating when it is running the compressor is short cycling (not running enough to do the job). A dirty condenser could cause this or the cold control may be bad.

Ok when the compressor is running the evaporator coils should have a thin layer of frost covering the entire coils. This would indicate that the refrigerator is refrigerating. If the compressor is running and you donít get the thin layer of frost you have a refrigeration problem such as low on gas, bad compressor, stopped up capillary tube, ect.

If the compressor will not run at all the start relay (click-on as you called it) may be bad but if the compressor is running this will not be your problem.

Note that all of these are general refrigerator problem someone that works on sub-zero often may be able to help more.

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Old 04-25-2009, 08:49 PM
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Appliance man,
I do appreciate your info again. I'm definitely concerned about the coils not frosting up but I did a little experiment today....I turned the thermostat/climate control down to 5 (I had been running it on high at 9) and the compressor didn't kick on for about 5 hours. (you can imagine how warm it was getting in there).
After I turned it back to 9, it kicked on within a matter of minutes and ran for the usual 1.5 hours.
So something is up with the cold control. But I think too that since it's not frosting up within the hour that it may be a combo of the cold control/slow leak of the sealed system.

If any sub zero pros check this out, maybe they can shed some more light on it.
I do appreciate the input that you've offered. I has been of great help.
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Old 04-28-2009, 10:47 AM
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Only returning for the sake of googlers who end up here in the future with the same symptoms on a similar make/model.
I posted on a lot of forums and tried to be as genuine, descriptive and appreciative as possible. I even paid to join one forum and got a bunch of really short, smug responses.

Such is the helpful world of the internet, I suppose. Why would someone offer free helpful advice to help someone out when they might be able to get paid for that same advice.

Turns out it was a $45 defrost timer.
On some other boards I got responses like,
'sealed unit leak...expensive to fix, better off just buying new.'
I kept asking if there are any other elements involved that could cause it to warm up gradually and nada...

So to applianceman, I want to say a genuine thanks...you were one of the few people who actually took some time to help even though you admitted you have not much experience with Sub Zero. Just the fact that you offered up some suggestions a few times was very encouraging.

And to anyone else who lands here from google, check the defrost timer before you give up. You can likely put that in yourself if you're out of work like me, that's a lifesaver.
Obviously it can be other things like the sealed system or a slow leak but the one thing I was holding out hope for was, 'is there something else that might cause this same symptom of warminig?'
1. Think thermostat/climate control first, test that thing...bypass it and turn the unit on to see if it comes on and runs uninterrupted.
2. Check the defrost timer if you have an automatic defrost system.
3. Check some of the pieces that cause the compressor to overheat. Those units go bad as well and will keep your compressor kicking off.

The one good thing is that I had absolutely no knowledge of refrigerator systems/freezers and now I at least have an appreciation for the complexity of it all. Also learned that just like the human body, this thing can only produce so many symptoms and there are only so many causes for those symptoms.

thanks to applianceman again for offering help when very few people had any suggestions.
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Old 04-28-2009, 03:16 PM
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Thanks, I try to help as much as possible. I am glad you came back and shared what you did to fix your refrigerator I certainly keep that in mind if I work on a sub-zero with the same symptoms.
For more on do-it-yourself appliance repair help visit Appliance Repair Guide For All Major Home Appliances

Last edited by applianceman : 04-28-2009 at 07:13 PM.
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