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Hello! I have a 1991 (model year) Kenmore 21'' refrigerator that has just started to not cool properly. The freezer

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2012, 08:08 AM
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Default Freezer/Refigerator Cooling Issues
Model Number: 363.9701513   Brand: Kenmore   Age: More than 10 years   

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Hello!

I have a 1991 (model year) Kenmore 21'' refrigerator that has just started to not cool properly.

The freezer is cold - but does not freeze the contents. The refrigerator section below, seems to stay cool, but I can't get it to go below 55 degrees. I've throughly vacuumed the condenser coils underneath, set the thermostat inside the fridge on a cooler setting, and it still doesn't get any cooler.

Where do I begin to troubleshoot?

Thanks!

Jim


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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 05-07-2012, 11:42 AM
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First determine if the compressor is running all the time.
You can usually hear it, also you should be able to feel it vibrating and it should be warm.

Check that the condenser/compressor fan is running whenever the compressor is running.

Check that the evaporator/freezer fan is running.

If compressor cycles it may be a thermostat problem.

If all the above are running then remove the cover inside the freezer so you can inspect the evaporator coils.

If partially frosted you may have a sealed system problem.

If iced/frosted over to the point where the fan cannot pull air through them you have a defrost problem.
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Old 05-07-2012, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by denman View Post
First determine if the compressor is running all the time.
You can usually hear it, also you should be able to feel it vibrating and it should be warm.

Check that the condenser/compressor fan is running whenever the compressor is running.

Check that the evaporator/freezer fan is running.

If compressor cycles it may be a thermostat problem.

If all the above are running then remove the cover inside the freezer so you can inspect the evaporator coils.

If partially frosted you may have a sealed system problem.

If iced/frosted over to the point where the fan cannot pull air through them you have a defrost problem.

Thanks for the reply, denman.

Yes, I believe the compressor is running. Constantly, actually. There is indeed a very slight vibration when you place your hand against the side of the fridge.

How do I check those fans you mentioned? I'm not sure where to look to see if they are indeed working.

Take care,
Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:49 AM
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The condenser fan is down by the compressor.

The evaporator fan is in the freezer on/behind the back wall.
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Old 05-08-2012, 03:51 AM
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Thanks denman.

Yes, both fans are running. The compressor appears to be running for long periods, pretty much as it always has. I turned up both thermostats (the one for the freezer and the fridge) to their max settings, and the temp in the freezer is staying at 28 degrees, while the fridge seems to hover around 55 to 60 degrees.

Does that help in your diagnosis?

Thanks,
Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 05:00 AM
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Were the condenser coils under the unit by the compressor and the vents front (kick plate) and rear clean?

The compressor appears to be running for long periods, pretty much as it always has.
"appears to be running" is not good enough, you have to be sure.
If the compressor is cycling on/off but the freezer does not reach set point temperature then the thermostat could be the problem. The unit thinks it has reached the set point but in reality has not.
I would also check that the doors seal are OK. Unit does reach set point but quickly rises again due to air leakage.

But if the compressor is running all the time then the unit is trying to reach set point but cannot for some reason. This can be a sealed system problem or a defrost problem.
Note: the compressor and fans will shut off during a defrost cycle. I could not find a spec on your timer but usually this is every 8 hours or so for approximately half an hour.

I turned up both thermostats (the one for the freezer and the fridge) to their max settings, and the temp in the freezer is staying at 28 degrees, while the fridge seems to hover around 55 to 60 degrees.
It is the freezer temperature that counts here as the fresh food gets all it's cooling from the freezer. The freezer should be 0 to 5 degrees F.
It may take it 24 hours to get down to that temperature.
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Old 05-08-2012, 05:15 AM
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Yes, the condenser coils are clean - in fact, I thoroughly vacuumed them, using a small diameter tube I configured onto my vacuum to allow me to really get in and under there to clean.

The fans are indeed running properly.

Your comment about a sealed system problem intrigues me. I (assume you are referring to the freon?). My worry there is, is it cost-effective to get that compressor/freon unit professionally serviced, or will I be throwing good money at a 21 year old problem. Don't get me wrong, in many ways older appliances seem to be better constructed than newer ones, and if that's the case here, I'd much rather put some money into fixing this one than going out and buying a new version of the same thing.

If it is a defrost problem, what can I focus on to see if that is it? That sounds very inexpensive to repair!

I sat those lower temps early, last night, so they have had reasonable time to get where they need to be. The freezer is 28 degrees, and the fridge is 55 degrees. Does that tell us anything?

Thanks,
Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:11 AM
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The freezer temperature tells us that it is not getting cold enough but everything depends on the why.

A sealed system or a defrost problem will cause the compressor to run all the time that is why it is very important to determine this.

Especially when a sealed system usually means replacing the fridge.
A sealed system problem requires a pro and is an expensive repair so it usually makes more sense to put those dollars towards a new unit.

If the compressor is running all the time, remove the cover from inside the freezer so you can inspect the evaporator coils.

If they only have frost in one area (usually where the freon enters the coils) then you probably have a sealed system problem. Be sure that the compressor has run for at least a couple hours. If you do this test shortly after a defrost cycle you will come up with the wrong diagnosis.

If they are iced/frosted over to the point where the evaporator fan cannot pull air through them then you have a defrost problem.
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:42 AM
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denman - thanks!

I will soon pull the compressor cover in the freezer and see what we have.

I'm working on the dryer as well(!) and going out to get another one, as this one is beyond help, at least cost-effectively.

Anyway, once I get that dryer purchased and installed today, I'll focus on the fridge and give you an update later tonight...

Thanks so much for helping me.

Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 07:43 PM
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deman,

I pulled the back cover in the freezer section this evening, and there was a VERY heavy frosting/icing on the bottom half of the coils. There was also some frosting/ice on the outside of the cover that required chipping away before I could remove the shield.

You stated earlier that frosted coils indicates a sealed-system problem. Does that refer to the freon system, and if so, is that something only a professional can accomplish, and more importantly, is it expensive?

Thanks again,
Jim
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