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Whirlpool No-Frost Refrigerator-Freezer, Model ET18JKXSN02 (w/factory Ice Maker...I installed this accessory kit about a year later after we bought this

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Old 08-27-2012, 09:02 AM
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Default Freezer Cold But Not Freezing; Fridge Compartment Cold & Seems Fine
Model Number: ET18JKXSN02   Brand: Whirlpool   Age: More than 10 years   

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Whirlpool No-Frost Refrigerator-Freezer, Model ET18JKXSN02 (w/factory Ice Maker...I installed this accessory kit about a year later after we bought this new in 1988) - This is a top freezer unit, not a side-by-side.

Problem: Freezer gets cold but doesn't freeze & ice maker no longer works (makes me wonder if the 2 problems are related). Playing with the temp control dials doesn't seem to affect this problem. Freezer fan is running fine, blowing cold air and I'm not hearing any odd fan noises, like bearing problems or blades hitting frosted lines, etc. The fridge seems to be cooling fine.

I sometimes hear an odd, soft "groaning" sound periodically that lasts for just a few seconds then stops...sometimes as often as at 20 second intervals. It's hard to tell, but the sound seems to be coming from the back of the freezer in the evaporator area. It may be coming from inside the fridge, like possibly around the temp control dial area visible when you open the door but I don't think so (it's hard to tell the exact location with the fan running...it doesn't do this when the fan stops). The best description I can give is that it kind of sounds electrical, like something is trying to start or switch over but then can't always do it (almost like it's arching). There is no smell nor do the lights dim or fan motor slow down (it's not blowing the circuit breaker either). The sound is not coming from down below, like from the compressor area or ice-maker water valve.

Researching online seemed to indicate that a common failure item is the Defrost Timer unit, located behind the temp controls, accessible from inside the top area of the fridge. I replaced that but the problem is basically unchanged (note: I used "Version 1", Procedure #2, per the instructions to configure the timer...black pigtail wire attached to terminal #2).

I just removed the back panel in the freezer, exposing the evaporator area and there is no frost (water drips are visible as well as audible while the fridge is running). I inspected the bi-metal Defrost Thermostat but it is not visibly damaged or burned. I removed it and ohmed it after it had been out of the freezer area for a little while and it was open (infinite ohms). I've reinstalled it and am now running the freezer with the back panel off so I can observe that area, and possibly pinpoint the source of the groaning sound.

What's the logical next step? It's gets expensive guessing and replacing parts, hoping to get lucky. Is the next step to replace the Bi-metal Defrost Thermostat? How often does the actual Control, Temp (Whirlpool Part # 1123394) accessible at the top (temp range 1 thru 5 & also the on/off switch), inside the top area of the fridge compartment go bad on these? I'm not sure what my next step should be at this point.

A little history that may be relevant:
A few months back, possibly 9 to 12 months, we had problems with things freezing in the refrigerator. The eggs in the door would freeze for example. After calling a repair tech and fiddling with the temp dials (freezer and fridge), it seemed to get better but never seemed quite right. I don't recall hearing the groaning sound back then but I can't be 100% sure (this has been a gradual decline problem over some months). During this same time, the ice-maker would run intermittently, unlike before when it ran perfectly, like clockwork. Could these freezer problems, essentially the inside of the freezer isn't freezing, prevent the ice maker from working too (i.e., are those electrical circuits somehow related, perhaps dependent on each other)?

The compressor runs fine, no odd noises or anything (just hums like normal). The in-put and out-put lines are normal, i.e., one is hot and the other one is cool. I know this fridge is old (24 years) but I don't think the compressor is the problem (I'm not quite sure how to test it and I'm told these units can't be fixed due to new EPA standards and that this uses the older freon refrigerant). As previously noted, the inside of the fridge area keeps things cool and seems to work fine so it appears that's OK, it's just the freezer area and ice maker that's the problem. Thanks.


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Last edited by ChuckM12 : 08-29-2012 at 03:48 PM.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 08-29-2012, 07:51 AM
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Default Groaning Sound Source & General Update

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckM12 View Post
Whirlpool No-Frost Refrigerator-Freezer, Model ET18JKXSN02 (w/factory Ice Maker...this accessory kit installed about a year later after we bought this fridge new in 1988) - This is a top freezer unit, not a side-by-side.
Update: The odd "groaning" sound seems to be coming from the evaporator area, in the tubing. The evaporator is only partially frosting up, the frosting starting at the inlet and outlet tube area where the bi-metal Defrost Thermostat is clipped on (upper left corner when looking into the freezer, where the ice-maker mounts).

The compressor sounds fine, no odd noises. It turns on and off fine, seems to cycle normally and quietly hums when running (it does get pretty hot to the touch though) but now I'm wondering if it's either not pumping correctly or if the evaporator tubing is partially plugged. If it's the latter, can this be cleared? How can this tubing get plugged when all that's pumping through there is freon gas? I don't think there's a system leak because it still gets cold enough in the refrigerator compartment area, it just can't get quite cold enough in the freezer to fully freeze water or ice cream now.

I recall a repair tech saying quite some time ago there is some kind of "hot shot" fix they can do to resolve some compressor or line problems but I can't quite recall the specifics so I don't know what this means or if this would even fix my problem here. Can anyone elaborate on what this "hot shot" process is?

Considering how old this fridge is (24 years), I know I can't just replace the compressor and/or the evaporator because new EPA standards have outlawed the use of this older freon refrigerant needed to recharge these older, original systems. I would really like to fix this fridge because it's an older, more simple design that always worked great and doesn't have all these late model, solid state circuit boards and onboard features that fail and cost a fortune to replace but if the system can't be fixed and then recharged, I may now be forced to junk this (thanks EPA) and buy a new one. As previously noted, the inside of the fridge area keeps things cool and seems to work fine so that appears to be OK, it's just the freezer area and ice maker that's having the problems.

Any idea how soon I can get a response to my problem? I posted this a couple of days ago now. Thanks for your help.

Last edited by ChuckM12 : 08-29-2012 at 08:23 AM.
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