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warm Kenmore refrigerator maybe defrost problem?


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#1 huge

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:44 PM

I have an 11-year-old Kenmore freezer-on-top model number 25378299895

A couple of days ago I noticed that milk didn't seem as cold as usual. I thought we might have bumped the thermostat control, so I turned it to a colder setting, but after 24 hours things seem even warmer. Ice is still frozen in the freezer, and ice cream is not melting, but seems a little softer than usual. I have now turned both fridge and freezer controls to max cooling and they've been running there for over 24 hours.

The compressor is running, and the fan in the freezer compartment is running. There is some cold air circulating in the freezer - I can't remember if there used to be more circulation. In the lower compartment, I feel no air being moved at all. Items in the fridge are still cool, but definitely not cold enough - it may be that they are just staying cool through insulation at this point. The thermostat is working to some extent - when I turn the fridge control to zero, the compressor turns off, and then back on again when I turn the control back up.

I've done my best to vacuum the coils underneath the unit, but they didn't seem very dusty. I've made sure that the doors are sealing properly and that the lights turn off when the doors shut.

There is quite a bit of ice on the inside of the back panel in the freezer. I removed the screws and pulled the panel part-way off just so I could look at the works behind the panel. There is quite a bit of ice there, but I don't know if it's "too much" ice, or how to tell if something is wrong with the defrost system. I've taken two pictures of the ice:

Behind freezer panel left

Behind freezer panel right

I'm not sure what to test or look at or check next. I didn't completely remove the panel because it has wiring attached, but I'm guessing that's not difficult to deal with. I don't know if there's an air passage that I need to check for blockage between the freezer and fridge compartments.

Am I being (A) mildly careless, (B) seriously stupid, or © suicidal, to be doing this without unplugging the fridge from the wall?

Let me know if more info is needed, apologies for my newbishness, and thanks in advance for any advice...

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#2 kdog

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:48 PM

That is way too much ice in the coils, air is unable to circulate through them - locate the small hole near the thermostat wherein you will find a small slotted knob, turn that around (will make a ratcheting sound) until you feel/hear an audible snap. That places the fridge into defrost cycle, and the compressor will stop. Observe for a few minutes and see if heater comes on under coils
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#3 BrntToast

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:49 PM

thats what a defrost problem looks like
remove panel completely and defrost
read the warm fridge troubleshooting post, it should explain the steps after that

The only stupid question is the one not asked

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feel free to prvt msg frigidaire questions my way

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#4 huge

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 09:35 PM

Wow! Thanks for the fast replies. I wish I had found this place two days ago.

I must confess to still being slightly at a loss - maybe it will become more clear when I completely remove the panel, but I hope you'll forgive a couple more dumb question before I launch into that...

kdog: any more hints (or photos) to help me find the "small hole near the thermostat wherein you will find a small slotted knob"? Totally fine to say "you'll see it easily once you remove the panel, newb!".

Brnt: I had seen that troubleshooting post before I wrote my post. It seems pretty clear that I'm at the "Troubleshoot Defrost System Failure" box on the flowchart, but clicking on that box leads me to a page with a long list of threads generated by searching for "defrost" on fixitnow.com. I've looked through several of them (and found a couple where you've helped out the posters) but haven't found something that matches my problem. I'm not sure if I'm missing something (probably I am, since your post says that the troubleshooting post "should explain the steps after that"), or if I just need to keep searching through those posts until I find something that fits my situation. Again, apologies for my ignorance.


Thanks to both of you. I'll go remove the panel now, since that much (at least) is clear to me...

#5 BrntToast

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 09:57 PM

the hole with the "slot" in it is in the control housing(where the thermostat is in the fresh food section) round hole on the bottom of the housing
turn till it clicks,fridge will stop running(do this after freezer back panel is off, and before fridge is defrosted)
now wait a while, if the heater in the freezer starts to melt ice and turn red, you need to change that defrost timer you turned thats hiding in the control panel
if heater does not glow red after 10 minutes unplug fridge, now hiding inside the lil triangular shaped piece of styrofoam(in freezer section,above the frosted coils) is the defrost terminating thermostat, your kenmore is made by frigidaire(this means you can unplug the 2 wires that go to this thermostat, now the ends are such that you can join togeather the 2 wires that lead to the therm(this bypasses the therm and takes it out of the test)
now wait again, if heater glows red you need to replace this defrost terminating thermostat
if after 10 minutes and bypassing the defrost therm the heater does not glow.... you need to get a meter to go further yourself
*NOTE* do NOT leave the fridge unattended with this therm bypassed or leave it bypassed and put the fridge back into service... it will melt the plastic

Edited by BrntToast, 30 November 2010 - 10:00 PM.

The only stupid question is the one not asked

hope i've been helpfull, if you wish to buy Brnt beer kick here


http://brnttoast.googlepages.com/home


feel free to prvt msg frigidaire questions my way

(i dont log in every day)

#6 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 03:58 PM

well OK, I feel a little foolish needing more basic instruction, but I don't think I've made any secret of my ignorance so far, so...

I can't seem to get the back freezer panel completely removed. I've unplugged the light wiring, and I can pull the top of the panel several inches away from the freezer wall, but the panel is still connected quite firmly at the bottom. There is a small plastic knob sticking out through a hole at the bottom of the panel, and I haven't been able to pull the panel free of that (or push the knob back through the hole). It feels like the panel is attached at the bottom edge by more than just that knob though - maybe it is stuck in place because of the ice. Is it safe to run the defrost cycle with the panel merely pulled away from the back of the freezer, or do I need to really get it all the way off?

And for my next newbie question - I'm still not sure where the fabled "slotted knob" is. I've taken a photo of my thermostat/temperature controls (taken from below). You mean it's around there, right? I don't see anything there that looks right, but it's likely I misunderstood the description or the location. From that photo can either of you tell where the defrost control is?

Thank you so much for helping out a clumsy newb...

#7 RegUS_PatOff

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 04:38 PM

Defrost Timer # 23 bottom of diagram

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#8 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 06:11 PM

YES! Now three experts helping me! Thanks, Reg - that nailed it down for me. I turned the knob clockwise, almost gave up as I approached 360 degrees of rotating it, but then I heard the fan switch off. I immediately checked, and then checked again a few minutes later, but I see no evidence of a defroster turning on - nothing glowing red, no heat, no noise except maybe a faint ticking (countdown timer?) but that might have been there before masked by the fan noise.

It has now been more than ten minutes, with no red glow and no ice melting. So I think I'm on to step two in BrntToast's helpful reply:

------
if heater does not glow red after 10 minutes unplug fridge, now hiding inside the lil triangular shaped piece of styrofoam(in freezer section,above the frosted coils) is the defrost terminating thermostat, your kenmore is made by frigidaire(this means you can unplug the 2 wires that go to this thermostat, now the ends are such that you can join togeather the 2 wires that lead to the therm(this bypasses the therm and takes it out of the test)
now wait again, if heater glows red you need to replace this defrost terminating thermostat
------

Luckily I *have* seen the styrofoam, so I won't have to post multiple times asking where to find that. But I do feel the need to ask - at what point in that process do I plug the fridge back in? Also, do I need to turn the defrost control knob back to where it was? Or can I leave it alone?

And lastly, I humbly confess that I *still* haven't managed to remove the back panel from the freezer compartment. Never mind my earlier commend about a plastic knob - that clearly is not holding the panel to the back. It seems to be stuck on the bottom edge, more on the left than on the right. I've pulled probably harder than I should have, and tried wiggling it in every direction, but it won't come free. Can I proceed with trying to get the defroster to come on without completely removing it?


THANK YOU ALL for helping me...

#9 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 06:29 PM

OK, never mind my whining about the panel - I finally wrestled it out of there by brute force - I think it was just frozen in place by the ice.

And, I think, never mind my question about resetting the defrost timer - the fan came back on after about 15 minutes, so I assume that's fine.

So now I have to figure out which wires to unplug and short. I think it's complicated by the fact that our un-installed ice-maker is in the same place and has its own wiring, and by the fact that everything is covered with ice. Should I just defrost the freezer compartment by hand (with a hair dryer? something else?) so that (A) hopefully air will start circulating again so that the fridge will get cold again, and (B) I can see the wires and defrost terminating thermostat better?


THANKS!

#10 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 06:40 PM

I forgot to post the latest photos (since they're so entertaining)!

wiring for thermostat and ice maker

freezer with pesky back panel finally removed


Hopefully I'll be able to tell the wires apart once I can clear a little of the ice out of the way. Any further tips on figuring out which ones to unplug and then short to each other? And again - when do I need to plug the fridge back into the wall power socket in this process?

cheers/thanks

#11 RegUS_PatOff

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 07:48 PM

Hair Dryer is OK..
You'll see the Defrost Thermostat ,should be clipped to the Evaportator Coils
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#12 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 08:28 PM

OK, thanks once again!

So I'm afraid I still need the exact sequence of things to do to test the defrost system and thermostat - I'm guessing no-one has answered my question because the answer is so obvious ... you told me to turn power off before unplugging the terminating thermostat, but when exactly do I reconnect power? (Or was that just to reset the defrost test cycle?)

Here is the sequence I'm planning - tell me if I'm right:


1. defrost freezer compartment with hair drier
2. unplug main power from wall
3. find terminating thermostat and unplug the 2 wires
4. reconnect main power (?)
5. touch the two raw wires together (briefly or leave them joined?)
6. if defrost/heat happens, then therm needs replacement, otherwise on to next step

#13 kdog

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 08:35 PM

Nyet ! - If you defrost the coils, the thermostat may open from the heat - unplug the unit first, see if you can dig your way in to where you see the connections to the thermostat - disconnect those and test the thermostat for continuity (should be closed if it is cold). At that point you could temporarily join the wires from the stat, Check the wires to the heater for continuity as well. Now turn the timer around again to the defrost detent again and plug fridge in to see if heater comes on.
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#14 RegUS_PatOff

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 08:56 PM

.. If you defrost the coils, the thermostat may open from the heat .

won't matter if he's planing on jumpering it, for now

1. unplug main power from wall
2. defrost freezer compartment with hair drier
3. find terminating thermostat and unplug the 2 wires
4. touch the two raw wires together, leave them joined, for now
5. reconnect main power
6. if defrost/heat happens, then therm needs replacement, otherwise on to next step
7. may need to turn Defrost Timer again ...
8. Don't leave Defrost Themostat jumpered for more than a few minutes ...
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#15 huge

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 10:19 PM

OK ... now you've dumbed it down to my level!! (Silly Kdog thinking I would know how to test continuity! ... OK, I do, but just barely, and I had to unwrap my multimeter that has been sealed in its package since I bought it 3 years ago ... the thermostat tests closed, but it's hard to say what that means because I just defrosted).

Unplugged, defrosted, found thermostat, unplugged, jumpered the wires, plugged back in ...

no heat, no glowing, no defrosting happening that I could see. I left it that way for three or four minutes, no change. The fan and compressor were running, but no sign of defrosting happening. So I unjumpered the wires and plugged it back in.

Is it significant that now, even after defrosting the freezer, there is clearly not a lot of air blowing around in the refrigerator compartment? I would have hoped that clearing the ice would have made that much better, but it doesn't seem to have. I'll have a better idea after it rests overnight whether things in there are cold again.


THANKS again for all your help, everyone...

#16 kdog

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 10:50 PM

Didja happen to measure the resistance of the heating element ?


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#17 RegUS_PatOff

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 11:16 PM

6. if defrost/heat happens, then therm needs replacement, otherwise on to next step
7. may need to turn Defrost Timer again ...

If the Compressor and Fans are running, it's not in the Defrost Cycle ...
see # 7 above
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#18 huge

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 02:28 AM

If the Compressor and Fans are running, it's not in the Defrost Cycle ...
see # 7 above


Do you mean I should unplug from the wall socket, reconnect/jumper the therm wires together, plug back in to wall, turn the defrost timer until the fan/compressor stops, look for signs of defrosting?


Kdog: no I didn't measure the resistance of the heating element (of course I would have to find the heating element first, and then read the manual on my multimeter to see how to test resistance, but maybe I could manage it). What sort of numbers would I be looking for? Certainly a failed heating element would explain everything so far.



After four hours things seem to be getting colder, if slowly. I've had a little bit of milk that I've been leaving in the freezer section because I didn't want it to go bad in the fridge, and this is the first time it's been actually icy, so I moved it back downstairs for the night. I'll be going to bed soon, so I'll check again in the morning.

g'night
-huge

#19 RegUS_PatOff

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 06:18 AM

Do you mean I should unplug from the wall socket, reconnect/jumper the therm wires together, plug back in to wall, turn the defrost timer until the fan/compressor stops, look for signs of defrosting?

Yes,
Defrost Heater could be about 30 OHMs to 40 OHMs
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#20 huge

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 08:25 PM

PROGRESS!!

Unplugged, rejumpered the terminating thermostat wires, re-plugged power, turned the defrost timer, heard the fan&compressor stop.

And it started defrosting - I heard ice cracking, saw puffs of steam, and eventually saw the heating coil glowing red.

I unplugged the power again and reconnected the wires to the terminating thermostat, and then plugged the power back in. And it kept defrosting! It continued for close to 30 minutes, at which point the fan and compressor came back on, so I'm unclear on whether the terminating thermostat works or not. It seems possible that it is working fine, but because I had the back panel off, it never got hot enough to shut off the heater. (?)

And at least for the length of the defrost cycle, the defrost timer seems to have done its job properly.


So now I'm left with the question of trying to determine what failed. How long does it typically take for the cooling cycle to finish so that I can check to see if it goes back to the defrost cycle? Is it reasonable at this point to just wait and see, checking the coils every once in a while to see if they are getting clogged with ice? Is there an easy next step in testing the components?

thanks again...




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