How to Repair a Refrigerator

Servicing a Refrigerator Door

If you find that your refrigerator's compressor is constantly running -- wasting energy and cutting down the life of your appliance -- it could be due to problems with the door. Ideally, the climate inside a refrigerator would never be broken, and the unit could maintain a steady temperature all the time. Of course, we have to open our refrigerators many times a day. Here are some tips to keep your doors working properly and to keep the warm air away from your food.

Servicing the Door Gasket

When a refrigerator gasket (usually a rubber seal around the door) becomes hard or cracked, its seal is broken, and the unit's efficiency drops sharply. Test the door gasket for leaks by placing a dollar bill between the gasket and the door jamb and closing the door. Pull the bill out. If it offers some resistance, chances are the gasket fits properly. If the bill comes right out, or falls out, the gasket is faulty and should be replaced. Test the gasket at several locations around the door. Before you replace the gasket, check the door hinges for leakage.

To replace a gasket:

Step 1: Buy a gasket made specifically for the model refrigerator you own. So-called fit-all gaskets may fit after a fashion, but tailoring them to the door's configuration can be a tough job. If you aren't sure about the model number of your refrigerator, cut out a small section of the gasket and take the sample to an appliance dealer for matching. If the gasket has to be ordered, you can glue the section back into the gap with rubber cement for a make-do repair until the new gasket comes in.

Step 2: Let the new gasket sit about 24 hours in the room with the refrigerator to bring it to the correct temperature and humidity, or soak the gasket in warm water to make it pliable.

Step 3: Begin removing the old gasket. Door gaskets are held by screws, clips, or adhesives, and the gasket may have a retaining strip, which helps shape it and provides a fastening tab or guide. On some units, the gasket may be held in place by the edge of the door panel; the panel is fastened with spring-steel pressure clips, bolts, or screws. To remove the gasket, remove the fasteners that hold it and remove any retaining strips; or remove the fasteners that hold the door panel.

Step 4: Finish removing the fasteners on one side of the door at a time. Do not remove the entire door panel. If the gasket is held by spring clips, be careful not to pry too hard on the clips; they're under tension and could spring out of their mountings. If the gasket is held by adhesive, pry it off with a putty knife.

Step 5: When the old gasket is off, clean the mounting area thoroughly with mild household detergent and water. Remove stubborn adhesive with mineral spirits and fine steel wool, followed by a detergent/water rinse.

Step 6: Start the replacement at one side of the top of the door. Work down the sides to replace the entire gasket. Smooth the gasket evenly into place, easing it around corners. Use gasket cement to secure it if the manufacturer specifies this step. Make sure the gasket lies flat, with no lumps or curled edges.

Step 7: Replace the fasteners, retaining strips, or panel that held the old gasket. After the gasket is in place, tighten or loosen the mounting bolts necessary to adjust the gasket to the door jamb. If the gasket is glued in place, there isn't much you can do but wait for the gasket to conform to the door jamb.

Test the gasket on a freezer door with the same dollar-bill procedure; if the gasket is faulty, replace it with a new gasket made especially for the freezer. Do not remove the freezer door to replace the gasket. Freezer doors are often tensioned with spring devices, which can be very troublesome to replace after the door has been removed, and on some models wiring has to be disassembled as well.