Refrigerators: The Major Appliance Most Folks Forget To Maintain

Posted on: 27 January 2015

Almost all major appliances have a common series of tasks that people perform to keep them running well. Ovens need to be cleaned, water heaters need to be flushed, and furnaces need inspections and filter changes now and then. However, most people forget to perform any type of routine maintenance on their refrigerators.

When this is the case, refrigeration units can last much less than their average of 13-19 years. Fortunately, it's fairly simple to ensure your refrigerator's long life by performing a few recurring tasks on a regular basis.

Task #1: Clean the Compressor

The compressor is the motor and pump combination that moves refrigerant through your unit. Modern refrigerators typically have the compressor mounted on the bottom of the refrigerator. This location allows for a space-efficient refrigerator, but can cause problems for this component over time.

That's because airflow is often restricted by the dust that accumulates over time. To help prevent this costly part from malfunctioning, you'll need to keep it clear of dust and debris. Once each year--or more if you have pets in your home--you should:

  • Unplug the refrigerator
  • Remove any shields from the bottom of the unit
  • Use a refrigerator brush to clear any accumulation from the area
  • Wait until the unit is completely dry before restarting

You might need to store your food in an alternate location while you perform this task. That said, any inconvenience is more than made up for by the prolonged functioning of your refrigerator. 

Task #2: Clear Your Condenser Coils

Connected to the compressor unit, your refrigerator's condenser coils are the primary method of heat exchange in your refrigerator. Any blockage at the condenser coils will lead to an inefficient cooling process--and more frequent and costly breakdowns. That's why these coils must be cleaned with the compressor.

Fortunately, this is relatively simple and can be easily done when you clean your compressor. In fact, you can simply use the same brush you used before. Just be sure to find and clear the coils when you clean your compressor once each year.

Task #3: Check the Gasket

Your refrigerator's gasket is simply the name given to the rubber strip that runs along the edge of your refrigerator's door. This part seems to do almost nothing--except when it fails. When your refrigerator door doesn't fit correctly and maintain a proper seal, it cannot keep your food cool.

It's difficult to replace the gasket yourself. The good news is that the replacement cost is typically cheap, and it's relatively easy to see if yours is functioning properly. All you need to do is shut a dollar bill into the refrigerator door and then try to move it around with the door shut. If you can slide the bill, your gasket is likely failing.

Task #4: Keep Your Refrigerator Level

Refrigerator installations are often a one-and-done affair. This is a major oversight on the part of most homeowners. Floors can warp, tiles can bend, and homes can settle over time. When these events take place, your refrigerator can often become slanted.

This slanting can cause a host of problems, including improperly fitting doors and excess wear on your motor. To avoid this, you should check to see if your unit is level from front-to-back and side-to-side once each year. If errors are found, they can be easily corrected using the adjustable feet found on most modern refrigerators.

It's not uncommon for well-made refrigerators to work correctly for a period of 20 years or more. By keeping up with your routine maintenance and good refrigerator repair, you'll give yourself the best possible chance to enjoy decades of use from your current model.