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Does "If it ain't broke don't fix it" about cover your attitude on appliances? While there is not a lot of real practical preventive maintenance posssible on many appliances, you can prevent some major problems and inconveniences and greatly enhance the life of others through regular minor service. In this article I will cover servicing of working refrigerators and freezers.

The most important thing you can do to prevent future problems with working refrigerators and freezers is to ensure good air flow over the coils which radiate heat removed from the interior compartments. If yours has a set of condenser coils on the rear, dusting them off annually should be sufficient, and even that is not critical. Don't store paper or plastic bags on top of your refrigerator which might fall down and block air to those coils, however. Models of this type do need at least 2-3 inches of uncluttered air space above them for proper air flow. Models with coils underneath near the compressor need to have those coils cleaned at least twice a year, more often if you have an older Amana, or have pets that shed.

First, remove the kickplate/grill at the bottom front covering the opening under the lower door. Clean the kickplate with a garden hose to remove any dust and hair. Next, using either an inexpensive condenser coil brush or a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool on the hose (which doesn't do as good a job), or an air compressor, which is VERY messy, clean over, under and through the coils found usually on the right front half behind the kickplate. Older Amana refrigerators are especially sensitive to air flow blockage. Overheated compressors soon die. Others with coils at this location include many GE/Hotpoint/J C Penney and older Whirlpool/Coldspot/Kenmore models.

While under there, on frost-free models removing and cleaning the plastic defrost drain pan often found there can prevent nasty odors later. Use warm, not boiling water and/or a garden hose. Be sure when reinstalling the pan not to jam it against the blades of the condenser cooling fan, on those models with a fan underneath in the rear (most of those without rear wall-mounted cooling coils.)

Other models, such as Admiral, Montgomery Wards, Signature, and some Maytag,Magic Chef, Norge, and Tappan models have a kind of "jelly roll" of black sheet metal with internal freon passages in the right rear underneath. The condenser brush is the only good way to clean these, other than a garden hose or an air compressor used outdoors.

Be sure,if the refrigerator has a rear cardboard cover, to replace it after service. If it is damaged, cut a new one from a cardboard box (prepared pizza delivery boxes work great!) The open fan cover grill areas are not critical but the solid ones are vital. These covers force air to be pulled over the hot condenser, cooling it, rather than being sucked in from open areas at the rear of the refrigerator. Without this cover it will overheat and may burn out the compressor.

If you have a non-frost-free refrigerator or freezer, defrost the freezing coils whenever 1/4"-1/2" of ice has built up. With the greater efficiency the compressor will run less and last longer. NEVER USE A SHARP OR METAL INSTRUMENT TO DEFROST. Pans of hot water, hair dryers, or just time with the unit turned off and open are the way to go.

While the rear condenser fans on some models do have oiling holes on the motors it is often a fairly difficult job to remove the fan motor for access. If accessible and if it has oil hole(s) use a light machine oil(3-in-1 type) or a zoom-spout oiler to lubricate this motor. If not, they last a very long time without oiling.

The only other things you can do to prevent problems are to check that the door gaskets are sealing ALL THE WAY around. Often , if not really ragged, minor gasket air leaks can be patched with razor cuts and silicone caulk and/or rolled up pieces of duct tape or newspaper, but new gaskets are also generally available if yours have serious problems. You can call me for a small fee for help with this if needed. Major air leaks make your refrigerator work harder, run longer, use more electricity, and, if not a frost-free, ice up faster.

Placing a thermometer in each compartment is an excellent idea. Then if you notice a significant temperature change in either, you will know that you need to find out why. Problems caught early are usually cheap to fix; wait a while and you may have major expense.

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Contributed by: Dave, the Appliance Wizard

If you have a non-functioning appliance, you can ask a question in our Appliance Repair Forum or check Dave's web-site at Appliance Help for possible solutions. If that isn't enough, you can call Dave at 888-490-1393 toll-free(8am-9pm Pacific, 11am-midnight Eastern) and, for a small fee, he will call you back with individual help for diagnosis and repair. Bookmark our sites and save the number for future use.

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