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Troubleshooting A Warm Refrigerator With Ice Formation In The Freezer

If you got up this morning and discovered your freezer was full of ice crystals and the refrigerator was too warm, chances are good there is ice buildup blocking cold air from flowing out of the freezer into the fridge. This is a common problem with refrigerators with freezers on top. 

A clog frequently causes a problem in the drain line at the freezer's rear base. When this is the case, you can fix the problem by defrosting the appliance to melt the ice. Sometimes a secondary problem requires a professional contractor to come to your home and replace parts.  

To troubleshoot your warm refrigerator problem and determine if it needs replacement parts or simply defrosting, follow these steps:

Step 1: Unplug the Appliance

The first step in working on any appliance is to unplug it from the outlet. Failure to do so could result in you getting a shock or being electrocuted. And in this case, you can't troubleshoot the refrigerator while it's running anyway because you need to defrost any ice buildup.

Step 2: Remove Everything From the Freezer

The problem with your refrigerator likely stems from the freezer. Refrigerators stay cold because there is a small circulating fan in the back of the freezer compartment that pushes cold air down into the refrigerator section. When this hole becomes blocked with ice buildup, the freezer retains all the cold air, and the refrigerator warms up. 

Before you can work on the freezer, you must remove everything from inside it. Place all food in another freezer or ice chest, and remove the shelves from the freezer to access the rear panel.

Step 3: Open the Back Panel

Using the appropriate size socket, remove the screws at the rear of the freezer that are holding the back panel in place. Once the screws have been removed, pull firmly on the panel to remove it.

Step 4: Evaluate the Ice Buildup

If you remove the panel and there is no ice buildup, you need professional assistance. The problem is beyond what most homeowners should attempt to DIY because you likely need the help of a professional who can replace parts for appliances

However, if there is a big block of ice along the base of the coils, this is the problem's root source. At this point, you have three options:

  1. let the appliance defrost overnight
  2. defrost the ice with a hairdryer
  3. defrost the ice with a heat gun

If you can let it sit overnight, this is the best option. If not, then a hairdryer or heat gun will melt the ice. However, be very careful to make sure you don't melt any plastic or do any other damage.

Step 5: Put Everything Back Together and Plug the Appliance Back In

Once the ice has melted and you've cleaned up the water, reattach the rear freezer panel.

Plug in the refrigerator and wait for about an hour. If ice buildup was the problem, it should be resolved, and the fridge should be cold again. If it isn't cold after a few hours, it's time to call for professional appliance repair.