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Fridge on the fritz? How to know whether to repair or replace

When the fridge is broken, should you fix it or get a new one? Here's what you need to know.
/ Source: TODAY

Nothing will have you calling a repairman faster than finding melted ice cream in the freezer or warm milk in the fridge. Sometimes the problem is simple and easy to fix. Other times, it involves major parts and an out-of-sight repair bill. That’s when you’re faced with a dilemma: Should you repair it or replace it?

Jim Roark, owner of Mr. Appliance in Tampa Bay, Florida, offers the following information to help make that decision easier.

Things to check first:

Perhaps there's a simple solution to fixing the problem that you can try on your own.

1. Make sure the fridge is plugged in all the way. (Sounds simple, but it happens!)

2. Check the breaker to make sure it isn’t tripped.

3. Look at the coils. If they’re clogged with hair and dust, vacuum them.

4. If the problem is with the ice maker or water dispenser, try replacing the water filter.

5. See if the items in the fridge are blocking the air ducts.

6. Make sure the ice maker wasn’t accidentally turned to the off position.

When to repair:

If you've gone through the checklist above and are still having problems, you may want to call an expert. The most common problems that can usually be repaired are:

1. The fresh food section of the refrigerator is not cooling properly. A thermometer is the best way to keep an eye on this. Ideally, temperatures should be 0 degrees in the freezer and between 37 and 40 degrees in the fridge.

2. There are noise issues stemming from the fan.

3. The machine is not dispensing water properly or not making ice.

4. Doors are not sealing properly.

When to replace:

“There are no guarantees that any issue can't be repaired,” Roark explains. “But here are a few common issues that likely point toward needing a replacement.”

1. When the freezer side is not cooling properly (0 degrees).

2. When there’s a humming noise coming from the compressor. (This can indicate the compressor is defective.)

3. If the fridge is 15 years or older. Considering energy savings alone, it’s worth upgrading to an energy-efficient model. To calculate savings, check out Energy Star.

4. If the repair costs more than half the price of a new fridge.

Ways to prevent repairs:

Before you reach that point, there are some simple things you can do to extend the life of your fridge.

1. Don’t overload it. The more food and beverages you store, the more the compressor must work to keep things cold and fresh. For an efficient operation, air needs to circulate around food, so place items slightly apart on shelves. Also, make sure that food doesn’t block interior air vents.

2. Limit the number of times you open the doors. Every time you open the doors, the temperature inside increases several degrees, making the compressor work harder to keep food cold.

3. Keep door gaskets clean so they seal properly. Build-up of sticky foods on the gasket means you have to pull harder to open the door and this can eventually tear the gasket. Wipe gaskets regularly with a little warm water and you’ll save on repair bills and electricity.

4. Vacuum refrigerator coils along the bottom or rear of your appliance. This will keep your fridge running efficiently and save you money.

5. Don't forget to discard rotten and expired foods. This will prevent contamination and keep your fridge fresh and clean.