How to tell if your refrigerator is malfunctioning

Key tips to remember

  • Listen up
  • Check for frost
  • Feel for suction
Maintenance and Repairs

It’s summertime, and that means you’re purchasing all of your favorite cold treats and packing them in the refrigerator and freezer: lemonade, popsicles and all of the freshest summer fruits from the farmers market. But that can be a lot of wasted money if you bring them home to a broken refrigerator. Before you start loading up, you have to ensure your refrigerator is functioning smoothly; otherwise, you could end up with melted ice cream and spoiled perishables.

There are several mechanical components to your fridge’s system that can easily malfunction and end up causing a bigger problem than you’d hope for, so you need to know what to look for prior to stocking up on your favorite summer snacks. Here are five tips to keep your refrigerator in great shape for the summer:

1. Listen up.

How often can you hear the whirring noise your refrigerator makes when it’s running? CNET says this is a cycling problem, and the noise isn’t just annoying but can also lead to a costly energy bill. If your fridge is noisier than usual, you might have a dust problem. This is especially an issue during summer months because there’s more dirt flying around from pollen and shedding pets. All that debris builds up around your refrigerator’s condenser coils, which can cause them to malfunction. The source reported that this can sometimes be a quick fix. It can be as simple as shutting off the power to the fridge and vacuuming away the excess debris, but if the buildup is severe, it could be time to call in an expert, which will fortunately be an inexpensive solution with a Cinch home protection plan.

2. Check for frost.

If your freezer is turning its contents into snow cones, your frost-free feature is likely broken, causing moisture in the compartment to collect and form frost. However, this accumulation could lead to slower performance and issues with the evaporator coils and fan. And the evaporator fan is an incredibly important part of your refrigerator’s system, as it circulates the cold air that keeps food fresh.

The good news is that this is another component of the appliance that gives off audible warning signs of malfunction — if it’s broken, it will be silent. The source also explained that you can put your hand to the fan and feel if cold air is coming out. If there is no air and lots of frost, then your fan has likely burnt out, and will need to be replaced by a repairman. Again, this is a quick and inexpensive fix if you have a Cinch appliance home protection plan.

3. Feel for suction.

Your door seal could be broken if the contents of your freezer start to melt or if your perishables spoil faster than normal. You can usually feel if a door is not tightly sealed, but you can do a quick inspection around the doors to ensure they are fully compressed. All sides of the doors should be making full, firm contact with the refrigerator at all times when they are closed.

If the rubber surfaces have any cracks or show signs of general wear, this might keep your fridge from sealing properly. If this is the case, you will need both the seals replaced — and the sooner, the better. Simply request service through your Cinch home protection plan, and we’ll send a qualified service partner out to repair or replace it in no time at all.


The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.