Living Smart: Whatís wrong with my refrigerator?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Suffering through any sort of appliance malfunction is an inconvenience, but you can survive.

Dishwasher on the fritz? Go old school and fill up the sink. Washer or dryer problems? Take a trip to the laundromat. No A/C? Hang out at the mall to stay cool.

But having no refrigerator takes appliance malfunctions to another level. Itís possible all the food in the fridge will spoil, and no one wants that.

Luckily, refrigerator problems arenít always dire. Here are a few common refrigerator problems, causes and a price range for repair.

Water pooling on the floor

According to appliance repair technicians, there are several possible causes. Refrigerators with ice makers, water dispensers and filters offer more opportunity for leaks.

"As the refrigerator ages and the tubing gets more brittle, then itíll have a tendency to crack a lot of times and leak," says Lanny Adams, owner of Lanny Adams Appliance Service of Atlanta, Ga.

Worn insulation around the water filter system is another possible culprit, Adams adds. Cost to repair a fridge leak depends on the issue, but often runs $130 to $400.

A clogged defrost drain can also cause a leak, especially in refrigerators with French doors, says Patrick Mohyde, owner of Apple Appliance Repair of Austin, Tex. Repairing a clogged drain ranges from $95 to $120.

"Itís mainly the newer refrigerators," Mark Wysocki, owner of Markís Appliance Service of Northfield, Ohio, says about clogged defrost drains. "They used to put heaters in the drains, but because of energy efficiency they stopped doing that, and weíre running into this more and more."

Refrigerator wonít cool

Any number of important components, such as a compressor, start relay, evaporator fan or condenser fan, can malfunction and cause the refrigerator to stop cooling.

"Other things that cause it not to cool is the defrost (system)," Adams says. "The system malfunctions then ice builds up in the evaporator coil in the freezer, and that can cause the unit to quit cooling in the refrigerator side first, and then it progresses to the freezer."

Circuit board malfunctions also cause many of the failures in newer refrigerators, Wysocki says. Repair costs usually start around $200 and continue upward to about $900, depending on the issue.

Refrigerator door wonít stay shut

This could be an easy one ó or not. Both Mohyde and Wysocki say when they receive a call about the refrigerator door not staying closed, they ask the homeowner to remove the contents and try again.

"When the door doesnít shut properly, itís usually something in the way," Mohyde says. "Every once in a while youíve got a hinge down at the bottom that breaks, but thatís usually rare." Wysocki adds, "I would say eight out of 10 times, itís food in the way."

In the instances when itís not food, it could be a warped door. Children swinging or hanging on the door can cause it to warp and not close properly. The fix may be a new door, or to replace the gasket so the door will seal again, Adams says, adding that gasket installation costs about $225.