Old Kenmore Refrigerator too warm -- fixable? By me, or tech?

Our refrigerator is old. How old? I don’t know. It’s a Sears Kenmore 16, freezer on top configuration, apparently, and it was in the condo when we moved in over 10 years ago. It was old over 10 years ago. It might be over 20 years old.

It’s now 50 degrees in the fridge regardless of the cold setting we use. I think the freezer is working, but I’m not at home and am getting calls from my wife, so that’s a guess. She hasn’t mentioned the freezer per se.

I downloaded some documentation on troubleshooting and might try fiddling with it myself, but I’m not very “handy.”

How feasible is it to fix this myself, or at least diagnose it?

How expensive is it to call a service person? Anyone have any experiences with that?

Should I bite the bullet and replace it? Aside from the capital cost, there’s the issue of waste by throwing away a repairable unit, so I’d like to keep it running if we can, especially since we’ve just spent $2,700 on the cat, of all things.

I’d be grateful for any knowledgeable help or suggestions.

Get rid of it. Its probably costing you a bundle in energy costs and likely an expensive repair. A new efficient refrigerator might save you $50 a year in electricity.

Well, we don’t pay for electricity. It’s a fixed cost covered in our condo fee. So in a sense, it’s subsidized by our neighbors, I guess.

Not that that makes it all right, but that does mean we can’t “save in electricity” any cost we pay for a new box.

If the freezer section is working, but the fridge compartment is not cold, there is a good chance that the vent between the freezer and fridge sections is clogged and it may be an easy fix. If the freezer section is not working, then you may be better off just junking it.

A service call would probably be like $75-100 just to come out, plus any parts needed (if they even still exist). I would try your downloaded troubleshooting and lean towards replacement if that proved unsuccessful. Even if it was a cheap fix, it is likely just a matter of time before the compressor goes, which won’t be a cheap fix.

About the only thing you can fix is to change the air circulating fan that blows air from the freezer to the refrigerator. They do burn out after a time.

I think you should not consider the electricity as free. It costs somebody close to you.
Fridges are the most-changed of all the appliances.

Before you haul it to the dump, or let the store haul it away when they deliver the new fridge, check with your electric utility to see if they’re offering a bounty on it. You just might be able to get $35-50 for the old wreck.

Have you considered cleaning all the dust off the coils in the back? Dust is a good insulator, especially a twenty-year thick layer. If the refrigerant can’t “release” as much heat, then it won’t keep the inside as cold.

+1. Unplug it, pull out the unit, clean behind it and under it as thoroughly as you can. I think they sell special brushes but you can often get by with a vacuum.

Also check that nothing is physically impeding the fan.

I once had a fridge that wasn’t cooling sufficiently, and I was afraid I would have to replace it, but after a re-boot (i.e. I unplugged it for a day or two—perhaps long enough for the frost that was clogging something up to melt) it started working okay again.

If a frig is not defrosting properly unplugging it for a day will allow it to defrost.

Reasons for not defrosting

  1. Air vents blocked.
  2. Defrost timer not working.
  3. Cal rod not working. (that is a heating rod to melt any frost.)
  4. Cal rod stat not working.
  5. Circulating fan not working.

I would also clean the condencer coils.

We had the same exact problem about two months ago.
Had a repairman come to fix the hose to our ice machine, but a few days later, we noticed it wasn’t working well.
We did the unplug and and then turned down the temperature for a few days.
Didn’t work.
It was 10 years old, and the repairman thought it might even have been older when we bought it on sale back then. So - call the repairman back, or buy a new one?

As luck would have it, we came into a small win at our local casino and said, “New fridge!”

So, we bought a new one at Home Depot.
The biggest surprise? Our electric bill has gone down about $60 a month since then! I can’t believe it is due solely from that fridge, but we haven’t cut back on any other appliances, and still use the air conditioner 24/7 (hey, it’s Vegas!), so it has to be the difference from old fridge to new one. The paperwork said this one is Energy Star, and only costs about $65/year for electricity.

BTW, we love the new one - stainless steel, faster ice machine (when making ice) and much quieter.

I have a new GE Profile that had the frig part stop cooling. Turns out that the freezer is the source of all cooling. I had unplugged it and thought it would defrost. the little fan between the frig/freezer was frosted and couldn’t spin. the freezer sends cool air up via the little fan into the frig compartment and so the cycle goes. repair guy used a heat gun to free up the fan and told me that I can avoid future problems by keeping the whole unit level.

Thanks for the replies!

When I got home last night, I looked into the fridge, and it was a reasonably-cold 40-42 in the main refrigerator, according to our thermometer. How could this be, I wondered?

Turns out my wife turned the temp selector dial to colder (I say it that way because the dial has somewhat cryptic settings on it, 1-2-3-4-5, not temperature numbers) and the temp dropped from 50 to 40-42 in a few hours.

I assume that doesn’t mean the thing is working perfectly, but it is better than not getting any cooler than 50.

Even though it’s somewhat improved, I might try to pull it out and clean the coils for starters. From what I’ve read, it may be that running it dialed down toward cold is overtaxing the condenser and risking complete burnout. Cleaning the coils seems like it is a good thing to do anyway.

You are not “overtaxing the condenser”. But if the condenser is dirty then the compressor head pressure will be higher and will run more, shortening it’s life.