Refrigerator motor runs, but doesn't get cold. Fixable?

I have a refrigerator that doesn’t get cold at all. When I plug it in and set the temperature control to anything but ‘off’, the motor (presumably the compressor motor?) will start up, and hum. It also makes a clicking noise, which sounds to me like something spinning is hitting something else once per cycle - it’s very regular. So, I’m wondering, is this a problem I can fix? Something a repairman could fix? Or something worth scrapping the fridge over?

This worked on my side-by-side freezer/refrigerator.

Remove everything from the freezer compartment and look around for screws that will allow you to remove the back (inside) panel of the freezer. You might have to remove the icemaker if it has one.

There should be a large duct behind that panel with a fan that moves the air through and around some coils. There will be an opening into and out of the refrigerator compartment.

Once you have the panel removed, plug it in and observe if the fan spins. You might have to hit the little buttons that turn the light off when the door is closed (trick it into thinking the doors are closed.

If the fan is obstructed, unobstruct it. If it isn’t working, you can probably get a new fan for under $20.00.

If the coils are covered in ice, then the defroster element is probably bad. This can be replaced pretty cheaply.

Freezer repairs are usually pretty simple as long as it’s not part of the computer controls on the newer models.

Another possibility is that there’s ice blocking the vents. One telltale symptom is that the freezer is icing over (too cold) while the items in the refrigerator feel cool, but not cold, to the touch.

Put it on the lowest setting for a few days. This will cause any blocking ice to melt, and then it should get colder. Then, in the future, never put your fridge on max.

If this doesn’t work, then you’ll need to take it apart or find a repairman as described above.

Okay, so I popped the back of the freezer open, and the fan was indeed obstructed, so I gave it a push with my screwdriver, and it’s spinning again. It’s been unplugged for a while now, so it might take a while to see if it’ll cool off, but I felt a little cool air, so I’m hopeful. I’ll see if it’s cold in a few

However, it’s still making a clicking noise, which I traced to what I think is the compressor - big copper-looking tank and a munch of copper tubing at the bottom of the fridge. It’s definitely not the fan down there, but it’s clicking very fast and regular - several times a second, I think, although I haven’t timed it. I poked around a bit online, and apparently the compressor can overheat and click on and off, but this is happening as soon as I start up the fridge (which hasn’t been running for days) and much more frequently. Any thoughts? I should mention that this is a secondary fridge I picked up off craigslist’s free section, so while the guy said it was working, I don’t know if it was clicking before.

If the compressor’s bad, you can probably put it out on the curb. That’s not really a do-it-yourself job to replace the compressor, and would probably cost a lot more than it’s worth.

Are you sure nothing’s stuck in the cooling fan by the compressor? Maybe a tag or something that could cause a clicking sound?

If the fridge cools after a few hours, you might be able to ignore the noise, but know that it might mean an imminent failure, so don’t fill up the freezer with expensive meat. It may be a good garage fridge to hold beer and softdrinks for a while anyway.

Also, remember to unplug the fridge before messing with any kind of electrical connections. If there’s any ice, your hands are likely to be wet and will increase the chance of a shock. Also, there’s a capacitor that gets the compressor going that will hold a charge even when the unit is unplugged, so unless you have the know-how to discharge that capacitor, don’t attempt to work on the compressor.

The compressor is at the bottom of most units. It will be outside the cooling areas. Also on the bottom of a lot of frigs will be the condencer fan. If the dirt level is up the fan may be hitting something.
After it has been running for sometime unplug it and check to see if the compressor is hot, do this with care.

To replace the compressor will take a pro and probably cost more in parts than it will be worth. Getting rid of it may be a problem. Check with your city.