Worth having an old refrigerator repaired?

Not mine, my mother’s. An old Whirlpool with top freezer, maybe 20 years old (I know it’s probably past its life span by now). It has an ice cube maker which hasn’t worked in years. (The thing began leaking a month ago from the ice maker part and some neighbor who has since moved away did something to turn off the water line? I wasn’t there, it’s all very unclear to me what they did). But last week the freezer failed, the refrigerator is just barely running and is NOT cold enough for safety IMO. My mother is 85 and doesn’t want to get a new refrigerator, so I will look for a used one and take a chance that it will last a few more years. But…is it even worthwhile having a repairman come and take a look at it, or should we consider it moribund?

I think it’s rather an IMHO question, since I doubt there’s a factual answer. My fridge has been running for more than 28 years (It wasn’t new when I got it, so I’ve no clue how old it really is). It has some troubles with both the freezer and the thermostat, but it has been this way for maybe 10 years. So, maybe your mother’s (or an used one) will still be working in a decade.

Anyway, I wouldn’t call a repairman for such an old piece of junk. Maybe he will be able to fix it, but for all you know, something else critical might fail the next day. If I were you, I would keep this one until its natural death or buy another, but not try to have it fixed. IMHO.

not worth getting looked at. that cost and the cost of the parts is a significant portion of the cost of a newer used one.

in some locations the utility will pickup and recycle a working old fridge at no cost.

20 years aago some refrigerators used the Ice maker as the defrost timer. So your problem may be in the ice maker. If you can repair then go for it. If you have to call out a service teck then replace.

There’s a Q/A in the new issue of Consumer Reports, where someone asks about a fridge running fine except for a door seal going bad and there being a need to replace the entire door. In answer to whether the repair is worth it, CR mentioned that if a repair to a major appliance was more than a set percentage of a new unit (25%? 33%?) then it wasn’t worth getting it fixed. They advised the person to get a new fridge.

Seeing that the fridge mentioned in the OP sound near death, I doubt it’s worth throwing money away to get an appraisal. Best to get another fridge, maybe a used one with a good warranty if such exists.

A new refrigerator will be much more efficient than a 20 year old frig and the savings in electricity will mitigate the cost of the new one. Depending on where you live, there may be a rebate available for replacing an old frig with a new one. Take your time shopping around to get the best deal.

A common failure mode that results in inability to get cold enough is a leak in the refrigerant system. When this happens, it can take several “repairs” before it is truly repaired or may end up be unrepairable.

At 20 years old, it isn’t worth fixing. Even getting replacement parts might be hard for a repairman. To say nothing of the improved efficiency & features of a new one.

But get your mother a new one that is a top-freezer Whirlpool, the same color, same size and set the shelves to the same heights as those in her old one. At 85, she shouldn’t have to face any more changes than she wants!

(sigh) thanks for the answers, I knew there would be no easy fix, because the refrigerator is so old.

But I was hoping to hear, “oh, same problem I had, it was easily repaired for about $100.”…Dang!

depending on size and features prices will vary. new top freezers are $500 to $700. used ones for half that and less. even a $100 repair is a significant fraction of a more recent used one. buy from a trusted source.

I just went through this with a refrigerator only 10 years old. Now we didn’t really like this fridge that much, it was a side by side and just didn’t seem to hold that much. Each section was just too narrow. So we didn’t think long about repairing it. It does seem to be nothing but a temperature sensor which is interfering with the defrost cycle. It could probably be repaired for under $100, but then if something else went wrong it would be wasted money. And as I said, we didn’t like it that much, so this weekend we bought a new fridge, old fashioned top freezer type.

Anyway OP, try shutting it off for a while and see if it starts up working again. It happens sometimes. But it’s also likely to stop working again afterwards anyway.

Also worth noting, the energy savings on a 20 year old fridge arelikely in the $150-$200 a year range.

You can also get grants or rebates for making the change.

Some utility districts will actually pay you something and haul it away, but it usually has to be “working”. YMMV.

Although many people are pessimistic about this refrigerator, in my recent experience with refrigerators, washers, and dryers, if you can troubleshoot and repair it yourself you can wind up happy.

I am not all that handy mechanically, but there are a ton of videos out there showing step by step how to use a multimeter to troubleshoot large appliances.

This is the answer I’d give. While there are some fixes that are easy enough to do yourself and with cheap parts (things like a door seal or a bad line to the ice maker), anything that requires a repairman is probably not worth it for any appliance over 15 years old.

in a situation like this with an old appliance, unskilled person, repairing an in use appliance at another person’s location presents problems.

it would need to be taken out of service for maybe days or longer. a person would need to learn principles and test/diagnostic procedures; going from learning to doing is not always rapid. once diagnosed then parts may not be off the shelf locally and take a week or longer to get.

if a loaner fridge were available that might be an option to take it elsewhere and attempt a repair. for an elderly person that might be too much of a disruption and a single permanent might be the best step.

BTW: I well get a $50 rebate from the utility company just for buying an Energy Star appliance. Also if there’s a used appliance shop around you they might pick up the old unit for free (although I’m not sure they want a 20 year old fridge, but maybe it has parts to fix another one like it).

Stealth brag: Along with the rebate, the MA tax holiday, a gift card for switching to FIOS, and free ice maker upgrade, this new fridge will cost me less than $50.