Repair and disassembly guides for food cooling appliances including refrigerators, freezers and fridge-freezers.

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Why is my freezer intermittently working?

Last night, we noticed a puddle had formed in front of our side by side

refrigerator. We opened it up to find everything was defrosting. The fridge initially seemed unaffected, but after several hours also began to lose its temp. The fan inside the freezer blew foolish air, far from cold.

I pulled it out of the recessed area it's pushed into, took the cardboard panel off the back and found a thick layer of dust on the circular fan that blows on the compressor. I vacuumed all the dust and basically anything I could get at, along with suctioning the drainage tube to clear any blockages. Heard no clicking noises. It all still worked and ran, just no cold air.

On a side note, I looked for the radiator grating, the tubes that circulate the refrigerant, and it seems like they're incorporated into the fan, at least I could see it just underneath and possibly inside the fan. Don't know for sure.

I cleaned off the cardboard and the two vents placed inside the recessed area, there for air circulation. I also looked behind some panels to see if any plugs/connectors were burnt. Found none and made sure all plugs were secure. I then put it all back together.

It seemed to have no effect, I left the fridge out of its cave overnight and went to bed. I woke up this morning and it was working again. The fridge is cold, but the freezer might not be working at full capacity. The ice packs have yet to become rock solid again.

What are these issues indicative of? How did my freezer regain at least 75 to 80 percent of its capacity? I was hoping the particulars of my problem might narrow the scope of possible solutions.

Its a GE model GSH22JFXA WW

Thank you for reading through that mess.

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Hi,

When you say that the evaporator fan was blowing air that was far from cold, did you happen to notice whether the compressor motor was running at the time?

The compressor, compresses the liquid refrigerant and pumps it through the evaporator as a gas. The evaporator fan blows air across the evaporator coils which has the well below freezing point gas passing through it, thereby cooling down the freezer and the fridge

If the compressor was running there may be a loss of refrigerant in the system or a problem with the compressor.

If it was not running then there may be a problem with the defrost thermostat for example, keeping the fridge in the defrost state

Here is a link to the list of possible causes to your problem link.

If it is now nearly back to normal, (it may take the freezer nearly 24 hours to get back to the correct temperature), all you can do is to keep checking the temperature in the freezer section to ensure that it stays at the correct temperature. Be aware that once every 8 -12 hours (varies with manufacturer) the fridge will go into its' defrost cycle, i.e. the compressor will be stopped and the freezer temperature will go up to 33-35 degrees F (0 - 1 C) so as to allow the frost on the evaporator unit to melt. (Don't get confused if the compressor is stopped as the correct operating temperature may have been reached. Usually it doesn't stay stopped for long as temperature changes occur when the doors are opened etc causing it to start again) To speed up this process a defrost heater is turned on as well. The defrost cycle is control by thermostats (or thermistors) and the control board which determines the time it should take in conjunction with the thermosat/thermistor. It shouldn't be longer than 20-30 minutes, after which the compressor will be started again to drive the temperature back down to 0 degrees F. (-18C)

You will have to wait to see when and if it fails again and then check what is occurring with the compressor. If it is running, feel the evaporator coils in the freezer (use a dry cloth and the back of the hand so that you don't get ice burns), normally it should be freezing.

If it is not running and has been off for a long time (more than 30 minutes or so to allow for the defrost cycle) you will have to start checking the items in the link above.

Sorry about the length of the reply but thought it would be easier if you had a grasp of what should occur.

Apologies if you knew all this.

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I definitely did not and I appreciate the help. Its gone out once again unfortunately. And im pretty sure the compressor was running 75% of the time. Once when I checked, it had stopped running entirely for probably a good 10 to 15 minutus, which I figured it had overheated and shutdown.

But if the compressor went out, wouldn't it stay out?

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Hi @brunob32137

Was the evaporator cold at all? If not as I said it might be a compressor or gas (refrigerant) problem. Check the evaporaor fins in the freezer when the compressor is running. After at least 30 minutes of running they should be very cold. Watch out that your fingers aren't wet if you go to touch it. If it is cold as it should be they might stick to the fins.

The compressor might be going out because the control board is telling it to stop. It might have just been the defrost cycle kicking in.

The defrost cycle is done on a timed period not by any 'frost' detection sensor etc. So if the compressor had been running for say 8 hours (or up to 12) the cycle would start and stop it. Then say 20 -30 minutes later it should start up again when the 'timed' cycle' is over.

Alternately the compressor could be stopped due to problems with the control board or the sensors

The thing to check is the evaporator unit and how cold it is getting if the compressor is running nearly continually. It should be very cold all the time except during the time when the compressor is not running and even then the compressor should restart up very soon so that the temperature doesn't rise by more than a couple of degrees if that, except for when the defrost cycle is in operation.

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I could have written this exact same question. My side by side has been doing the same thing. It is definitely a freezing/defrosting issue and I'm pretty sure it's directly related to the ice build up on the back wall of the freezer. Both the internal curriculation fan which regulates the temperatures of both the fridge and freezer sides -- theoretically to the chosen settings -- as well as the external fan on the bottom rear -- which theoretically at least, keeps the compressor from getting overheated -- work. And the defrost heater must be functional as well, since sometimes the entire unit runs perfectly for several weeks in a row. But due to the intermittent intermittent nature of my problem, I just don't know where to go from here. I'm guessing that the defrost timer is acting up for some reason, but that is only a guess from someone with very limited knowledge. Any help would me greatly appreciated.

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Hi @hifigator ,

Does the compressor ever stop running or is it running continuously when this happens?

The compressor should stop running when the set temp has been reached. Of course this is difficult to achieve sometimes because the door is being opened and closed through normal activity and cold air is lost. Check first thing in the a.m. as it should have had all night to achieve set temp

During the defrost cycle the compressor is stopped and the defrost heater is turned on.

Given that you have an ice build up it may be that the heater mightn't be defrosting enough and so you slowly get a build up of ice over time as each "defrost" doesn't get rid of all the ice or the drain tube may be blocked

Perhaps the defrost cycle time is not long enough due to a faulty defrost timer. It does vary with makes but when it occurs the time should be 20 -30 minutes and the freezer temp should get up to 0 deg. C (32F) to aid in the ice melting. Once it starts again it should drive the freezer temp down to -18 to -20 C (or about 0 deg F)

Just some thoughts

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Hifi Gator sent a message

Feb 15, 3:05am

First off, I want to thank you for your response.

Secondly, I do think the problem is with the defrost timer in some fashion, but don't know how. My logic is simply that if the defrost heater had a problem, It wouldn't be likely that it would fix itself over and over again. So regardless of the particular problem someone had -- of this nature -- they couldn't get any better on their own. The combo of problems couldn't/wouldn't get any better over time; they could only get worse.

Does that sound logical to you? If so, I'm thinking the defrost timer makes sense. But again, I'm using logic, and very limited knowledge of appliances. And I'm pretty sure, that while I'm normally right, I have been wrong before ... Or so I've been told.

Thanks again for your help.

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