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Thread: Freezer and refrigerator not as cold as they used to be (lots of troubleshooting already done)

  1. #1
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    Question Freezer and refrigerator not as cold as they used to be (lots of troubleshooting already done)

    Model Number: 106.74982401
    Brand: Sears Kenmore

    Hi folks,

    The Kenmore 106.74982401 I bought new in 2004 started acting up at the start of last week. I noticed things like the hot dogs in the freezer starting to get a little rubbery, the ice was a little damp/slick, and the fridge was barely cool at all. Before this we had always had the fridge and freezer temperature dials set to the recommended 4 (out of a range of 1 to 7), and everything was always fine.

    I didn't have any time last week to look at it myself, and my wife was nervous that we'd lose the food. So I called an appliance repair shop to take care of it, knowing I'd pay a premium. They came out and replaced the start relay at a total price of $160. Something tells me the repair guy just picked a part at random to replace and crossed his fingers that it would be right. From reading these forums, my understanding is that if that relay was the problem, the compressor wouldn't have been coming on, and I'd have just been hearing clicking. That was never the case.

    Last weekend came and I finally had time to try to figure it out for myself. I removed the cardboard panel on the back and found that the compressor fan was blowing just fine. I removed the kick panel on the front and found a nice mat of pet fur collected in the grill there, so I scraped that out with a plastic fork and a shop vac, then blew out the under-fridge area with an air compressor. Now things started getting a little colder in the freezer, but the problem is still not fully resolved.

    I figured out how to get the ice maker and back panel out of the freezer. The evaporator fan is blowing just fine. The evaporator fins had a little bit of ice. I did witness the heating element come on and thoroughly defrost the fins, so that's not the problem.

    I found the parts diagram for my model:

    http://c.searspartsdirect.com/lis_pn...3007-00002.png

    With the air tower (part #23) removed from the freezer and all the parts on the ceiling of the fridge compartment also removed (parts 12, 21, and 24), I was able to inspect the holes between the freezer and fridge through which air circulates. I can see right through one compartment into the other. Completely unobstructed, no ice accumulation, nothing! With all those parts put back in place, I do feel cold air coming through into the fridge compartment, but it seems like it couldn't possibly be enough to keep the whole compartment cool. Unfortunately, I never thought to check that sort of thing when everything was working fine, so I don't have anything to compare to.

    I put everything back and set the temp controls back to 4 and 4. After about 36 hours, those hot dogs in the freezer still aren't solid frozen, and things in the fridge below the first shelf (i.e. farther away from the air vents) aren't very cool. The ice maker is back to making ice, which I know only happens at a certain temperature in the freezer, but the ice near the bottom of the bin has started melting together. The thing seems to be running just about every time I think to check it. When I check the refrigerator at work, I notice the cold air being blown out by the evaporator fan is significantly colder than my fridge at home.

    Even with all those parts removed, I could not even find the air damper (part #9). Reading the forums suggests that that thing could have frozen and broke in a closed position (?), but I also can't see anything on the diagram that indicates what would open and close it (like a motor). Was part #9 maybe a part of the sliding freezer tray assembly (parts 50, 59), which I threw out years ago because it took up too much space?

    Also, I can't for the life of me figure out how the freezer temperature setting (#34) knob could be doing anything at all. That knob manipulates parts 46 and 47. Part 46 has what looks like a temperature sensor coming out of it that runs to about where part 36 is, and wraps around a post several times. But none of those parts connects to absolutely anything else at all! Not via wiring or anything mechanical. The freezer temp knob ranges from 1 to 7, but the fridge temp knob also has an "off" setting, which actually does turn off the evaporator fan in the freezer. So what on earth does the freezer temp knob do?

    I've also noticed that there's no longer the two or three seconds of suction after closing the fridge or freezer doors. I checked the gaskets around the doors, and found no problems. No clue on this one.

    Any ideas? The things I can think of are: 1. Defrost cycle happening too frequently, which is warming things up (this doesn't explain why the cold air isn't as cold as the work refrigerator). 2. System needs freon charge (I thought modern appliances didn't need this, though--am I wrong?)

  2. #2
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    Now when you removed the back panel inside your freezer, did ALL the evaporator coils have a thin layer of frost on them? You said there was some, but some isn't ALL. That would be the main reason the air doesn't seem as cold coming into your refrigerator, and that indicates you have a sealed system problem, which could be a leak of freon, which is extremely rare, OR a restriction in your sealed system OR the compressor internally isn't pumping the freon sufficiently, thus a new compressor would be needed.

    It would be a really good idea to purchase a refrigerator/freezer thermometer and put it in your freezer, normal freezer temp. should always be between 0-10 degrees.

    This is the one I use in mine, you can order it by clicking the photo:


    Or go to your local grocery or walmart, target.

    Jake
    Appliance Repair School 1987-1988
    Star Appliance Tech. 2 yrs. 1988-1990
    Wards Appliance Tech. 11 yrs. 1990-2001
    Sears Appliance Tech. 4 yrs. 2001-Oct. 2005
    Jake's Appliance Repair Nov. 2005-present

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake View Post
    Now when you removed the back panel inside your freezer, did ALL the evaporator coils have a thin layer of frost on them? You said there was some, but some isn't ALL. That would be the main reason the air doesn't seem as cold coming into your refrigerator, and that indicates you have a sealed system problem, which could be a leak of freon, which is extremely rare, OR a restriction in your sealed system OR the compressor internally isn't pumping the freon sufficiently, thus a new compressor would be needed.
    Jake
    Jake,

    Thanks for your response.

    The coils were evenly coated with a thin layer of frost. I checked again before posting and saw the same.

    I got home today to find the unit not running, and my hot dogs in the freezer at refrigerator temperatures. I got the thing to run again by turning the temperature knob all the way up to 7 (coldest), then back to 4.

    I got a coil brush to try to see if I could root out more dirt and grime from the condenser coils underneath, but I didn't really get much more out. I also noted that repair guy replaced the start relay with a 3-in-1 type that doesn't look like the one in the parts schematic.

    I noticed that the evaporator fan came on before the compressor. Once the compressor came on, it quickly became too hot to touch for more than a split second.

    After further reading on this site, I must also sheepishly admit that I have owned this fridge for six years and never once cleaned the condenser coils until three days ago. And I have had pets the whole time.

    I bet now you're going to tell me that the compressor is the problem and I'll be buying a new fridge. I have a multimeter, so if you can tell me exactly what to check (please be specific--touch this to that and look for this) I can do that.

  4. #4
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    I remembered I had an instant-read probe thermometer buried in a kitchen drawer. I stuck it in the grating directly in front of the evaporator fan, and when I checked it again after a few minutes, it was 0 degrees. I set it such that the probe was about in the center of the compartment, touching nothing else. Again, after a few minutes it was 0 degrees.

    I'm at a loss. Could the thing just not be running often enough to maintain internal temperature? I've checked to make sure the lights stay off when the doors are closed, so they can't be acting as a heat source.

  5. #5
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    I also noted that repair guy replaced the start relay with a 3-in-1 type that doesn't look like the one in the parts schematic.
    That may be the problem.

    He should of replaced it with the original one below.

    Here's the compressor start device relay for your model, its $35 here:
    Manufacturer part number 8201647 is RepairClinic item number 1027542


    Not sure if he ruined the compressor already with that 3 in 1 kit, but you can order the original one above and see if that fixes it.

    If not, then your compressor is shot.

    Jake
    Appliance Repair School 1987-1988
    Star Appliance Tech. 2 yrs. 1988-1990
    Wards Appliance Tech. 11 yrs. 1990-2001
    Sears Appliance Tech. 4 yrs. 2001-Oct. 2005
    Jake's Appliance Repair Nov. 2005-present

    Look-Up & Order Parts

  6. #6
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    One more update: I set the temp controls to 7 and 7 before going to bed last night. Woke up to a sub-zero freezer and frozen hot dogs, but I'd have to bed the thing ran non-stop.

  7. #7
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    Ok, so what would you like to do now?

    1. Call the appliance company to install the correct relay?

    2. Let it continue to run and see how it does?

    3. Install the relay yourself?

    4. Buy a new refrigerator?

    Jake
    Appliance Repair School 1987-1988
    Star Appliance Tech. 2 yrs. 1988-1990
    Wards Appliance Tech. 11 yrs. 1990-2001
    Sears Appliance Tech. 4 yrs. 2001-Oct. 2005
    Jake's Appliance Repair Nov. 2005-present

    Look-Up & Order Parts

  8. #8
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    I suppose that rather than just throwing darts and hoping I hit upon the right thing, I'd like to understand how my particular symptoms would be explained by a bad start relay originally, and why the replacement 3-in-1 would also be bad.

    Everything I've read says that a bad start relay means buzzing and clicking, a compressor that doesn't kick on, no cooling at all, and a bucket of water in the freezer where ice used to be. I didn't have these symptoms.

    The compressor comes on, the evaporator fan blows freezing cold air, and with the temp controls set to coldest, I woke up to a solidly frozen freezer this morning. How would the start relay explain this?

  9. #9
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    Since its an intermittent problem, I really don't know what else it could be without being there at your house diagnosing it myself.

    I'm just going by what the tech. did, and installing a 3 in 1 is the wrong way to replace a compressor start relay, believe me, I've been on so many service calls where techs did that, and yes it may work fine for awhile but then the compressor will give out completely.

    Those 3 in 1 kits are only designed as a hard start kit for the older compressors from the 70's and 80's, not the newer compressors of today.

    Jake
    Appliance Repair School 1987-1988
    Star Appliance Tech. 2 yrs. 1988-1990
    Wards Appliance Tech. 11 yrs. 1990-2001
    Sears Appliance Tech. 4 yrs. 2001-Oct. 2005
    Jake's Appliance Repair Nov. 2005-present

    Look-Up & Order Parts

  10. #10
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    These are the same symptoms I am having. Did you ever figure out what was wrong?

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