Vintage Westinghouse Refrigerator Repair Advice

kdg

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Nov 27, 2021
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Lakewood, Ohio
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ES-7
Recently inherited a vintage Westinghouse. It hasn't run for many years and when plugged in makes a buzzing sound in the back near the thermocouple. Looking for recommendation or guidance on repair or debug steps to see if this unit can get running again. I do understand that the refrigerant isn't available anymore - so, one question I have is if anything needs to be replaced, can the system work with a substitute refrigerant?
 

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rickgburton

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makes a buzzing sound in the back near the thermocouple.
What exactly is buzzing?
can the system work with a substitute refrigerant?
Not without an expensive retrofit. That machines uses sulphur dioxide (S02) for a refrigerant and currently there are no refrigerants that can replace S02.
 

kdg

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Location
Lakewood, Ohio
What exactly is buzzing?

Not without an expensive retrofit. That machines uses sulphur dioxide (S02) for a refrigerant and currently there are no refrigerants that can replace S02.
Rick, thanks for the reply!

Here's a picture of the part that's buzzing. As I plug it in, the coil is activates right away and the area that I'm point to buzzes. It seems like it's calling for cooling, but after some time, it clicks off. After another few minutes, it appears to call for cooling again, the coil engages and then buzzes where the arrow is pointing. I don't have any reason to believe there's a leak in the system, but I'm not sure what evidence there'd be if there was a leak.

Not sure what the spring coil in the back does? It appears the spring force is adjustable with a setscrew on top. The mechanism is attached to a lever arm that makes another electrical contact, but I don't understand the function yet.

What's a guess on expense for a retrofit?
 

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rickgburton

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Your pic is too close. What part is it? Where is it located on the machine? If there was a leak, you would definitely know it. It's a powerful rotten eggs smell. The biggest problem you'll have with a retrofit is finding someone that's willing to do the work and knows how to do the work. Your best option is to have it professionally restored. It will cost you 4K -6K but when it's done it will worth 10K -12K. https://www.antiqueappliances.com/antique-refrigerators/
 

Old Fridge Guy

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Most likely the compressor is seized and the buzzing you're hearing is the relay/overload for the compressor. Don't leave it plugged in like that. SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) refrigerant is very corrosive when it comes in contact with air. Particularly the moisture that is in the air. Even a tiny leak that might have taken decades to be noticed will start to corrode the refrigeration system from the inside out. So the compressor is likely rusted and corroded inside. Rick is right, a complete retrofit, costing thousands of dollars, is what's needed to get this refrigerator working again. Now that you know what you're looking at you can decide how to proceed. Good luck to you!
 

kdg

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Lakewood, Ohio
I think this makes sense base on how well I remember it working because it slowly started getting warm over time... Perhaps the leak was so small it just took a long time. Thank you both for chiming in. Really appreciate it. Will figure out what to do next.
 
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