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ZFSB26DRASS Freezer Stops Cooling

sethmeisterg

Premium Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
25
Location
Los Angeles
Model Number
ZFSB26DRASS
Brand
GE
Age
More than 10 years
Freezer Stops Cooling (Compressor works but doesn't restart when needed)

This is a approximately 12 year old fridge I inherited when I bought this house. It's a GE Monogram, stainless steel side-by-side. I have previous experience with a similar fridge (an Arctica which I had problems with in 2007 and Jake helped me way back then!), and sadly this one appears to be on the fritz now.

Here are my observations: I discovered the freezer a few days ago was (according to the LED display) 22 degrees. FF was 45-ish degrees. The evaporator fan was running constantly, but I discovered that the compressor was off and not turning on. So I pulled out the fridge and unscrewed the panel revealing the jelly roll, compressor, and main board (unscrewed the board panel as well to remove the lower cabinet cover). While the jelly roll was a bit dusty, nothing else seemed out of the ordinary (condenser fan WAS running!). So I unplugged the fridge, waited a minute then plugged it back in. Once I plugged it back in, the compressor turned on and the freezer started cooling again. After several hours, the compressor was still running and was very hot to the touch (not sure if the fact that it was hot is also an indicator of a problem!)

Fast forward to today, and I came home and the freezer temp was 3 degrees. I went upstairs and did stuff for an hour then returned and the temp was again listed as 15 degrees, evaporator fan running, compressor off. So it seems something is going on where the compressor is just not turning back on. So I first tried turning off the circuit breaker to which the refrigerator was connected, then back on, and same deal -- compressor didn't turn back on. So I wheeled the fridge out again, then pulled the plug, waited a minute and then plugged it back in. The compressor then came back on (very weird -- the only difference between turning off the breaker and pulling the plug is that the neutral/ground are disconnected when the plug is removed from the outlet). Anyway, what could be causing the compressor to NOT turn back on even though the temp in the freezer clearly indicates it SHOULD be on? I tried testing the freezer thermistor with a DMM (I actually submerged it in a glass of ice water to ensure it was at 32-34 degrees F, then tested resistance, and it was the correct resistance according to the table in a similar model's service manual). I also ran the thermistor diagnostics that all passed.

Could it be the Overload / Relay ? Could it be that the compressor is somehow being driven too hard and did a thermal shutdown (where a poweroff/on reset the thermal shutdown, if that is even possible?). What should I be looking for / testing next? Thanks so much for your help!
 
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sethmeisterg

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Joined
Apr 18, 2007
Messages
25
Location
Los Angeles
IMG_7615.jpgFullSizeRender.jpg

One other thing to note is that after a few hours, the temp in the freezer as measured by a Taylor analog thermometer is < -10F, but the freezer temp readout still reads "0". See pics.

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rickgburton

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Could it be the Overload / Relay ?
It could be the relay/overload. Here's how you check it; Next time the compressor is not running when it should be running, remove the cover over the motherboard and measure the voltage between J8 COMP and J7-9. This is compressor supply voltage. If your meter indicates 120 VAC, unplug the machine and measure the resistance of the relay/overload and the compressor windings. Here's a diagram:
GEMB-06 Supply Volts Direct Start.jpgComponent Test Comp Relay-1.jpg
 
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sethmeisterg

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Messages
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Location
Los Angeles
Thanks, Rick! I'll give that a shot today and will report back.

This morning when I woke up, I checked the fridge and the LED temperature indicator in the fridge read 7 degrees for the freezer but the Taylor analog thermometer read 0 degrees F. FF temp according to the fridge was 41 (should be 37). However, the evaporator fan was NOT running (dead silent).

What's baffling is that I swear I tested the frozen food thermistor. Where does the fridge get the temperature value it uses for the LED display?
 
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sethmeisterg

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Messages
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Location
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Update: I tested the compressor voltage with the DMM and WHILE I WAS TESTING IT, the compressor kicked on (when I first sampled the compressor voltage, it was 0VAC (Line was 120VAC). I'm not sure if my touching it with the DMM leads somehow triggered the compressor to kick on? Note that when it went on, I heard the damper door open slightly (as I'd expect since FF was 41).

The compressor shut off after 10-15 minutes and the analog thermo in the freezer now reads around -3F. It's almost like part of the board knows that the freezer is where it should be yet the temperature indicator on the front panel still indicates 7 degrees. FF is at 41 according to the front panel (though I don't have an independent thermometer in there), so despite FZR being at target temp, the fridge isn't distributing that cold to the FF side for some reason.
 
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rickgburton

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I wouldn't put a lot of faith in that analog thermometer. I remember looking at them in the store and no two were the same temperature. I think they were $2 each so put 3 or 4 in there and compare the temps. Are you measuring in the center of the compartment?
 

sethmeisterg

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Ok, I'll get a digital thermometer in there. The analog thermo was on the second shelf from the top (which now seems dumb since that's where the super chilled air comes out, right? So I just moved it down to the 2nd drawer from bottom, and will reevaluate. Interestingly, the compressor kicked on when I had the freezer door open (we had been having breakfast and opened the fridge side a bunch too). Will report back digital thermometer results in a bit. Thanks again!
 

sethmeisterg

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Ok, you were right about the analog thermometer. Digital reads 14F. Analog reads around 6-8F. Came home to those temps after being out for 3 hours. Compressor kicked on not long after I shut the freezer and fridge. Do you know what wattage the defrost heater consumes? I have a Sense (current-sensing techie thingie) that was reporting a heater-like device consuming around 550W running for around 2-3 minutes each time but I'm not 100% sure it's this fridge's defrost heater.

I also added a digital thermometer in the FF compartment right next to the FF thermistor just to see what the FF temp is from an external source. The stuff in the fridge felt colder than 41.


FullSizeRender.jpg
 
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sethmeisterg

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Agreed :). Another data point: When the compressor was ON, voltage between J8 & J7-9 was 26VAC. I just measured it again a minute later and it was 120VAC. Shouldn't that be 120VAC always when the compressor is on? If it's not, what does that indicate?

So, not to beat this to death, but, the thermometers I placed in the freezer are in agreement that the temp is 15F. The front panel (in the FF, on the top) reads *2* degrees for the freezer (which is wrong). So, if the freezer thermistor is working, what would (a) cause the board to display the wrong departure on the LED readout, and (b) what would prevent the board from turning on the compressor and evaporators even in that case (since 2 > 0, and the freezer is set to 0)?
 
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sethmeisterg

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So I took off the evaporator cover in the freezer and this is what I see:

IMG_7624.jpgIMG_7625.jpgIMG_7627.jpg

Looks like frost on the bottom of the coil but not the top. Also, there appears to be a puddle of rust-like substance under the defrost heater at the bottom of the coil.
 

sethmeisterg

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So I measured the current going to each of the three wires (with a clamp ammeter) connected to the compressor while the compressor was operating:

Orange: 0.95A
White: 0.55A
Black: 1.18A

FullSizeRender.jpg

Should this current reading be 6A to each wire? Or some other value?
 

sethmeisterg

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According to a data sheet.

The running current for this compressor is 1.07A, so the numbers above look ok. I did measure resistance across C-S and C-R, and they were 7.2 ohms and 4.7 ohms, respectively. The 7.2 number seems out of spec looking at the data sheet.
 
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rickgburton

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OK, going by the evaporator frost pattern, you have a sealed system problem.
Sealed System.jpgSealed System.jpg
 
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sethmeisterg

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That's what I thought! But today (just now), I took the cover off for one last ditch photo after the fridge appeared to return to normal temperatures (it must have sensed I was out shopping for a new fridge ;))! Here's a pic of the evaporator coil:


IMG_7649.jpg

Does this still imply a sealed system issue? Could the compressor be weak one minute, then fine another? Is that one of the failure modes?
 
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rickgburton

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....it must have sensed I was out shopping for a new fridge
LOL...I believe it! I can't tell you how many times I've gone on a service call and have the customer tell me, "It hasn't been working for the last several days and now that you're here it's working".

Does this still imply a sealed system issue? Could the compressor be weak one minute, then fine another? Is that one of the failure modes?
Over the past 30 Years I've done a lot of sealed system repairs and I've made it a practice to find out why something quit working. If the compressor quit I'd cut it open and look inside, if there's a restriction in the system like the evaporator I would cut that apart and look for what caused it. I really like working on refrigerators and refrigerated units. Obviously I couldn't do this in a customer's home. The shop where I worked would buy refrigerators with a sealed system problem that, because of the cost, decided to buy new. We would fix then and resell them. A common problem was moisture in the system. There's a filter drier attached to the condensor coils that usually catches any impurities like moisture but sometimes it doesn't. On machines that had the same problem as yours, cools good for a while then stops cooling then cools again, I found where the refrigerant enters the evaporator from the very small diameter cap tube, moisture would collect and freeze eventually blocking the flow of refrigerant. The amount of moisture that would freeze is about the size of a pinhead. When this happens the machine stops cooling. With no cooling taking place the ice melts, refrigerant flow is restored, and the moisture travels back through the system and is usually caught in the filter dryer. If it's not caught the same cooling-no cooling cycles repeats. Now, without connecting a set of refrigeration gauges to your system I can't say that's what's happening. If the compressor is running when that happens the restrictions will cause the compressor to overheat and open the overload.
 

sethmeisterg

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Hehe, ok :). I'll donate this fridge and hopefully whoever gets it won't have a problem! Thanks again for all your help and suggestions :).
 
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