Is my refrigerator worth fixing?

Refrigerator with open door, containing fruits and vegetables and bottled water

Maybe . . . 

Some problems are easy, fast and inexpensive to fix, while others cost more to fix than is reasonable.

Here are a few tips to help decide which is which.


  • You can see frost on the back wall of the freezer.
  • You hear a grinding noise in the back of the freezer.

Problem: It’s not defrosting. The defrost system is fixable for much less than the cost of replacing the refrigerator.

What to do: Fix It!


  • It smells “hot”
  • It runs a lot
  • Food spoils in the refrigerator faster than it should
  • It clicks on and off


  • This is usually caused by accumulated dust in the condenser, and it needs to be cleaned.
  • It can also be caused by a bad condenser fan motor, which can be easily replaced.

What to do:


  • There is water on the floor
  • There is a puddle of ice in the bottom of the freezer
  • There is a puddle of water in the bottom of the refrigerator


  • A clogged defrost drain system
  • A leaky water supply line

What to do:

  • Fix it!


    • The freezer and refrigerator sections are both warm, and
    • You can hear the fan running in the freezer compartment, and
    • Can hear the compressor running underneath, and
    • There is cool air blowing out underneath the bottom and
    • It doesn’t smell “hot” underneath.


  • This usually indicates a sealed system problem.

What to do:

  • Replace it.In the past, many refrigerators had a 5 or 10 year warranty on the sealed system; however many recent models only have a 1 year warranty.If your refrigerator has a sealed system problem and the sealed system warranty has expired, I’d suggest replacing it. A repair is going to cost most of the price of new refrigerator.

A note about built-in refrigerators like Sub-Zero. . .

These should nearly always be fixed, since even an expensive repair would be less than $2,000 and a replacement would require ordering new panels, probably getting a finish carpenter to work the new one into your kitchen, and getting movers and a service technician to safely get the old one out without damaging anything.

In short, if you have a Sub-Zero or anything similar, replacement can easily cost more than $10,000, so even an expensive repair is still a comparatively great deal.

Energy Efficiency
The payback period for electricity savings for replacing a top freezer refrigerator built around the year 2000 is 5 -10 years, depending on exactly which model you choose. This also happens to be about how long you can expect the new refrigerator to last, so it’s essentially a coin toss.

If you’re going to replace a pre-1980 side-by-side with a new one, the payback period is about 3 years, which makes the decision a lot easier.

These are just some general guidelines. If you want a free opinion on what you should do, give me a call and I’ll give you a hand with your decision.