Is your fridge making noise? Not keeping food cold? It may be wearing out.

You may love your refrigerator—especially, if it's just the right size for the space and your family's needs—but if it's been acting up lately, it may be time to get a new one. Don't start shopping around just yet, though. Take a look at some common ailments and find out whether or not they're fixable.

The food isn't as cold as it should be.

If that gallon of milk you bought a few days ago has started to smell funny, it could be because the refrigerator has lost its ability to maintain a cold-enough temperature. According to the Food and Drug Administration, refrigerators should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers at zero degrees; both can be checked with an appliance thermometer. If the numbers are off, start shopping for a replacement.

The fridge is buzzing.

"A buzzing sound is entirely normal," says Rebeccah Buurstra, brand manager for Maytag. "The noise is the water valve opening to fill the ice maker." If the sound is more of a vibration, though, the refrigerator is likely unsteady. To solve this, she says, adjust the leveling screws and lower the leveling foot firmly against the floor.

modern kitchen with open refrigerator
Credit: gerenme / Getty Images

You've already spent a fortune on fixing it.

If your local repairperson has been making repeat visits to fix your fridge, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new one. How old is your current model? According to Consumer Reports, a standard refrigerator usually lasts about 10 years.

There's a lot of frost in the freezer.

The freezer always makes some frost but if it's working overtime and laying a thick layer of ice crystals on your frozen foods, something's not quite right. Fortunately, the problem may be easy to fix. It may be that you're overloading the freezer. "Some fridges have self-defrosting modes and the air temperature will rise if foods lose moisture during this process, and some ice crystals will form," says says Buurstra. Placing food in the freezer when it's still warm could be the culprit instead. If the food has condensation on it, the moisture can freeze and form ice crystals. "To prevent excess ice crystal formation, use only freezer-safe containers and moisture-proof, vapor-proof freezer wrap," she adds. "This wrap will help prevent moisture loss during the defrost cycle."

The fridge and freezer doors don't close completely.

Check that the refrigerator is level, advises Buurstra. "An unlevel fridge can cause the doors to close improperly, letting humidity in." The problem can happen if the fridge wasn't installed properly or the floor isn't level, causing the fridge to lean. She suggests using a level to measure from front to back and side to side, then adjust the leveling legs, as necessary.

The back side of the refrigerator feels hotter than usual.

That's where you'll find the motor, so it's normal for it to feel hotter than the front or sides. However, excess heat could be a sign that the motor is overheating. A replacement may be necessary but it's expensive—if your fridge is getting close to (or is more than) 10 years old, it may not pay to get the appliance fixed.


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