Fixing a Leaking Refrigerator

Have a leaky refrigerator? This is what I did:
A leaking refrigerator certainly looks dramatic and possibly even scary (as in “I’m scared for the well-being of my wallet if I have to shell out a lot of money for a repair”). On the other hand, this type of leak does not tend to have a noticeable effect on the operation of your refrigerator or freezer, other than making refrigerated foods soggy, so you may be tempted to bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem. This is not a good idea, as the loss will not go away on its own. However, it is actually quite a simple DIY solution. I fixed this particular refrigerator myself and lived to tell the story.

refrigerator leaking water

Moisture in the refrigerator leaking in all respects.
My refrigerator is a fairly new model, with no freezer and no freezer. Noticed the moisture on the bottom shelf for a few weeks, but didn’t act until it turned into a real leak. This coincided with a particularly busy season for my warranty repair service. When I called them, they said it would be more than a week before a technician could come and fix my refrigerator leak. So I took a look at everyone’s favorite DIY repair manual, the Internet, to see if I could clean my leaky fridge myself.

Problem: defrost drain block
My research was comforting. Apparently, leaks inside the refrigerator are generally less serious than water deposits on the kitchen floor. It appeared that the cause was a clogged defrost drain. In freezers, clogging of this drain hole due to ice or food debris is a simple and fairly common problem. Water that cannot escape down the defrost drain as it would normally end up dripping, hence the leak.

Defrost Drain Inspection
The purpose of the defrost drain is to remove the condensate from the refrigerator and into the drain pan. However, over time, ice and debris can clog the drain pipe, which can cause setbacks and wet the kitchen floor. The location of the defrost drain will vary depending on the make and model of the refrigerator. Consult the user manual to locate the drain.

Solve the problem
The solution is just as simple (in theory at least): unblock the drain. Good and fair. The initial step of the instructions was doable. I took the food out of my freezer and put it in a fridge. (If you’re testing this in very hot weather, you could insulate the chest with blankets to keep it out in the cold air.) I also took the food out of the fridge to make cleaning easier.

Step 1: remove the drain cap
The next step was easy too. I unplugged the refrigerator from the electrical outlet to allow the liquid in the drain hole to thaw. I had read that pouring hot water down the drain would speed up the process. However, I first had to remove the drain cover, which was also frozen. After several hours, I was able to move it around a bit, but it sure wasn’t going anywhere. Afraid of damaging it with brute force, I waited a bit longer. I’m still out of luck.

Step 2: heat compress
Finally, I decided to apply a little TLC, in the form of a warm compress placed over the drain. I had to replace the compress several times as it cooled down, but in about an hour the drain cover could be removed.

Step 3: flush the drain
From there it was easy to flush the drain with hot water. Some people use a turkey stick for this, but since I last roasted a whole turkey it was … uh … never, I don’t own this particular kitchen equipment. Instead, I used a funnel to pour a thin stream of warm water down the drain. After a while, the liquid flowed freely, without any hindrance. Problem solved!

Now my successful adventure in the world of refrigerator repair is complete, I just have to clean up the mess. Not the most pleasant task, but my warm glow of accomplishment made it that much easier to tackle.

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