A leaking refrigerator is not the most concerning problem in the world, but it becomes one of the most annoying ones very quickly. A little puddle is easy to clean up, but having to clean it up every time you go into the kitchen is one chore you don’t need to be added to the list. Furthermore, the water you can’t see and doesn’t get cleaned up sits on the floor. It is harmless at first, but over time it causes mold to grow and will eventually cause damage to any wood flooring or sub-floor underneath.
Whether you want to stop cleaning up puddles or prevent expensive-long-term damage, you want your refrigerator to stop leaking. Unfortunately, as refrigerators work with both ice, water, and condensation, a leak can be caused by several issues. Fortunately, not all of them require serious repairs, and all of them can be easily investigated by you.
Discerning the General Area of the Leak
It is important that once you notice a leak, you clean it up. However, you want to avoid taking any further action for the time being. In doing so, you will learn two important things to troubleshoot this issue by just observing. You will learn:
- If the leak comes back and how often
- If the leak comes from the front or back of the refrigerator
Knowing these two piece of information can help you quickly direct a repair technician to the problem as well as help on your own troubleshooting efforts.
Water Inlet Valve
If there is a leak coming from the back of your refrigerator, and you find it immediately after using the water function (if applicable) or if the ice maker has just been filled, then you have a water inlet valve leak. This part is the connection from the waterline of your house to your refrigerator. While it is possible that the water hose between your home and the appliance itself is leaking, that would require it to have been damaged. It is more likely that a water inlet valve has just broken down on its own and started to leak.
Replacing the valve is actually easier than it looks. Once the compartment cover is off and the water supply line is disconnected, the valve will have a mounting bracket securing it. After removing the mounting bracket, the inlet valve will pull right out. All you need to do now is disconnect the wire harness and make the replacement. If you aren’t sure if the valve is actually malfunctioning, it can be tested with a multimeter.
Water System TubingIf the water is coming out the back bottom of your refrigerator, but the inlet seems to be working just fine, it is possible that the tubing inside the refrigerator has gone bad. If it has been damaged in some way, leaks can manifest. Unfortunately, the truth is that getting the tubing out and putting new tubing in can be a huge undertaking. It requires substantial disassembly to your refrigerator and maybe a job easier left to professionals.
If you notice a puddle pooling right in front of your refrigerator or notice water leaking out the fresh food compartment when you open it up, you have a drain line issue. A refrigerator naturally produces condensation that freezes. The defrost function present in all modern refrigerators melts this icy build up and the water runs down from the evaporator in the freezer to the drain tube in the bottom of the fresh food compartment.
The water will enter a drip pan and harmlessly evaporate. However, if the drain tube becomes clogged with any food particles it picked up on the trip, the water will build up on top of it until it just starts dripping out the door.
You will want to pick up a pack of pipe cleaners and run one through the tube to clear out any blockages. In some cases, food particles may just sit at the entrance. If this is a case, you simply need to brush them away to resume proper drainage.
Similar to the defrost drain tube, water can build up in the drip pan. If this is the case, the water will overflow out the bottom of the refrigerator, but not from the fresh food compartment as the drip pan is located underneath. If this is the case, you simply need to empty the drip pan, but you will also want to look into why it was so full. If you just fixed your defrost, for example, that huge melt off could cause this. However, if you haven’t changed any defrost settings, you have excess frost for some reason and want to look into why. It is possible that your defrost function is starting to malfunction. This could mean it under-functions, causing excess frost build-up and melt suddenly, or over-functions, which would cause the freezer section to become too warm.
Have you noticed just a little bit of water in a line in front of your refrigerator? Have you noticed little drips of condensation on the exterior of your refrigerator? These two symptoms are indicative of a faulty gasket. The gasket on your refrigerator is the pliable plastic that surrounds the inner edge of the door. Ideally, when the door closes, the plastic compresses and forms a seal to keep cold air in and warm air out.
If the door gasket on your refrigerator is physically damaged or has lost its pliability due to age, it lets the cold air and the warm air meet. This causes condensation that can pool up and look like a leak. You will notice larger puddles on hotter days. It is important to replace the gasket as soon as possible, not so much to stop the puddles but to help your refrigerator. That hemorrhaging air is raising your energy bills and it is forcing your refrigerator to run longer and more often. This increase will shorten the overall lifespan of the appliance.