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Old 06-10-2013, 10:03 PM   #1
NatureBoy
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Default Can a minifridge lose its freon?

Hey everyone,

Seeing all these DIY ferm chambers has me jonesing for one of my own. I sourced a freebie mini fridge that seems to be in great shape, but when I plugged it in and let it sit for a few hours the interior never cooled. It would make a deep, kinda buzzy electrical noise for about 3 seconds and then turn off, repeating the noise maybe every 30 seconds to a minute. I wondered if that was the compressor, but it seemed like an awfully short duty cycle. I made sure to leave it unplugged and upright overnight before I tested it to ensure the freon had settled, but after a while the compressor got really hot. I'm not familiar with refrigeration, but the compressor got far hotter than I would expect it to do under normal operation (not searing hot, but too hot to touch for more than a second before becoming painful). This thing had been stored in an uninsulated shed for a year or so before I got it, and around where I live temperatures range from around 0*F in winter and 100*F in summer. Any chance the freon off-gassed from these radical temperatures? I checked all the wiring, and from what I can tell it seems fine. Between that and the brief electrical sound that would repeat, I'm inclined to think there's something wrong with the compressor/refrigerant. Any thoughts? Thanks.

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Old 06-10-2013, 10:40 PM   #2
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Are there any oily spots? I got a wine chiller from CL that had the same problem. Compressor got really hot, no cooling inside. Had a leak somewhere. Was a really nice looking box with not much use.

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Old 06-10-2013, 11:34 PM   #3
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Could be the starter capacitor and/or the thermal overload gone south. Both should be cheap enough to replace to check. Otherwise gas leak is the next likely I expect.

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Old 06-11-2013, 01:33 AM   #4
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Don, I checked the evaporation coils and compressor and didn't find much. There was one tiny spot on the coils, barely a quarter inch across of what looked like some sort of clearish goo, almost like vaseline. I'm skeptical that this was from a potential leak, because there was hardly any, but like I said, I know next to nothing about this stuff. Did the freon that leaked out of your system resemble vaseline? was there very little of it or a substantial amount?

Matt, are both the capacitor and the overload easy to fix? I can solder, but not with any real proficiency. The fact that this thing gets plugged into 110 volts and not just batteries has me worried about doing any serious electrical repairs myself.

Thanks to both of you for such quick replies too!

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Old 06-11-2013, 01:57 AM   #5
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From memory on the one I had that crapped itself they were all spade connected. No soldering needed at all - basically remove the comprssor panel (if there is one), find the bits, unplug them and plug the new ones in. Unfortunatly that was not my problem though.

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Old 06-11-2013, 11:35 AM   #6
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Mine had several spots that were covered in an oily film. Looked like it had leaked from one spot and possibly dripped to lower spots. Not thick like vasoline though.

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Old 06-11-2013, 01:12 PM   #7
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The compressor oil is not thick, it's actually very very thin like mineral oil. The oil gets pushed through the coils with the freon.

As someone stated before, it's probably a bad starter cap but it could also be a blown compressor. If it's a blown cap, easy and fairly inexpensive fix. If it's the compressor, that's a costly one and could cost you almost the same price as purchasing a brand new mini fridge.

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Old 06-11-2013, 05:25 PM   #8
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Flip on for a few seconds then off? That is the same noise a car AC makes when it is low/out of coolant. I hate saying but it may be kaput there with the compressor turning on for 3 seconds, geting nowhere then kicking off to save itself. Then after the timeout trying again. You may be out of gas, which is bad. Usually costs more to repair these than replace.

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Old 06-11-2013, 09:33 PM   #9
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Considering how cheaply these things can be found and your collective experiences with attempting repairs, I might not risk buying the parts and spending the time, just to find out the compressor ate it and the thing's junked. Hmm, starting to seem like this one might find a nice new home at the recycling center and I need to get on craigslist. Alright, thanks for the input everyone.

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Old 06-11-2013, 11:18 PM   #10
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Likely it's R-134 if it was made in the last 5- 10 years. Freon is used as a generic term (like Kleenex). If you look at the compressor name plate you can tell what refrigerant is in it. Auto parts stores sell R-134 recharge kits for cars. You may be able to connect to the low side of the system and recharge it. If it is a very slow leak you may be able to get a few years of use out of it.

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