(Mis)adventures with refrigerators

I have to give a special shout-out to Lawdog and Old NFO.  Last night they went above and beyond the call of friendship to try to put together our refrigerator, which is large enough that it had to be disassembled to remove it from our old home and get it into our new one.

Trouble is, the hinges at the bottom of the doors had to be removed completely;  but getting them back on was a bit of a nightmare, as they required the insertion of screws that needed someone to lie on the floor in front of the fridge and negotiate some fiddly angles to get them in and tightened.  With my fused spine this was a non-starter for me, and Miss D.‘s physical restrictions meant the same thing for her;  so we had to rely on our friends to do the fiddly bits for us.  They worked for over an hour, but still couldn’t get the doors to close as smoothly and easily as they should, despite some… interesting…  additions they provided to our vocabulary.

We suspect that either the doors or the body of the fridge may have become warped or bent during the move.  We can’t say for sure, but I’ll call in a repair technician to take a look and tell us what’s happened.  If the fridge can be salvaged, even at the cost of greater care and attention when closing it (and making sure it stays closed), we’ll do that, because our budget is overstretched right now with other moving expenses.  If not, well, I guess a replacement fridge is in our immediate future whether we like it or not.  Craigslist, here we come!  (Lawdog has already suggested taking the old one up to Blogorado in October, filling it with Tannerite or something else suitably explosive, and shooting at it from a safe distance.  Anyone would think he dislikes our fridge for some reason!)

I guess the lesson learned from my point of view is to make sure that in future, we buy appliances that, fully assembled and operational, are no wider in one dimension (either side-to-side or front-to-back) than a standard internal door frame (which I think is 30 inches [76.2 centimeters] in most of the USA);  and also to make sure that it’s compact enough to maneuver around or through tight spaces such as turns in corridors, or two doors set close together at a sharp angle to each other.  If the appliance has to be disassembled to get it through a door or a tight space like that, the odds are pretty good that it may not go back together again exactly as it was before.  I suppose repeated disassembly and reassembly make that more likely;  this is the second time we’ve moved this fridge, so it may be that there’s a cumulative effect to removing and reattaching the hinges.

Those of you planning the purchase of new appliances might want to keep that in mind.



  1. Lawdog's universal answer to the problems of life: EXPLOSIVES!

    I hope you can get the door to fit right. It sounds like a major item to have to replace.

  2. Every time that I have messed with the hinges on a refrigerator, I have had to have a professional re-set the door. Even then, the door seldom works as well as it did with the factory installation. I think that the closest you will get to a correct installation will require you to lay the unit down so that the door is facing up so that you can center it in the opening as closely as possible – then leave the top hinge very slightly loose so that the final adjustment can be done when it is again upright.

  3. A finicky problem.
    Fiddly bits.
    Difficult access.

    I know this retired guy in Philly who would be a perfect match for the job.
    Just a tad too far away though.

    And unfortunately my family has learned that the phrase, "you probably can't fix this," pushes all my buttons.

    Only suggestion I have from here, is make sure the fridge is level, and make sure all four corners are sitting solidly. (no rocking)

  4. I agree with John. First thing is to level the unit. If one foot is not supported the entire case will torque out of shape, which will of course, drastically affect the door fit. If for any reason you do lay the fridge in any position other than it's normal standing one, make sure to let it sit upright for several hours before starting it.

  5. As John and Dick have pointed out, make sure it's "zero degree" vertical and horizontal, as measured on all 5 sides and corners, and that Left-to-Right and Front-to-Back the external surfaces are parallel. Also check for squareness across the back of the fridge. Floors are rarely perfectly level at every point, and this applies especially to concrete floors, as in house-on-slab construction – small low spots are pretty common. If there is "shipping warpage" it's probably greater on the door(s) than the body, although I have seen fridges and freezers compressed slightly out of square by piling a lot of stuff on them and then jolting them in the vertical axis for 1500 miles.

  6. The "5 side" reference implies the accessible faces. If you can find a way to measure the bottom face while it's standing upright please let me know.

  7. The standard door width is 30" in North America. If you're renovating consider installing a wider "entrance system", available in 32, 34 or 36" widths. While you're at it reinforce the jamb and striker plate to make sure your door can't be kicked in, 3/4" pine will split easily. On my house I put in a 36" door and built the stairs to have a 36" width between handrails. The appliance delivery guys love it.


  8. Make sure that you have the correct hinges in the proper location. Sometimes they may look the same, but there is a left/right version, in addition to top/bottom, in most cases I've seen.

    For installation clearance on the lower parts, try leaning it back against the wall, after pulling it out a bit. A couple pieces of wood under the front edge should be used, as adding the weight of doors will make it tip forward. Use the gasket marks on the body to give you a ballpark alignment, one door at a time. If you did a really good job of cleaning that area before, you may need to look very carefully to find the marks in the surface. In this case, mark some lines/corners out with masking tape.

    Make sure to avoid any stress on the cooling coils, if external, whether on the back or underneath.

    After satisfying yourself the job is done, clean and lube the gasket face surfaces. Silicone spray works well.

  9. Usually laying the reefer down instead of upright has a deleterious effect on cold air delivery. YMMV. Lost one due to an extended time period on its' side….

  10. "counter depth refrigerator":
    • Easier to move
    • better appearance and less "dominant" in the kitchen space
    • deep shelves in a food compartment are actually pretty stupid in terms of accessibility, shallower shelves are more convenient.
    • but overall volume of food compartments are reduced for a given width and height.

    The refrigeration compressor contains liquid oil, and if the fridge is placed on its side or back long enough for the oil to migrate in the pipes to places where it won't be returned by gravity in a reasonable time after restoring normal posture, then you risk starving the compressor of oil during operation and run at reduced efficiency until the normal flows return it to where it should be (oil is not a good refrigerant). Sometimes one can look at the compressor or system drawing and determine that placement on one side will keep the liquid cupped in the compressor, with all tubes "up" from the temporary position.

  11. Peter,

    If you send me some pictures I might be able to help you out. I'm an engineer at a major appliance company and I have worked on refrigerator doors before and might be able to figure out what's wrong. I can't guarantee I can fix it but if it's one of our models I can probably find some one who has seen this before. Let me know if you want me check and i'll send you my email address.


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