The venerable, terrible, no-good Arctica

I am locked in mortal battle with my GE Profile “Arctica” 25 side by side refrigerator. I was a GE engineer, though in the healthcare division, not appliances (which has been sold off anyway). I’m too lazy to buy a new fridge, so lazy that I’m willing to do what my brother in law would probably call “extravagant war-time repair operations”.

Common failure modes and how to treat them with extravagant laziness: a catalog of learning from 2001 to the present day.

“Jet Engine” noises, loud howling, like somebody drilling

There are many non-lazy solutions on the internet. The one below is very lazy – I have not had to re-visit it in 4 years now.

Main compartment temperature cannot regulate

If your main compartment gets way too cold, the damper at the top of the fridge between the freezer and main compartments is stuck or broken open, letting air from the freezer into the main compartment. If your main compartment is too warm, it is stuck/broken closed.

You can buy a new part, but that’s not lazy.

Freezer compartment melts ice cream, ice maker ice is a solid block, and/or freezer has ice buildup

If your freezer does not defrost correctly, ice cream may melt as the defroster heats the compartment too high, and ice may build up on shelves, walls, anywhere. If so:

  1. Remove, clean and test the defrost heater. The spade terminals can corrode and should be coated with thermal dielectric grease before reinstalling. When energized the defrost heater coil should glow orange.
  2. Check the operation and position of the thermistor (small white plastic) and thermostat (small silver can) at the top of the evaporator coil. The thermistor must read 16.3k ohms at 32F and if it is more than a few percent off, the fridge will not work properly. Test it by cutting the wires, place the thermistor in ice water, and measure across the leads (also test new replacements; I bought a set with defrost heater and thermistor and the thermistor was more than 70% off, leading to freezer temps as high as 80F during defrost). The thermistor must be placed HIGH on the coil, above the thermostat, at the highest pipe leading away from the coil. Too low on the coil and your fridge temps will be significantly off, and ice cream may melt during defrost. The so-called thermostat is a safety device and serves no functional purpose in normal operation. It can be located at the top of the coil, position is not that important.
  3. Restrict water flow to the ice maker if you have frozen "ice falls" under the ice drawer. Especially if you, as I did, remove the ice maker filter to reduce hammering (see below), you may end up with too much flow to the ice maker inlet, causing water to spray all over inside the freezer compartment, which requires work to remove, which is in turn not compatible with laziness.

If all is well, you should be able to put an ice cube in a bowl, and it will still be there, with the same shape, not having been melted, a week later.

Failing diagnostic test 0-3

It’s a trap! There is no electrical connection between the temperature panel and the dispenser panel! This fridge always fails 0-3, a.k.a. “Temperature to Control Panel to Dispenser board Communication”. Here, the design engineers were being admirably lazy by leaving in firmware a test unrelated to this model.

Hammering, Woodpecker noise lasting 5-10 seconds, randomly

The nifty “custom cool” feature comes with its own little box of failure modes packed just behind the lowermost drawer in the main cabinet. The box contains another damper. This one has broken-off plastic teeth driven by a woodpecker.

This only just started for me, so I’m being lazy and not using “custom cool” which seems to be working so far. In fact I never used “custom cool” (it does not seem lazy to push buttons in your fridge to speed up or slow down the basic purpose of a fridge) but I think our cat accidentally turned it on while we were away. I’m on the fence whether this merits another approach.

Water line hammering for both dispenser and ice maker

The water filter has an inlet valve with very poor mechanical tolerance between the tang on the filter or bypass plug and the lever in the housing that is supposed to open the valve when the filter or bypass plug is installed. It eventually stops opening the inlet valve fully enough to prevent the valve closing when the water pressure fluctuates as the dispenser or ice make valves open. Who wants to change the tiny filter in the fridge anyway? Not lazy.

The filter housing can be removed easily – 2 screws on the back of the fridge to remove the cover, and 2 screws inside the fridge. Cut the 3/16” poly line from the housing body to the bottom of the fridge close to the housing, and connect directly to the water supply. Stuff some insulation in the hole through the rear of the fridge, and install a metal plate over the hole inside the fridge. No more filters to change, and you have more room in the fridge in the space the filter hosing used to occupy. I have a whole house filter for drinking water and kitchen prep sink anyway, which is cheaper.