fridge needs a new compressor again, fix or toss?

w0lley32August 3, 2012

Hi! My 75-yr old mother bought a Kitchen Aid fridge with freezer on the bottom about 2 years ago to replace a 27-yr old GE (which is still running strong). About a month after she bought it, the compressor went bad and the company didn't want to replace the fridge, so they sent a guy who put in a new compressor. Now the fridge is acting the same way it did before the compressor went bad (popping sounds, successive relay closing sounds but compressor does not start) and the company tech says it needs a new compressor but since it's more than a year old labor is not included in the warranty.

Now we are wondering if there is a reason why a replacement compressor, if installed properly, would not last very long? We are starting to think that there's a problem with the fridge that puts a strain on the compressor and my mom is not sure that this 1500$ fridge is worth fixing over and over.

If this was your fridge, would you fix it again, or put it on the curb and shop for a new one?

If shop for a new one, which brand? I have heard and read here and elsewhere to stay away from GE, but that's what she was told when she bought the previous fridge and also I have a friend who bought a GE 6 years ago and is satisfied. Considering that Kitchen Aid/Amana/Whirlpool/Maytag is all the same company I would imagine the technology behind their fridges is all the same?

Are Samsung or LG any good?

Thanks for your help.

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Are you sure the labor isn't covered? Check your warranty document. Current KA warranty states that the compressor and some other sealed system components are covered in full (parts AND labor) through the 5th year. Parts-only for years six through 10.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Although you are in Canada, I believe the same KA warranties apply there as they do on this side of the border and Dadoes is correct about 5-year parts and labor on the sealed systems. It is the other Whirlpool brands, including Maytag and Amana, where all warranties have been been reduced to one year. (Although, I recently saw some older Maytag floor models at a local dealer that had stickers for the former ten-year sealed system warranties on them.)

It may seem odd that there would be a different warranty when the fridges are all made in the same factory -- all the Whirlpool brands of FD fridges, including KA, are made in the factory in Amana, Iowa --- but Whirlpool is positioning KA as an upmarket brand.

Back to the problem with your mother's fridge. To me, the symptoms suggest that the compressor failures are a symptom rather than the root cause. I suspect there is a slow leak somewhere in the sealed system. It is possible that your mother's fridge got two bad compressors, but not very likely. The Consumer Reports membership surveys show the last seven years of Whirlpool and Kitchenaid fridges as the most reliable over time than those from other makers.

To me, the symptoms you describe make me suspect that the fridge has a leak somewhere in the refrigerant tubing. I would guess that it had been sitting in a warehouse leaking refrigerant before you mother bought it. I suspect that, when the first compressor failed, the tech simply replaced the compressor, charged the system, and walked away without checking to be sure that there the sealed system was actually sealed. (You can find a lot of posts about some warranty service companies deliberately employing unskilled techs --- who simply do not not know to check for leaks -- as well as companies that overschedule their techs and refuse to allow any warranty work that cannot be performed in a few minutes --- leak testing would take several days and require leaving some equipment on site.) That uncorrrected leak persisted and, now, a couple of years later, the refrigerant has again leaked out and the compressor is burning out again.

If there is a leak, then it should still be covered by the warranty and should have been fixed the first time around. You may have to chew on the warranty company about this. If you are lucky, you may live in an area where there may be a choice of warranty servicers, so maybe your mom (or you) could request a different company. If you can, do so.

As for buying a replacement fridge, Samsung has a pretty good reliability rating in the Consumer Reports membership surveys. They are basically in the second tier of reliability. The first tier is Whirlpool and KA brands, the second tier being Samsung, Maytag and Amana bottom freezer models (the later two being Whirlpool brands that seem to have problems with water and ice dispensing ocmponents.) Kenmore and LG bottom freezer fridges are a third tier (many of the Kenmores being sourced from LG), followed by Frigidaire/Electrolux brands. GE bottom freezer fridges have developed a terrible reputation for reliability (which seems odd since many of them are made for GE by LG). Viking bottom freezer fridges have an equally bad reputation for reliability.

Samsungs have a pretty good reputation for reliability and offer a twin-evaporator set up. (Not quite the redundancy of separate compressor systems for the freezer and refrigeration compartments , but with many of the other perceived benefits). There are a fair number of posters here who have been pleased with their Samsung bottom-freezer fridges. All of my friends who have one say they are pleased. That perception seems to change pretty radically if you get a lemon or need parts (say, door seals.) Samsung service and support has garnered a terrible reputation for parts unavailability and inept warranty service with ridiculous delays.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 1:25PM
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Oh, and a further thoughts. Have you checked the coils and etc. for dust accumulation? IIRC, the Kitchenaid fridges have a metal grill on the back that is held on by six screws. Take it offf and vaccuum out the mechanics. I'm not a tech but I've "fixed" a couple of friends' fridges that way.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 1:35PM
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I have read where there are compressor problems with Viking fridges also, but that Kitchenaid/Whirlpool builds them for Viking.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Thanks for your input. I am aware of that metal grill on the back, and the screws have been replaced with wing nuts so my mother can vacuum out the coils once a month or so. And you're right, the manual says the sealed system is covered parts and labor for the first five years. So it's time to place a second service call and insist that labor is covered!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 5:02PM
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you should contact whoever repaired it the first time if they charged you for labor and insist on a refund, that is if you have the same warrenty in Canada. Tell them you will report them to Kitchen Aid otherwise. If they didn't charge labor I may use them a second time, as it is possible you did get a bad compressor, but if it was improperly installed they would never tell you, so you might want to go with someone else just in case. Normally Kitchen Aid does make really good fridges, so good luck.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:20PM
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One other thing to be aware, is that I've heard of repeat warranty cases being denied by way of the manufacturer considering a warranty claim to be a one-shot deal. One claim fulfills the warranty terms, so no further coverage is allowed. The replacement part is covered by a limited warranty on said part, not by the original appliance warranty. I'm not saying that KA would take that stand, just that I've heard of it happening in other cases with other manufacturers.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 10:46PM
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The thing about warranties is that you're supposed to be covered for the original term of the warranty. So if a part with a 5 year warranty is replaced after 2 years, then you're supposed to still be warranted for another 3 years, not another 5 years. Now if a warranty is up and you pay for a new part, then there may be a limited warranty on that part. I've never heard of this one-shot deal that dadoes mentions but I guess these days nothing would surprise me - BUT it should be stated in the original warranty - not changed after the fact.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Dadoes is correct about the current warrany on KA. my KA FD model purchased this year came with a 5 year parts and labour on all sealed system, then parts only 6th - 10th year. but I still got a 5 year extended warrany from HHgregg. I might not have had I know that when I made the purchase but now I have full labor coverage on all parts even the ice maker for 5 years.

check your warranty document for all the terms and gotchas.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 4:08PM
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New may not be the only choice.
I can possibly help you find a reasonable deal on a used refrigerator. There's an older GE in your area with a good history of reliability

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 6:08PM
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My less than 2 year old Whirlpool has the limited one year warranty. I would try and get them to pay for a new part and the labour on the KA. But our other appliances are Bosch (we live in Toronto - and our small bungalow's configuration did not allow for the depth of standard North American appliances - at the time). Just the fridge which is now a problem due to height - how I wish we had a tall Bosch fridge sitting under shorter cupboards. But with our Bosch - they only covered the parts - not the labour - and we had problems with both the dishwasher and the oven in year 2 - and the labour somehow cost the same as the part. Go figure that one. Re the GE fridge - we had the exact problem with our former fridge a GE - starting at age 8 - they replaced the fan - after we went through losing 3 loads of food because the less than competent technician decided it was the tubing. A supervisor realized it was the fan and fixed it. We got 2 more years out of it - so 10 years in total. You will find other people on this forum who had the same GE fridge - and it died at 8 years. Now this at 1 year and 7 months. Make sure about the height - this is now - and was - our major concern and why we have the Whirlpool. We could have bought the identical fridge in Kitchenaid - it had a deli drawer - so an extra $100 - we don't eat deli - thankfully - because people have reported leaking deli drawers. We also need stainless steel so a problem. Hope you find something that works for your Mom. I am eyeing our Whirlpool with an evil eye. If it can't be fixed I am not paying a fee for it to be returned to Whirlpool or a store to be sold "refurbished"! If only they would check the fan and/or the control panel. A major Cdn. appliance retailer has stopped selling all Whirlpool and KA products. Another doesn't sell either brand - and won't. I have been busy. Basically, the quality is not nearly what it was - since I am old I remember when...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:54PM
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