Saturday, September 12, 2009

Refrigerator/Freezer question?

Kellie writes:
I found your blog while reading a column about home appliance repair in Real Simple magazine, and I have a question for you. I acquired a 1940's Hotpoint refrigerator in nearly mint condition from a woman who damaged it while defrosting it with a knife. The hole is very tiny, and a refrigerator repairman told me that it could be easily repaired with some epoxy, but that he couldn't get a replacement dryer (perhaps I'm using car terminology) for it, and since we had to lay the fridge on its side to get it home, it was likely junk.

I'm an automotive technician and therefore think like an automotive technician, so my question is: can I do a motor swap? Can I install the guts from a modern refrigerator into this one? Or is there a better way to get it working again? I'm not afraid of projects or fabricating, and I have a pretty good understanding of automotive air conditioning systems which aren't terribly different. This refrigerator is absolutely beautiful, and it would be a shame to scrap it over a tiny little hole. I know that there are people who restore and update vintage refrigerators, but they charge thousands of dollars and I'd love the satisfaction of doing it myself. If it's doable, what exactly would I have to install, and where do you suggest I purchase parts?

I have included links to photos of the fridge and the puncture.

Thanks so much for your help,

My response to Kellie is:
Nice antique frig. Since you are an auto technician, I assume you know how to repair a leak in a sealed refrigeration system. Since the Hotpoint refrigerator is from the 1940's, first look for the name plate on the box. Determine what type of refrigerant was used (R-12 or some other type). The holes look like you can patch it with a epoxy repair kit if the whole is only on one side. Similar to the automobile evaporator coil. If you know how to work on a sealed refrigeration system then the repair would be simple for you. A refrigerant filter dryer is available. Just remember that the old type of refrigerant is no longer available due to the EPA requirements for phased out refrigerants.

As far as replacing the entire sealed system with a more modern type, the challenge will be to try a find an evaporator coil that will fit in the same area as the old evaporator coil along with a matching compressor and condenser coil.

Another possibility might be is to contact an aluminum welder and see if they can weld the holes. I once had to do this type of repair on a 1950's three door refrigerator. Then you can complete the remainder of the sealed refrigeration system repair yourself.

Good luck. If there is anything else I can help you with, please write back.

I wanted to also add to this response by telling my viewers, to repair a refrigerant leak in the refrigeration sealed system requires an EPA certified repair technician to make the repairs. Please do not try this type of repair if you are not EPA certified. It can be dangerous and it is against the law. Look up the following web page. This web page will explain the 608 rules and regulations for refrigerants.

Kellie, let me know if that worked for you. Remember to send your appliance questions to

No comments: