If your household is a hectic one, chances are the refrigerator door gets opened and closed a lot. During those rare moments when you can sit at the kitchen table alone to enjoy a cup of coffee, you may keep noticing that the refrigerator door has been left slightly ajar. While you suspect that one of the kids is responsible for this carelessness, there may be another explanation for why the refrigerator door never seems to stay closed. In fact, Repair Clinic has three explanations for why a refrigerator door won’t stay closed and none of them involve careless kids, spouses, or housemates.
Why the refrigerator door needs to stay closed
Refrigerator and freezer doors have door gaskets attached to the inside door liner to provide an air-tight seal between the door and the cabinet frame. This air-tight seal is important as it allows for proper air flow and prevents appliance malfunction.
Proper air flow is vital for refrigerators to work properly
Proper air flow is vital for refrigerators to work properly. To cool the condenser coils (normally located at the bottom or bottom rear of the appliance), the condenser fan draws air in from the front of the refrigerator, sends it through the condenser itself, and then circulates the air back out the grille. At the same time, the evaporator fan or fans (usually located behind a rear interior panel in the freezer or refrigerator compartment), draws air past the cold evaporator coils which removes the heat from the air. This air is then circulated throughout the compartments, keeping the temperature cold enough to freeze food in the freezer and keep food and beverages in the refrigerator compartment properly chilled.
Warm moist air entering the refrigerator can result in appliance malfunction
If a refrigerator or freezer door won’t stay closed, cold air will escape and warm moist air will enter the appliance. This can cause the refrigerator compressor to cycle on too often in an attempt to lower the temperature inside the refrigerator, wasting energy and putting a strain on the refrigeration system. Even worse, the warm moist air entering the compartments can cause the evaporator coils to frost over and ice to build up in the air vents which will impede the air flow necessary to keep the refrigerator cooling properly.
Top 3 reasons why a refrigerator door won’t stay closed
Here are the top three potential problems you should troubleshoot if a refrigerator or freezer door won’t stay closed:
1) Unlevel refrigerator – This is a simple problem that is often overlooked. If the refrigerator is tipped forward slightly, the doors will have trouble closing since the balance of gravity will pull the doors away from the cabinet frame instead of towards it. To fix this problem you will need to extend the front leveling legs to level the appliance. You may need to remove the base grille first before you attempt this. Pull the refrigerator away from the wall and have an assistant help lift up the front of the appliance, then support it with a wood block or a comparable sturdy object. Some leveling legs will have locking nuts that will need to be loosened in order to partially unthread the legs from the base to extend them. With the legs extended and even, tighten the locking nuts if necessary, then remove the support and carefully lower the front of the refrigerator to the floor. You should place a carpenter’s spirit level across the top front edge of the cabinet and a side edge to confirm the appliance is level from side-to-side and front-to-back. You may even want to have the refrigerator tipped slightly back to ensure that gravity works for you in keeping the doors closed. Be aware that some refrigerator models will allow you to lower, or retract, a rear leg or legs, to balance the appliance.
2) Damaged or worn door gasket – A refrigerator door gasket is made of rubber and extends around the entire perimeter of each door (or freezer drawer on French Door and Bottom Freezer models). A thin magnetic strip is embedded inside the rubber which helps the gasket cling to the metal cabinet frame. A gasket that becomes creased or folded over when a door is closed can actually prevent the door from staying closed. Over time, the magnetic strip inside the gasket can lose its magnetism which can also prevent the door from closing as securely as it should. Refrigerator and freezer door gaskets come in three common styles: a push-in gasket that is secured in a channel around the perimeter of the door; a snap-in gasket that fits behind the inner door liner and is held by a retaining lip; and a screw-in gasket which is secured between the inner door liner and the outer door panel with… that’s right, screws! A damaged or worn door gasket should be replaced with a new one, but we recommend laying the new gasket out on a flat sturdy surface for up to 24 hours before installing it – this will help remove any kinks or folds the gasket may have after being shipped in a small box. If any waves or gaps are present in the gasket after installation, you can use a hair dryer set on low to soften the gasket to improve the seal. It’s also a good idea to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the sealing surface of the gasket on the hinge side to help prevent the gasket from creasing when the door is closed.
3) Worn door cam – A refrigerator or freezer door closing cam is the component that allows the door to rest in place in the open position and to close securely when the door is swung shut. If the door has trouble staying closed, it’s likely the upper or lower closing cam (or both) has worn out. Many refrigerator models will use simple plastic cams installed on a lower hinge pin and on the bottom of the door. These cams are specifically molded so the notched portions will interlock when the door is in the fully open position to hold the door stationary. A slanted section will cooperate with gravity to ensure the door fully closes once you begin the action of shutting it. Over time, after much use, the cams’ formed plastic can wear down and may no longer assist in the closing, requiring a new cam be installed. Higher-end refrigerator models, such as those with French doors, will use more sophisticated spring-loaded closing cams installed inside the bottom of the door. These cams will use the spring to hold the door open and to provide momentum when the door starts to be closed so you can let go of the door after a slight push, confident the door will close completely on its own. Again, repeated use can wear down the spring to the point where the cam will no longer assist in closing the door. Replacing the spring-loaded closing cam should solve the door problem.
More refrigerator door repair help is available at Repair Clinic
Visit the “Videos & Articles” section of the Repair Clinic website for more refrigerator door repair help, such as this video showing you how to install a new snap-in style door gasket on a Whirlpool Side-by-Side Refrigerator (Model ED2KVEXVB01) or this video demonstrating the correct way to replace and reset a right-side door spring-loaded closing cam on a KitchenAid Five-Door Refrigerator (Model KRMF706ESS01). Do a little exploring and you’ll find hundreds of other refrigerator “how-to” videos, step-by-step guides, articles, and schematics.
Install genuine OEM refrigerator parts from Repair Clinic
Whichever part you need to replace, make sure it’s a genuine OEM (original equipment manufacturer) replacement part to ensure you’re fixing the refrigerator using a part specifically designed to work with your model, including those manufactured by Samsung, Frigidaire, KitchenAid, GE, Kenmore, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool. How can you find the right component for your fridge? Just enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic website search bar and you’ll see a list of all the compatible parts. As your repair partner, Repair Clinic will ship that new part to you quickly so you can fix the refrigerator before that ice starts building up again.