Why Won’t The Refrigerator Door Stay Open?

With your stomach growling, you open the refrigerator and scan the shelves in hopes of finding the leftover carryout from two nights earlier you were certain you had saved, but now can’t seem to locate amid the soda cans, condiments, and milk and egg cartons. All the while, the refrigerator door keeps pestering you by tapping you on your shoulder or bumping up against your skull. Why won’t the refrigerator door just stay open and leave me in peace? This annoyance can often be prevented by replacing a very simple part: a refrigerator door closing cam.

What a door closing cam is and how it works

A refrigerator or freezer door closing cam is the component that allows the door to rest in place in the open position (so you don’t need to support it as you search for those leftovers), and to close securely when the door is swung shut. If the door has trouble staying open or closing, it’s likely the upper or lower closing cam (or both) has worn out.

While refrigerator door closing cams vary from model-to-model, all cams are manufactured to accomplish the same thing: keeping the door from drifting. Many refrigerator models will use simply 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 will no longer be able to support the door in the open position or assist in the closing.

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 is no longer effective.

How to fix a refrigerator or freezer door that won’t stay open

Installing a new closing cam or cams will usually be the solution to the problem of a refrigerator or freezer door that won’t stay open, provided the door or doors are properly leveled (an unleveled door can throw the balance off enough to cause the door to drift). Replacing the cam itself is the easy part; the more involved part is the required removal and reinstallation of the door. While the procedure to do this will vary somewhat depending on the refrigerator model, here are 25 general steps you can follow to uninstall the door, replace the old cam or cams with new ones, then fully reinstall the door:

  1. Always make sure you’ve unplugged the refrigerator’s power cord before you begin any repair or uninstallation.
  2. If applicable, unthread the screw securing the top door hinge cover for the door you’re replacing the closing cam on, and slide off the cover.
  3. Next, unthread the screws securing the top hinge to the top of the appliance.
  4. Have an assistant help support the door as you lift off the hinge.
  5. You should now be able to lift the door off the bottom or center hinge pin and set the door aside.
  6. If you’re replacing a cam or cams on a door that has a water/ice dispenser built into it, you will likely need to detach the appliance’s base grille to access the water dispenser tube.
  7. You may need to remove a lock clip that prevents the tube from being detached from the water line coupler, then use an open-ended wrench to depress the coupler’s retaining ring to detach the tube (be prepared for some water to leak out).
  8. Returning to the top of the appliance, disconnect the wire connecter/harness above the door hinge.
  9. If applicable to your model, you may need to detach the water dispenser tube from a coupler as well.
  10. You should now be able to unthread the screws securing the top hinge, have an assistant help support the door as your remove the hinge, then remove the door to access the closing cam or cams.
  11. You may be able to simply lift the old lower cam off of the hinge pin or you may need to unthread a mounting screw before you can remove the cam.
  12. Upper closing cams are usually secured to the bottom of the door with a screw and can be pried out once the screw has been unthreaded.
  13. If your model uses a spring-loaded cam installed in the bottom of the door, you may need to unthread the screws to release a doorstop first before you can remove the screw securing the cam and pull the old cam out.
  14. Simple lower plastic cams can be slid over a bottom or center hinge pin and secured with a single screw if required. The comparable upper cam should be inserted into the door then secured with the screw.
  15. Before you reinstall the door, you should apply some silicone-based grease to the lower cam.
  16. To install a spring-loaded cam, insert it into the bottom of the door and secure it with the screw, then reposition the doorstop, if applicable, and rethread the screws to secure the stop.
  17. To reinstall the door, align it on the bottom or center hinge pin. A door with a spring-loaded cam should be set on the hinge pin and bushing at a ninety-degree angle.
  18. When reinstalling a door with a built-in water/ice dispenser, you will need to insert the water dispenser tube and, potentially, a wire harness through the hole in the hinge pin before setting the door on the hinge.
  19. Realign the top hinge and rethread the screws. You’ll want to confirm the door is level before you tighten the screws.
  20. Reconnect the wire connecter/harness above the top hinge, if required.
  21. Reinsert the water dispenser tube into the coupler, if necessary, and secure with the lock clip if available.
  22. Replace the hinge cover and secure with the screw, if applicable.
  23. Fully insert the water dispenser tube protruding through the bottom door hinge (on doors with a built-in water/ice dispenser) into the water line couple. Reinsert the lock clip as needed.
  24. Reinstall the base grille if needed.
  25. Plug the appliance’s power cord back in and your refrigerator should be ready for use.

Resetting a spring-loaded door closing cam

After replacing a spring-loaded closing cam, you should confirm the cam is properly set before reinstalling the door. To do this…

  • Detach the bottom or center door hinge from the refrigerator frame.
  • With the hinge base parallel with the door, insert the hinge pin and bushing into the bottom of the installed closing cam.
  • Rotate the hinge so the base is at a ninety-degree angle to the door to reset the cam.
  • Remove the hinge and reattach it to the frame.
  • Remember to set the door on the hinge bushing at a ninety-degree angle to avoid misaligning the cam.

How do I know which door closing cam is right for my refrigerator?

So how can you find the right replacement door closing cam that will work with your refrigerator? Repair Clinic keeps it simple. Enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic website search bar, then select “Hinge” from the “Part Category” filter followed by “Closing Cam” from the “Part Title” category to identify the specific cam that matches your refrigerator. While Repair Clinic stocks parts for all the top brands in refrigeration, including Samsung, Frigidaire, KitchenAid, GE, Kenmore, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool, door closing cams are usually unique to each model; only by using the full model number will you be able to locate the exact cam that fits.

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