How to Replace Freon in a Leaky Refrigerator

What You'll Need
Refrigerator owner's manual
T-shaped access valve
PAG oil

Performing maintenance on home appliances can be an intimidating task to take on. However, because hiring a professional technician to do the work can be so costly, fixing appliances on your own is a great way to save money.

One common problem homeowners and renters face is a leaky old refrigerator. Oftentimes older fridges can leak coolant, rendering them inefficient and ineffective. This leak will cost you in energy bills as well as spoiled food, and additionally, leaking Freon is considered hazardous to the environment, so it’s important to make a quick repair. Luckily, fixing a Freon leak in an appliance is a fairly straightforward process that can be completed by following a few simple steps.

Step 1 - Diagnose

Many people immediately attribute an improperly cooled icebox to a refrigerant leak, but there are several other reasons why the unit may not be working. It’s important not to jump to conclusions.

With that in mind, you should inspect the refrigerator to ensure the air intake grill is free of debris, the thermostat is sufficiently working, and the freezer has plenty of air flow, as all of these things can prevent a fridge from cooling properly.

While most new fridge-freezer models do not use Freon as a coolant, older refrigerators often do. Finding out if a refrigerant leak is the culprit behind a broken down unit is an easy process. The most telltale sign of a refrigerant leak is the presence of an oily substance at the bottom of the appliance. If you are unable to detect such a substance, then there are a number of alternative things to inspect in order to get to the bottom of the problem. You should also keep in mind that these types of coolant leaks are often the result of a puncture, so if your appliance has been sitting idle in a kitchen all its life, you are unlikely to have a Freon leak.

Step 2 - Purchase

freon coolant tank

If you’re certain that the problem is in fact a coolant leak, you will need to repair and replenish the substance. Since Freon is generally considered environmentally hazardous, it’s being phased out of use, so depending on where you are located, purchasing refrigerant can be difficult; some areas even require a special permit to buy it.

Newer versions have been engineered to replace older types and these are easier to find. Most of the newer versions can be purchased at your local HVAC supply company or online. However, you’ll need to make sure that your model can run on whatever type of coolant you select.

Step 3 - Replace

In most refrigerators, Freon is used in a three-part system that consists of a compressor, evaporator, and condenser. Use the owner's manual to determine where your Freon system is located. You’ll want to pay special attention to where the compressor is. Once you find the compressor, the first thing you will need to do is add an access valve by using a standard T-shaped pipe. (This pipe will later be used to add the new coolant to the system.)

Step 4 - Vacuum

After you have opened up the system for repair, you will need to vacuum any air that is currently in the system. This is accomplished using a special pump, which can normally be rented from a local repair shop or tool rental store.

Step 5 - Add Freon

Once the air has been successfully removed from the system, the next step is to add the proper refrigerant. Remember, your owner’s manual is a good reference to find out what types of coolants can be used with your model fridge.

To add the coolant to your system, you’ll place a hose around the t-pipe you added on the compressor in step three. This hose will ensure the Freon is safely funneled through the compression system.

Step 6 - Add Oil

A splash of oil

The last step in replacing the Freon in your refrigerator is to add a few tablespoons of PAG oil. This oil helps lubricate the compressor, which allows the refrigerant to easily pass through the system. Refer to the manual to determine the exact amount of oil required for your model. Typically, you’ll add about five tablespoons.

Additional Tips

Before making any purchases, it is a good idea to compare the costs of having a certified technician do the Freon repair, especially if you need to replace more than one part. Additionally, you can often purchase the parts you need through your fridge manufacturer.

Keep in mind that every refrigerator is different, so your fridge’s manual is likely going to provide the most helpful instructions for replacing refrigerant properly and safely.