A refrigerator leaking water can be more than an annoyance—it can actually be a safety hazard if it causes the kitchen floor to become slippery. To prevent accidents as well as potential structural damage to your home, make sure to investigate any puddles of water around your fridge. Here, we’ve listed a few of the most common causes of refrigerator leaks, how to check for them, and how to fix them.
The lifespan of a refrigerator is about 13 years. If you’re worried that your aging refrigerator may be about to spring a leak, you can save yourself a great deal of money and time by investing in a home warranty. These service contracts will cover the cost of repairs and even replacements of covered home systems and appliances that wear out over time. Refrigerators are costly to repair and replace, so look for a home warranty that covers damage to these vital appliances.
What’s Causing My Refrigerator to Leak?
There are a few common problems that can cause a refrigerator to start leaking. Luckily, there are also some fixes you can try yourself before calling in a contractor.
Believe it or not, your refrigerator shouldn’t actually be level with your floor. It actually requires a slight backwards tilt in order to keep the coolant running properly and, in some cases, to make the door swing shut automatically. The back of the fridge should be about ¼” to ½” closer to the floor than the front.
If you’ve recently moved your fridge or completed renovations, the unit might be tilted improperly or too close to level to drain correctly. You can check this easily enough with a spirit level placed on the top of the fridge, perpendicular to the doors. If the angle is out of line, follow these steps to correct it.
- Remove the grille or kick plate from the bottom front of the refrigerator.
- Identify the two front legs.
- Use a crescent wrench to increase (by turning it counterclockwise) or decrease (by turning it clockwise) the length of the leg. Do not remove the legs.
- Check your work against the spirit level until you get the angle right.
Remember, though, that your fridge should be level in a side-to-side direction, with the spirit level parallel to the doors. If it isn’t, you’ll need to adjust the back legs. They can be lengthened or shortened the same way as the front legs, but you’ll need to pull the fridge away from the wall first.
Damaged Drain Pan
A fridge does naturally leak some water, but it’s supposed to collect in a pan under the refrigerator where it can safely evaporate without getting your floor wet. Although it’s unusual for this pan to develop holes or cracks, this can be one cause of a water leak. Here’s how to check for this problem and fix it.
- Remove the grille or kick plate from the bottom front of the refrigerator.
- Identify the large, flat pan resting in the bottom of the fridge.
- Carefully pull out the pan (remembering that it may contain water) and inspect it for damage.
- If the pan is damaged, take it with you to the hardware store to purchase an identical one or visit the manufacturer’s website to find a replacement.
While the pan might have some water in it from a normal defrost cycle, it shouldn’t be more than about one-third full. If it is, you may have one of the following problems contributing to the issue.
Blocked Defrost Drain
Inside the freezer compartment, along the bottom back wall, there’s an opening that allows humid air to escape. If this drain gets blocked, whether by a stack of items in the freezer or debris clogging the line, the fridge condenser coils will have to work overtime and start dripping water. Here’s how to check for and solve this problem.
- Locate the defrost drain and remove any frozen food items covering it. Create a clear path from the drain to the ceiling and wait a day to see whether this solves the problem.
- If you still see puddles, empty the freezer, unplug it, and remove the cap from the defrost drain.
- Fill a turkey baster with warm water and squirt it down the drain. This should unfreeze any clogs in the line, and you can plug the fridge back in to continue using it. You may need to empty the drain pan manually over the next few days.
- If no extra water comes out of the defrost drain from step 4, the clog may still be in place. Unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall, and check the drain line manually. This is the line that runs from the freezer to the underside of the fridge. Unclog it with a pipe cleaner or bottle brush.
If you’re unable to locate any of these parts on your refrigerator, consult the user manual for your make and model. If you can’t find the manual, check online for an electronic copy.
Frozen Water Supply Line
Finally, if your refrigerator has an ice maker or water dispenser, the water line that feeds it may be clogged or frozen. Check this tube using the following steps.
- Unplug the fridge and pull it away from the wall. Locate the water supply line, which is usually made of clear, flexible plastic or braided metal.
- If you see evidence of a leak around the connection points, tighten them with a crescent wrench. Plug everything back in and check again for drips in an hour.
- If the connections are tight and you still see leaks, you may need to replace the water line entirely. Shut off the water supply line between your home and the fridge.
- Remove the water line, and bring it with you to the store to purchase a replacement.
Only proceed to step 4 if you’re confident in your plumbing skills. Incorrectly replacing the water line can cause serious damage, so call a plumbing contractor if you need one. If the problem is with the water supply line, you can leave the water supply connection turned off, plug in the fridge, and continue to use it normally, just without the use of the water and ice dispensers, until you can get the line fixed.
When Should I Call in a Professional?
All of the above are simple DIY fixes and adjustments that you can safely make yourself. However, if you’ve tried them and continue to see water puddling near or under your fridge, it’s time to consult a professional contractor. In addition to being annoying, moisture leaks can substantially shorten the life of a refrigerator by interfering with fan operation or causing rust. You don’t want to let the problem go on too long or you might end up having to replace the fridge entirely.
If your fridge is leaking coolant rather than water, always consult a professional immediately. Coolant is toxic and needs to be contained and disposed of properly.
Does a Home Warranty Cover Refrigerator Leaks?
Although refrigerators are considered a big-ticket item to repair or replace, most home warranties offer coverage for at least one kitchen refrigerator. Here is our pick for the best home warranty company.
Our Recommended Provider: American Home Shield
For the best overall home warranty experience, go with American Home Shield. This company’s ShieldGold™ plan and ShieldPlatinum™ plan both cover kitchen refrigerators. Additionally, American Home Shield’s plans cover conditions excluded by most other home warranties, including rust, corrosion, insufficient maintenance, and even unknown pre-existing conditions.
Our Rating Methodology
The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our home warranty ratings and recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each provider. We conduct research by speaking with company representatives, requesting quotes, analyzing sample contracts from each company, and conducting focus groups and consumer surveys. We then score each provider against our review standards for coverage, value, trustworthiness and transparency, availability, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.
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