Smoke and mirrors

Entertaining and slightly terrifying job this evening. Victim: our main built-in fridge/freezer, a Candy CIC 320 LE UK. Symptoms: no light when opening the door, frost layer 1cm thick on back wall of fridge, and later (read on!) smoke and arcing from the fast-freeze on/off switch.

I confirmed a week ago that the lightbulb had blown. Today managed to get to Maplin to purchase a replacement (15W SES incandescent – are they really going to ban incandescents in the UK?). Figured I’d fit it quickly and get on with my evening – how wrong I was! Put it in, and got nothing. Checked the bulb visually – looked fine. Got out the meter – all fine. Got out the torch and mirror and examined the socket – hmm, can’t easily see where the earth contact is, but no obvious damage.

The bulb screws into a unit attached to the wall of the fridge which also contains the fridge temperature control. How do I get it off? There’s a single screw securing it in the middle, but there are also two lugs at the front and something similar at the rear. For the life of me I couldn’t figure it out (and still can’t – anyone who knows how please let me know!). So that was a dead end.

While I was there I noticed the frost, and decided to defrost the fridge. Funny how one job segues so seductively into another. Did that (clear fridge, put bowl of hot water in, close the door, wait, scrape gently). I guess the problem was air flow near the thermostat probe – it’s at the middle of the back of the fridge, and I’m guessing it was obstructed by an ill-positioned food item. And above it the cool air flow down the back was obstructed by a bag of coffee – moral: don’t let anything touch the back of the fridge!

Turned it back on, and FIZZZ…., plus a distinct curl of grey smoke emanates from the fast-freeze switch! On this model the control switches are on the front strip between the fridge and freezer. I dive for the wall switch. Hmm. Bad design – defrosting water has run out of the fridge compartment and into the switch assembly. I dry around the controls, wait a while, and try again. This time it hums for a minute or so, and then the breaker trips. When I was a kid we had big porcelain fuses and fuse wire – I’m always grateful for breakers! With the wall switch and the breaker off, I prise off the switch bezel and pull out the switch assembly. This is what I see!

We won’t be using fast freeze on this fridge again. Wet carbonised plastic is a pretty good conductor. I pull off the connectors (the circuit diagram suggests the black one becomes live too when the thermostat turns on the compressor), and the switch terminals come off with them. Removing them and throwing them away, I wrap the already-insulated connectors with red insulation tape for good measure, and tie them together so they don’t get lost (in the unlikely event I ever want them again!). Back it all goes. As I reassemble, I see what was intended to be the seal – it’s yellow and stiff with age. Surely that’s one component you shouldn’t spec at the same five years as the rest?

Now we have a safe and operating fridge, it’s back to problem #1. Close observation reveals this:

And that’s it – a quick file down of the solder blob contact, and we’re in business: with a light that works, a defrosted fridge, the faint odour of smoke slowly dissipating, and the thermostat clearance re-established.

NOTE: In case you’re wondering, we’re retargeting this blog (hence the slight name change). Our NZ trip was last year, but that’s no reason for us not to keep a blog! We’ll use tags so you know what each post is about. Enjoy.