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How to know if a mini fridge is working; 3 simple tips

Having a mini fridge is almost a basic necessity if you’re out on the road. How do you know if it’s still working as it should? Here’s a few tips.

Mini-refrigerators are portable, and you can move with them wherever they go that’s the point right?

When you’re a truck driver or traveling on the road full time, the mini fridge is the best way to both control what you eat and cut down on traveling expenses.

At home, people will prefer purchasing these mini-fridges to meet their storage needs when their regular fridge doesn’t have enough space to store food and beverages.

To enjoy the convenience of a portable fridge, you will need to have a basic understanding of the food safety rules, the different types, and how to choose the best mini fridge that will work for you when you’re on the road. 

There’s nothing worse than going to grab a drink or snack out of the refrigerator and it’s lukewarm at best. Here’s a quick set of tips on how to know if a mini fridge is working.

How to know if a mini-fridge is working

There’s three easy ways to tell if your mini fridge isn’t working as well as it should. You can also use these three simple methods for your home refrigerator as well. 

When you’ve spent a ton of money on food to take with you on the road (or at home for that matter) mini fridge problems can feel like there’s an emergency. When they break or start malfunctioning it can become a huge inconvenience. 

  • The unit has gone silent
  • Frost and ice buildup
  • Puddles of water

Different Types of Mini Fridges

Let’s start by identifying what type of mine fridge you’re using. 

Every mini fridge is not created equal when it comes to what method it uses to cool your food. There are three basic methods that they use to do the job. Part of diagnosing how well your mini fridge is working is to have a fundamental understanding of what method your fridge uses to keep your stuff cool.  

Mini refrigerators come in three different types;

  • Thermoelectric
  • Absorption
  • Compressor

Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages. 

Thermoelectric refrigerator basics

This type is cheaper when compared to the other two, but one of the most common. However, they cannot cool their content as the compressor fridge. This is because the refrigerator works with the ambient air temperatures and then cools the interior of the fridge approximately 30 to 40 degrees below that. 

The type is excellent for short trips like road trips and camping getaways as they can keep foodstuffs cold as long as you’re not constantly opening the lid and letting the cold air out. Probably the most common way people keep food cool while traveling. 

Absorption Method Of Cooling

The absorption refrigerator works using the evaporative cooling process and uses an external heat source like solar power, electricity or other fuel source to provide the unit with the powert needs. These systems will use two different coolants for the evaporative cooling method. 

If you choose to use this kind of fridge, keep it on a flat surface. This is due to the coolant that the fridge has inside to do its job. 

They are a great choice for road trips and camping, but where there is the supply of power like in the trucks, one can consider using the fridge to store their items.

Compressor Refrigerator 

These are kinds of fridges that we all know and love at home except that they are smaller. They take a lot more energy to run but are the best of all the three options. If you’re going to go all out and use one of these in your semi truck or rv, you’ll need to make sure to have one of the best power inverters you can get your hands on. 

Unlike a mini fridge that works off of the absorption method, this fridge can work  on any surface which makes it a bit more travel friendly.  

The nice thing is that you have control of the internal temperature which can give you more food choices to take with you while traveling. 

The Unit Has Gone Silent

This seems like a no brainer, and to an extent it is.

The thing is, we get used to hearing the hum of a machine after a while and then we become a bit deaf to it. 

Mini fridges can make a bit of noise and some are louder than others. With many models, cooling is created by fans, compressors and the like. If there is no noise or the unit has fallen completely silent you may have trouble on your hands. 

Frost and Ice Buildup

Just about everyone has seen frost and ice buildup on their refrigerators at home and with a mini fridge, it’s no different. Whether it’s just frost or hard ice, either way it’s a sign that the fridge is malfunctioning.

The good thing is, it may not be broken but just in need of a little TLC.

Frost buildup is a sign that the fridge may not be getting enough of the ventilation it needs which can lead to a problem with cooling. The result is frost buildup, which can be a first sign of trouble. 

Puddles of Water

When you pop open the fridge or freezer and observe that food packaging is moist or wet or if there are puddles that have formed on the units shelves or compartments, you have a problem. 

If the mini fridge works off of a compressor, then more than likely the compressor has failed. 

For other types of mini fridges, you’ve clearly lost power somewhere and the unit is no longer functioning. Of course, no more power to the unit means no more cooling and/or freezing.

Everythings working but you still have puddles of water?

An easy item you can check if you’ve had your mini fridge a while is the door gasket. This is the gasket you see on any refrigerator or mini fridge on the inside of the door. Over time these gaskets can become damaged from normal use and will let in warmer air. 

Troubleshooting Mini Fridges

If you’re fairly new to using a mini fridge, we’ll talk about a few basic things to help you troubleshoot your unit and isolate problems. Once you’ve figured out the issue, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth repairing it or buying a new one. Here’s a list of other items you may also want to check. 

Check the power 

Your mini fridge has electrical components built into to power it of course, but if you’re running off of a power inverter or 12 volt plug don’t forget to check those too. 

Each may have their own fuse and it may just be a simple case of a blown fuse that needs to be replaced. 

Inspect the Condenser Coils

A lot of mini fridges have condenser coils located in the back of the unit. If that’s the case, the unit shouldn’t be pushed up against a wall. Pull it away from the wall or back of the compartment it’s in a good 3 inches so it can breathe. 

If the coils are dirty this can also cause the fridge to not work efficiently. Trying using something like an electrostatic duster to gently clean them up. 

Say No to extension cords

Mini fridges use a lot of power and extension cords can overheat and cause problems over a long period. 

Whenever possible, plug the mini fridge directly into the power source. 

Check the fan

If your mini fridge is equipped with a fan, make sure that your not using it an area where the fan is blocked from moving enough air. 

Assuming that you’ve got it in the right spot – 

If the fan blade is broken or not moving at all, you may need to contact the manufacturer and see about getting a replacement fan. 

Bad Thermostat

If the power is on and the unit is working, but nothing inside is getting to the desired temperature it’s time to check the thermostat. 

If your unit has a dial or button, take a quick look to see if it was inadvertently bumped resulting in the temperature dip. 

More than likely, the thermostat is located inside of your mini fridge where you can’t see it. This where you’ll have to get your hands dirty and remove a panel to check if the thermostat is disconnected or broken. 

Should I Repair it or Toss It Out?

Once you’ve discovered and isolated the problem you’ve got a big decision. 

If you’re handy and can repair the unit yourself, you may be able to order parts and repair the unit yourself fairly cheap.

Not handy? Think about this;

You may have to take the unit to a professional to fully diagnose the problem for you. By the time you’re done you’ve incurred charges to have them look at it, plus parts and the cost of labor. 

With all those costs, you may find that it’s cheaper to just replace the entire unit versus having it repaired. 

Besides, if you’ve had it a while, getting a newer more efficient unit might be just what you need. 

Summing it up…

How to know if your mini fridge is working is pretty straightforward with three easy ways to help you diagnose any problems. Don’t get stuck with a unit that’s broken, keep these signs in mind and stay on top of it.

how to know if a mini fridge is working

If you’re living out of your mini fridge, you may want to take a moment and check out this article on how to meal prep with a small fridge for some additional tips.

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