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#139579 - 12/02/03 06:53 AM Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Yesterday I took a first look at my parent's old French Frimatic refrigerator. It has had a wild life (my aunt bought it from an old lady who had it for 25 years even though she never had electricity, then used it for some time and gave it to my dad) and has been sitting around for about 10 years because it doesn't work any more. I guess it's 1960ies. The problem is this: The compressor simply refuses to start. The light inside is on when the door is open, so I guess power is present (my first guess was the twisted and taped power cord). Turning the temperature dial doesn'T have any effect. As the refrigerator seems to be a very simple model I had only a few ideas what could have happened: no power to the compressor or thermostat broke. If I remember correctly the thing stopped working immediately after we moved it downstairs and had worked intermittently the days before, which could point to loose connections. The bodged cord had severe amounts of corrosion on it, in dry words the copper was almost black over about 10 cm from the repair.
Any tips how to trace the fault? I'd really like to getit back running again because it's a real cool beast (probably one of the first models after the famous rounded 50ies refrigerators, white with an almost barbie pink interior).

BTW, yet another color coding. 2 blacks for hot & neutral and a white ground.

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#139580 - 12/02/03 11:03 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Trumpy Offline

Member

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Texas,
Just at a guess, I'd say that it would be one of two things.
If adjusting the Thermostat will not start the Compressor, the Compressor or the thermostat is faulty or you have a broken wire (usually a Neutral) somewhere in the loom.
Is there some form of a terminal box on the Fridge?.
If there is, this is where I would look first.
Just another thought, you mentioned that the Compressor refuses to start, are you sure that the Compressor has not seized, through inactivity?.
The old Freon (pre-CFC free systems) Refrigeration Equipment, didn't tend to age too well, if the Refrigerant wasn't circulated around the system regularly.
Hope that this helps.
_________________________
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

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#139581 - 12/02/03 11:15 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Thanks for your answers! There's some weird kind of terminal block on the back of the unit where all wires go in, but I haven't yet managed to find out how the connector is designed (there are just rectangular holes where the individual conductors go in).
I turned the thermostat to the highest setting (14), without any effect.
Well, the thing wasn't inactive when it quit working. it was in use for at least 15 years continuously, then it started working intermittently for a few days and stopped working immediately after having been moved. That was about 10 years ago. Now my parents bought another used one and want to get rid of the old, this is why the matter got urgent.
I guess if the compressor seizes there should at least be a faint hum when it tries to start, but it's completely silent, or am I mistaken?
There aren't many wires. A piece of brown 3-conductor zip cord going inside the fridge, a black and a red wire going to the compressor and the power cord. One of the wires leading to the compressor feels loose, but I haven't had time to unscrew the terminal cover. MAybe that's all it needs. Would be glad if it were, I actually grew up with that refrigerator and it would be sad to see it go the the trash.

Ok, going back to my maths exercises *shudder*
Maths is called our weekly Russian roulette.

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#139582 - 12/02/03 11:29 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Trumpy Offline

Member

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Texas,
Is there an audible "click" as you turn the Thermostat dial?.
If there isn't, it means the contacts in the Thermostat aren't closing and this is what is preventing the Compressor from starting.
Yeah, you're right about the humming Compressor, in some cases they can even blow the fuse/CB on the circuit that supplies the appliance.
I'd check the Thermostat and the terminal box first and then take it from there.
If you need any more help, just give me a yell!.
Best of luck with the maths.
_________________________
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

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#139583 - 12/02/03 11:33 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Thanks! I'll take a look at the refrigerator tomorrow. So far the only thing that seems to work is the light inside
The terminal box could be a good idea, since the power cord was that corroded. And wires that already feel loose always get me suspicious.

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#139584 - 12/03/03 11:52 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Update: There are no obviously loose wires. The thermostat doesn't do anything when the dial knob is turned. I did some metering and actually found 220V at the compressor terminals. Why? If the thermostat is broke there shouldn't be 220V at the compressor! My next idea was to bypass the thermostat (there are only 2 wires with spade connectors). No result. Would it be an idea to hook up the compressor directly to 220V or isn't that a good idea? Working on that thing is a pain in the a** since everything is near the floor, dirty and cramped (after he refrigerator was pu where it sits now a generous amount of construction debris (mostly mortar) has accumulated in the back of that beast, not really making things easier.

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#139585 - 12/03/03 02:07 PM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Trumpy Offline

Member

Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Ragnar,
I don't really like the sound of having voltage at the Compressor and nothing happening.
It sounds to me like the Start winding in the Compressor has gone Open Circuit and there is nothing that can really be done about it.
Compressors in fridges are usually run by a Split-Phase motor and depending on the size of it, the Current Held relay and Capacitor are often sealed inside the Compressor body.
Unless you replace the compressor, it looks like this is the end of the road for this old beauty , but even replacing the compressor is not really an option, because of the likelihood of the residue from the old Freon gas reacting with the new charge of non-CFC refrigerant, this can have explosive results.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, mate, but that's just my opinion of the situation.
_________________________
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

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#139586 - 12/03/03 08:30 PM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
SvenNYC Offline
Member

Registered: 08/19/02
Posts: 1685
Loc: New York City
Was this monster banged around when it was being moved?

I've read (on some appliance repair website somewhere) that old refrigerator compressors don't like being moved around.

Apparently these people say there is some sort of spring suspension that holds the motor and other inner workings and keeps it all from bouncing around.

The springs then go brittle with time...and a good bouncing around is enough to break the springs and damage the workings in the compressor.

Changing a compressor is not fun. The one in our icebox was changed two years ago. The guy came with a bunch of specialized tools (among them was a device to "bottle" the freon while he replaced the compressor).

The compressor is also welded to the condenser coils. If I remember correctly it was a gas torch (welding torch, not battery flashlight ) that he used...

You have to know what you're doing.

Also, that refrigerant is only (legally) sold to people who are properly licenced.

*Note: Freon is my generic term for refrigerant just like "town gas" is my generic term for the smelly stuff that comes out of your gas stove.

Wonder what a refrigerator mechanic would charge to work on that thing? Have you considered it -- I mean...depends on how much you want that thing, might be worth asking before you leave it out on the sidewalk.

There are companies that refurbish and sell (at a huge markup) such appliances.

Oh, a last piece of advice. If you do toss it out in the street, be sure to remove the doors from the hinges. You don't want little kids playing around and getting locked inside and suffocating in there. It _has_ happened.

[This message has been edited by SvenNYC (edited 12-03-2003).]

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#139587 - 12/04/03 02:08 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Probably you'Re right, that doesn't sound good. I'm not going to attempt changing the compressor myself, so this is probably the end of the old thing. Gonna take a few pics and then... R.I.P.
I haven't heard of such appliance restore companies here in Vienna and a normal repair guy would probably only laugh.
Probably it was bumped around. IIRC the guys who brought the new refrigerator loaded it onto a 2-wheel-cart and let it rattle down the stairs. Probably the death of the old thing that hadn't been moved for about 15 years.
You can't just leave stuff like that, we'll have to take it to a recycling station. You also have to pay for the recycling of refrigerating equipment. Side note: the door doesn't latch, it can be opened from inside. besides I think the guys at the recycling center will take care of that problem themselves.

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#139588 - 12/04/03 04:00 AM Re: Fixing vintage French refrigerator?
pauluk Offline
Member

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
Is it actually a sealed motor-compressor assembly with everything inside the can? Older units often had the capacitor mounted externally with separate terminals on the compressor for the start & run windings. Replacing the capacitor wouldn't be a problem if it's faulty, but as Trumpy has said, if the internal windings are at fault it's a big job.

 Quote:
If you do toss it out in the street, be sure to remove the doors from the hinges. You don't want little kids playing around and getting locked inside and suffocating in there. It _has_ happened


This was a subject of another of those public safety films we had in Britain in the 1970s. Smash the lock on an old fridge before putting it out.

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