Thread Number: 71275  /  Tag: Refrigerators
GE Combination refrigerator BGS-13? Identification & general questions
[Down to Last]'s exclusive eBay Watch:
scroll >>> for more items
Post# 943381   6/13/2017 at 21:32 (399 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

funktionalart's profile picture
Down the block from me is the refrigerator shown in photos. Now, I'm usually all about Frigidaire of this era vs. GE...just a personal thing (and I REALLY don't like pink!). But I'm interested in it anyway.

I'm curious how old this one is? I'm thinking somewhere between '57 and '60. Haven't ever seen one with pull-out vs. adjustable lazy suzan style shelving on these. Although I've yet to go check this unit out, I already am told it doesn't get cold.

The "troublesome" GE's I've seen were the ones with the iced over coils and wonky cold controls. Anyone of you have any thoughts on what are typical areas of concern with these Combinations at this stage in life? What's availability like of things like OEM replacement cold controls/fans/compressor relays specific to this model?

Ralph: is this the same unit you had/have?

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 5         View Full Size

Post# 943391 , Reply# 1   6/13/2017 at 23:01 (399 days old) by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

pulltostart's profile picture

I don't think this is a 1957 or a 1958, but possibly 1959 or 1960.  At 13 cu. ft., it is the smaller bottom mount model.  Too bad it doesn't cool, otherwise looks good.  Good luck with this one!



Post# 943422 , Reply# 2   6/14/2017 at 10:09 (399 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
1959-60 GE Ref

combo52's profile picture
This one is a manual defrost freezer model so at least its is less complicated than the Frost Guard models.

With out more information I would not try to guess what is wrong, this ref was in the time period of compressors that wore out way too early, however most GE refs that lasted this long already had the newer more durable compressor installed.

Post# 943426 , Reply# 3   6/14/2017 at 10:26 (399 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

ken's profile picture
This has the 59-61 style door handle. Im thinking 1959 due to it being very close but not exactly the same as the 1960 I got a few weeks ago. Having pull out instead of swing out shelves has me a little confused though. And it looks like the egg storage is different too. I wonder if it could be a less expensive variant?

The freezer uses a fan to cool. If the upper compartment cools but not the freezer could be the door switch that turns the fan off when the door is opened is bad not allowing the fan to run. If the compressor runs but it doesn't cool at all it could be just a bad thermostat or a problem with the sealed system (leak). If its dead could be the relay. I have a 58 GE top freezer that runs great but doesn't cool. Ive always figured it developed a leak and the Freon was lost.

Others here would probably know better than me about availability of both OEM and universal thermostats, fan motors and relays. But I from what Ive read here I don't think universal replacements are difficult to find.

Heres the thread showing the one I recently got if you'd like to take a look.

Post# 943428 , Reply# 4   6/14/2017 at 11:16 (399 days old) by fridgenut (Cape Girardeau, MO)        
That is one nice fridge

I usually don't like these generations of GE's as much as the earlier stuff. However, I see that this one is a manual defrost model. That makes things more interesting in my book.

Anyways...I would check the electrical systems before really calling it dead. Old GE's do die but many of them refuse to fade away...

Post# 943440 , Reply# 5   6/14/2017 at 13:18 (399 days old) by Combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
1959-60 combination refrigerator

combo52's profile picture
This refrigerator does not have a fan in the freezer, and if the compressor runs but doesn't cool it cannot be a bad cold control thermostat.

Post# 943442 , Reply# 6   6/14/2017 at 13:44 (399 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        
Interesting Model

rp2813's profile picture

I agree that the exterior treatments indicate 1959-61.


What's throwing me is the standard shelving in the fridge section.  Based on the pix above, the non Frost Guard models didn't get the swing-out shelving system, or at least not immediately in 1959 when the Frost Guard feature was launched.


I would perhaps pass on this fridge even if it was in proper working order because of the shelving, but as far as the non-cooling issue goes, John is correct that if the system makes noise like it's running but doesn't cool, the cold control is not the problem.  Unfortunately, the cold control is infinitely easier to replace than the compressor.


Allen, I have the manual-defrost top freezer model that's a couple of years older than this one and has the spinning shelves as opposed to the type that swing out.

Post# 943443 , Reply# 7   6/14/2017 at 13:47 (399 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

ken's profile picture
My apologies for the misinformation. I stand corrected. A bad thermostat would cause an under or over cooling problem with too short or too long running times wouldn't it?

It doesn't have a fan in the freezer? Then how do items placed in the freezer basket stay frozen when not in direct contact with the freezer surface? What would be the difference in the way the freezer functions/freezes items in this model and the one I got recently like this one which does have a fan in the freezer?

This post was last edited 06/14/2017 at 16:06
Post# 943450 , Reply# 8   6/14/2017 at 15:11 (399 days old) by goatfarmer (South Bend, home of Champions)        

goatfarmer's profile picture

Depending on the price, it may be worth pursuing. As long as the present owner doesn't plan to retire on the proceeds....

Post# 943465 , Reply# 9   6/14/2017 at 17:13 (398 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

rp2813's profile picture

Ken, yes, when my Combo's cold control failed, the whole thing would have frozen over if I hadn't noticed two things:  That the serpentine coil had a thicker coating of frost that I'd ever seen before, and that the fridge coincidentally hadn't shut off for quite a while.  Turning the thumb wheel to a lower setting didn't change anything.


I don't know how the freezer works in the manual defrost models like mine, but GE marketed them as true zero-degree freezers beginning with the first ones in 1948 and I can attest that mine bears that out.  I guess it's so cold in there that it doesn't require contact with the surface to achieve that level of cold in all of the contents.  I think this is also why there's a dedicated area in the freezer door shelf (notoriously warmest zone in any fridge or freezer) for ice cream, otherwise it would be hard as a brick.


I'm sure this constant zero degree capability has to do with separating the two systems.  Even the single door Combos have a mullion that separates the freezer and a thick insulated door on it that snaps securely closed, basically accomplishing the same thing as a two-door Combo.


The serpentine coil in the fridge section on mine gets down well below zero while the compressor is running, and it warms up to 37 or so before allowing the compressor to kick in again.  This is probably similar to how single door fridges with just an evaporator box operate, so maintaining zero in that kind of arrangement  isn't possible.


I don't think there's much difference in how a separate freezer model with a fan maintains zero as opposed to one that doesn't have a fan.  The difference in types with a fan is more about the fresh food section, at least on the ones that no longer use an exposed serpentine coil.  


Eventually all manufacturers moved to a system that used the freezer's evaporator coil to cool both sections, and the fan baffles simply routed more air to circulate through the freezer than in the fridge.  Typically, on a modern fridge you can feel a strong blast of cold air blowing out from the back wall, but in the fridge section it's just a wispy air flow since you don't want it any cooler than about 37 in there, but the air is still being drawn from a single cooling coil in the freezer for both.  This is why if you place tall items in front of the vent blowing cold air into the fridge section, they'll likely freeze.

Post# 943476 , Reply# 10   6/14/2017 at 18:25 (398 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

The church I belong to used to have a GE bottom-freezer model. I always assumed it was a '59, as that was when the new addition including kitchen was built. However, the door handle was not like that shown, but rather the style that was continuous along the side of the door like that of the '57 & '58 models.

It may well have been a left over model that they got. The owners of the local GE dealer were (and currently are) members of the church, and they installed the cabinets, countertops, sinks and appliances. Some of them they may have donated.

Post# 943526 , Reply# 11   6/14/2017 at 22:35 (398 days old) by norgeway (mocksville n c )        
I wouldnt trade

ONE of these for all the Frost Free fridges ever made..Your Ice Cream stays hard as a brick and your vegetables stay fresh!

Post# 943532 , Reply# 12   6/15/2017 at 00:11 (398 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
Slight update~

funktionalart's profile picture
I went over to see this in person a few hours ago. Attached are pics, including the GE Serial number/ID tag. Model number BJ 13TC, and serial number has a "60" in it, which I *presume* indicates 1960 model year: TT601626

Still alot of thinking to do about it, since I didn't have time to do alot of testing. I am thinking the compressor relay may not be allowing the compressor to start--I think what I heard kick on was the condensor fan on the underside of chassis (it blows nice and strong)...I am just not positive the compressor kicked in. The kitchen was a tight space, arthritic knees were killing me and I was tight on time, so....

I did note the HUGE amount of dust/hair which is PACKED all around the condenser coils. This thing needs a major undercarriage clear-out. The gorgeous exterior had me fooled!

Now, for the 2 digit selling price, I may just buy it because it's so damned clean and tidy I would be willing to take a gamble and bring it home just to see if I can't get it running myself. I'll sleep on it for now~

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 5         View Full Size
Post# 943533 , Reply# 13   6/15/2017 at 00:15 (398 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
Manual Defrost vs. Frost proof on this one~

funktionalart's profile picture
Have to admit--I feel really stupid about this fridge as regards defrost method. The owner manual says these models ARE frost proof. Looking in the freezer, I don't see any sign of it being one...and no badging declaring it. Wasn't able to see underneath well enough to locate a defrost timer, either. Must mean I need to bring it home and find out!

Post# 943539 , Reply# 14   6/15/2017 at 02:37 (398 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        
The Claim Was Lame

rp2813's profile picture

GE's marketing material included the claim that there was never any need to defrost, but they didn't bother to add that this convenience applied only to the fresh food section.  


I consider it false advertising, since there is nothing automatic about defrosting the freezer other than the draining of the melted ice, which eliminates bailing or sopping up.  It's still a hands-on operation and the freezer has to be emptied.


I guess if you had a cooler big enough, you could remove the entire basket from the freezer during defrosting, presuming there was no tendency for it to fuse itself to the freezer drawer glides.


I suggest proceeding with caution.  Condensers that were never brushed or vacuumed and are caked with dust and pet fur are probably the number one cause of compressor failure among all refrigerators, new and old.  My sister's '90s bottom freezer Amana failed for that exact reason. 


On the other hand, I bought an early '60s Coldspot bottom freezer in the mid '80s and it behaved the same as this GE, although the condenser was relatively dust-free.  I found a wire had come detached from the compressor relay, probably during the process of moving, either to the thrift store or to my house.  If this GE hasn't budged for years, I doubt you'll be as lucky as I was.

Post# 943546 , Reply# 15   6/15/2017 at 06:27 (398 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
The Claim Was Lame

combo52's profile picture

GE and many other manufacturers were a little sneaky when cycle defrost refs were really coming into the market in a big way.


But if you read the literature GE never claimed that the freezer was self defrosting, instead they used claims like you will never have to defrost the fresh food section and anyway you cut it these two door refs were light years ahead of of the old single door refs that needed defrosting sometimes as often as once a month.


Two door refs like this seldom needed defrosting more than once a year and in light use many owners let them go a few years without defrosting.


Overall this is a neat ref but if you want to use it I would pass it, these still had fiberglass insulation and if you could see how compressed and wet the insulation is under the freezer floor you will understand why these often do not keep an even temperature in the freezer and cost so much to run. If you plug a ref like this in it is often hard to hear the compressor as they are pretty quite, and even quieter if they are not doing any work which happens when it either has lost its Freon charge or the compressor is worn out [ lost its compression ] which happened to ALL GE refs of this era. When ever I consider a GE ref of this age I look at the compressor to see if it has been changed, it it has there will be a 2X4"tag wired on a line going to the compressor that lists the GE Pt# the Freon charge etc.


My 1960 GE FG upright freezer will barley keep anything frozen if you put it on the freezer floor because of the compressed insulation and yet the thing will keep the main space at zero degrees F. And as a side bonus heated the pantry it was in for over 20 years.

Post# 943570 , Reply# 16   6/15/2017 at 09:38 (398 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
It's so pretty

panthera's profile picture

I guess the real questions are:

How heavy is it? If we know the new shipping weight and the current weight, we know whether the insulation is sopping wet. Might very well be. Might not be - despite the service manuals, I've seen some fibreglass insulated refrigerators shipped with the fibreglass still sealed in a plastic film - we did an International Harvester that was, to my great shock.

Worth finding out, 'cause, if it is soaking wet, then John is right - it's an enormous argument against it.

Second, test equipment to start the compressor without the internal electrical/electronics is no big problem to rig up. I'd definitely do that. If the compressor is still alive and if it's not worn out (I'm no expert on these, but from all I've read, GE was making bad compressors at that point in time) then, I'd go for it.

Just, I'm a sucker for anything in PANK! or Turquaw!. And the only thing in smoked avocado I'd consider would be a Thumper.

Post# 943861 , Reply# 17   6/16/2017 at 17:36 (396 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
The deal is done...

funktionalart's profile picture
I went and picked it up today. Photos and info to come shortly.

Post# 943903 , Reply# 18   6/16/2017 at 23:07 (396 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
Update on the pink GE

funktionalart's profile picture
Right--got it in the house today and found the following (and answers alot of questions above):

*INSULATION* : All present, all dry. Mildly dusty as expected on the undercarriage areas.

*Model Year / Model name* Oct. 1960 BJ-13 a MANUAL Defrosting freezer version, according to the User Manual that came with it.

Door gaskets are astonishingly white and in excellent order and all the chrome work is GORGEOUS. Cosmetically this thing is in pretty damned nice order...

*Compressor* looks to be original to build--John / Combo52 would know for sure, but I think it is, The Start relay is dated May 1960, so clearly nothing under here has ever been replaced. Took the relay out to check wires--one looked greenish-sticky-mildly corroded so I clipped it back, stripped insulation a bit and reattached. My prayer at this point is that may be the only thing wrong...but not holding out tons of hope...

Aforementioned loads of dust/hair in the condenser turned out to be not true. The first night I tried to look under there (at the seller's house), what I was actually seeing was dusty grey/hairy insulation. Once I got it home and on its side, I found the entire underside of machine is actually one of the tidier ones of this age I've ever seen (about as nice as the '63 Coldspot I got earlier last year--some of ya probably saw the pics I posted of that one when I bought it). Vacuumed it all out anyway and it all looks like it will function fine (provided tomorrow's test start doesn't nosedive!).

All I really know is that this fridge was with original owner until 2-3 years ago, and hasn't cooled for the current owner for about a year. Going to plug it in tomorrow and see what goes on...lotsa pics below! It was a dirt cheap purchase--so if it turns out to still not want to cool, I will use it as a dry goods storage pantry until I can make it run again sometime in the future.

  Photos...       <              >      Photo 1 of 16         View Full Size
Post# 943926 , Reply# 19   6/17/2017 at 02:38 (396 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

funktionalart's profile picture
No big surprise--it isn't going to cool. Compressor turns on just fine, it runs quietly but is very hot within 15 minutes of powering on (somewhat hotter on the left 1/2 of compressor vs. the side with the relay attached). You can hear what sounds like water trickling (very muffled) in the fridge coils but absolutely nuthin' happening. I shut it down after running for 40 minutes.

The overly-abused phrase "needs freon" might apply here. *If* a compressor replacement is in order, what is available nowadays to install in this GE? I have no idea what takes the place of this odd style compressor! Hopefully it won't come down to having to replace it--but this was a very,very cheap unit to purchase, and I absolutely don't need it to be a working unit right now, so it isn't a huge issue, really.

Post# 943970 , Reply# 20   6/17/2017 at 10:17 (396 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
I'm sure one of the experts will chime in here,

panthera's profile picture

however, I know that at least locally, there's still shops with older owners who have no problem unofficially working with the 'forbidden' Freons. As to the compressor - I know it's supposed to have been a really bad era, so maybe this is a good time to replace it? I can't imagine it would be that hard to find a modern one which has roughly the same specs?

What a gorgeous refrigerator. Our 1967 Frigidaire has a compressor which seems to either be hated passionately or passionately hated in the industry and I just loathe the day it fails. So far, we're still running the freezer at -10F, the refrigerator meat keeper at 32F and the dairy section at 34 with the rest at 36-37F, but then it's only 50 years old....

Post# 944003 , Reply# 21   6/17/2017 at 14:03 (396 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

rp2813's profile picture

Somewhere in another thread, John said he changed out a similar GE compressor with a different one than the original type.  He should be able to provide details on specs, etc. for a replacement and what makes to look for.


Post# 944018 , Reply# 22   6/17/2017 at 16:18 (395 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

funktionalart's profile picture
Thanks Ralph and Pantera~I will be searching old threads for John's GE compressor info when I get back from the weekend. The size/shape and design of that thing are new to it will be interesting to see what's made today that could be mounted under there with proper clearances and mounting points...Happily, I don't "need" the fridge to be working any time soon, but it would be nice to know it can be put back into proper order at some point down the road. Otherwise, it's just going to be a very pretty storage cabinet--which is fine considering it was well under $50!

Post# 944019 , Reply# 23   6/17/2017 at 16:20 (395 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

Very nice. Hope you will get it back in proper working order quickly.

I've always liked that style of GE - It doesn't look dated like some other brands from that time.

Post# 944025 , Reply# 24   6/17/2017 at 16:58 (395 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

funktionalart's profile picture
Agreed on the "look". Personally I love the early/mid 60s stuff more from a styling/build materials standpoint than anything else. I went through a long period of only having 40s/50s era stuff--but honestly prefer this clean-lined stuff much more. Like you say, it doesn't age badly or look "of its time". Closest you can get to high-end 60s automotive styling and fun factor! Just too bad these are so hard to come by in turn key/ready to use condition!

Post# 950408 , Reply# 25   7/28/2017 at 03:04 (355 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
A little troubleshooting going on here--input/thoughts?

funktionalart's profile picture
Well, it was driving me nuts just staring at this fridge sitting there in a corner for the last month. Decided to plug it in and let it run a couple hours (just to see what might/might not happen). Interesting stuff--

First of all, this is Arizona in summer and room temp is already around 80 degrees (as was freezer compartment). I left the temp control on "5" (midpoint...highest is "9") for the startup.

A Couple hours later, freezer floor was cooling down (I let it get to 48 degrees before shutting down for good). So, at least I know that this area WILL cool. How cold it will actually get, I can't say. That compressor just gets WAY too warm for my comfort so would rather not risk anything by letting it run longer.

The real problem area is the refrigerator interior--namely the exposed cooling coils up on the ceiling. The first loop (at the upper right hand corner) was trying to chill down. It was noticeably cool. The rest of the coil run was not. Although the likely trouble is a compressor not working up to snuff, My suspicion remains that the unit is low on R12 for whatever the reason. Wishful thinking maybe....?!

Now--on to my major observation: I left the temp control off--compressor is OFF. I did this hours ago. For some reason, I just decided to open the fridge door again and found it VERY warm in there. The coils on the ceiling are HOT. According to the GE Manual for this unit "Defrosting takes place every time refrigerator is not running".

So in a nutshell, is it possible that this defrosting process is somehow active ALL THE TIME--keeping the upper coils from ever possibly cooling properly? Should there not be some sort of regulator for this so that the entire unit doesn't have to be unplugged to avoid constant coil defrosting process? Speaking of which...better go unplug it now. Gonna have a spike in my electric bill.

Post# 950411 , Reply# 26   7/28/2017 at 04:32 (355 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        
HGD / Hot Gas Defrost...

funktionalart's profile picture
I unearthed a plethora of old GE related posts tonight. Am guessing my unit is HotGasDefrost as well--though still concerned that the serpentine coil in the Fridge section stays warm/hot for hours on end, despite temp control being set to "off". Clearly I can't leave this plugged in all the time. That seems to be enough to keep this hot defrost process odd.

Post# 950434 , Reply# 27   7/28/2017 at 08:34 (355 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

ken's profile picture
I believe the HGD applies only to defrosting the freezer coils/evaporator. The coils in the fresh food section defrost manually during off time simply by the temperature rise in the compartment. The fact the FF section is kept at a temperature above freezing means the coils there don't need to get near as cold as the freezer coils do. They do get below freezing during operation but the buildup of ice on them isn't near as heavy as on the freezer coils. The temperature rise in the FF section is sufficient to melt the thin coating of ice/frost during off time.

This post was last edited 07/28/2017 at 09:43
Post# 950441 , Reply# 28   7/28/2017 at 10:52 (355 days old) by twintubdexter (Palm Springs)        
Oh, I'm so disappointed...

twintubdexter's profile picture

I thought you said that once you sold your pickup you'd be able to resist these over-sized impulse buys. I'm sure that fridge didn't fit in your Mercedes. I hope your home doesn't end up looking like mine...once a show cluttered with things like the Magnavox Concert Grand that roams around my dining room on a piano dolly looking for a home or the 3-piece Barzilay stereo cabinet that's in everyone's way in my kitchen. Did I mention the must-have Haunted House pinball that's at the other end of the dining room?


There's an early Lilly Tomlin routine where she laments "I was an impulse buyer, thee worst kind. I would buy anything on the shelf at eye-level. I would even buy fresh bread and day-old bread the same day. I was just not using good sense... Remember ladies, impulse buying can break you if you do not break it."

  View Full Size
Post# 950480 , Reply# 29   7/28/2017 at 14:58 (355 days old) by goatfarmer (South Bend, home of Champions)        

goatfarmer's profile picture

It's possibly low on R12, but the sure way to tell, is with a set of gauges.

Post# 950482 , Reply# 30   7/28/2017 at 15:05 (355 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

ken's profile picture
I remember someone else here stating at one time how they had an old fridge that lost Freon when unplugged for awhile. They filled the system and it continued to operate correctly since then which was quite a long time. As long as it was kept operating it didn't seem to loose Freon again.

Post# 950508 , Reply# 31   7/28/2017 at 19:05 (354 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

rp2813's profile picture

Allen,  I seem to recall the mention of a heater that kicks in when the compressor is shut off, regardless of whether the serpentine coil has any accumulated frost.  This would explain why the coil felt hot even though you had the cold control set to "OFF."  As long as the fridge is plugged in but the compressor isn't running, this heater will be on.  I presume there's a switch or relay that's triggered to shut off the heater when the compressor kicks in.

Forum Index:       Other Forums:                      

Comes to the Rescue!

The Discuss-o-Mat has stopped, buzzer is sounding!!!
If you would like to reply to this thread please log-in...

Discuss-O-MAT Log-In

New Members
Click Here To Sign Up.

Discuss-o-Mat Forums
Vintage Brochures, Service and Owners Manuals
Fun Vintage Washer Ephemera
See It Wash!
Video Downloads
Audio Downloads
Picture of the Day
Patent of the Day
Photos of our Collections
The Old Aberdeen Farm
Vintage Service Manuals
Vintage washer/dryer/dishwasher to sell?
Technical/service questions?
Looking for Parts?
Website related questions?
Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy
Our Privacy Policy