Thread Number: 72316  /  Tag: Refrigerators
Replacement for 1982 Whirlpool Workhorse Refrigerator?
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Post# 955898   9/3/2017 at 12:34 by pumpkina (California)        

I have a 1982 Whirlpool freezer-top refrigerator.

After learning that I need to clean the coils (major dust bunnies) and free up freezer space for air flow, it runs colder and it looks like my utility bill is lower.

That said, it doesn't use that much electricity and AT BEST, the break even point in energy savings of buying a new unit would be seven years.

I'm delighted to keep it. The only repairs in 35 years were a broken door light switch (my fault for banging it), exterior rust (easily removed), and cracked FF gasket door seal on one section. What are commonly needed repairs on these?

When this refrigerator dies, what brand(s) do you recommend? Should I buy a used one (I can't find my model number on Google and even Whirlpool chat couldn't find it).

Where do you recommend I buy it?


Post# 955909 , Reply# 1   9/3/2017 at 13:19 by fridgenut (Cape Girardeau, MO)        
Very solid fridges...

I had a 78 whirlpool a while back. I sold it off and it's probably still working. These units use a rotary vane style compressor that is very smooth, very quiet, and extremely reliable. Seeger cabinet company, who made cabinets for the venerable monitor top refrigerators, made the cabinet for your whirlpool and they made the compressor and rest of the refrigeration system. I have a late 30s coldspot from Sears that has the same compressor, it still works great and is super quiet.

Post# 955934 , Reply# 2   9/3/2017 at 14:43 by DaveTranter (Central England)        
Vane type compressor

I never knew that any domestic refrigerators used these, though perhaps none are used this side of the 'pond'. Do any UK members know of any??

All best
Dave T

Post# 956002 , Reply# 3   9/4/2017 at 00:04 by superocd (PNW)        
as long as you clean the coils...

It may disappoint you, that is, it could keep running. And running. And running. The older fridges, domestic and commercial, lasted decades with few problems if any. There are some apartment complexes around my area that were built in the late '70s-early '80s and have the original fridge, mostly Whirlpool (and some GE/Hotpoint).

Property management companies will toss and buy new if the cost to repair is high or if the repair is beyond the skillset of onsite maintenance, so those fridges are a testament to how durable they are. Sometimes, the range, and to a lesser extent, the dishwasher keep plugging along. The answer to it all is easy: things were built to last. Workmanship was job #1.

My Whirlpool French door will not last as long. My bet is that the control board will fail. The Embraco compressors are usually OK units (but still nothing like the old Copeland Scroll) but none of that matters when a $500 control board goes out to lunch. Maybe an event like that would justify bringing in a monstrous, energy hogging McCall fridge and freezer pair into the house. No computerized anything except the digital Kol-Gard temp monitor. Thermostats are all bimetallic.

Speaking of fridges, why can't you get a nice fridge (like stainless French door) without glass shelves? I'd much rather have heavy duty wire shelves. You have to get really basic top freezer units to get wire shelves. Even then, the $399 Home Depot specials STILL come with those blasted glass shelves!

Post# 956005 , Reply# 4   9/4/2017 at 01:23 by pumpkina (California)        

Thanks. I hope to remain disappointed for decades to come, LOL.

Where would I find new, used, or remanufactured/reconditioned parts for these old refrigerators?

How often should I be cleaning the coils? On my model, they're on the floor and I had dogs that shed.

Post# 956017 , Reply# 5   9/4/2017 at 05:21 by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        

combo52's profile picture

Hi M, clean the coils when they are getting dirty enough to restrict air flow over them.


What is the Model# of your ref ?

Post# 956051 , Reply# 6   9/4/2017 at 09:17 by pumpkina (California)        
Thanks. My Whirlpool Refrigerator Specs

model number: EHT201AKNR2

serial number: E13919091

type: 19ATR81

Is there a way I can determine its size in cubic feet?

Post# 956076 , Reply# 7   9/4/2017 at 11:19 by Magic_Clean (Florida)        
It is

20 cu. ft.

Post# 956730 , Reply# 8   9/9/2017 at 05:29 by StandingPilot (Cleveland)        

1982 was a good year for US refrigerators, modern and somewhat energy efficient(not as efficient as today)but they were built with longevity in mind. I'd replace the door seals and keep running it if it's still aesthetically pleasing to you.

I still have an 82' Gibson, the door must have been opened over 100000 times by now, It's on the third set of door seals, it wore through the lower door bearing and the pin started machining a nickle size hole in the bottom pivot hole of the door itself. The thing just keeps on running at perfect temp like nothing can phase it. No cooling repairs ever and it's been constantly powered up since 1982. The cheap chrome tape has worn off the trim where your hand hits it , the genuine rosewood inserts are chipping away from the door handles but I still won't get rid of it. It cools and freezes like it's in a time warp. Would you rather save energy and have to go fridge shopping every 10 years? Pay the serviceman for expensive electronic board repairs? Or just burn a little more juice and never have to worry, it might run another 40 years if as long as the box seals tight, and you have adequate ventilation around it...

Post# 956738 , Reply# 9   9/9/2017 at 07:41 by pumpkina (California)        


For me, it's a keeper. It does the job and my utility bills are quite reasonable.

There's only 1" of space between the sides of the refrigerator and the vertical walls. However, the coils are on the bottom. Is the 1" side gap a problem?

The only other problems are surface rust (see below) and loose door handles, which respond to adding Loctite. I read somewhere that nail polish does the same thing, i.e. helps keep screws tightly in place. Is this true?

Standingpilot, I'm wondering if I need to replace my FF and freezer seals. They're rather expensive (unless I'm just not finding good prices). The refrigerator works fine, but the dollar bill test doesn't seem to work right (or maybe I'm not doing it right). There's a little bit of resistance, but not much, when I pull a dollar bill across the seals. Also, the bottom horizontal portion of the FF gasket is rigid.

Since I recently learned about cleaning coils and allowing airflow in the freezer compartment, the refrigerator is quieter and runs colder, such that I have been able to lower its thermostat.

It also had surface rust on the doors and side, which I removed and repainted it white. It looks like new.

Out of curiosity, I have NOT seen the 1982 vintage refrigerators for sale on craigslist. When my refrig goes, where can I find a similarly well-built one?

Post# 957311 , Reply# 10   9/13/2017 at 00:23 by StandingPilot (Cleveland)        

If the seals are not ripped and you need custom gaskets may want to leave them alone (clean with tooth brush)and maybe put some petro gel on there. 60's 70's and 80's fridges are harder to find than antique 40'-50's fridges because so many were thrown away when replaced. Every era seems to have it's own sizing(dimension) peculiarities.

It's a good sign that you notice a difference after cleaning coils. 1" should be enough but it's best to do a hand check (or thermometer) on a hot summer day and see if overly hot air is in the gap. If hot air is hanging and the compressor is working overtime, you may want to consider a microfan assist to get the air flowing over the coils better. If it's already lasted 40 years then your vent gap is probably not an issue (but could be an issue if you live in hotter southern climates or a domicile without A/C. In which case you may want to wheel it a bit out of the cubby during heat waves)

Like I said, as long as it's visually and functionally pleasing to you, It may save a lot of hassle by continuing to run it. Newer units (free standers) tend to be tall and narrow and deep (like 33 inches deep). Counter-depth grade and above and you start paying a premium, and they tend to have lots of electronics and bells and whistles you may not care for.

This post was last edited 09/13/2017 at 00:40
Post# 957422 , Reply# 11   9/13/2017 at 18:39 by pumpkina (California)        
Thanks, StandingPilot

Would you recommend some brands and models of microfans?

Do they have AC plugs, or would I somehow have to wire them to the refrigerator?


Post# 957434 , Reply# 12   9/13/2017 at 20:22 by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)        

i think he might mean "muffin"type fans of the type that used to be common in heavy duty electronics:a common size is ~4 5/8 square x 1 1/2" thick,avalible in a variety of AC & DC voltages-you would wire these into the compressor circuit to run with the compressor.I thought about adding one of these fans to my 1977 WCI Kelvinator fridge to assist air circulation through the compressor compartment of that powerful fridge(~1/4 HP,pulls 4 amps :)The kelvy was bigger than I needed,so a smaller 1980 GE fridge is my daily.

Post# 957435 , Reply# 13   9/13/2017 at 20:27 by StandingPilot (Cleveland)        

It's like a cheap computer fan, they make all types but most are low voltage. They do make some for 120vac. and some even have the tiny squirrel cage. If heat around your unit is a concern (say you live in central valley without house A/C and you go on a vacation during a heatwave) If it's a built in unit it's probably not a problem, but if it's a free stander in a semi built in cubby, it may be be a problem because it's best to have 3 inches all around a free stander. That being said , these old refrigerators are over built and have design parameters to keep interior temp in 115-120 F environments for short periods, but it has to work really really hard to do it.

Think of house A/C where the house is the BOX, you take hot air from the box and deposit outside (the heat has to go somewhere). All refrigeration is exactly the same with the exception that you're dealing with 100 degree differences instead of 20 degrees. The closer the refrigerator appliance operates in a 70 degree environment the happier it will be, and in turn the happier your pocket book will be.

The first thing I'd do is buy a cheap digital thermometer with a remote probe and place the probe at the back(behind) of the fridge, up high, and find out what temperature that environment is at normal operation at room temp. Old side by Sides vent out the bottom front, but heat still rises as it escapes the intended path and then collects if it has no place to go or no help to get there. If you have coils on the back then your heat is going to collect at the back and up top by design.

Post# 957452 , Reply# 14   9/13/2017 at 22:50 by pumpkina (California)        


Is there a brand of muffin fan that you'd recommend?

My refrigerator is a freezer top with condensor coils on the bottom. Where should I put the thermometer to measure the temperature?


Post# 957512 , Reply# 15   9/14/2017 at 10:17 by cfz2882 (Belle Fourche,SD)        

your fridge,with bottom condenser coils,won't benefit from added fan since it is already forced air condenser.A fan could be added to ventilate heat buildup if fridge is in a semi-enclosed space as mentioned by StandingPilot.I think Papst might be the only decent "muffin"fan made today,along with Ametek who makes some of the old Rotron designs still.

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