Thread Number: 84879  /  Tag: Refrigerators
HELP! GE LH-12 refridgerator not cooling properly and running constantly.
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Post# 1093496   10/17/2020 at 09:48 (209 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        

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Hi everyone! I am brand new to this forum. I recently bought a 1956 GE fridge LH-12 model and it is not colling properly and the compressor runs constantly. Initial plug in the coils in the firdge and freezer take a long time to cool down. And only a few of the coils on the back of the fride get hot.

A little back story: we had to travel with this fridge for over 3 hours with it on a car trailer. We wrapped and strapped this thing like crazy, but it was still a rough ride. According to the previous owner, there were no issues at all. So now I'm thinking we damaged the fridge on the trip. Which is super depressing. My dad also collects old fridges and he suggests a freon recharge. But seeing that it worked well before we must have knocked a hole in this thing on the trip. Any suggestions on what else could be wrong with this thing?? I am having an HVAC guy coming to look at a possible recharge. My dad has the R-12 aready and we have worked with this guy before. I'm tagging some pics bellow of the fridge itself. Also some pictures of what could be a possible service port for the r-12. My dad says all the old fridges are sealed off, but im wondering if this one might have a port. This particular fridge does not have the rivetted serial tag on the inside like it is suppose to. that is where I can find the info on how much r-12 is needed. Does anyone possibly have that info for me?

Does anyone have a manual for this fridge or know where I can get one? I bought one off this website that was a sevice manual for a wide range of fridges, so its not super helpful for this particular fridge.

Thanks in advance!

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Post# 1093501 , Reply# 1   10/17/2020 at 10:04 (209 days old) by arbilab (Ft Worth TX (Ridglea))        

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Did it travel upright?  Certain fridges resent being tipped over for any length of time.  Then it takes time for the oil to settle back where it belongs.  I don't know if this is one of those but someone here will.

Post# 1093505 , Reply# 2   10/17/2020 at 10:18 (209 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        

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The fridge traveled upright. Wrapped like a mummy. Then we let it sit overnight just in case.

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Post# 1093527 , Reply# 3   10/17/2020 at 13:30 (209 days old) by RP2813 (Sannazay)        
I'm no expert, but . . .

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You could try a re-charge, but if that resolves the problem it will only be temporary unless you can also locate the leak.


It also might be that during the trip home something was knocked loose, like some sort of accumulated debris inside the sealed system after decades of operation.  It could be something like a tiny particle preventing a float needle from seating.   That's like a needle in a haystack for sure and would require serious disassembly. 


I think if I were having this problem, I'd let the thing run and perhaps any blockage or other issue could eventually resolve itself.  Then again, there's the big question about whether the previous owner was being truthful about the fridge's cooling capabilities.  My rule when considering a vintage refrigerator is, if it's not already plugged in with frost on the coils and/or evaporator, walk away.


The crispy paint on the compressor  concerns me as well.  If that paint was fried by heat, the compressor may have issues.


We have an expert miracle worker here named David (use name "turbokinetic") who may chime in to advise, but I haven't seen any posts from him for a while so he could be out on the road and busy.


I had a '57 version of this same fridge and loved it.  I'm pretty sure the run relay in the compressor fried, and I couldn't find anyone local to fix it.  It sounds like you have access to some experienced repair people, so I hope you have better luck than I did.

Post# 1093528 , Reply# 4   10/17/2020 at 13:51 (209 days old) by Combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
Non-cooling GE combination refrigerator

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Hi, this is not going to be an easy problem.

Your picture number two has a charging port you need a special tool to access this port on a GE refrigerator.

Try adding 4 ounces of our 12 to it if it starts cooling properly you know itís low charge I think this is probably the least likely problem.

It most likely has a bad compressor or a restriction In the filter dryer, if adding 4 ounces of our 12 doesnít help do a compressor vacuum test it should pull 30 inches of vacuum if not the compressor is toast. If the compressor works OK replace the filter dryer and charge it with 10 ounces of our 12 and see how it works.

John L.

Post# 1093756 , Reply# 5   10/19/2020 at 17:15 (206 days old) by ken (NYS)        
Sorry to hear about your problem

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Unfortunately I can't offer any advice concerning fixing your problem but wanted to tell you your GE is a 1955 model rather than 1956. Color scheme for 55 was a blue freezer and yellow fresh food compartment. GE switched to a magnetic door latch in 1956 with the handle being nothing more than a door pull as opposed to an operating mechanical latch on the 55's. Also, I have two 55's that work normally. The compressors on both look the same as yours. I don't believe the appearance is due to the paint being burned from overheating.

Post# 1093844 , Reply# 6   10/20/2020 at 11:20 (206 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Thanks everyone!

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I've done some more research along with everyone's comments and I think I have one of two problems: A restriction in the line or low refrigerant. I ran into this diagram in one of the other appliance forums I've been scouring. The diagram does not clear up for me what the issue due to it not being specific on how hot is "very hot." I took the surface temperatures of the compressor and the line leading away from it and they read 164 degrees. Is that hot or very hot? I linked pictures to better show what I'm talking about. Also, the condenser coils on the back are only partially warm after running a while (linked picture). This particular fridge doesn't have a filter drier factory installed. I looked everywhere for it.

I'm thinking this is the route I'll be taking:

install a T style charging port on one of the lines

clear the lines with nitrogen. I need to do more research on this--it is suppose to clear the restriction if there is one.

install a filter drier somewhere in the lines

recharge the fridge according to the plate we found under the drip pan.

What do y'all think of this?

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Post# 1093856 , Reply# 7   10/20/2020 at 12:47 (206 days old) by RP2813 (Sannazay)        

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I couldn't even begin to offer any suggestions based on what you've reported.  That level of diagnosis is way beyond my capabilities, but you seem to have enough knowledge to perhaps resolve the problem. 


It didn't even occur to me that the fridge is actually a 1955 and not a '56.  Personally, I'm not a fan of the '56 interior color scheme of copper and aqua.  Even the all-pink interior of the radically redesigned '57 Combination was more appealing.

Post# 1093905 , Reply# 8   10/20/2020 at 22:19 (205 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
What Do You Think Of This ? Not Much

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Use A clamp-on saddle valve on the suction line and add 4 OZ of R-12 if you can not find the GE charging tool, then see what happens.


If it is restricted it is at the point where the capillary tube attaches to the bottom of the condenser [ your picture #4 ] 



You should try adding a little Freon if this does not work do the compressor vacuum test, if it passes then cut the last 4"s of the condenser out and install a filter dryer and recharge with around 10 Oz of R-12, I don't think the model tag has the correct charge amount for this ref, what does your tag say ?


John L.

Post# 1093906 , Reply# 9   10/20/2020 at 22:20 (205 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
What Do You Think Of This ? Not Much

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Use A clamp-on saddle valve on the suction line and add 4 OZ of R-12 if you can not find the GE charging tool, then see what happens.


If it is restricted it is at the point where the capillary tube attaches to the bottom of the condenser [ your picture #4 ] 



You should try adding a little Freon if this does not work do the compressor vacuum test, if it passes then cut the last 4"s of the condenser out and install a filter dryer and recharge with around 10 Oz of R-12, I don't think the model tag has the correct charge amount for this ref, what does your tag say ?


John L.

Post# 1093968 , Reply# 10   10/21/2020 at 13:34 (205 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Tag behind the drip pan

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Here's a picture of the tag I found underneath the fridge, behind the drip pan.

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Post# 1094011 , Reply# 11   10/21/2020 at 20:24 (204 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
Non Cooling GE Refrigerator

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Thats what I though, GE was about the only ref manufacturer that did not list the exact charge amount on their model tags just a maximum that was never actually used. 


I would try 8 or 10 oz max and see how it works after you repair whatever is wrong such as replacing the compressor.


John L.

Post# 1094973 , Reply# 12   10/28/2020 at 18:28 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Charged up with r12 but still an issue

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I charged the fridge up and everything cooled down right away. However, the condenser is still running constantly. Thinking it might be a thermostat issue now... when I turn the dial inside the cabinet it will click and turn off after a certain point. Sometimes its all the way down sometimes its about half but it wonít turn off until I fiddle with that dial. How hard is a thermostat job? I saw some modern modifications with thermostats on other threads but im not exactly sure if itís my problem or not. Maybe I should get someone to do a vacuum test on the condenser? Not sure.

Post# 1094979 , Reply# 13   10/28/2020 at 19:10 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Addition to last post

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Also, the fridge does not freeze up everything like I have seen in other threads where thermostat is an issue. The fridge/freezer is maintaining correct temps but is just running nonstop. When we put freon in we just put in 8oz and this was honestly done blindly. We just put some in and waited and kept putting in until got got cold enough. Maybe not enough?

Post# 1094990 , Reply# 14   10/28/2020 at 20:04 (197 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        

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What is the temperature in the ref and freezer sections ?

Post# 1094994 , Reply# 15   10/28/2020 at 20:12 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Temps so far

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35 in fridge and i think 20 in freezer but its hard to measure freezer properly with my food thermometer. It freezes water relatively quickly. If it starts getting warmer over time Iím afraid I might have a leak somewhere. I just sprayed down all the potential leak areas with soapy water and didnt reveal anything. Iím going to try to get a tech out thats not afraid of r12 to maybe sniff out any leaks.

Post# 1095011 , Reply# 16   10/28/2020 at 21:59 (197 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
If Its Running all The Time

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The freezer should be -10-25F, otherwise the compressor is probably weak or you could have a restriction where the strainer goes into the capillary. 


If you have a leak big enough to lose 8 Oz of refrigerant in a week or so it will not be cooling at all in 2 weeks.


John L.

Post# 1095014 , Reply# 17   10/28/2020 at 22:16 (197 days old) by RP2813 (Sannazay)        

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I use ice cream as my temperature testing medium in the freezer.  Stick the thermometer into it and check it after 24 hours or so.


GE refrigerators from this period have a reputation for cold control failure.  I had to replace the control on my '57 Combination and was able to get a NOS universal fit replacement.  I wouldn't place the blame on the cold control just yet though if the fridge is running constantly and not cooling down the way it should.

Post# 1095029 , Reply# 18   10/29/2020 at 05:40 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
How to troubleshoot?

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So to test if the compressor is weak you do a vacuum test? If the compressor is weak can I swap with another? I planned on finding another similar fridge for parts anyways. What about testing for a restriction? If I have a restriction will i be able to fix it?

I am willing to put a lot of time and money into this thing so any suggestions help. Thanks for sticking with me so far.

Post# 1095033 , Reply# 19   10/29/2020 at 07:54 (197 days old) by combo52 (50 Year Repair Tech Beltsville,Md)        
How To Troubleshoot

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First what are the actual temps, taking the temperature of IC that has been in the ref for 24 hours is good, it can be taken instantly with an instant read thermometer.


You can also take the test the temperature of a glass of water in the ref section.


If it is failing to get cold enough the compressor needs a vacuum test if it passes that install a new filter dryer and recharge.


If the compressor needs replacing you can adapt hundreds of different compressors to fit this ref, IF you use an older GEC be sure to test it for proper ability to pull a 30" vacuum before bothering to install it, older GECs are often worn out.


John L.


Post# 1095048 , Reply# 20   10/29/2020 at 10:19 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        

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I've been testing the juice in a pickle jar in the fridge regularly and it started off at 35 deg and this morning it was 37 deg. I have an expensive thermapen instant-read so I'm confident that my measurements are correct. I'm thinking now a leak just because if it was left alone overnight it should've at least been the same temp or lower in that pickle jar. I've been keeping a stick thermometer in the freezer compartment to keep up with temp there. I don't have any ice cream or anything like that in there at the moment. It was staying around 20 deg every time I checked that.

I've asked some other people on a thread and they acted like replacing the compressor with a modern one was downright sacrilegious. But maybe they are a little biased. Whatever is best I will do. I am a little skeptical of putting an equally likely to fail older compressor back in this unit.

John--are you suggesting retrofitting a new compressor onto this? Along with replacing the need for R-12 with R-134? Like I said, I have no apprehensions to a complete retrofit or replacing with a similar older model, as long as it works and continues to for a long time.

Post# 1095051 , Reply# 21   10/29/2020 at 10:59 (197 days old) by neptunebob (Pittsburgh, PA)        
I am surprised here...

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About how lax some people here are about refrigerants, especially R12, which is supposed to be banned.  I was trained that an intentional release of refrigerants by a technician can result in a $25,000 fine from the EPA and a possible jail sentence.  Do you really want to take the chance of having to take group showers with Bubba?


A licensed and certified technician will recover all refrigerants and diagnose and repair the leak once and for all.  If that is not possible, then the refrigerant should be recovered, a sticker placed on the unit, and then the appliance can be recycled and disposed of.


Meg, replacing a compressor is not unheard of, you would just have to find a technician willing to do so.  There is at least 1 thread where someone replaced the system in 1966 GE refrigerator.  Good luck!


Oh, and a new compressor is likely to be of another brand like Techumseh or Embraco, GE had a scandal with compressors wearing out back in the 80s.

Post# 1095054 , Reply# 22   10/29/2020 at 12:08 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        

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"Do you really want to take the chance of having to take group showers with Bubba?"
This actually made me laugh out loud! I appreciate your concern for me and the people on here, and quite frankly, the environment. Being a millennial or gen z (not sure which one honestly) I am concerned about mishandling R-12 myself. However, I am not willing to throw away this fridge just yet. I do plan on trying everything possible to get this thing running right. Do you by any chance have the link to this compressor overhaul thread?

Post# 1095071 , Reply# 23   10/29/2020 at 14:26 (197 days old) by neptunebob (Pittsburgh, PA)        
Try thread 84642

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There is also another longer thread about it that is earlier that explains more.  Do you have an EPA certification and the equipment to go into a sealed system.  Remember, there is only one place more stressful than a men's prison - a prison for women!

Post# 1095079 , Reply# 24   10/29/2020 at 14:58 (197 days old) by oldschoolmeg (Kentucky)        
Members only post?

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It doesnít seem like I can access the older threads on here. Thread # 84642 must be older. Is that a members only feature to be able to access these older posts? I donít plan on doing any retrofitting myself. Im going to try to find a tech or HVAC person do it.

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