What to Do If Your Refrigerator Breaks Down on Super Bowl Sunday

Learn what to do if your refrigerator breaks down on the second-largest food consumption day of the year.

Modern kitchen interior. Design concept with new stainless steel appliances.BondRocketImages/Shutterstock

Everyone knows that if your refrigerator is running, you should probably go catch it. But what do you do if your refrigerator is not running, especially on a day centered mainly around food and football? Here’s a quick guide on the troubleshooting steps you should take if your refrigerator breaks down on the day of the big game.

Is the Motor Running?

The first thing you should always do when you notice that your refrigerator is not running as it should is to pull the unit away from the wall and listen for the sound of its motor. If you can hear the motor running and the inside of the refrigerator still feels noticeably warmer than it should be, something has most likely gone wrong internally that will need to be addressed by an appliance repair technician. As soon as you are pretty sure that something is wrong with your fridge, try to keep its door closed as much as possible to keep as little of the cold air from escaping as possible.

Check the Outlet

If you cannot hear the sound of the motor and the refrigerator seems to be completely dead, the next thing to test is the outlet. Unplug the refrigerator from the outlet and plug a small appliance that you know is in good working condition into the same slot. If the small appliance still works, you now know for sure that the problem lies with the refrigerator itself and not its power source. If the outlet does appear to be the problem, here’s how to troubleshoot it.

Clean Out the Cooling Components

While you’ve got the refrigerator unplugged and pulled away from the wall, also be sure to check how dirty its cooling components are. Refrigerators have cooling coils and a fan that require at least semi-regular cleaning to stay working in top shape. To access these components, remove the kick-plate or grill at the bottom of the refrigerator (this is usually in the back of the fridge, but can occasionally be found along its front). Clean the components thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner and a cloth or brush. If your refrigerator does not work after cleaning the cooling components, you are likely dealing with a deeper issue that should be looked at by an appliance repair tech.

What Do You Do With Food When a Refrigerator Breaks Down?

Once you’ve come to the conclusion that your refrigerator has broken down completely, it’s time to decide what to with all of the food that is still inside of it. For perishable items, the clock is already ticking. According to the USDA, a refrigerator without power can keep food safe for consumption for up to four hours. After that time period is up, any perishable items will need to be either thrown out, eaten immediately or transferred to an ice-filled cooler. Frozen food will stay safe to eat for considerably longer, retaining a safe temperature for up to 48 hours in a powerless freezer.

Obviously, no day is a good day for your refrigerator to break down. But if you had to pick a day for it to happen, Super Bowl Sunday might be near the top of the list. Chances are you’ve got nothing to do all day but eat food and watch football, and a lot of the food in your fridge was most likely going to be finished off by the end of the day anyway.

This video highlights some additional steps for troubleshooting refrigerator problems: