The smell of coolant coming from your refrigerator may concern you. Coolant or refrigerant leaks in refrigerators are rare, though, so inspect your refrigerator to determine if this is really your problem. You're likely to find that it's a much simpler problem.
Determining If You Have a Leak
The coolant in your refrigerator keeps the temperature sufficiently low. It's a closed system, and you never need to add coolant. If your refrigerator stops cooling properly, then it's a sign that you have a coolant leak. A refrigerator that keeps foods cold, though, does not have a leak.
Causes of Leaks
Leaks don't naturally occur very often. A leak may happen if you've attempted to defrost the freezer by chipping away at the ice with an ice pick or a knife. The sharp edge of an ice pick or a knife can damage the coils. Otherwise, a leak could develop due to a manufacturing defect or the product aging.
AcmeHomeTips.com suggests that you may be able to fix a coolant leak by applying a cold-weather epoxy to the area, assuming that you can find the exact location of the leak. Otherwise, it's best to contact a repair company. Check your manufacturer's guide to see if the product is still under warranty. While you wait for the repair, open your windows to ventilate the area well for safety.
In general, rotting foods and mold are the primary sources of bad smells in a refrigerator. If you can't find a coolant leak, search elsewhere for the source. Remove all food from the refrigerator, carefully placing items into a cooler with ice if you'll be taking a long time. Throw away any foods that appear spoiled, and clean the inside of your refrigerator thoroughly with a water and vinegar solution. Additionally, check the rubber seals along the door for mold. Check the drip pan underneath the refrigerator if you have one.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.