The correct way to transport a refrigerator generally is in an upright position, but this not always is possible. If you need to move a refrigerator on its side, you must know what can happen when you lay the unit down, as well as what precautions you can take so that you don't damage the unit during transport and set up in its new home.
Clean Out the Interior
Before you transport the refrigerator, you must clean out the freezer and food compartments. Not only will the food spill or potentially spoil, it represents extra weight. That makes the fridge harder to move, and increases the risk of damaging an expensive appliance. Remove frozen and refrigerated food to picnic coolers before you start.
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If you don't remove the shelving, there is a chance that the shelves will shift inside the unit and could break or damage the door or sides of the refrigerator. You should remove the shelves and any crisper drawers that could slide out or move when you lay the refrigerator on its side, or at least immobilize them with tape, string or cardboard.
Problems With Doors
Doors that are not secured will open when the refrigerator is laid on its side. It helps if you lay the refrigerator down with the hinged side on top, so gravity aids in keeping the doors closed, but you still risk the chance that the doors will open during transport. This could potentially damage the hinges, doors or door handles, as well as any other objects you might be transporting at the time.
To minimize the risks, secure the refrigerator's doors with tape, twine, rope, or ratchet straps so they do not open when you are laying down the unit. Wrapping the fridge with a blanket or drop cloth before securing it can help reduce the risk of damaging the appliance's finish during transport.
Compressor Oil Concerns
When you lay a refrigerator on its side, the oil in the compressor will flow from the compressor tube into the coolant lines. If you must lay the unit on its side, lay it down on the side opposite from where the compressor lines run out of the compressor. For example, if the compressor line exits the compressor on the right side of the unit, lay the refrigerator on its left side.
Considerations After Moving the Refrigerator
When you move the refrigerator and plug it in right away, you risk damaging the compressor. After a refrigerator has been moved on its side, it must sit upright for the same amount of time it was on its side so that any oil that may have flowed into the coolant lines will have enough time to return to the compressor and clear the coolant lines. For example, if the unit was on its side for four hours, it must sit upright for at least four hours before you plug it into the wall outlet.
Some Fridges Must Stay Upright
Before you actually begin moving your refrigerator, take the time to review the moving instructions in your user's manual or on the manufacturer's website. For models with multiple doors or less-standard door arrangements, usually the manual will tell you which side is best to place uppermost.
There are also some models which, because of their design, simply cannot be safely moved on their side. If your refrigerator happens to be one of those models, you'll need to make alternate arrangements and move it in an upright position.