How to Repair a Vintage Refrigerator?

The only thing worse than having a faulty refrigerator is having a vintage faulty refrigerator. Though most of the times, such vintage appliances are only valuable to vintage enthusiasts and common households will get rid of them as early as possible. But to the retro enthusiasts, such pieces of technology can be worth gold. Though not always you’ll find a vintage appliance, let alone a refrigerator, that is in perfect condition and works flawlessly. With the passage of time, the device tends to lose its efficiency and may even stop working completely.

If you own a vintage refrigerator and need to sell it to an enthusiast then the best way to get the maximum price out of it is to sell it in as good condition as possible and get the best refrigerator in market ASAP.

Though, mostly such refrigerators might be in need of repairs which can be simple to perform if you follow the steps correctly. The other major problems that you might face with such devices is the physical condition being too bad sometimes beyond repair.

If you want to repair the refrigerator on your own it’s best advised getting the internals repaired by a professional as the electrical and mechanical parts can be too complex or in bad condition, to be handled on your own.

In this article, we will show you how to repair the external and internal surfaces of a vintage refrigerator correctly

vintage kitchen

Exterior repairs

  1. The first thing you’ll need to do is to thoroughly clean the exterior and interior surface of the refrigerator. Open the refrigerator door and remove all the removable parts such as the racks, cup and bottle holders, crisper drawers and other removable parts. To clean these parts use a mixture of soap and hot water and clean all the parts thoroughly.
  2. Once all the parts are cleaned thoroughly, either take out the refrigerator in your lawn or in any ventilated area. It’s preferable if direct sunlight is present.
  3. Put on protective gear such as gloves and mask. Spray rust remover onto the refrigerator. Try to scrub away all the loosened rust with a ball of steel wool and clean all the remaining residue with a mixture of hot soapy water.
  4. Once the body of the refrigerator has dried, try to find any holes in the structure of the refrigerator and fill them up with automotive body repair putty. Smoothen out the putty while it’s wet using a broad knife or a card. Allow the putty to dry completely for some time.
  5. Ensure that no part of the refrigerator’s body is wet or still drying. Now takes 120-grit sandpaper and sand the surfaces until smooth. If you are also repairing the inner surface of the refrigerator then you need to repeat the same process again.
  6. Once you are satisfied with the sanding, take a sponge and soak it in soapy water and wipe the freshly sanded surface with it. Once all the sanded surfaces are wiped allow the surfaces to dry completely.
  7. Now we need to prime and paint the refrigerator. For this step cover the gasket of the refrigerator’s door with masking tape and also cover all the metal logos and inside surface of the door. Use a newspaper to cover the inner surface of the refrigerator door. Now leave the refrigerator door open and apply primer and paint to the refrigerator’s surfaces.
  8. To prime and paint efficiently buy a primer that inhibits rust formation and it should be oil-based. While spraying, make sure that you move your hand in only one direction. Going in a zig-zag pattern will ruin the final finish.
  9. While spraying on the outer surfaces, use a paint suitable for outdoors. One first layer of paint is applied allow it to dry completely. Now repeat the process two-three times to get the best finish. Make sure that each coat of paint dries completely before you start to apply the next one.
  10. Once enough coats are applied let it dry completely. Now spray a clear coat on the refrigerator’s surface and let it dry.

Interior repairs

  • For repairing the interiors the first thing you need to do is to check the condition fo the gasket attached to the inner side of the refrigerator door. Look around any cracks in the gasket if any and fill them up with silicone caulk. If there are too many cracks, then it is not advised to repair it rather the whole gasket needs to be replaced. You can find a suitable gasket online.
  • If the inner surfaces are scratched or damaged, apply a layer of white enamel paint onto them. Any kind of cracks, chips and minor damages on the interior structure are the most likely surfaces that should be covered in enamel paint. If required apply multiple coats of the enamel. Once the enamel coat dries off completely, apply a clear enamel coat over it and let it dry.
  • Take a ball of steel wool and sand off any discoloured racks thoroughly. Apply a coat of rust remover onto the worn off surfaces and remove any loosened rust with steel wool. Apply rust-inhibiting primer on the affected areas and spray an appropriate colour paint onto the racks and interiors of the refrigerator. Make sure you use a paint meant for outdoor use as the temperature variations inside the refrigerator can cause issues with normal paint.
  • Once all the priming and painting is done, tightly screw all the bolts and screws and make sure all the hinges are tightly held on. Also, make sure that all the shelves and racks have enough support to withstand weight put on them.


Distinguished Professor of English, Disability Studies, and Medical Education at University of Illinois at Chicago

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