I have extensive appliance repair experience, but I needed specific information and wanted to thank ApplianceRepairIt.com for the website which had the details I needed to run extensive tests. I have a 2004 or 2005 GE fully digital and automatic side-by-side, ice maker and refer mini door refrigerator that frosted over the freezer component. It has digital freezer and food compartment readings on the inside top of the door. Remember, if you have a defrost problem and just use a hair drier or hot water to get rid of the frozen coils in the freezer section, there is a 99% chance the issue will come back in less than 5 days. Iced up coils is a way that the refrigerator is trying to tell you that it is hurt and needs a doctor.
The defrost cycling is done by the motherboard and defrosts much more efficiently that the old timers and is more energy efficient. The defrost cycle comes on on some regular times every 6,8, or 10 hours for less than 30 minutes at a time. The thermostat is on snapped to the coils and turns off at around 140-160 and the original ones are not reliable and are cheap, replace it as preventative maintenance. The defrost cycling keeps the coils from EVER icing up so that is why it will not recover if you just remove the ice from the coils and close it up hoping for the best.
This is for the serious DIYer animal.
In my case the thermostat tested bad but not open, the defrost coil looked ratty so I replaced it along with the thermostat. I have a background in electronics and I had initially looked over the board. I was leaving on vacation the night it broke so I waited a week and knew the refrigerator would be fine for a week.
I did not have a good feeling that I nailed the real problem the repair because I did not find a solid failure and replacing the defrost items was preventative maintenance, hoping it would do the trick. I was sure I would be replacing the main board in a week. Sure as heck, 5 days later, the freezer temp rose and froze up again. I knew all was good in the freezer and food area, so I pulled the motherboard.
One thing that assisted me in troubleshooting and ultimately fixing the problem was my solid circuit board repair experience. I removed the board to look for obvious burns and cold soldier joints under a bright light and magnifier. Your really looking for cold soldier connections, and burned or scored areas that are caused by high current running through them over the years. Replacing the board would have solved all the problems so this is a labor of love to fix the board like I am going to explain going forward. These cold or burned selections can cause very erratic symptoms, causing you to come to more than one or erratic conclusions. Using a magnifier to look over the board will help determine if it is the board, or internal components, or both. All symptoms pointed to the motherboard.
I found that one of the compressor relay leads had been darker and had been overheating due to poor or cold connections, which is typical, and this process disfigured part of the relay edge. After testing the relay toggle, it was not switching on one side, which was the side that fed the defrost relay. I then carefully sliced part of the relay case with a small hack saw and found that the heated part of the cover plastic kept the arm from swinging or switching, thus preventing it to supply electricity to the defrost coils. By exposing the relay cover caused the relay switch freely and I was convinced at this point that I found the main and specific defrost / freezing problem up due to non-defrost cycles.
I cleaned up the board made some manual wire runs and soldiered up the relay, where it had burned. Note: You might be thinking it might be a fire hazard to repair a burned part but burning is common and fixable if it was a cold soldier connection. Also, as an added comfort, the motherboard has a in line fuse and the entire motherboard is completely encased in a metal box behind the refer so there is almost NO chance of fire or burning hazard.
I tested the relay with an external 12vdc and then put it all back together, turned the fridge on and went to bed. I woke up to a defrosted coil and now I know was successful. I made a small video. Why did I go to this much trouble. 1st off it would have ruined my Saturday hunting for parts and my patient wife would be bummed out with tools and refrigerator parts all over until I found the parts. They want $135-155 for the motherboard.
This general non-technical Background Information that may help you in any GE post 2002 model troubleshooting –
There are only 4 basic components to the refrigerator that will cause issues:
1. Defrost items, located in the freezer section and consist of, the heating coils that measure around 21-30hms, the defrost thermostat that is always closed and opens around 160 degrees. Thermistor, the little white bullet that measures around 16k ohms.
2. Mother board that controls the defrost and everything else. The major amount of heat generated is associated with the compressor and defrost relays, clearly marked on the mother board. Test with the center AC in and the orange wire next to it, should read 21-30 ohms and ApplianceRepairIt.com has all the details.
3. Inside the food compartment, a common failure that looks like it might be a defrost issue is the top fan and damper door. If you get this out, the damper door opens when the food refer door is closed. If it is open when the door switch is activated, consider replacing it. It comes as a complete foam assembly.
4. Food compartment super cooling compartment. This is a fan and motor assembly that supplies super cool from the bottom of the freezer compartment feeding to the bottom of the food compartment. This is probably the last thing you should be concerned with if your refer is has general cooling and freezing issues. Symptoms are basically only isolated to the bottom chiller drawer.
Refer to this site for more in-depth info. ApplianceRepairIt.com
Below are a few pictures and videos that might help.