Crap crap crappity crap crap.
Aside from poor cash flow this year, and having lost about a month's work lately, and having a meeting today that steps on the last potential billable day of the month....
My refrigerator (a 17-year-old Maytag) seems to have croaked. Air circulates, and the refrigerator compartment is cool, but things in the freezer compartment are gradually softening. I'm guessing that the gradual softening of frozen stuff is the only thing keeping it cool.
Unfortunately, I just tossed a bunch of older stuff from the back of the freezer, thinking that air circulation had gotten blocked, so there's not as much keep-it-cool as there might have been. Blasting a bunch of dust off the condenser coil (or, at least, where I think the condenser coil is) had no effect other than frightening the kittens.
Guess I'll buy a good-sized bag of ice this morning to keep things somewhat under control, and ponder (a) whether I might be able to fix it myself in the next day or two, and (b) how much a repairman might cost as compared to a replacement refrigerator.
Update: After spending most of the day in a half-hour meeting, I returned home, pulled the offending appliance clear of its niche, and commenced investigating.
Observation 1: kittens are curious.
Observation 2: there's a huge clot of dust at the bottom left (as seen from the front) of the bottom rear cover.
Observation 3: the cover having been removed, there's dust everywhere.
Observation 4: contrary to information received yesterday, the condenser coil isn't underneath, despite the presence of a grille thing under the front. It's in the back.
Observation 5: much of the dust having been vacuumed up, the condenser fan can be seen to turn. According to the wiring diagram, this is on the same circuit as the compressor, modulo the start relay and fuse.
Hmmm. So, how do I tell whether the compressor is working? It's a quiet bugger, though the plumbing does gurgle when the compressor stops.
Observation 6: the compressor is quite warm. This strongly suggests the presence of electrical power to it, recently.
Observation 7: the air circulating within the freezer compartment now seems at least somewhat cool. Maybe it's working?
Time to take a break, hope no inquisitive critters get into the condenser fan, clean the crud off the back cover, and see if the compressor/fan circuit eventually cycles off.
Observation 8: after a couple of hours, the condenser fan is still going.
Observation 9: the air being circulated within the freezer is not getting actually cold.
Hm. It's just possible that the start relay (PTC thingy?) is at fault. That's a cheap thing to replace, assuming I can find one locally. I'm guessing that a failure of that part could cause the compressor motor not to turn, while getting warm.
Failing that... it'd be the compressor, which appears to be a $350 part, and needs to be installed by someone who has the tools for the job, and the coolant needs to be scavenged and replaced, and... that's gotta cost north of $500 to fix the dang thing, which is getting into whole-new-refrigerator territory, even with the conspicuous increases in refrigerator prices these past 17 years.
Update 2: Found the official replacement start relay locally; plunked down $37 for it. Installed it, with great difficulty (main difficulty was in removing the old one). Compressor housing gets warm; cooling fails to happen. So... dead compressor. Great. Looks like replacement-refrigerator time. Have to check the ads for any Deals on a new one, and check out the used-appliance stores to see if there's anything cheap-ish that looks like it'll hold up for a year or so.
Update 3: Made the rounds of the stores that carry appliances, looking at Basic White Standard-Sized Refrigerators. Not much choice; all the refrigerators they're pushing lately are Big, Fancy, and Stainless, and way out of my price range; seems like the major-appliance folks haven't heard there's a recession on. First stop is Lowe's, where there's a basic standard-sized (18 cubic foot) Frigidaire for $467. Then Home Despot (cheapest option maybe $500 after discounts), Orchard Supply (major-appliance department has vanished, but they've got lots of grills on display this fine October afternoon), Fry's (nothing standard-sized under $600), and Western Appliance (ditto).
So, back to Lowe's. Turns out there's a sale on, and I can actually get that Frigidaire for $420 plus tax. Should be delivered today, between 0830 and 1030 (just about optimal timing, except for stepping on morning-walkies time, but I maybe shouldn't go walkies anyway when I've got a cold).
And that, folks, is how I spent the money that I needed for overdue car maintenance.
Update 4: Replacement delivered on schedule, and now it's gradually cooling down. Configuration is rather different from the old one; with the shelves in reasonable positions, having two gallon milk jugs (one in use, one full), and a jumbo bottle of grape juice appears problematic, so I guess I'll have to go back to buying the juice in normal-sized bottles (or even frozen).
The kittens are having PTSD over the whole delivery thing. It was almost as traumatic as that time the little waggy-tailed dog stopped by for a visit.