Side by side refrigerator in garage abruptly quits working, needs 2 hour thawing

I have a side by side refrigerator in the garage. This summer, when the weather was rather warm, it suddenly quit cooling. The motor kept on running, but the inside was warm.
I turned it off, thawed it overnight with both doors open and then it started working again.
I put a thermometer in the refrigerator section to monitor it.
The refrigerator worked fine for another couple of weeks, then the same thing happened, 65 degrees F inside, motor still running.
Again, re-thawed it for just two hours, with only the freezer section open, and it is fine now.
I vaguely recall some mentions of ice forming somewhere and blocking something, which agrees with my observations, but what exactly are the details here?
And what can I do about it? Does this problem happen only with side by side fridges?
Thanks
i
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On Sunday, August 19, 2012 9:23:00 AM UTC-7, Ignoramus3194 wrote:

Check defrost timer:
https://www.google.com/search?num &hl=en&safe=off&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw66&bihb8&qfrost+timer&oqfrost+timer&gs_l=img.12..0l2j0i5j0i24l7.1647.4501.0.7386.13.12.0.1.1.0.82.859.12.12.0...0.0...1ac.PvAcJfpHALU
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On 8/19/2012 9:23 AM, Ignoramus3194 wrote:

It's freezing up. Every time this has happened to me, it's been the clock motor that does the defrost timer. If your clock is electronic, that's more difficult. You may have a busted defrost heater.
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Ignoramus3194 wrote:

Bad defrost timer, possible bad door seals allowing excess moisture in, etc. Can happen with any refrigerator/freezer. Frost forms on the coils in the freezer compartment and the defrost heating element on a timer turns on to melt the frost off once a day or so. If that doesn't happen the frost builds to the point it blocks airflow over the coils and frost is a pretty good insulator as well.
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Pete C. wrote:

Hi, As well make sure drain is not plugged up.
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On 8/19/2012 6:34 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

Just to add to the other responses .... mechanical defrost timer is probably number one on the list. There are 2 other components involved ... the heater and usually a thermostat. They are usually found behind the rear panel in the freezer. The timer turns on the heater for a fixed amount of time, but as soon as the temperature goes above freezing (ice is gone), it shuts off the heater to save energy.
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Remove the panel at the rear of the freezer compartment. Below the coils is the heater - a 12 inch or so long 1/2 inch diameter quartz bulb. If it is black, probably burnt out Check for continuity. Replace cheaply on eBay. If not, check timer.

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This is what it seems to be, indeed.
i

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wrote:

The most likely problems are a burned out defrost heater or a failed defrost thermostat. Both are located in the freezer compartment behind a removeable panel. The internet can give you guidance on how to unplug your refrigerator and test each one. While it's possible that the defrost timer, or the electronic motherboard containing the microprocessor that has the defrost timing in it's software, are bad, this is much rarer than the heater and the thermostat.
Remember, the defrost timer turns on the heater for a give time. When the temp around the coils reaches around 50F or so, the defrost thermostat opens up, disabling the heater, even if the timer still had time to go, so the compartment will not "overheat"..... The thermostat is a simple mechanical bimetal switch, and as such, is not "robust" , and can fail open after a few years, keeping the heater from ever getting electricity. the defrost heater is simply a heating element with no moving paarts. But it still can fail, especially if the defrost thermostat fails in a "closed" position..... Check them both, even if the first one you check is bad.
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