Also, the front half of the outside of the appliance was warm/hot to the touch; the back half was cold. That means the motor is working harder than it should. What to do? I am not fond of paying $100 for a service call, so I tried a couple simple things.
The external hot/cold problem was solved very, very easily. I should have done this earlier; it is supposed to be done regularly anyway. I had forgotten; it's probably been two years. The condenser coils collect dust and lint- they should be vacuumed or brushed off every six months.
Mine were covered in a 1/2" thick 'blanket' of fuzz and dust. They can't do their job of cooling with all that on there!
I vacuumed the coils and everything else down there, then pulled the fridge out, unplugged it (don't skip this step!), and removed the back access panel to see how bad it was back there. It was as coated as the front. I cleaned that area out, using both a long-handled dishwashing brush and the vacuum. That was last night. This morning, the outside of the fridge is all the same temperature. That probably means my electric bill should drop a little bit now, and the motor should last longer. So how hard is it to clean your condenser coils? Very, very, easy. In some cases, you won't even need a screwdriver. My refrigerator is a Whirlpool; to get instructions for other brands, and other repairs or maintenance, one good site is repairclinic.com
Once you understand some of the basic inner workings of your fridge, not only will you have a new respect for it (and its inventors!), but you'll be able to problem-solve better, saving you money!
This back area does not get dirty as quickly as the front, so a cleaning every year or two should be plenty.