Here's a little animation I made of the vent slider. Put your mouse over the picture to toggle it. When the fridge needs to be colder the electronics turns the motor on until the cam switch toggles, meaning the vent is open.
So what was broken? See how skinny the rightmost plastic edges of the slider are? It had snapped like toothpicks. During normal use the motor rotates the cam and slowly, but quite forceably, causes the slider to open or close.
If you look close you'll see that the edges of the slider opening are bevelled. They are like little plastic knife blades in fact. The slow, but high torque geared motor causes these edges to slice through any accumulation of ice or frost that might have formed while it was open.
I suspect what happened was after a power outage the fridge ran for an extended period. Being a warm and humid day, with us opening the fridge a few times, probably caused a build up of dew in the vent area, which then froze when the vent was closed. The motor went to open the vent later on and frozen ice won out over skinny plastic.
I ended up ordering a replacement assembly, which took a few weeks to arrive. In the meantime a little bit of super glue fixed the broken plastic. Even though the part has since come in I haven't had to replace the old one. Probably would be a good idea before going away for the weekend or vacation.
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