Wow Jeff thanks for the fast reply! I was half expecting to have to wait until next week for someone to see my post and reply. I was just coming back to post on my results of pulling the rear cover off.
So, here's what happened:
I pulled the rear cardboard cover off, all I see coil-wise is a small loop sitting in a plastic pan of runoff water. (bottom left of pic 1-rear). The red connector threw me for a loop mometarily until I discovered it was for an optional ice maker's water valve (connector is in upper right in pic1)
The compressor (80164232 C-BZN142LG M Thermally Protected V115HZ60PHT V100HZ50PH1 R134a LR52236 (*)) was fairly warm, and sounded like it was running. But then again I've been messing with this thing for a few days now, setting the thermostat high and all.
I was able to see under the fridge, and saw no "coils that needed dusting" at all, also obviously the back didn't have any; it was plain sheet metal. I didn't see anything that looked like the big network of coils I remember on my old fridge.
At the time I hadn't seen your post yet, but I did notice certain locations around the sides getting warm. I guess this must be one of those fridges with the coils inside the case (so I assume there's no dust buildup)
So then, based on the tutorials I saw, I figured I'd check the freezer for a panel that would reveal a fan and cooling coils.
After removing all the food I found a few panels secured by screws. pic 2-freezer shows the first step, removing a tower like item. The yellow part is sponge rubber type foam. The white block at the bottom is a hard foam like what they make coolers out of. Note that there's a baffle plate type structure in this 'tower' that was set at setting "B". When I plugged the plug back in, the fan spun with no problems.
Pulling out the bottom tray (3 freezer pic) I could see a little frost on the coils, but not a big block of ice. Also I had fast-forwarded the heater control after messing with the fridge so it skipped at least one cycle. Based on that. I don't think this amount of ice is characteristic of a defrost problem but I thought I'd post the picture for the experts to see.
I ran a hairdryer on medium heat over the coils, and then pulled the back panel off (picture 4) exposing more coils. As you can see there's not a lot of ice here. I fully defrosted the coils after removing the back panel though. I also noticed the bracket holding the coils up was broken (top left- directly behind the green wire you can see the broken off bracket piece still hanging by a screw) so I drilled a hole in the remaining bracket and re-hung it on a piece of copper wire.
I buttoned everything back up and am waiting to see what happens. I'm trying to keep my wife from monkeying with it but she keeps opening to door to look at the thermometer I put in there (and get food out).
P.S: from a date code I found on a tag on the wiring, it looks like this was made in 1997... under 9 years old, I've never had a fridge die on me that young.
(*) From the CSA file number I was able to determine this was a Sanyo 801- Series compressor: http://directories.csa-international...sl/certrec.xsl