Refrigerator Troubleshooting Guide: Refrigerator or Freezer not Cooling
If your refrigerator or freezer is not cooling, your first instinct may be to buy a new model immediately. A refrigerator is a necessary part of a busy lifestyle, and if it is broken it can disrupt your entire schedule.
Buying a new refrigerator may not be necessary. Many refrigerator repairs are quick and often only a fraction of the cost for a new unit. If you live in Atlanta, GA or the Metro Atlanta Area, It Is Fixed Appliance Repair offers same day* appointments, so you don’t have to wait.
Our handy Refrigerator Troubleshooting Guide can help you find the solution to you save money and get your refrigerator cooling again.
Possible Cause: New Refrigerator
A new refrigerator may take up to 24 hours to reach optimal temperature after initial installation. If the refrigerator is still not cool after 24 hours, contact the appliance store or service center where the refrigerator was purchased for assistance.
Possible Cause: Loss of Power
Open the refrigerator. If the internal light did not turn on, then the refrigerator may not be getting power.
Verify that the power cord is plugged into the electrical outlet. Over time, vibrations from the fridge can cause the power cord to pull loose. Gently move the refrigerator away from the wall and push the power cord to ensure it is seated firmly into the electrical outlet.
Check the circuit breaker. If there is a power spike or if the circuit is overloaded, it may cause a blown fuse or tripped circuit. To test the outlet, plug a different appliance into the same outlet as the refrigerator. If the device does not power on, the circuit may need to be reset or the fuse replaced.
Possible Cause: Temperature Control Setting
Check the temperature control setting. Most refrigerators allow you to adjust the temperature control settings for the appliance and turn the refrigerator off. If temperature control was turned too high by accident, it might appear as if the refrigerator is not working.
Note: For health and safety, the internal temperature of the main refrigerator compartment should be set to 37° F (4° C) or lower, and the freezer should be set to 0° F (-18° C). It is vital for health and safety for food to be stored at the proper temperature to inhibit the growth of illness-causing bacteria. If you aren’t sure your refrigerator has the correct temperature settings, our professional technicians can assist you.
Possible Cause: Empty Compartment
When you open your refrigerator, cool air falls out and is replaced with warm, moist air, forcing the refrigerator to work harder to re-cool the compartment. Items stored in the refrigerator absorb the cold and help your refrigerator maintain a steady temperature. A well-stocked refrigerator will maintain optimal temperature more easily than a refrigerator with an empty compartment.
Possible Cause: Overloaded Compartment
While it is helpful to keep your refrigerator well-stocked, it is important to not restrict airflow within the unit. Move large boxes and containers away from the back of the compartment to prevent blocking the fan. If you struggle to close the refrigerator door due to the items inside the compartment, your refrigerator is too full.
Possible Cause: Faulty Door Seal
Open and release the door. Refrigerator doors use gravity to help keep the door closed and sealed. If you open the refrigerator door to a 45-degree angle, it should close on its own. If it does not, the weight of the door will put pressure on the seal and may allow warm air to seem into the compartment. To fix, adjust the leveling feet on the refrigerator so the front of the refrigerator is angled higher than its rear.
Inspect the gasket that seals the refrigerator or freezer door. The gasket is the flexible strip that sits between the refrigerator door and the compartment. It keeps the cool air inside and keeps the warm air out. Check for cracks, loose adhesive, holes, or gaps. If the gasket is damaged, it must be replaced.
Possible Cause: Insufficient Clearance Around the Refrigerator
Refrigerators need at least one inch of space around the back, walls, and bottom to prevent its components from overheating. Different models may require more space so check your owner’s manual to determine your refrigerator’s space requirements. Move your refrigerator away from walls, and do not store items immediately beside or behind the unit.
Possible Cause: Dirty Condenser Coils
In a refrigerator, condenser coils dissipate heat as liquid refrigerant flows through them. Unfortunately, the coils tend to collect dust and debris. If the coils are dirty, they cannot dissipate heat effectively, forcing the refrigerator to work harder to maintain its temperature. Over time the refrigerator may lose the ability to stay cold. In our Refrigerator Maintenance Guide, we recommend cleaning the condenser coils once every six months.
Clean the Condenser Coils. Disconnect the refrigerator from the power. Check your owner’s manual to determine the location of your model’s condenser coils; they are usually located on the bottom or back. If there is a panel covering the coils, carefully remove the panel and set it aside. Clean the coils with the brush attachment on your vacuum, or wipe them down with a soft, dry cloth. Replace the panel, reconnect the refrigerator to the power, and allow twenty minutes before checking for coolness.
Possible Cause: Faulty Evaporator or Condenser Fan
The fans inside your refrigerator circulate air and are necessary to keep the refrigerator cool. If the evaporator fan is not working, the freezer will be cold, but the refrigerator may be warm. If the condenser fan is not working, both the refrigerator and freezer will not cool properly.
If the fans are dirty or malfunctioning, they may make a loud buzzing or whirring noise. Check our Noisy Refrigerator Guide for more information on how to check and clean the fans. If either fan is not working, it may indicate a faulty motor which would need to be replaced.
If you need assistance It Is Fixed Appliance Repair technicians have factory original parts for most major brands and are available for same day* appointments seven days a week.
Possible Cause: Faulty Temperature Control Thermostat
The temperature control thermostat is what controls the internal temperature of the refrigerator. If the thermostat is faulty, the refrigerator will not be able to cool properly.
Test the thermostat. Rotate the temperature control setting from the lowest setting to the highest. If you hear a click, the thermostat is probably working. If the thermostat does not click, further troubleshooting will require the use of a multimeter to test for thermostat continuity.
A faulty thermostat cannot be repaired and will need to be replaced. If you need parts, It Is Fixed carries factory original parts from most major brands, and we are happy to send out one of our trained technicians to assist you.
Possible Cause: Dirty or Faulty Capacitor
The capacitor stores the electrical charge needed to start the compressor. When this part malfunctions you may hear a clicking sound when the compressor tries to start. If the compressor doesn’t start, it can overheat and damage the compressor.
Unfortunately, capacitor malfunctions are common, and the capacitor will need to be replaced immediately to prevent further damage. The only way to test for a capacitor malfunction is with a multimeter.
Possible Cause: Low Freon
Newer model refrigerators do not use Freon and do not need to be recharged. If your refrigerator is more than fifteen years old, check our Low Freon Guide to determine if low freon is the reason your refrigerator is not cooling.
Possible Cause: Faulty Compressor, Thermistor, Start Relay, Defrost Timer, or Defrost Heater
Issues with these parts are less likely than other causes, but if any of these parts malfunction, your refrigerator will not cool properly. There is no simple way determine which part is at fault, but a trained technician with a multimeter will be able to locate the problem and suggest the best resolution for your budget. Contact It Is Fixed today for assistance.