How to Fix a Refrigerator That’s Not Cooling

By Terry Mehilos | Aug. 03, 2023 11:53 am PST

Illustration of woman who’s upset her fridge is leaking

Are your leftovers lukewarm? Did your milk go from fresh to foul in a matter of hours? You may want to check the temperature in your fridge. Chances are it isn’t cooling as it should. But why is it suddenly on the fritz?

To get to the bottom of the issue, Sears Home Services refrigeration experts shared their answers to the most common reasons your fridge might stop cooling properly. While some of the issues have relatively simple fixes, some of these refrigerator problems will need a service call.

These answers will help you figure out why your fridge isn’t cooling, first start with the easy tasks you can do yourself. If these simple adjustments don’t fix the problem, it’s time to call in the pros.

Remember to consult your owner’s manual first for information on how to properly care for your refrigerator.

1. Why is the temperature control setting on my refrigerator wrong?

Uh-oh, did something bump into your temperature control panel? Before you do anything else, check this first. As one of the most common snafus, it’s almost like asking “Is it plugged in?” Move the control thermostat to a cool setting, and that should do the trick. You may need to wait a few hours for the temperature to return to normal after adjusting the temperature settings.

2. What should I do if my refrigerator condenser coils are full of dust?

If you’ve been neglecting your condenser coils, you’ll want to clean them ASAP. When the coils have a buildup of dust on them, the coils won’t be able to remove the heat from the refrigerant flowing through it properly. Thankfully, fixing this problem is as easy as dusting. Locate your appliance’s condenser coils — they’re typically in the back or on the bottom of the fridge — and use a brush to get rid of dust. They even make a special brush just for this purpose. To help keep your fridge running smoothly, our pros recommend you clean the coils a couple of times a year. Here’s a video that shows how to clean the condenser coils.

3. How do I know if my refrigerator’s gaskets need to be replaced?

Over time, the seals around the refrigerator doors, known as gaskets, suffer from wear and tear. When this happens, they don’t seal as well as they should, so the cool air inside gets mixed with warm air entering through the unsealed door. Check to see if your door gaskets have any cracks or tears or are loose. If so, the gaskets will need to be replaced.

4. Could my refrigerator be overloaded?

When’s the last time you cleaned out all those leftovers? If you can’t remember, it’s time to do a purge and toss anything that’s looking a bit suspect. Overloaded fridges can’t circulate cold air properly, and there’s also a possibility that items in your fridge could be blocking the airflow from the vent.

5. Does it matter where my refrigerator is located?

The room environment where the refrigerator is placed can affect its thermometer. If the space is too cold, like a second fridge in the garage, it might shut off because the appliance thinks it’s already up to temp. If the room is too hot, it could run constantly.

6. What should I do if the refrigerator fan motor isn’t working?

This is where we get into some of the more serious issues. The condenser fan motor turns the fan blade for cool air circulation, and if neither your fridge nor freezer is cooling properly, it’s possible the fan motor is malfunctioning. You’ll want a technician to come out to fix this.

7. How will I know if the evaporator fan motor is broken?

If your fridge isn’t cooling properly, a faulty evaporator fan could be the reason. Sometimes a squealing or trilling noise is a clue that the evaporator fan is failing, especially if the noise is louder when you open the freezer door.

8. Is it possible that my refrigerator’s start relay is faulty?

A failed compressor start relay causes problems with your fridge’s compressor, aka the part that circulates the refrigerant through the system. Remove the relay and test to make sure the connection isn’t fried by shaking it. If you hear a rattle, it’s time to replace it.

Why is my refrigerator warm, but my freezer is cool?

If your freezer compartment is cold but the refrigerator temperature seems warmer than usual, make sure none of the food containers in the fridge are blocking airflow at the vents; the owner’s manual usually shows where the air vents are located. It’s possible the air damper that allows air through the vent is stuck closed; you may need a technician to check this. Your refrigerator might seem warmer than usual for a day if you’ve just added a lot of food—wait 24 hours after adding a lot of food to see if the refrigerator cools properly.

When to call a professional to fix a fridge that doesn’t cool

While there are some problems you can try tackling yourself, if the compressor or other components of the sealed system such as the condenser or evaporator coils are the issue, you’ll need to hire a certified repair technician to repair your refrigerator. A service technician can easily identify other problems such as a defrost heater, defrost timer, thermistor and electronic control boards malfunctions.

Hire a Refrigerator Repair Expert from Sears Home Services

Sears Home Services is a nationwide leader in refrigerator repair with over 2,500+ local appliance service technicians available across the US. Our technicians are highly trained and highly skilled in appliance repair service.

Our technicians have completed over a million refrigerator repairs in the past year. We’re your best, most-trusted choice for fridge repairs, no matter what brand or where you bought it, so schedule an appointment today.

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