How to Fix a Refrigerator That Is Not Cooling

Illustration of woman who’s upset her fridge is leaking

Is your refrigerator too warm? View our list of common causes of a refrigerator that’s too warm and the steps to help fix your problem.

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 insights into the most common problems that cause your fridge to stop cooling properly. While some of the issues they identify have relatively simple fixes, others require 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 it to a cool setting, and hopefully that will do the trick.

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 dust collects on them, the coils are unable to regulate the fridge’s interior temperature 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.

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

Over time, the seals around the doors of your fridge, known as gaskets, suffer from wear and tear. When this happens, they don’t seal as well as they should, causing the fridge to leak cool air. Check to see if your gaskets have any cracks or tears or are loose. If so, you’ll want to have someone come out and replace them.

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 cool air properly, and there’s also a possibility that items in your fridge could be blocking the cold air 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, say, your 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 is responsible for cool air circulation, and if neither your fridge nor freezer is cooling properly, it’s a likely culprit. 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 but your freezer seems just fine, a faulty evaporator fan could be the reason. A fridge that moans and groans is another clue that you might have a broken fan.

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

This will cause 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.

While there are some problems you can try tackling yourself, if your fridge still isn’t keeping your food cool enough, you’ll want to call for a repair right away.

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