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How to Fix an Upright Freezer That’s Not Freezing

Is your upright freezer not freezing anymore? A variety of problems can keep your freezer from working efficiently and getting as cold as it’s supposed to.

To fix an upright freezer that’s not freezing, you can look into these solutions:

  • Make sure the freezer isn’t overpacked.
  • Defrost or break down any ice buildup.
  • Make sure the freezer door seals shut.
  • Clean the dirty condenser coils.
  • Check for a refrigerant leak.
  • Replace or reset a faulty thermostat.
  • Replace a faulty evaporator fan motor.
  • Replace a malfunctioning condenser fan motor.
  • Check the freezer’s compressor.
  • Replace a faulty start relay.

In this article, I’ll go over each of these fixes in detail to help you understand how to self-troubleshoot an upright freezer that’s not freezing correctly. By the end, you should have a clear idea of the various things that might go wrong with an upright freezer and what you can do to make them right.

Make Sure Your Freezer Isn’t Overpacked

Believe it or not, having too much stuff inside your freezer can decrease its freezing capabilities.

Your freezer has something called an evaporator fan which is responsible for circulating air inside the unit. 

Overpacking the freezer restricts proper airflow. If that happens, the cold air won’t be able to reach all the corners of your freezer, and it won’t reach freezing temperatures. The problem becomes worse if you have placed a big bowl of leftovers or something right in front of the evaporator fan.

How To Fix

If you have too much stuff jammed inside your freezer, simply take them out and reorganize them so they’re evenly dispersed.

It’s recommended to fill your freezer up to 85% of its total capacity. So, if you have a 100L (26.4 gallons) freezer, you can freely occupy 85L (22.5 gallons) of space, but more than that will interfere with the airflow.

Also, try to have the items concentrated towards the middle of the shelves and away from the sides. This will ensure optimum airflow throughout the unit.

Defrost or Break Down Any Ice Buildup

Do you notice a thick layer of ice surrounding the walls of your freezer but the food/stuff you have inside it is not freezing? Well, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the ice might be what’s preventing the freezer from freezing what you have inside it.

If there’s too much ice buildup on the freezer walls, that can interfere with the coils and vents. As a result, your freezer will run less efficiently and not be able to freeze/cool as it used to.

How To Fix

Most freezers have a defrost button. If you notice ice buildup on the freezer walls, simply press the button, and it’ll melt everything. Remember to put whatever you have inside the freezer into another freezer before pressing the defrost.

If your particular unit doesn’t have a defrost button, just turn the thing off. The ice should melt away in a couple of hours. You can speed up the process by pointing a hairdryer at the ice blocks.

Make Sure the Freezer Door Seals Shut

Your freezer door should stay sealed shut, preventing warm outside air from coming in and cold inside air from going out.

If the door fails to shut properly and leaves even the slightest gap, the cold air will escape, preventing the unit from freezing items efficiently.

There are two main reasons why your freezer door isn’t properly sealing shut: there could be a problem with the door gasket, or the bolts on the door might have gotten loose.

How To Fix

If you notice that the bolts on your freezer door are loose, tightening them up with a screwdriver should fix the problem. To troubleshoot if gaps in the door gasket are at fault, I recommend using the “dollar bill” test.

Simply open the freezer door, take a dollar bill, place it against the gasket and close the door. If you can’t pull the dollar bill out, the seal is tight and isn’t causing a problem. But if the bill comes out with a single tug, you’ll want to replace the gasket.

Here’s a quick 2-min Youtube video on replacing a freezer door gasket that should help you out:

Clean the Dirty Condenser Coils

Does your upright freezer have condenser coils on the outside, perhaps on the back or bottom of the unit? If so, the coils will become dirty over time, preventing your freezer from freezing your food.

The condenser coils are in charge of dispersing the heat generated by the freezer while it’s operating. However, the heat can’t escape efficiently if the coils are dirty, and that can affect the cooling capacity of the freezer.

In most modern freezers, the condenser coils are located inside the freezer. The coils in such units are less likely to get dirty, but it’s still worth checking.

How To Fix

If the condenser coils are located outside the freezer, you can simply vacuum the dirt off them. If the coils are inside, you need to open the compartment housing them. There should be a screw that lets you quickly access it.

Important: I recommend using a vacuum cleaner as it’s safer and more efficient. You can use a brush, but that might damage the coils.

Here’s a short 2-min YouTube video going over how to clean the condenser coils on an upright freezer:

Check for a Refrigerant Leak

Most upright freezers use some sort of refrigerant as the cooling agent. If it starts to leak out, your freezer won’t be able to freeze properly.

That said, most refrigerants are colorless and odorless, which means that even if there’s a leak, you won’t be able to see or smell it. If you suspect a leak, I recommend getting a leak detector like the Inficon Refrigerant Leak Detector (available on Amazon). The device is super sensitive and highly accurate.

Inficon Refrigerant Leak Detector

How To Fix

If there’s a refrigerant leak, you first need to find what’s causing it. In most cases, it’s a crack or dent in the coils/pipes that carry the refrigerant. You need to get the damaged coils replaced if that’s the case.

Once that’s done, you’ll need to refill your freezer with the proper refrigerant. For reference, here’s a 5-min YouTube video on how to add refrigerant to an upright freezer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAfUoLm-YlU

Keep in mind that refrigerants can be poisonous, especially when ingested in high doses. So if you’re not experienced in handling/fixing these sorts of appliances, I’d recommend calling in a professional for assistance.

Replace or Reset a Faulty Thermostat

Most modern freezers come with a thermostat as a part of the control hub. It’s put in place to sense the temperature inside the freezer and then regulate it to ensure it always stays at a consistent level 一or at the temperature you want it to.

The freezer thermostat can control the compressor, the condenser fans, and the evaporator fans. If something goes wrong with the thermostat, it won’t signal these parts to start working, and your freezer will stop freezing.

How To Fix

The problem with your freezer’s thermostat can either be at the physical (hardware) level or the firmware (software) level.

You can easily take care of a firmware issue by hitting the reset button. Freezers with a control hub/thermostat should have a reset button on them. If you can’t find it, check the freezer manual.

If there’s physical damage to the thermostat, you need to replace it. For reference, here’s an 8-min YouTube video on how to replace a thermostat on an upright freezer:

Replace a Faulty Evaporator Fan Motor

The evaporator fan in your freezer is in charge of circulating the cold air all around your freezer. It takes the cooler air from the evaporator coils and dispenses it throughout all the storage compartments.

If the evaporator fan or the fan motor is faulty or broken, the cold air will cease to circulate, hampering the cooling capacity of the freezer.

How To Fix

First, we need to make sure that it is the evaporator fan that is causing the problem.

To do that, open the freezer and manually press the door switch to make it seem like you’ve closed it. The evaporator fan should turn off as soon as you open the freezer door and start when you close it. If the evaporator fan doesn’t turn on, there’s something wrong with the motor, and you need to replace it. 

For reference, here’s a quick 5-min YouTube video discussing how to replace the evaporator fan motor from a Samsung freezer:

Replace a Malfunctioning Condenser Fan Motor

The condenser fan is tasked with transferring heat captured by the refrigerant and dissipating it outside the freezer. After losing the heat, the refrigerant cools down, circulates through the freezer, and captures the heat inside the unit. The condenser fan then again dissipates it outside, and the cycle continues.

Now, this is a very crude description of how your freezer cools/freezes food. If you want a more detailed explanation, you can check out this article on how freezers work.

In a nutshell, what I’m saying is that if the fan motor starts malfunctioning, your freezer will get hotter and won’t be able to freeze food properly. What’s more, if the freezer can’t eliminate heat properly, it can potentially damage your compressor.

How To Fix

The best way to know if the condenser fan motor is malfunctioning is to check the manual or paperwork that came with your freezer to figure out where the condenser is.

The condenser is usually fitted inside the freezer, but there’s no need to unscrew it just yet. First, place your hand over the panel that’s covering the condenser. If it feels extremely hot and you can’t hear a slow buzzing, the condenser fan motor is likely busted, and you need to replace it.

Here’s a 5-min YouTube video on how to install a condenser fan that should offer some assistance:

However, I highly encourage calling in a professional to handle this job.

Check the Freezer’s Compressor

If you tried all the above fixes but couldn’t get your freezer freezing again, the problem might be the compressor.

The compressor is the heart of your upright freezer and is in charge of circulating the refrigerant throughout the freezer. However, the compressor can fail for various reasons, and when it does, your freezer won’t be able to cool or freeze.

How To Fix

If you think there’s something wrong with your freezer’s compressor, you can easily diagnose it with a simple test.

As your compressor circulates the refrigerant throughout your freezer, it’ll make a humming noise. The noise typically comes on and off at a regular interval.

So, sit beside your freezer for 30 mins and listen for that humming sound. If it doesn’t occur in a half-hour period, your compressor is not working, and you need to replace it.

For reference, here’s a 13-min YouTube video on how to replace compressors:

That said, I highly recommend calling professionals for this job if you’re not a mechanic.

Replace a Faulty Start Relay

Is your freezer simply not freezing, or has it stopped cooling altogether? If it can’t cool at all, you might have a faulty or burnt start relay.

The start relay is in charge of powering the compressor. If there’s a problem with the start relay, it won’t send power to the compressor, and it’ll stop working. As a result, your freezer will stop cooling.

How To Fix

To check for a faulty start relay, turn off the freezer and remove the start relay from the compressor. Next, use a multimeter and check for continuity in the start relay. If there’s no continuity, it’s broken and needs to be replaced.

For reference, here’s a 4-min YouTube video on how to test refrigerator compressor start relays:

Author

  • Steve Rajeckas

    Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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