Your refrigerator may not be cooling correctly for several reasons, including dirty condenser coils, blocked air vents, faulty thermostats, damaged door gaskets, a refrigerant, or malfunctioning fans. Quick fixes include cleaning your condenser coils, freeing up your air vents, replacing damaged door gaskets, and checking the power supply. Consider talking to a professional technician for help.
It’s frustrating to have a fridge that runs but does not cool. Loss of food and an expensive repair bill are bitter pills to swallow. According to CNN Business, nearly 100% of American homes own refrigerators, making the device one of the most common appliances in the country.
After repairing home and commercial refrigerators for ten years, I can say that the issue of a fridge that runs but doesn’t cool is a common problem—nothing to worry about. If your device is still younger than the standard 12-year refrigerator lifespan, you can fix it.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the possible reasons your refrigerator is running but isn’t cooling. I’ll share practical steps to fix the problem and restore your refrigerator to its optimal cooling performance.
7 Common Reasons Your Refrigerator Is Not Cooling (And How To Fix It)
Here are the possible reasons your refrigerator is not cooling, plus tips on resolving the issue.
- Wrong installation location
Where and how you install your refrigerator determines if it will function at its proper cooling temperature. Ensure an indoor refrigerator is installed indoors where temperature fluctuations are less frequent.
Leveling could be another cause for concern. Check that your refrigerator is placed on a level surface by placing a level underneath the fridge. Refer to your product manual for appropriate leveling information if the device is not on a level surface.
- Dirty condenser coils
A refrigerator absorbs heat from food items, and the heat gets transferred to the condenser coils. You’ll find these coils at the bottom or back of your device. Condenser coils accumulate dirt and dust, eventually becoming inefficient at removing heat from the refrigerator.
Dirty condenser coils can thus prevent your refrigerator from cooling properly. Clean your condenser coils with a brush or vacuum cleaner.
- Blocked air vents
Air movement is essential in a refrigerator’s cooling process. Cold air circulates through the vents between the refrigerator’s compartments and the freezer and blocked air vents might cause warmer temperatures in your refrigerator.
The air vents’ position varies depending on the model of the refrigerator. Check your product manual if you have trouble finding them. Clear off objects or dust blocking the air vents so that cold air can circulate better in your refrigerator.
Overcrowding your refrigerator with food could also prevent air from circulating freely. Ensure your refrigerator is not jam-packed, which could make air circulation difficult.
- Faulty door gaskets/Switch
If your refrigerator does not cool properly, it could result from cold air leakage. Air that should stay in your refrigerator escapes through faulty door gaskets. The door gasket seals keep the cold air inside your device, and these gaskets may not seal properly when worn out or filled with dirt.
Inspect your door gaskets for any form of dirt and clean them properly. Also, check for any form of physical damage on your gaskets. If there’s no physical fault with your gasket, but you notice that your refrigerator’s light stays ON when you close the door, consider replacing the door gaskets or contacting a professional.
- Malfunctioning Fans
About every refrigerator has an evaporator and condenser fan. These fans have a crucial role: to cool off the condenser coils and engine to keep them in excellent working condition. When these fans fail, the refrigerator’s cooling process is disturbed.
If the fans are not spinning, I recommend you contact a technician to replace them.
- Faulty thermostat
The thermostat has the job of turning the compressor on or off. The compressor is the part of the refrigerator that cools the air. A faulty thermostat could fail to turn on the compressor or turn it off too soon. Your refrigerator will not cool properly when this happens.
The temperature setting on the thermostat could’ve been altered accidentally while adding or removing an item from your refrigerator. Ensure the thermostat is set to the correct temperature. The FDA recommends that the ideal refrigerator’s temperature be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Besides temperature settings, your thermostat could have faults.
Common reasons for a faulty fridge thermostat:
- Dirt or corrosion on the thermostat
- Poor contact with the evaporator coil
- Physical defect of the thermostat.
- Clean dirt or corrosion off the thermostat with a mild soap and water solution.
- Ensure your compressor is running.
- Consider replacing the thermostat if it presents signs of physical defect.
- Damaged Refrigerant Charge
A refrigerant is a substance that circulates through the cooling system, absorbing and taking heat out of the appliance. This refrigerant is made of a substance called HFC 134a in modern refrigerators.
A defective refrigerant charge will not absorb enough heat from the refrigerator, and this could prevent your refrigerator from cooling properly.
If all other solutions in this article have not worked, seek professional help.
What Is The First Thing To Check When A Refrigerator Stops Cooling?
If your refrigerator stops cooling, the first thing to check is your refrigerator’s power supply. Check the power cord to confirm it’s plugged into the power outlet. If it isn’t, unplug it and plug it in firmly.
Also, remove any extension cable connecting the refrigerator’s power cord and the power outlet. This extension cable could be damaged and could cause your refrigerator not to cool properly.
Unplug the refrigerator for a few minutes, then plug it back and see if there are any positive changes.
How do you reset a refrigerator that is not cooling?
Resetting a refrigerator that isn’t working is simple and can sometimes be a last resort for resolving the cooling issue. Here’s how to reset your refrigerator:
- Unplug your refrigerator from the power outlet to prevent electric shock.
- Use your product’s manual to locate your refrigerator’s control panel and identify the reset button.
- Once you’ve identified the reset buttons, reset your fridge and freezer controls according to your manufacturer’s manual.
- After resetting the refrigerator, wait about 24 hours for the refrigerator’s temperature to stabilize.
- After 24 hours, plug the device into the power outlet and check if the cooling is functional.
Note that resetting will not always solve the cooling problem. If it doesn’t help, reach out to a professional for assistance.
There are multiple reasons your refrigerator runs but does not cool properly. A faulty thermostat, door gasket, malfunctioning fans, or dirty condenser oils are the most common reasons. I’ve provided simple DIY fixes to identify and resolve these issues with your device. However, I recommend calling a professional if you’re new to these fixes. Check out more of our helpful refrigerator guides for expert advice and solutions to any problems you may encounter with your device.
How do you fix a refrigerator that won’t get cold?
- Check that the refrigerator is plugged in properly and the power outlet works. Make sure the refrigerator door is closed completely. This sounds obvious, but it’s an easy thing to overlook.
- Check the thermostat setting. The thermostat controls the refrigerator’s temperature and ensures it’s not set too high, which could prevent the fridge from cooling correctly. The ideal temperature range for a refrigerator is 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check the condenser coils. The condenser coils are located on the back of the refrigerator, and they can get clogged with dust and prevent the fridge from cooling. Clean the coils with a vacuum or duster to allow for proper airflow.
- Check the door seals. Faulty door seals prevent the refrigerator from sealing properly, allowing warm air. Inspect the seals around the door for any cracks or gaps and replace them if needed.
- Defrost the freezer. If there is too much ice buildup in the freezer, it will prevent the refrigerator from cooling. Unplug the fridge and allow it to defrost completely. Then plug it back in, and it should start cooling again
Why is my fridge warm but freezer cold?
There are several reasons why your fridge is warm, but your freezer is cold. One of them is that the vents that allow cold air to flow from the freezer to the fridge are blocked by too many items in the freezer.
Another reason is that the evaporator fan that circulates the cold air from the freezer to the fridge is not working properly or needs to be replaced. A third reason is that the defrost system is broken or the evaporator coils are frozen, which can prevent the cold air from reaching the fridge. To fix this problem, you need to check the following steps:
- Ensure you have not overfilled the freezer with food and that there is enough space for the air to flow through the vents.
- Check if the evaporator fan is running and making any unusual noise. You may need to replace it if it is not running or noisy.
- Check if the defrost system is working and if there is any frost buildup on the evaporator coils. If there is frost, you may need to defrost the freezer manually or replace a faulty component of the defrost system.
If you are not confident or comfortable doing these repairs, contact a professional technician for assistance.
How do I know if my refrigerator compressor is not working?
Some signs can indicate that your refrigerator compressor is not working properly. One of them is if your refrigerator is not cooling enough. Or if you hear a loud or unusual noise from the back of the refrigerator, where the compressor is located. And if you feel excessive heat or vibration from the compressor when you touch it.
If you notice these signs, call a technician to immediately inspect and repair your refrigerator compressor. A faulty compressor can lead to food spoilage, higher energy bills, and fire hazards.
Will unplugging a fridge reset it?
Unplugging a fridge can sometimes reset it, depending on the model and the problem. Some fridges have a reset button you can press after unplugging and plugging it back in. Others may require you to wait a few minutes before turning it on again.
However, unplugging a fridge can cause issues, such as losing the cool air inside, spoiling the food, or damaging the compressor. Therefore, it is not recommended to unplug a fridge unless you know what you are doing or have consulted an expert technician.