Refrigerator Not Cooling: Common Causes and How to Fix Them

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We all rely on our refrigerators to keep our food fresh, and when they stop cooling, this can lead to several problems. For example, your food will spoil and may expire more quickly than intended. Or, more importantly, warm refrigerators can lead to food poisoning, and this is something that you and your family should avoid at all costs.  

If your refrigerator is not cooling correctly, there are several things you can try without needing to call anyone for help. This guide will cover all the common causes of warm refrigerators and what you can do to fix them. 

1. Getting the right temperature

The ideal temperature for chilling perishable foods is between 35 and 38°F (1.7 and 3.3°C). This temperature range is best for foods such as dairy products and meat. If the temperature gets any higher, you run the risk of food poisoning.  

Check the temperature of your refrigerator 

Check the internal temperature with a thermometer to determine whether your refrigerator is at the right temperature. Do this by leaving the thermometer in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Once you get a reading, you will need to compare this with the refrigerator’s set temperature. 

If the reading is above the set temperature but is still within the ideal range, this is a sign that your refrigerator is starting to warm up. Your refrigerator is too warm if the temperature is above 38°F (3.3°C). If the temperature is not restored quickly, your perishable items will spoil. 

Monitoring the temperature

You will need to monitor your refrigerator closely to check whether the temperature keeps rising or returns to normal. If the temperature stops increasing but is still above 38°F (3.3°C), the refrigerator is working to some extent. You will need to determine why it is not working at total capacity and resolve this issue. 

Alternatively, should the temperature return to normal for no apparent reason, this does not necessarily mean that the problem has resolved itself. If you keep monitoring the temperature without fixing the issue, you may notice that the temperature rises intermittently. This is not ideal either, and it’s always best to resolve these issues before they get worse. 

2. Keep the door closed

Frequent opening of the door is a common reason why refrigerators warm up. This can cause the temperature of the refrigerator to rise intermittently. For example, commercial refrigerators are more prone to warming because they are opened more frequently. You can fix this problem by putting a hinge on the door that automatically shuts it when someone walks away. 

Additionally, while you are trying to resolve the warming problem, you might leave the door open longer than intended. If you want to keep your food as cold as possible while repairing the refrigerator, avoid opening the door too often. 

3. Check the door seal

Over time the seal on the refrigerator door will degrade through wear and tear. When the seal is compromised, the door will not shut properly, and cold air can escape. 

Here are some ways to fix the seal:

  • Try cleaning the seal first in case there is something that is preventing it from sticking properly. 
  • Replace the seal with a new one. 
  • Ensure the hinges on the door are not out of alignment. 
  • Avoid placing heavy items on the shelves in the fridge door. 
  • Use a strong latch to keep the door securely shut. 

4. Keep the refrigerator organized

Keeping the refrigerator organized is also essential because overloading the shelves with too many items can prevent cold air from circulating. Ensure that everything is evenly spaced on the shelves, and allow gaps for the cold air travel. Doing so enables everything in the refrigerator to be kept at the same temperature. 

5. Clean the condenser coils and vent 

Located at the back of the refrigerator are the condenser coils and vent. If you don’t have a condenser coil brush yet, we highly recommend that you get one. Condenser coil brushes are long, and they have fine bristles. This means they are perfect for getting rid of dust inside and underneath the refrigerator.

When too much dust covers the condenser coils, they have difficulty releasing heat. As a result, the refrigerator can warm up. Here are some instructions on maintaining the coils:

  1. Switch off the power and pull the refrigerator away from the wall so you can access the back panel. 
  2. Dust the back of the refrigerator, including the vent. This will prevent dust from accumulating on the condenser coils. 
  3. Unscrew the backplate. 
  4. Use the brush to clean the condenser coils. Also, wipe away the dust that has accumulated elsewhere. 
  5. Repeat this process every six months. Ensure there are no damaged coils, and replace them if necessary. 
  6. When the backplate is removed, you can also check the other components, such as the condenser fan and motor. 

6. Condenser fan and motor

Located near the condenser coils are the condenser fan and motor. If the condenser coils appear okay, then the fan and motor are the next places to assess. These components cool down the condenser coils so that heat can be released from the refrigerator.

If the fan is broken or obstructed, you will need to remove the obstruction and get the fan replaced if damaged. If the fan does not spin while the fridge is switched on, there is an electrical failure in the fan motor. When the motor is broken, the fan will not spin. You will need to replace the motor or get it repaired to resolve this issue.

7. Defrost the evaporator coils

The evaporator coils might have frosted over if your refrigerator also has a freezer. If that’s the case, there could be an issue with the defrost function. Defrosting the coils might enable the refrigerator to cool properly again. However, you will need to look into the issue to determine why this happened in the first place. For example, the defrost function could be faulty due to a malfunction in the control board, or the defrost timer could be broken. 

If you want to check the evaporator coils, they are behind the back panel inside the freezer. You will need to remove this panel to access them.

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