What to Do When Your Freezer Is Not Freezing but the Fridge Is Cold

Appliance Express
January 3, 2024
Refrigerator Repair

If you have a combination fridge-freezer and the fridge section seems to be working okay, but the freezer isn’t freezing, you’ve come to the right place.

There are various possible reasons this problem may be occurring. Some of which you may be able to fix yourself and others that will require the help of a qualified appliance technician. In the worst-case scenario, the freezer might be unfixable, and you’ll need to replace the entire unit.

In this article, we list all the possible causes of why your freezer isn’t freezing yet your fridge is cold and offer guidance on how to fix them. Let’s begin.

1. Check the temperature controls

This might seem obvious, and you’ve likely already tried this, but it’s worth double-checking the temperature controls on your fridge-freezer. 

Your freezer should be set to about 0°F (-18°C), or if your unit has a temperature control dial, try turning it to a colder setting. It’s also worth pointing out that the temperature you set for your fridge can affect your freezer, too.

If your fridge-freezer is situated somewhere cold, such as in the garage in winter, the cool ambient air may cause the fridge thermostat to believe it is cold enough, stopping the cooling cycle. 

As a remedy, try setting the fridge to a colder setting to see if this makes the freezer colder; however, this typically only works for fridge freezers that are controlled by a single thermostat.

2. Check if the condenser coils are dirty

The condenser coils are the next thing to check. This is a simple fix, but you may need to pull out your fridge freezer, as the coils are usually located at the back or bottom of the unit. Refer to your user manual to locate them if you need to.

If the condenser coils are dirty, i.e., filled with dust and hair, it’s definitely worth cleaning them. Dirt can insulate the coils, preventing the refrigerant from cooling properly, which can cause the freezer not to cool enough.

Be gentle to ensure you don’t bend or damage anything. The best method is to use a long appliance cleaning brush and a vacuum cleaner. They should be cleaned once or twice a year.

3. Try unplugging your appliance for a few minutes

Sometimes, a minor glitch or error in your fridge freezer’s electronic control board or computer system can affect the cooling cycle. Unplugging your appliance, waiting for a few minutes, and then plugging it back in can reset or reboot these systems and resolve the issue.

This is a simple tip that sometimes works, so it’s worth trying if you haven’t already.

4. Ice buildup on the evaporator coils

Another common reason for the freezer not freezing properly while the fridge remains cold is that ice has built up on the evaporator coils. When this happens, cold air can’t be circulated around the unit. However, there are multiple possible causes of this, which we will run through now.

But first, inspect the evaporator coils to check if this is the case. This requires you to unload the freezer and remove the back panel inside, which is usually screwed in. Be sure to unplug your appliance before you do this.

When working correctly, evaporator coils should have a thin, even layer of frost over them, but there shouldn’t be any ice buildup.

If there is ice buildup, you should check the following:

Defrost timer

Use your user manual to locate the defrost timer, then manually set it to defrost mode by turning it with a screwdriver until it makes a click sound. Now, plug back in your unit and see if the heater turns on after a few minutes and starts melting the frost buildup. If you know how to use a multimeter, you can also try unplugging the appliance and testing the timer for continuity. If your defrost timer passes both of these tests, it’s likely fine. If it doesn’t have continuity, it will need replacing.

Defrost Heater

If the heater didn’t turn on when you tested the defrost timer, you must check if it’s faulty. To do so, use your hands to feel if any heat is coming from the heater while it is in defrost mode. The heater is always located near the evaporator coils. If not, unplug the appliance and test it for continuity using a multimeter. If it doesn’t have continuity, it needs replacing.


A faulty thermostat can disrupt the defrost cycle, causing the evaporator coils to freeze over in some cases. Use your user manual to locate the thermostat. Try turning it to the coldest setting, then listen to see if the compressor immediately comes on. If it doesn’t, unplug your appliance, disconnect the thermostat, and remove it from the appliance. Then, test it for continuity with a multimeter. Replace it if it fails these tests.

Door seal

If you accidentally leave the freezer door open or the door seals are damaged, warm, moist air can enter and cause excessive frost on the evaporator coils. Likewise, the compressor has to overcompensate to maintain the right temperature, which can lead to ice buildup. To fix, visibly inspect the seals and replace them if damaged.

Restricted airflow

If vents within the freezer are blocked, either from frost buildup or overfilling the freezer with food, it can restrict cold air circulation. This restricts the supply of cold air to the freezer, causing it not to freeze, while the cold air lingers around the evaporator coils, causing them to freeze over. To fix, visibly inspect the vents to ensure they are not blocked or frozen over, and reduce the amount of items in the freezer if it is overfilled.

5. Check the evaporator fan

Finally, you’ll want to check the evaporator fan. It is usually located behind the back panel of the freezer compartment. You may need to remove the back panel to inspect it. Unplug the fridge freezer before you begin.

Once located, look for any signs of damage, obstruction, or ice buildup that could stop it from working. After removing any obstructions, try spinning the fan blades manually with your hand. If it doesn’t spin freely, it likely needs replacing.

If it does spin, try turning the fridge back on to see if it works. You may need to press the door switch manually for it to come on. If the fan does not run, use a multimeter to check for continuity. If it doesn’t have continuity, it will need replacing.

Failing all of these troubleshooting tips, you will need to call in a qualified appliance technician to inspect your appliance.


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