ABC Blog

My Fridge Isn’t Cold but the Freezer Is

a stainless steel fridge in a white kitchen

It is so frustrating and confusing when your freezer is working, but your fridge won’t get cold. How is this even possible? Well, a few different things might lead to this stressful situation.

Some of the simpler issues that might be causing this problem are things that can happen in any household. For example, if someone left the refrigerator door open. This can cause the vent between the freezer and fridge to freeze over. If this happens, you can take your food out of your fridge and freezer, unplug the unit overnight and then plug it back in. If the door being open was what was keeping your fridge from cooling, then this process should fix your issue.

Something else that might be causing the issue is overloading. Putting too much in your fridge can block the vents and keep the cool air from circulating as it should. It’s pretty rare for this to happen, but it’s a simple fix if overloading is causing your issue.

Another easy fix is to check the temperature settings on your fridge and freezer. If someone changed the fridge setting, then turning the dial to a cooler temperature might be a simple solution. Where your fridge is located in your home can also affect the temperature. For example, if you keep the fridge in the garage, then it might turn off during colder weather. This is because it thinks that the inside of the fridge has reached the proper temperature.

You can also check to see if the gaskets or sealings around your fridge door have worn out. If these seals have cracked, are loose or have torn, it can allow cold air to leak out of the fridge. This can force your fridge motor to have to work overtime to make up for the leaking air. This could cause the motor to break down much earlier than usual.

Additionally, you might have a damper door malfunction. This door opens to allow cool air to cycle into the fridge. When the damper door malfunctions, it can keep cool air from flowing into the fridge like it needs to in order to maintain the proper temperature.

An easy way to check for this appliance problem is to try to move the damper. However, this involves removing the vent, which can be tricky for homeowners who don’t have the proper expertise. For this and many of the other problems that might be keeping your fridge from getting cold, it’s best to hire a professional to fix these issues.

One of the most common reasons that fridges stop cooling is that the fridge is not self-defrosting. When a fridge coil does not self-defrost, the fan will not be able to pull in the air needed to cool the fridge. If you notice that the coils have frosted over, it’s likely that something is wrong with the defrost system. One way to test whether the defrost system is the problem is to turn off your fridge overnight to defrost it. If the evaporator fan freezes back up again after you turn the fridge back on, then you likely have a component issue.

One common component problem is a failure of the refrigerator’s control (circuit) board. The control board is the brain of your fridge and freezer. The control board tracks what is going on in the unit and tells the different parts of the appliance, such as the fans and compressor, when to turn on and off. If the control board isn’t working, it could misread the temperature and keep the fan and other parts from turning on when they need to in order to keep the fridge cool.

Beyond a problem with the control board, some other common component failures include problems with the:

  • heater,
  • thermostat,
  • timer and
  • motor for the condenser fan.

Since a variety of different components could contribute to your problem, contacting an appliance repair specialist is typically the most efficient way to get this problem resolved. They have the specialized tools and expertise to figure out what is causing the issue, and they can get your fridge up and running as quickly as possible.

They can also help you understand the variety of options you have to fix the fridge, and can recommend whether you might want to consider buying a new fridge. If your fridge is ten or more years old, it might be worthwhile to replace the entire appliance rather than trying to fix individual components.

Another common issue that an appliance repair professional will look for is whether the evaporator fan is bad. Evaporator fans are responsible for keeping your fridge cool. They pull air from your freezer and blow that air into your fridge. To check the fan motor, a specialist will listen for any loud noises coming from the fridge and try to turn the fan blades by hand. They might also run a test using a multimeter tool. If they find anything wrong in these tests, then they can replace the fan motor to try to fix the issue.

Other common problems are loose wire connections and dirty condensers. If the condenser is dirty, it might cause the fridge temperature to rise by five to ten degrees. This problem likely wouldn’t affect the temperature in the freezer. Cleaning the condenser coils might fix this problem.

A pro will also check to see if the thermistor sensor is malfunctioning. This sensor helps tell the fridge’s control or circuit board what the temperature is, which should trigger the refrigerator to cool down further if necessary. However, a malfunctioning thermistor can keep the fridge from cooling correctly. A professional can use a multimeter to test the thermistor and can replace this component if needed.

Contacting a professional for any type of appliance repair is usually your best option. A specialist can help with your fridge, but can also help with issues like your garbage disposal making strange noises.

a stainless steel fridge in a white kitchen with brown barstools

How to Clean Fridge Coils

Fridge coils are the mechanism that helps cool the inside of your fridge. When these condenser coils are dirty or collect dust, it can affect the fridge’s ability to do its job and keep your food and drinks cold.

In most situations, it’s important to clean these coils at least a couple of times a year to keep the refrigerator working efficiently. However, you might need to clean them more often if you have pets that shed a lot or live in a dusty area. If you hire an appliance expert, they can clean the coils as part of a routine maintenance check.

Because checking and cleaning fridge coils involves removing panels and working on the essential components of the appliance, some homeowners contact a pro for this job. A professional can make sure the task is completed correctly and quickly. This can be a daunting task for homeowners due to the electricity running through the appliance, which might lead to electric shock. Not to mention, the sharp edges on many of the fridge components that can cut you while you’re performing repairs. Beyond this, do-it-yourself attempts might also lead to even more costly repairs if something goes wrong while you’re trying to fix the fridge.

However, if you would like to try to clean the condenser coils on your own, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure to unplug the fridge before you start working on any part of the appliance.

After you have turned the fridge off, look for the component panel. For most fridges, this is typically located on the back wall of your fridge where the compressor and condenser are. However, in many older fridge models, the condenser is on the bottom, so you’ll need to pop the panel off the front. In some models, this panel might also be on the top of the fridge.

Be cautious when you’re removing the panel, as there are hot wires running into it. Once you remove the panel, you should see the fridge coils, and you can gently clean off any dust or debris. The coils are fragile, so it’s important to use a gentle utensil like a soft bristle brush to avoid damaging them. Once the coils are clean, you can replace the panel and plug your fridge back in.

a broken refrigerator

How to Tell if Your Fridge is Broken

Some of the most common signs that your fridge might be broken and that it’s time to call in a repair person include:

  • the fridge isn’t getting cold enough;
  • your food keeps spoiling;
  • the fridge is frosting over or has excessive condensation;
  • there’s water on your floor or
  • the fridge is noisy.

Several different problems can cause your fridge to stop working as well as it should. Some of these are simple fixes, but sometimes, it might make more sense to buy a new fridge instead of trying to fix it. When you contact an appliance repair specialist for any refrigerator problems, they can help fix any issues as soon as possible. They have the knowledge and experience to help you figure out whether to repair the appliance you currently have or if it might be time to start shopping for a new one.

ABC Can Make Your Fridge Cool Again

When your fridge isn’t working, it can lead to spoiled food and other problems. Instead of attempting appliance repair on your own, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our licensed professionals will quickly diagnose the issue and make all needed appliance repairs. We can even help with problems such as your gas stove igniter clicking but not turning on.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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