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What to Do If Your Fridge Stops Cooling

Is your refrigerator no longer staying cool? There are a number of reasons why your fridge may be quitting on you. Read our guide to help diagnose and fix your fridge.

Refrigerator in home kitchen stops cooling. iStock

The first thing to do is to consider the simplest explanations: Did the fridge accidentally get unplugged, or was the power shut off? Did the thermostat inadvertently get turned all the way down? Is there a big bag of frozen vegetables blocking the freezer vents?

Fridge Still Not Cooling? Follow These Steps to Diagnose & Fix it

If none of these issues exist, then it’s time to troubleshoot for some more complicated, but still fixable, problems.

Here are five other common reasons why your fridge may not be cooling, and how to address them.

Condenser coils are dusty

There are coils located under or behind the fridge that cool and condense the refrigerant. Sometimes so much dust or dirt collects on these coils that the heat can no longer be released efficiently, and it winds up in your fridge instead.

Clean off the debris with a handheld vacuum or special refrigerator coil brush and see if that resolves the problem.

The condenser fan is broken

The condenser fan is situated in a cabinet at the bottom of the fridge, near the compressor and condenser coils (note that fridge models with the coils on the back instead of the bottom won’t have a fan).

The fan’s job is to keep the compressor and coils cool, so if it breaks down, the fridge will begin to heat up. Check to see if dust or debris is present on the fan blades (which would keep them from spinning properly), and if so, gently wipe the blades clean with a towel. If the blades don’t rotate at all, the fan’s motor may need to be replaced.

The evaporator fan is broken

There’s another set of coils, called the evaporator coils, in a panel behind the freezer. Refrigerant runs through these coils and turns into gas, making them cold.

The evaporator fan’s job is to draw the cool air from these coils to circulate throughout the entire unit—first through the freezer and then the refrigerator (or fresh food compartment). If the evaporator fan motor is broken, then cool air won’t circulate properly.

Sometimes you wind up with a freezer that’s still pretty cold (because that’s near where the coils are), but a fresh food compartment that isn’t cold at all (because the cool air isn’t getting pushed there). If the evaporator fan is the problem, you’ll likely need to replace the fan’s motor.

Evaporator coils are covered in frost

As mentioned above, the evaporator fan draws cool air from the evaporator coils and moves it throughout the entire unit, including the freezer. But if the fan stops working, the coils may frost over.

Remove the back panel in your freezer to see if the coils are frosted. If so, empty out the freezer and fridge, unplug the unit, and let the coils thaw for a day or two.

If the fan has been working just fine and the coils are frosted over for some other indeterminate reason, you may need to hire a professional. The frosted-over coils’ cause can range from a broken defrost thermostat to a malfunctioning defrost heater.

Air inlet damper is broken

The air inlet damper is located between the freezer and the fresh food compartment, controlling the amount of cold air that passes from the former to the latter. If the damper breaks or gets blocked, the cold air won’t circulate the way it’s supposed to.

Inspect the damper to determine whether it is opening and closing properly. If it isn’t, you’ll need to replace it with a new one.

Other issues

If your fridge is still giving you problems beyond these scenarios, it’s time to call in a repair person. The issue could be anything from a malfunctioning compressor to a defective temperature control board, which would require a professional diagnosis and intervention.