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Refrigerator Not Cooling and other Common Problems

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Your refrigerator's job is to maintain a cold temperature to keep your food safe for consumption. When you open your refrigerator door, you should immediately feel cold air coming out of the space. If this doesn't happen or you notice that your refrigerator isn't operating properly, check out some of the common causes and what to do in each situation.

Why Is My Refrigerator Not Getting Cold?

One of the most common problems impacting a refrigerator is that it is no longer providing the necessary cooling to maintain the proper temperature. When this happens, several components within the unit could be to blame:

  • The condenser coils may be dirty, which minimizes their ability to dissipate the heat produced effectively. As the refrigerant moves through these coils, typically located beneath the refrigerator, they transfer heat. If they are covered in dirt and debris, the efficiency level of the refrigerator drops, which means it has to work harder to reach a cool temperature.
  • Fan motors may also be to blame when a refrigerator stops cooling. The condenser fan motor is a component in the fridge which draws air over the compressor and through the condenser coils. If the fan motor isn't operational, the loss of airflow results in an inability to cool down the refrigerator. The evaporator also has its own fan motor, which circulates the cooled air throughout the fridge and freezer compartments. Some refrigerators have separate evaporator fan motors for the fridge and freezer, so if one compartment is cold while the other isn't, you could have one damaged fan motor.
  • The thermostat of the fridge monitors the interior temperature and sends a signal to make adjustments based on the settings. Its signals include sending voltage to both fan motors and the compressor to adjust the temperature. If your thermostat stops working, it may no longer be giving these signals. You can test its functionality by adjusting the setting from the bottom to the top and listening for a clicking sound. If you don't hear a click, the thermostat may need to be replaced.
  • The compressor could also be to blame for a lack of cooling within your fridge. This pump circulates and compresses the refrigerant through the condenser coils and evaporator, allowing the refrigerator to operate properly.

Modern refrigerators also contain temperature control boards that manage the electrical currents sent to the other components. However, a defective or malfunctioning control board isn't a common occurrence, so it's best to check all other potential issues before replacing this board.

What Is the First Thing to Check When a Refrigerator Stops Working?

Dirty condenser coils are often the cause of a refrigerator that won't cool down. The first step is to check the coils, usually located beneath the bottom of the fridge, and clean them with a soft brush if you do see visible debris. You can also check to make sure the refrigerator is receiving power. A tripped circuit breaker will shut down your fridge, which is clear if the interior light isn't coming on when you open the door. Try resetting the breaker and checking the power cord to ensure that it hasn't come loose in the socket or been otherwise damaged.

It is also possible that the temperature thermostat was accidentally altered. When you stack food items high in the fridge or reach around to find something at the back of a shelf, you could bump the thermostat and raise it to a higher setting. The optimal temperature setting for a refrigerator is between 35 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the safety of perishable foods. Check your thermostat and lower it if needed.

How Do I Reset My Refrigerator Compressor?

As mentioned, the compressor is the pump that moves refrigerant throughout the other components within the fridge. If you want to try resetting the compressor within your refrigerator, you can do so by locating the power cord that connects to the wall outlet. Unplug the cord and leave it unplugged for several minutes. Adjust the controls to zero or off within both the refrigerator and freezer compartments, then plug the fridge back into the wall.

Open the compartments and readjust the controls to your desired setting. After you complete the reset cycle, your compressor should start running again to reach the desired temperature. It may take up to 24 hours to adjust to a stable temperature, but if it doesn't, this unit may have gone bad and require replacement. Your compressor may not be working if you don't hear the soft humming of the motor running coming from the refrigerator.

Can You Reset a Refrigerator by Unplugging It?

While a refrigerator doesn't have a reset button, unplugging it does force the components within the unit to cycle off and back on. Make sure to adjust the temperature control as part of the reset process, as this can also force the compressor to adjust based on the new settings.

What Is the Lifespan of a Refrigerator?

The average lifespan for a modern refrigerator is between 10 and 18 years. Compact refrigerators tend to have shorter lifespans, with averages coming in between four and 12 years. If your refrigerator is nearing or at the end of its estimated lifespan, it may be more cost-effective to replace it rather than continuing to replace parts or paying for repairs.

How Do I Fix My Refrigerator That is Not Cooling?

If you have determined the cause of your non-functional refrigerator, you may be able to swap out a damaged component on your own. The next step is finding the right parts that will resolve the issue. You can shop the selection of refrigerator parts at Automatic Appliance Parts, a family-owned company that has been serving refrigerator owners for over five decades. Use the handy appliance lookup tool to locate your exact model to ensure that you're shopping for parts that will fit properly.

For more information about refrigerator parts or other helpful repair tips, contact Automatic Appliance Parts. We have the components you need to get your fridge up and running again.