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Why is My Refrigerator Not Cooling?

How To Fix a Refrigerator - When it's Not Getting Cold

As someone who has dealt with a Refrigerator that isn’t cooling, I definitely understand the frustration it can be to find and fix refrigerator problems. The Fridge is one of the essential appliances in any home, and when it’s not working right it can create chaos in your household.

With today’s prices, a warm fridge can also be very costly – leading to spoiled food or drinks.

Below we show you the most Common Refrigerator Problems and the best DIY methods to diagnose and repair any refrigerator yourself.

5 Common Reasons Refrigerator is Not Cooling:

  1. The Refrigerator isn’t plugged in. Seriously, many people pull the fridge out to either clean behind it or recover something that fell behind. When this happens, it’s easy to jiggle the power cord loose or disconnect it entirely.
  2. The Condenser Coils are Dirty – located on the back of the refrigerator or in a bottom compartment, the condenser coils can become full of dust or debris, preventing them from functioning properly and cooling off the refrigerator.
  3. Freezer Vents are Blocked – If bags or boxes of frozen food are piled up and blocking the evaporator fan and freezer vent, cold air cannot be distributed properly.
  4. The Evaporator Fan Motor isn’t working – located in the Freezer compartment behind the rear (removable) panel, the evaporator motor and its fan blade are responsible for distributing g cold air throughout the freezer which also cools the fridge. See How to Replace the Evaporator Fan Motor below.
  5. The Condenser Fan motor Isnt working – located in the bottom compartment of every refrigerator is the condenser.  The condensers’ job is to compress refrigerant gas into the liquid coolant and pump it to the Evaporator coils (In Freezer).  A typical problem with the condenser is that it is overheating, due to a defective condenser fan motor.  See How to Replace the Condenser Fan Motor below.

Troubleshooting refrigerator problems is not always easy, but understanding the dynamics of your freezer and fridge is a great place to start, and doing repairs yourself will save you considerable money.

Understanding the Freezer and Fridge Dynamics

First, It’s important to understand How a refrigerator works. Whether it’s an upright or side-by-side refrigerator, the freezer, and fridge work together to maintain a consistent temperature. They operate much like a typical air conditioner.

Essentially, the compressor pushes refrigerant (gas) into the condenser coils.  It then converts to a “liquid” which is delivered to the evaporator coils (in the freezer). The heat is absorbed by the evaporator coils, which cools both the freezer and the refrigerator, keeping your food fresh.

Fridge Diagram - Besthomegear.com
Refrigerator Diagram (Condenser coils on Outside vs. Inside)

Importance of the Compressor

The compressor, which is the heart of the refrigerator, pumps refrigerant through the coils in the freezer. As the refrigerant passes through the waves, it absorbs heat and cools the air. The cold air is then sent into the fridge to keep your food fresh.

Note:  Condenser coils (shown on the back of the Fridge above) are most often located inside the bottom compartment, on modern refrigerators.

Diagnosing Refrigerator Problems:

  • One of the most common problems with refrigerators is when the freezer is freezing, but the fridge is not cold. Another common issue is when the refrigerator is hard, but the freezer isn’t freezing.
  • In either case, if the condenser motor (bottom of fridge) is running and the refrigerator isn’t cold, the most likely issue will be an over-iced evaporator coil or a failed evaporator fan. (See fixes below)
  • Suppose the evaporator coil and evaporator fan look good. In that case, the cooling problem could be from various issues, including a faulty compressor, a clogged condenser coil, or a malfunctioning thermostat.
  • In addition, dust and debris will also accumulate on the coils, reducing their ability to dissipate heat. This can cause the compressor to work harder and longer, leading to a warmer freezer and a colder fridge.
  • Another possible cause could be a faulty compressor. The compressor is responsible for pumping refrigerant through the coils, and if it’s not working correctly, your freezer will not be able to produce cold air.

How To Fix Refrigerator Problems

There are several potential reasons why a refrigerator fails to keep your food and drinks cold. Try these easy DIY solutions to address refrigerator and freezer problems, and you will be able to solve why your fridge or freezer is not cooling by yourself.

Troubleshooting Guide:

  1. First, and foremost – make sure the refrigerator is Plugged in – All the way. The power cord can easily be pulled loose when cleaning behind a fridge.
  2. If your fridge is plugged in – the light inside should turn On when you open the door (unless the bulb is burned out). If the bulb is burned out – replace it, giving yourself a spot-check that your refrigerator is powered on every time you open the door.
  3. Vacuum and Remove any debris or dirt from the refrigerator coils. The coils (depending on the model) are located either behind or underneath the fridge. Dirty or dusty coils on your fridge will indeed impede it from cooling.
  4. The vents in the freezer or boxes of frozen food or spare bags of ice do not block the vents in the freezer compartment. The air in your freezer flows freely to maintain a cold temperature.
  5. Be sure your thermostat has not been adjusted to a shallow setting by mistake. If the thermostat is malfunctioning, you can find simple-to-install replacement thermostats online.
  6. It’s rare, but make sure that nothing is stuck in the condenser fan and that it rotates smoothly. Note: a refrigerator with coils in the back doesn’t have a fan.  Unplug the refrigerator and pull it away from the wall to check if the fan works correctly, by spinning the fan blade.  Next, clean the fan blades and rotate the fan to make sure it spins freely.

If the blade spins freely, but the fan motor isn’t working, See the DIY instructions: “How to replace Evaporator fan on Fridge” later in this article.

How To Replace Refrigerator “Evaporator Fan Motor”

One of the most likely problems with fridges not cooling correctly stems from a broken evaporator fan or fan motor.

If you have a stuck fan blade or bad evaporator fan motor, the cold air cannot be circulated and distributed adequately to the freezer and fridge.

The evaporator fan is solely responsible for circulating air throughout the fridge and freezer; if it’s not working, your food will not get the cold air it needs.

Follow These 7 Steps: To Replace “Evaporator Fan Motor”.

Keeping In mind, that some (usually older) refrigerators with condenser coils located on the back of the refrigerator (see image below) do not use an evaporator fan.

If this is the case with your fridge, See “How to diagnose and replace Condenser Fan motor” later in this article.

Fridge Diagram - Besthomegear.com

Assuming the refrigerator does not have coils on the back of the fridge;

  1. Open the freezer, and locate the evaporator Cover on the inside back wall.

2. With the refrigerator plugged in, and the condenser motor running, the fan motor and fan blade should be spinning. If the fan motor is running, but the blade isn’t spinning, carefully try to free it.

3. If the fan motor isn’t running or the fan blade is spinning, Unplug the fridge, then Remove the Fan Motor by removing the screws and detaching the fan motor wires.

Note: I always snap a photo of the wiring connections, to refer to when installing a new motor.

how to remove fridge evaporator fan - best home gear
Removing Evaporator Fan Motor Cover – Besthomegear.com

4. Purchase a new fan motor – available online.

5. Reuse the existing fan motor brackets by reattaching them to the new fan motor.

Evaporator Fan, Blade, Brackets
Evaporator Fan, Blade, Brackets Image – Besthomegear.com

6. Plug in the fan motor wires and Reinstall the new fan assembly.

7. If the new fan works correctly, replace the evaporator cover inside the freezer.

How To Replace Evaporator Fan Motor (Whirlpool Video Demo)



How To Replace a Refrigerator “Condenser Fan Motor”

The Condenser fan motor on a Refrigerator can be found at the refrigerator’s back side and at the bottom by removing the panel (be sure to have the fridge unplugged before removing this panel)

The condenser fan blows cool air over the compressor and condenser coils to keep them from overheating. If the fan motor fails, the condenser and the compressor will not run properly, which keeps the fridge from cooling correctly. 

Follow these Steps: To Diagnose or Replace the “Condenser Fan Motor”

  1. Pull the refrigerator away from the wall and unplug it.

2. Look for and remove the thin cover at the bottom of the fridge, exposing the condenser motor.

Replace Fridge Condenser Motor - Besthomegear.com
Remove the Cover to replace Refrigerator Condenser Motor

3. Next, keep hands free from the exposed condenser, and plug in the refrigerator to see if the condenser is running and the fan and fan motor are working. If the condenser motor is on but the fan isn’t – you most likely need a new condenser fan motor.

4. If your fridge condenser fan and condenser motor are both not running (try this troubleshooting tip):

  • Unplug the refrigerator
  • Set up a box fan, pointing it directly at the condenser and coils for 20-30 minutes, to cool them off.
  • Once the condenser is cool, plug the fridge in again, and see if the condenser comes on.
  • If it does, the fan motor is probably the culprit and needs to be replaced, which can also be found online.
Refrigerator condenser motor diagram
Condenser Motor Diagram/Location
  • After replacing the condenser fan, the condenser fails to come on; the condenser itself or the relay is bad. 
  • If this is the case, the repair will be more difficult, and you may consider hiring an appliance repair contractor for help.

How To Replace Condenser Fan Motor (GE Fridge Demo Video) 


Why is the Refrigerator warm?

If you find that your refrigerator is warm, a few different things could be causing the issue. One possible cause could be a dirty condenser coil.

As mentioned, dust and debris can accumulate on the coils, reducing their ability to dissipate heat. This can cause your refrigerator to work harder and longer, increasing temperatures.

Another possible cause could be a malfunctioning thermostat. The thermostat is responsible for regulating the temperature in your refrigerator; if it’s not working correctly, your fridge may not maintain a consistent temperature.

Finally, another possible cause could be a refrigerant leak. If there’s a leak in the refrigerant system, your fridge may be unable to cool properly. This is a more severe issue that a professional appliance repair service should address.

When to Call a Professional Refrigerator Repair Service

If you’ve tried troubleshooting your refrigerator and are still having issues, it may be time to call a professional refrigerator repair service. They’ll be able to diagnose the problem and provide a specific solution to your fridge.

Some signs that it’s time to call in a professional include a refrigerator making strange noises, a fridge leaking water, or a fridge not cooling at all.

These are all signs that a more severe issue needs to be addressed by a professional.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How Much Does a Refrigerator Cost to Repair? A: Appliance repair companies charge between $50-$150 for a service call – that is just to diagnose refrigerator problems.

In addition, most repair service companies charge anywhere from $75-100/hour for labor plus any parts. (Note: the Service call fees are sometimes waived if you agree to the repairs).

Q: Can I Repair My Refrigerator Myself? A:  Following the guidelines detailed in this article, we recommend troubleshooting the refrigerator problem first.  Once you zero in on the problem, homeowners with average DIY experience can diagnose and repair common refrigerator problems.

Q: What are The Most Common Types of Refrigerator Repairs?  A:  The most common fridge repairs involve replacing the Coil, Compressor, Evaporator Motor, Condenser Fan Motor, Seals, and Icemaker.

Q:  What are the average repair costs for common refrigerator parts? A: Based on a national average*Coils ($50-150), the Compressor ($500-1,000), Evaporator Motor ($50-120), Refrigerator Seals ($50 -80), and the Icemaker ($350-400).

cost for refrigerator parts - best home gear
Avg. Cost of Common Refrigerator Parts – Table Courtesy of Bob Villa

Conclusion – Keeping Your Refrigerator Running Smoothly

In conclusion, understanding the dynamics of your freezer and fridge is vital to troubleshooting your refrigerator.

If your freezer is not freezing, but your fridge is cold, it could be due to a clogged condenser coil or a faulty compressor.

If your refrigerator is warm, it could be due to a dirty condenser coil or a malfunctioning thermostat.

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the condenser coils and checking the temperature settings, can help keep your refrigerator running smoothly. And if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to call in a professional refrigerator repair service.

By addressing issues early on, you can prevent more severe problems and extend your refrigerator’s life.

Additional Reading and References:

Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for Home and Garden.


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