The refrigerator is a key component of any kitchen, keeping food and drinks fresh and at the ready. A fridge ensures that food lasts as long as possible without going bad. However, when a refrigerator isn’t operating properly, it may stop cooling the food, beverages, and other contents. If this occurs, the items won’t go bad immediately, so there is still a chance to resolve the problem before the contents of the entire refrigerator need to be replaced. Use this guide to discover eight potential causes of a fridge improperly cooling.
Warning Signs That a Fridge Isn’t Cooling Properly
When a refrigerator has issues with cooling, it might not be evident at first, so it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the warning signs that could indicate a problem. The FDA guidelines recommend that the internal temperature of a refrigerator should be at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, while freezers should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
You can purchase an appliance thermometer to check the temperature if you suspect a problem with the internal gauge. Other that the actual temperature, you should watch out for excessive condensation on food and beverage packaging. Additionally, if the food inside the fridge is spoiling or showing signs of going bad at a faster rate than normal, then this can indicate that the refrigerator is not cooling properly.
1. Improper Temperature Setting
Start the troubleshooting process with the easiest issues to resolve and gradually work through each potential cause for a fridge not cooling properly until you find the source of the problem. An issue that is easy to overlook is the temperature setting. Check the dial or the digital control panel to determine what temperature the fridge is set to. Make sure to check both the refrigerator and the freezer.
If it’s too high, change the temperature to ensure that the food stays cold. After changing the temperature, it will take about 24 hours for the temperature inside the fridge to stabilize. Check the temperature again after this period to determine if this fix worked. If not, proceed to the next possible cause.
2. Overpacked or Cluttered Contents
Refrigerators cool down the contents of both the fridge and the freezer compartments. However, when the refrigerator is overpacked, it may have difficulty regulating the temperature. Similarly, if the contents are cluttered or piled up haphazardly, this can impact the cooling operation of the appliance.
Resolving this problem is as easy as organizing the refrigerator and reducing the amount of food, beverages, and other items stored in the fridge. However, if the fridge is completely empty or nearly empty, it may experience similar cooling issues, so it’s recommended to keep the fridge about half to three-quarters full for optimal cooling.
3. Blocked Air Vents
The cold air produced by a refrigerator needs to be able to flow into the closed compartments of the freezer and fridge. If the air vents inside the refrigerator are blocked by food, beverages, or other items, it can impede the cooling ability and efficiency of the appliance. Also, if the air vents are full of dirt, grime, ice, spilled food, or any other substance, it can prevent cool air from entering the refrigerator.
To fix this issue, clean the air vents and reorganize the refrigerator so that nothing is blocking the air vents. This should restore the flow of cool air into the fridge and freezer compartments and improve the overall efficiency of the refrigerator.
4. Poor Installation Location
The location of a refrigerator can make it difficult for the appliance to maintain the set temperature. Refrigerators are generally intended for indoor use, so if the fridge is set up in a garage, workshop, or shed, it might struggle to keep up with cooling demands, especially when the temperatures begin to soar during summer weather.
Even if the fridge is inside, if it’s located on an exterior wall or positioned beside a door or window, the fridge may have some issues keeping the contents cool. Additionally, the refrigerator requires at least 1/2 inch of space on the sides and a full 1 inch of space at the back for proper air circulation.
5. Dirty Condenser Coils
Condenser coils are located at the back of the refrigerator and are key components in the cooling process. If the condenser coils are coated in dust, dirt, cobwebs, oil, grease, or other grime, they will not be able to function properly, leading to reduced cooling capabilities.
Typically, fridge manufacturers will provide cleaning instructions for the condenser coils in the appliance operation manual. To restore the cooling functionality, read and follow the directions provided by the manufacturer to learn how to clean the condenser coils.
6. Uneven Surface
When a fridge doesn’t sit level, it can affect the functionality of the appliance. The doors may not be able to close properly or the door switch may not work correctly, leading to problems with cooling. This issue is relatively easy to check with a bubble level. Simply set the level on the top of the fridge to determine if it is out of level.
If the fridge is out of level, you can fix this problem by adjusting the feet on the bottom to increase or decrease the height of each corner. A refrigerator should be perfectly level from side to side, but from front to back, it should tilt about 1/4 inch toward the back to help the doors shut properly.
7. Dirty or Broken Gasket Seals
The doors of a refrigerator have gasket seals that help prevent cold air from seeping out of the closed compartments. When the gasket seals on the doors are too dirty, worn, or broken, they can prevent the doors from closing properly, leading to cool air leaking from the refrigerator and reducing cooling ability.
As long as the gasket seals are just dirty, they can be scrubbed clean with a damp cloth and dish soap. However, if the gasket seals are severely worn or damaged, you may need to contact an appliance repair professional to replace the gasket seals on the refrigerator.
8. Faulty Electric Supply
If the refrigerator isn’t receiving power, the appliance won’t be able to keep the contents cool. Check the back of the fridge to find the plug and make sure that it’s properly plugged in. If the light in the fridge is off, but it seems cool inside, the problem might just be a burned-out lightbulb. However, if the fridge isn’t cooling and the light is still off, despite the appliance being plugged in, then the refrigerator isn’t receiving power.
Check the circuit breaker associated with the fridge to verify that it is turned on. If the fridge is plugged into a GFCI outlet, it could have tripped the internal breaker, shutting down power to the appliance. Press the reset button and check if this resolves the problem. If the fridge is still without electricity, you’ll need to contact a professional repair technician to replace the power supply.
When to Call a Professional
Replacing a refrigerator is a costly option, so if the fridge is having problems that are beyond your ability to resolve, it’s a good idea to call an appliance repair professional. The repair technician will be able to troubleshoot the issue, suggest solutions, or recommend the replacement of the unit if the problem can’t be fixed.
Some complex issues that could prevent the refrigerator from cooling include the fan motor not working, the compressor not turning on or switching off, a faulty compressor relay, a malfunctioning internal thermostat, and evaporator fan problems. If you suspect one of these issues could be causing the problem with the fridge, contact a repair professional.