What Would Cause A Refrigerator to Stop Getting Cold?

September 19, 2020

Hot summer afternoons and the blaring sun mandate a cool glass of lemonade to beat the weather. But you make your way to the refrigerator and find that it is not cooling. Bummer!

That’s definitely going to be a put-off. But the good news is that you don’t need to wait for help. While refrigerators are complex machines, there can be many reasons why your refrigerator isn’t cooling.

Here are seven common reasons why your refrigerator is not cooling – and how to fix them:

  1. Frosted Evaporator Coil

A self-defrosting refrigerator will generally defrost throughout the day. However, it might stop defrosting if there’s damage to the evaporator coils.

The refrigerator has evaporator coils and a circulating fan in the freezer zone. Over time, frost might accumulate over the fan and the coils, which causes them to get insulated.

While your refrigerator might be cooling, it will be minimal at best. Don’t worry, though. Here’s how you can fix it:

Repair Tip                                

You should remove the frost by either manually defrosting your refrigerator or setting it to automatic defrost (an option available in most frost-free refrigerators). Ensure that the evaporator coils are clean and free of frost for proper cooling inside the refrigerator.

  1. Faulty Evaporator Fan

If your refrigerator isn’t cooling, but the freezer is functioning properly, this might be an indication that the evaporator fan motor has stopped working.

An evaporator fan circulates cool air from the freezer to different compartments inside your refrigerator. It is a key component that circulates cool air in your unit. When an evaporator fan stops functioning, the cooling inside the food section will stop.

Repair Tip

Check if there are any obstructions in the fan or not. If the fan isn’t running properly – even without any obstructions – it might be time to consider replacing it.

  1. Thermostat Is Turned Up

Thermostats maintain the temperature inside the refrigerator. So, when a refrigerator stops cooling, it’s very likely that someone accidentally knocked or bumped into the refrigerator’s thermostat. It can significantly reduce its ability to produce cool air.

According to Consumer Reports, the perfect temperature for food to stay fresh in your refrigerator is 37 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if the thermostat is set below this temperature, you now know why your refrigerator isn’t cooling. 

Repair Tip

Check your thermostat to make sure that it is set at the optimum temperature. Confirm the temperature again with an external thermometer to see whether it’s reading accurately or not.

If the reading is not accurate, you might have to pay a visit to a refrigerator parts repair shop to get your thermostat fixed.

  1. Clogged Condenser Coils

Most modern refrigerators comprise of a set of coils that may lose their ability to produce cool air when dirt, dust, and other debris accumulate upon them. So if your refrigerator isn’t cooling, you should check the condenser coils to see if they are clean or not.

Repair Tip

Clean the condenser coils with a brush. Dust off any debris and suck it up with a vacuum cleaner.

  1. Blocked Air Vents

If your refrigerator has stopped cooling, then the chances are that food, beverages, or ice is blocking the air vents on the back of your refrigerator unit. In this case, your refrigerator won’t be able to circulate cool air.

Repair Tip

Place your hand behind the refrigerator to check if you feel cool air blowing. If you find that there’s little-to-no airflow, you’ll know the unit’s vents are blocked.

Make an effort to keep the air vents clean and clear—store any obstructing food and beverage items in other components of the refrigerator.

  1. Air Damper

The air damper is a component that is located between the refrigerator’s fresh food compartment and the freezer. It controls the flow of cold air that circulates from the freezer to the fridge.

If the air damper won’t close or doesn’t seem to open, the fridge might stop cooling even though the freezer stays at the right temperature.

Repair Tip

Start removing the air damper by taking out any screws that are holding the damper cover in place. Proceed by pulling the covers off as well. You’ll find the thermostat sensor around the damper.

If your freezer has an ice bucket, you should remove it. Here, you’ll find a motor that can be unscrewed and unplugged to move the damper out of the way. 

Now, you can remove the existing damper and replace it with a new one. Consequently, you’ll also need to replace the other parts you removed in the process.

The Wrap Up

These are some of the most common reasons that can cause a refrigerator to stop getting cold. It is also possible that there are other underlying issues with the temperature control thermostat or the start capacitor that you should get checked by a professional.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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