Refrigerator Isn’t Cooling — Refrigerator Troubleshooting
How to Diagnose Refrigerator Problems
Sometimes you notice there's something wrong with your appliance right away. Maybe the light in your refrigerator won't turn on or your food isn't staying cold enough. You might not know if its necessary to call a professional or if its something you can easily fix yourself. Diagnosing the problem yourself can be the difference between a quick fix and an expensive, unnecessary repair.
|Refrigerator Won't Turn On|
|Refrigerator is Not Cooling||
|Refrigerator is Not Getting Cold Enough|
|Refrigerator is Constantly Running|
|Refrigerator is Leaking|
Diagnosing a Dead Refrigerator
Check that the power cord is plugged in all the way.Pull out the refrigerator if needed and press the plug firmly into the outlet. Check your appliance's electrical cord for damage. Any exposed wire, kinks or cuts in the cord might make the appliance malfunction. If this is the case, do not use the cord and contact a repairman.
Remove an extension cord if you were using one between the refrigerator's main cord and the outlet.The extension cord may be damaged or faulty. Plug the refrigerator directly into the outlet. If this solves the problem, replace the faulty extension cord.
Try another appliance in close proximity to the refrigerator.Plug the other appliance into the same outlet that your refrigerator was plugged into. If that appliance also does not work, check your fuse or circuit breaker box. You might have a blown fuse or tripped breaker.
Try plugging the refrigerator into a different outlet.If this solves the problem, then the problem is with the outlet. Check the current and voltage of the outlet with a multimeter and voltage tester. If you do not know how to work these tools, contact a professional repair technician or electrician.
Try leaving it unplugged for a while, then plugging it back in.This may reset the circuit board (like rebooting a computer or a cell phone). By leaving it unplugged, you allow capacitors to lose any charge they may be holding.
Diagnosing if Only the Light Works
Check your temperature gauge inside the appliance.If the dial was bumped, it could have made it too warm for the refrigerator to turn on. It's important to check both the refrigerator and the freezer temperature settings, because the refrigerator gets its cold from the freezer. A problem with the freezer setting will affect the refrigerator as well.
- It should be set between 37 and 40º F (3-4ºC) for the refrigerator and between 0-5ºF (-15 to -18ºC) for the freezer.
Make sure there's proper airflow around the appliance.Check the space between the walls and the appliance. There should be a 3-inch (76.2 mm) gap around the sides of the appliance and at least a 1-inch (25.4 mm) gap at the top. This provides airflow needed for the machine to function.
Clean the condenser coils with a vacuum or brush.This part helps dissipate heat that could make the appliance act funny. This cleaning should be done with the appliance turned off. You should clean rear-mounted coils once a year, and floor coils twice a year.
Test for overheating and continuity.Unplug the refrigerator for 2 hours and then plug it back in. If it starts running "normally" again, the compressor is overheating and it should be checked by a repair technician. Use a multimeter to test each component for continuity. These include the temperature control, the evaporator fan, the defrost timer, the overload protector and the compressor motor.
- You may have to consult your owner's manual for the locations of the components. If a part does not have continuity, it is faulty and will need to be replaced.
Investigating a Refrigerator That Isn't Cold Enough
Check your temperature gauge inside the appliance.The dial could have been bumped, raising the refrigerator's temperature. It's important to check both the refrigerator and the freezer temperature settings, because the refrigerator gets its cold from the freezer. A problem with the freezer setting will affect the refrigerator as well.
- It should be set between 37 and 40º F (3-4ºC) for the refrigerator and between 0-5ºF (-15 to -18ºC) for the freezer.
Inspect the vents.Check the vents between the freezer and refrigerator and the drain tube for debris and ice. Remove debris if needed. This obstruction could be your problem.
Test your door seals.Place a piece of paper between the seals and the appliance. Close the door and pull out the paper. You should feel tension if the seals are functioning properly.
- Repeat the process all around the seals of the appliance. If there's no tension at any spot, the seals are starting to fail. You should also check for cracks and rigidity that could be causing a failing door seal.
Test the refrigerator components.Use a multimeter to test the continuity of the appliances various components. These include the door switches, the defrost heater and timer, and the evaporator fan. If any of these parts fail, they could be your problem.
Diagnosing a Refrigerator That Keeps Running
Wait a day to see if the problem solves itself.Several factors could cause your refrigerator to temporarily run continuously. If you live in a humid environment, just loaded the refrigerator, or recently adjusted its temperature, it might take a while for the refrigerator to cool completely. It could take 24 hours or possibly more for it to cool.
Defrost the freezer in case there's too much ice built up and clean your condenser coils.If there is a build of debris on your condenser coils, they won't be able to efficiently dissipate heat, and the refrigerator will have to constantly cool. If the defroster is faulty, then the evaporator coils will frost over, and the refrigerator will work harder to keep cool.
Test the door seal.The door of your refrigerator has a seal that prevents cool air from leaking out. If the seal is faulty, your refrigerator will have to constantly cool itself. Use a piece of paper to check for breaks in the seal. Close the door on the piece of paper and pull it out. There should be resistance when pulling the paper out, and if there isn't, a faulty door seal may be your problem. Repeat the test along the whole seal.
Clean the condenser coils with a vacuum or brush.This part helps dissipate heat, and if it's too dirty, the refrigerator will have to work harder to stay cool. This cleaning should be done with the appliance turned off. You should clean rear-mounted coils once a year, and floor coils twice a year.
Test the continuity of the refrigerator's various components.This will require using a multimeter on several of the refrigerator's components. These components include: the condenser fan, the overload protector, and the compressor relay and motor. A fault in any one of these components can cause the refrigerator to cycle improperly.
Test the outlet voltage.Use a multimeter to test the outlet voltage of the outlet that the refrigerator is plugged into. Do this only with the proper tools and safety measures. The voltage should test between 108 and 121 volts.
Determining Why a Refrigerator Leaks
Check the drain pan and tube.Water pooled outside the refrigerator might be caused by a dirty drain pan. Your drain pan should be cleaned about once a year. Water pooled inside the refrigerator might be caused by a clogged drain tube. Clean out a clogged drain tube by forcing a solution of water and baking soda or bleach through the tube with a basting syringe.
- The refrigerator should be turned off before attempting to clean the drain pan and tube.
Level the refrigerator.If your refrigerator is not level, things might not seal correctly, and the defrost drain might leak. The refrigerator was designed to operate correctly when level. Unplug the refrigerator, then place a level on top of the refrigerator. Check the back and front of the appliance and adjust the feet until it is level throughout.
Check the water filter.If the water filter is not fitted properly, water may leak out. After unplugging your refrigerator, remove and reinstall the water filter. Also check for cracks in the water filter head and housing. If there are damages, your filter head or housing will need to be replaced.
QuestionWhere is the thermostat located?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe thermostat is usually located on the inside of the freezer and/or fridge.Thanks!
QuestionI operate my fridge on LP gas -- the freezer cools a little but the fridge not at all. What could be the problem?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf your refrigerator has separate compressors for the freezer and refrigerator, at least one of the compressors could be the issue. It could also be the power supply not giving enough power.Thanks!
QuestionWhat might be wrong if my fridge is on, but not getting cold?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSet the thermostat to cool. If that doesn't work, replace the freon on the fridge itself. Ask a repair person for the freon replacement -- it's not for amateurs.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do if my refrigerator is turning off and on but the light stays on?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe compressor is most probably dead, or on its way out. Get it serviced as soon as possible.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do about my refrigerator making loud compressor noise every 5 minutes?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis could happen if you constantly open your refrigerator for long periods of time. Try turning down the temperature inside the fridge slightly, and not opening it as often.Thanks!
QuestionThe upper part of my two-door fridge is not working. What could be wrong?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf the upper part is the actual fridge, then the cooling system may not be active. If the upper part is the freezer, then the actual part that cools and powers the freezer may not be active. Either way, you may need it checked out.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if there is a funny smell in the freezer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSomething may be off or you just need to clean it out by taking everything out and let the freezer melt and wipe it all with a clean cloth.Thanks!
QuestionMy fridge has completely stopped working, including the internal bulb. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDiagnose what is wrong with your fridge -- first check your power supply/ circuit breaker (make sure power is getting to the fridge). If power is getting to the fridge, then the next step is to make sure that the power supply on your fridge is functional, as well as checking for blown fuses (if you have no expertise in electrical engineering/circuits, you should not mess around with this). If this is the case, call an electrician or your energy provider/fridge manufacturer.Thanks!
QuestionWhy is the floor under my refrigerator black?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis may be a sign of an insect infestation or a collection of uncleaned gunk. Get a professional to check it out.Thanks!
QuestionMy mini refrigerator's light is not working. It was working fine yesterday. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou probably just need to replace the light bulb.Thanks!
Why is my refrigerator cold on the outside and warm on the inside? It is an older model.
My fridge internal bulb is not working. How to find fridge is working or not?
My refrigerator is not working properly when plugged into the outlet, what does this mean?
What usually goes bad when a refrigerator has been in high water?
Why does my coils inside freezer frost over?
- Contact a qualified repair technician or electrician if you are uncomfortable or unsure of how to test outlets or appliance components.
- Never tip or rock a refrigerator to gain access to a part. The appliance can fall on top of you and cause serious injury.
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