Refrigerator Runs But Won't Get Cold

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If your refrigerator is running normally but is not cold, there are several possible problems.
If your refrigerator is running normally but is not cold, there are several possible problems.

Troubleshooting a refrigerator can be tricky business. These appliances sometimes stop cooling for various reasons. The compressor is the most serious of these problems because of the expense of replacing the part. But it is also one of the easiest cooling problems to diagnose, because you can hear the compressor running, and when it doesn't come on anymore, it is like a big flashing sign pointing to the compressor as the culprit. But if your refrigerator sounds like it's running normally, but doesn't cool very well, then there are several other possibilities.

  1. Defrost

    • If the cooling in your refrigerator is poor or nonexistent, start by checking in the freezer. The cooling coils in the freezer are the source of the cold air for the entire appliance. If you see that frost is coating the coils and the surrounding area, then you've found the problem. It may seem unlikely at first that ice and excessive frost in your freezer would make the refrigerator warmer, but it will. The airflow that carries the cool air to the rest of the unit is restricted, and the frost may be so thick that it interferes with the normal function of the fans. This is generally a sign that the self-defrost system has a problem or that there are damaged or dirty door gaskets letting too much moisture inside the freezer.

    Evaporator Fan

    • If the fans that circulate the air throughout the refrigerator are not working properly, it can negatively affect cooling. Evaporator fans move air over the cooling coils and force air through the dampers that ultimately cools the fresh-food compartment. If the fan motors are bad or frost buildup has blocked their ability to spin freely, it could be the reason why your refrigerator isn't cooling.

    Condenser

    • The condenser coil is the part of the refrigerator that allows the refrigerant to cool and transfers the heat out into the air under or behind the refrigerator. There is also a fan underneath the refrigerator that typically blows on the condenser coil. If the condenser fan isn't working, or if the coils are very dirty, these issues can affect the cooling ability of the refrigerator. Use a vacuum or a coil brush to clean the coils occasionally, and make sure the fan is working to ensure proper functioning of the appliance.

    Thermostat Adjustment

    • Sometimes the issue is a simple wring adjustment to the controls. Refrigerators have a dial that allows the user to set the temperature to a desired level. There is usually a recommended mark on the thermostat dial that works well, but some people may prefer the food to be kept a little colder or a little warmer. If the dial is turned up too far, it can seem like the refrigerator isn't cooling properly. Simply adjust the thermostat to a lower setting, and it should cool off.

    Refrigerant

    • When a refrigerator gets low on refrigerant, it can affect the cooling capacity. Refrigerators do not use up refrigerant as they operate, so a low level means there is a leak. Have a technician find the leak and repair it before recharging. Once the refrigerant recharge is complete it will begin cooling normally again.

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  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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