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Common Reasons Your Refrigerator is Not Cooling

A champion of your kitchen, you depend on your refrigerator to keep your food chilled and fresh. Realizing that your refrigerator is not cooling properly can be alarming, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs replacement. Below, we'll cover some of the possible reasons your fridge is not cooling, and what you can do about it.

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Top 8 Reasons for Your Refrigerator Not Cooling Enough or properly

Your refrigerator not cooling properly can be concerning, but the good news is that the cause may oftentimes be a quick and easy fix. If your fridge seems to suddenly stop cooling, some common causes — listed from easiest to hardest to fix — can include:

  1. Power source has been switched off 

  2. Thermostat isn’t set properly 

  3. Blocked vents 

  4. Dirty condenser coils 

  5. Dirty or faulty gaskets

  6. Not enough space clearance 

  7. Broken or stuck condenser fan

  8. Faulty circuit board 

Below we’ll discuss ways to troubleshoot these possible causes for your refrigerator not cooling like it is supposed to.

 

outlet plug

1. Power source switched off or unplugged

If your fridge isn’t cooling, double check that it is still plugged into the electrical outlet and that the switch that powers your kitchen appliances hasn’t been switched off at the breaker box. If you open your refrigerator and the light isn’t turning on and isn’t cooling, check the power source.

Thermometer

2. Thermostat isn’t set properly

Your refrigerator temperature should ideally be kept between 32ºF - 40ºF for optimal performance. If your fridge stops cooling, make sure that your thermostat is set within that range. Depending on the location of your refrigerator’s thermostat, it can be easy for little ones to change the settings by accident or for food items to bump into the switch. 

Vent

3. Blocked vents

Refrigerators require proper airflow in order to cool properly. If your refrigerator isn’t cooling, it may be because food items are blocking the vents of the fridge and/or freezer compartments. Overstuffing your fridge with food can cause items to block the vents and prevent the cool air from circulating properly. Organize your fridge in a way that ensures proper airflow and move any items that may be blocking the vents. Less commonly, your freezer vent may be frosted over. In this case, you’ll want to remove the ice.

 Condenser coil

4. Dirty condenser coils

Over time, your refrigerator may gather dust, dirt and other particles on the condenser coils. Generally located on the bottom or back of your fridge, these coils can become blocked by pet hair or dust. Blocked coils can make it more difficult for the heat from your refrigerator to be released, and may make the compressor work harder than it needs to. To help prevent this problem, it’s recommended you clean your coils every 2-3 months if the environment around your refrigerator is particularly greasy or dusty, or there is significant pet traffic in your home.

Refrigerator

5. Dirty or faulty gaskets

The soft, flexible seal that is found on the inside of your refrigerator door (gaskets) can become dirty or worn over time, which may prevent them from sealing your fridge properly. The gaskets help prevent cold air from escaping, keeping it within the refrigerator compartment instead. If you feel cold air escaping from your fridge, clean your gaskets and edges of your appliance with a sponge and warm, soapy water.

If after cleaning your gaskets, air continues to escape and your fridge is still not cooling, then scheduling service to have a technician diagnose whether replacing your gaskets may be necessary.

Refrigerator with arrows

6. Not enough space clearance

As refrigerators go through the cooling process, heat is released when the vapor refrigerant condenses into liquid form. Your fridge needs at least ½” of clearance on the sides and 1 inch in the back in order for it to work at optimal performance. Refer to your refrigerator’s installation instructions and check that you have the appropriate clearance space for your fridge to cool effectively. Learn the basics of organizing a refrigerator, and the best way to organize a side-by-side refrigerator.

Fan

7. Broken or stuck condenser fan

Most refrigerators come with at least one fan, usually located behind the appliance. This fan keeps the condenser coils cool and in turn helps prevent the compressor from overheating. If you notice that your fan has stopped working, then you may want to consult a professional for repair.

Circuit board

8. Faulty circuit board

The circuit board is essentially the brains of the refrigerator, controlling everything from temperature regulation to powering individual parts. If after checking for different  possible causes and troubleshooting your fridge it still isn’t cooling properly, then you may have a faulty circuit board. Replacing these can be expensive, so hiring a professional to diagnose and repair may be your safest bet.

Maytag® refrigerator dispensing ice

Why is My Refrigerator Not Working but My Freezer Is?

If your freezer is cooling but your fridge isn’t, there could be several reasons why, including: 

  • Faulty or stuck evaporator fan 

  • Damper control may be stuck or in the closed position

  • Faulty thermistor isn’t reading the temperature correctly 

  • Temperature circuit board needs replacing

While most of these can have a fairly straightforward fix and can be addressed similarly to your fridge not cooling, note that if you check these components and they’re all working properly, your circuit board may need to be replaced, and should be done so by a professional.

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Should I Unplug a Refrigerator that’s Not Cooling?

Unplugging your fridge may be recommended if there is heavy frost buildup that is blocking the vent from letting cold air move its way down into the fridge compartment. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll be needing to unplug your fridge for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the ice melts off, so you’ll have to find a place to store your food during that time.

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Shop Maytag® Refrigerators if It’s Time to Upgrade

If, after everything you realize that it’s time for a new fridge after all, Maytag brand offers a selection that is dependable and hardworking, so you can maintain a cool space for fresh food.

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