4 Common Reasons Why Refrigerators Stop Cooling

Fred's Appliance
April 28, 2014


The primary purpose of a refrigerator is to prolong the shelf-life of food by lowering the surrounding atmospheric temperature. Bacteria, viruses, mold and germs in general prefer warm and humid environments, so storing food in a cool environment discourages spoilage. When a refrigerator is no longer able to cool, though, food is left susceptible to spoilage, placing you and your family’s health at risk.

#1) Thermostat Is Turned Up

This might sound obvious, but accidentally knocking or bumping the thermostat up can reduce a refrigerator’s ability to produce cool air. The ideal temperature range for a refrigerator is between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the thermostat is set somewhere this range, and double-check it with an external thermometer to ensure it’s reading accurately.

#2) Clogged Condenser Coils

Another common reason why refrigerators no longer cool is because their condenser coils are clogged. Most modern-day refrigerators feature a set of coils at the bottom. When dust, dirt, lint and other debris build up on these coils, they may lose its ability to produce cool air.

Before you call a professional appliance repair company, however, you should first attempt to clean the condenser coils with a brush. You can purchase condenser cleaning coil brushes at your local home improvement store. Simply brush off the debris and immediately suck it up with a vacuum cleaner hose attachment.

#3) Frost Buildup on Evaporator Coils

Frost buildup on the evaporator coils may also hinder a refrigerator’s ability to produce cool air. If the unit’s self-defrost system fails, frost will gradually build up on the evaporator coils to the point where it restricts proper air flow. Self-defrosting refrigerators typically defrost several times a day, but this process will come to a halt if there’s damage to the defrosting components.

Lack of air flow over the coils drastically reduces the refrigerator’s cooling ability. The unit may still produce some cool air, but it’s minimal at best. Make sure the evaporator coils are clean and free of frost.

#4) Blocked Air Vents

Proper air flow is critical to a refrigerator’s cooling ability. If the vents on the back of the unit are blocked by food, beverages, ice or debris, the unit won’t be able to circulate cool air. Stick your hand behind the refrigerator to see if you feel cool air blowing. If there’s little-to-no airflow, the cooling problem is likely caused by a blocked vent. This is easily fixed, however, by removing the blockage.

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