Refrigerator Not Cooling Repair Guide

Is your Refrigerator not cooling? This Refrigerator repair guide will walk you through the procedure of repairing your refrigerator. This section focuses on repairing the fresh food section. This is the same procedure I go through every time I check a refrigerator. So with a little help from this refrigerator repair guide your refrigerator will up and running in no time. Below is a list of problems that can cause this problem. Read through each one carefully until you find the problem and repair your refrigerator.

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It’s easy! Just find the model number of the appliance you are working on. Next, type it in to the model number box and it will take you to an illustrated parts diagram for your appliance. Then just simply choose the part you need from the diagram. If you need help finding your model number click here

Fan Motors

Fans not running can cause the fresh food section not to work. Walk up to the refrigerator and listen to see if the fans are running. (Note that there are two fans on most refrigerators, one on the outside and one in the freezer and both must be running). If one is not running you need to replace it (note that if the fan inside the freezer is bad, there may be ice build up at the top of the coils, if so, melt it. Also, check for something blocking the fan blades. If both fans are not running, check to see if the compressor is running, if not click here refrigerator not cooling Refrigerator fan motors can be found at fans are running, you must now remove the cover to the evaporator (back of freezer in most refrigerators or some in the bottom of freezer). Now that it’s off, you should see if there is ice-blocking airflow. If the ice is covering all the coils, then its likely a defrost problem.

Defrost Problem

I have dedicated this page just for diagnosing refrigerator defrosts problems that have more detail information than the information below.

Refrigerator Defrost Problem Diagnostics

To see if your refrigerator has a defrost problem remove the back wall of the freezer and if the freezer coils are wrapped up with frost you have a defrost problem.

Below is a picture of what the coils will look like if there is a defrost problem. Notice how the entire coil is wrapped up with frost. Also note that your refrigerator may look different depending on the model but if frost is covering the coils like this there is a defrost problem.

Defrost problems can cause the fresh food section not to work. You need to find out why it’s not defrosting. There are three things that cause a defrost problem: defrost heater, defrost thermostat and defrost control.

If you have an older refrigerator, it probably has a mechanical defrost control. Find it and turn it clockwise until the refrigerator cuts off. (Note that the defrost control is normally located either in the refrigerator near the cold control or at bottom behind the kick plate). If your refrigerator is newer it will have an electronic defrost control and you won’t be able to turn to defrost so just continue without doing so. Now that it’s in defrost, wait a few minutes. If the defrost heater gets hot, replace defrost control. If it doesn’t get hot, then the problem is either the heater or the thermostat.

At this point, you need to melt the ice. The best way to melt the ice is to use either a hair dryer or by using hot water (this will be faster but will make a mess).

Once the ice is gone, you can check the heater by unplugging wires and using an ohmmeter to check for continuity. If you have continuity, the heater is good and you should replace thermostat. If you don’t replace the heater, at this point you won't be able to check the thermostat but if the heater is good replace it. Defrost parts can be found at

If your GE refrigerator is not cooling click here For more on these 2002 or newer GE refrigerators click here.

Defrost Thermostat

A sure way to tell if the defrost-thermostat is bad is to visually inspect it. Above is a picture of two defrost-thermostats. Notice how the one on the right is coming apart where the arrow is pointing. This is a sure way to tell that the thermostat bad. If you see a defrost thermostat like this, there is no need for testing replace it. Note that if it doesn’t look bad it doesn’t necessary mean it isn’t bad you still have to check it as described above.

Top-freezer Leaking/Refrigerator Not Cooling

If you top-freezer refrigerator is not cooling it could be because the drain is clogged. On a top-freezer when the drain stops up water will back up turning to ice and eventually filling the air ducks with ice blocking airflow to the fresh food section causing it not to cool. You will also see a water leak inside the fresh food section. To fix this, remove the evaporator cover, (back or bottom of freezer) and then remove all the ice. Once all the ice is removed, you need to unclog the drain. I do this by forcing hot water down the drain with a turkey baser but you can use any squirt bottle, I have even used the water hose. Once the drain is clear, mix water and baking soda and pour it down the drain to prevent this from happening again anytime soon.

This page talks about clogged drain issues.

Clogged Drain Causes Leaking Refrigerator

Ice Blocking Part Of Coils

If your refrigerator is not cooling there could be ice blocking part of the evaporator coils this section talks about this issue.

Ice blocking part of the coils can cause the fresh food section not to work. If the ice only blocks part of the coils, there are three main causes for this: the icemaker is leaking, door not sealing (door left opened at some point) and sealed system problem (bad compressor or low on gas). To determine which one, look under the tube that sends water to the icemaker. If there is ice directly under the tube, look in the tube and see if it is filled with ice. If so, get all the ice out and replace icemaker water valve because it’s the most likely cause. If the ice is around the coils ( not in or on ) then this may have been caused by the door not sealing Take a look at these two pages.

Ice Building In Freezer
Refrigerator Door Repair

If the ice is not directly under the tube or around the coils, then it’s likely the sealed system problem and you will have to call a repairman. (Note sealed system problems are very costly so you might want to consider a new refrigerator). See picture below.

Other Problems

This section talks about other problems that can be causing your refrigerator not cooling issue.

Another problem that can cause the fresh food section not to work is dirty condenser coils; clean them (they will either be under the refrigerator or behind it). If you have a newer refrigerator, there might be one more problem. There may be a damper between the refrigerator and freezer. If so, it may be stuck closed. On GE refrigerators when the door is left open for more than 3 minutes, the damper will close. One thing to check is the fresh food door will sometimes be lower than the freezer door causing it not to depress the door switch. In this case, the damper will close in 3 minutes. The door switch may be bad but I very seldom see that. If this is not the case replace the damper. for more on GE refrigerators not cooling click here If you still haven’t found the problem it’s most likely in the sealed system. As I stated before, you will have to call a repairman. Seal system problems are very costly and you might want to consider buying a new Refrigerator.

Here is an example of what the freezer coils on a refrigerator will look like if you have a refrigeration problem. Notice how the frost only comes to part of the coils this is the indication that there is a refrigeration problem. It could be low on gas; it could have a clogged capillary tube or bad compressor. These problems are not do-it-yourself repairs call a professional if the coils on your refrigerator look like this.

Refrigeration problem

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