Refrigerator not cooling? 5 things to check to fix it yourself

Is your refrigerator is not cooling ? Before you call the repairman, here are a few simple things to check first.

First, make sure your appliance is getting power. Does the light come on in your fridge when you open it?

Next, check your freezer. Is your freezer still cold? If so, make sure the vents on the back of your freezer are not blocked. Cold air is made in your freezer and circulated into your refrigerators via this vent. If the vent is blocked by packages of frozen foods, then it might by why your refrigerator is warmer than normal.

Also, if you notice your freezer’s back panel has a layer of frost, this could be a sign of a defrost issue. Frost build-up is a sign that the coils behind the back panel of your freezer are not defrosting. This could be due to a bad defrost timer, heater or defrost thermostat.

Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer inside Refrigerator next to fruit

Is your refrigerator is not cooling ? Before you call the repairman, here are a few simple things to check first.

Next, check your refrigerator condensor  coils (be sure to unplug your refrigerator first!) to make sure they are not dirty or covered in pet hair.  If it’s been a while since your cleaned your refrigerator coils (or never) and if you have pets, you could have a whole bunch of dust and pet hair covering your refrigerator’s coils preventing it from dissipating heat.

After cleaning your coils with a refrigerator coil cleaning brush, plug your fridge back in and see if it cooling. You might want to buy a refrigerator thermometer to make note of the temperature inside your fridge. The temperature inside your refrigerator should be between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (optimum 37 degrees Fahrenheit).

Check the temperature controls and settings on your refrigerator. Make sure they are set properly in case they were changed accidentally.

Check the gasket or seal around your refrigerator. If it is loose, cracked or sagging, then cold air is escaping from your fridge. Other signs that your door gasket is the problem include:

  • sweating or condensation inside your fridge
  • ice forming on the freezer walls
  • temperatures inside refrigerator is warmer than normal

To test the seal on your refrigerator, take a dollar bill and close it in the door of your refrigerator or freezer. Pull on the dollar and see if you can feel any tension or grip. Tension or grip indicates a tight seal. Do this test along different parts of the door. If the seal is not tight, then this could mean either you need a new gasket or the door needs adjustment.

If none of the above suggestions are the reason for your refrigerator not getting cold, then there could be a number of other issues going on with your appliance, including problems with the compressor, temperature control thermostat, main control board, evaporator fan or condensor fan.

For more refrigerator parts, or to find a part for your appliance, visit


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4 thoughts on “Refrigerator not cooling? 5 things to check to fix it yourself

  1. Steve Holt June 29, 2015 at 6:40 pm Reply

    Thanks for the information! My refrigerator hasn’t been keeping my food very cold, even though the freezer seems to be working just fine. Now I can see what the problem could be after reading this article. There’s a layer of frost on the back panel of my freezer, so it seems like my fridge has a defrost issue. Since that’s a sign of a problem with the coils in the back panel of my freezer, should I replace my defrost timer, heater, or defrost thermostat? If it’s not something that needs to be replaced, then it would help to know how to repair it.

    • everyappliancepart June 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm Reply

      Hi Steve,

      Sometimes a visual inspection of these refrigerator parts is all you need. You can see a defect in the part (broken wire, etc.). However, a mulitmeter is a good tool to have on hand for any appliance repair. Use Google or YouTube to see how to test each specific part. Good luck.

  2. John Anderson October 14, 2015 at 12:23 am Reply

    I didn’t think that a blocked vent in the back of a refrigerator would keep it from working properly. That would be one of the last things I would have thought of to check. I’ll have to make sure to go over these tips before calling a repair man next time.

  3. Stephie Smith October 19, 2015 at 10:36 am Reply

    I noticed ice was forming on the freezer walls a few days ago, so I’ll be sure to check the gasket. I’m not really experienced in appliance repair, but if I could learn a few things it would save me some money! I’ll have to tackle this over the weekend, thank you for sharing.

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