When your refrigerator is not cold

Basic refrigerator check

First, check for torn and misaligned door gaskets, and make sure both doors close completely with no visible gaps between the door and the fridge body. Next, check the ice dispenser flap to make sure it closes completely. Then, vacuum or clean the condenser coil with a long brush. The condenser coil is typically located underneath the refrigerator, access is usually behind the grille under the doors. Finally, make sure there is enough clearance behind and above the fridge for the condenser fan to circulate the air.

Refrigerator or freezer is not cold: typical causes

Major systems of a typical refrigerator are: electrical, airflow and sealed refrigerant system. Most problems with any of those systems will cause the refrigerator not to maintain the correct temperature.

Electrical and airflow problems are the most common ones. Here is a list of some of the components (in no particular order), failure of which will cause a fridge not to get cold:

Defrost thermostat
Defrost heater
Electronic defrost control
Defrost timer
Temperature sensor (thermistor)
Evaporator fan motor
Condenser fan motor
Cold control
Electronic control board
Air damper
Compressor start relay
or start device Compressor

Does your refrigerator need freon (refrigerant) recharge?

If a refrigerator is not keeping correct temperature or is completely warm, it is a common assumption that it needs a freon recharge. While it can happen that the refrigerator is low on freon, most often the refigerator not keeping temperature is caused by some other problem rather than a freon leak.

When should you suspect a freon leak?

  • The fridge stopped cooling shortly after it was moved.
  • The refrigerator is older than about 13 years and it was loosing its cooling capacity slowly over a period of several weeks or months.
  • Your refrigerator is running continiously, the compressor and fans are on but is still not cold enough. There is no frost anywhere in the freezer.
  • Specific for Sub-Zero refrigerators: Refrigerator section is not cold, compressor running all the time and there is a chunk of ice on one of the back wall corners

The freon in the refrigerator is located in the compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and a system of copper and steel tubing throughout the refrigerator. This system is completely sealed and the refrigerant (freon) is never supposed to escape, and is never supposed to be replaced.

The freon can escape only when there is a hole or a crack in the evaporator or condenser coil, or in a joint section between the connecting tubing and one of the coils. Those situations require much more serious work than just “topping off” the refrigeration system: the leak must be located and repaired before the refrigeration system can be recharged with freon. In some situations the refrigeration system gets contaminated, and to fully repair the refrigerator it becomes necessary to replace the compressor. All this sounds expensive and it usually is. In fact, the sealed system repairs are typically the most elaborate and expensive in refrigeration service. The good news is that the sealed system problems are not common, and most other problems are far less expensive to repair.

How we can help

At First Choice Appliance, we are qualified to tackle the most intricate problems with your household refrigerator whether your refrigerator has an electrical, or an air flow, or a sealed system problem. We offer accurate refrigerator diagnostics and refrigerator repair.