A refrigerator that isn’t cooling properly can be frustrating and worrying. Many people fear an expensive repair involving the sealed system or compressor. However, in our experience running a used appliance store for years, we’ve found that for around 80% of these cases, the issue is much simpler to fix.

refrigerator that isn't cooling

Here are some straightforward solutions you can try with just a screwdriver and a multimeter.

How to Diagnose a Refrigerator That Isn’t Cooling: Save Food & Money

1. Inspect and Replace the Door Seal

A faulty door seal can allow warm air to enter the refrigerator, preventing it from cooling efficiently. Check the door seals for any signs of wear or damage. If the seals are loose, cracked, or torn, they need to be replaced. To replace the door seal, remove the old seal and press the new one into place, ensuring it fits snugly around the door. This will help maintain a proper seal and improve the cooling efficiency of your refrigerator.

2. Check and Clean Condenser Coils

First, unplug your refrigerator and move it away from the wall. Inspect the vent system underneath for any physical obstructions. Dirt and dust can accumulate on the coils, hindering their ability to cool the refrigerator. Use a screwdriver to remove the back plate and clean the coils thoroughly with a condenser brush and vacuum cleaner.

3. Inspect the Condenser Fan

The condenser fan, located near the compressor and condenser coils, helps circulate air to keep the system cool. If this fan stops working, it can prevent the refrigerator from cooling properly. Check for any obstructions or damage. If the fan isn’t running, it may need to be replaced.

4. Test the Compressor Relay

With the refrigerator on, touch the compressor to see if it’s running. If it isn’t, the compressor relay might be faulty. Unplug the refrigerator, remove the relay, and shake it. If you hear rattling, it’s likely bad and needs to be replaced. You can also use a multimeter to test for continuity.

5. Examine the Defroster System

If there’s excessive ice buildup inside the freezer, there might be an issue with the defroster system. Open the freezer and remove the back panel to inspect the evaporator coils. Check the defrost thermostat and defrost heater for any signs of damage. You can test these components with a multimeter for continuity and resistance.

6. Check the Evaporator Fan

The evaporator fan circulates cold air from the evaporator coils throughout the refrigerator. If it’s not working, your refrigerator won’t cool properly. Listen for the fan or visually inspect it to see if it’s running. If it isn’t, check for obstructions or test the fan with a multimeter.

3 things to keep in mind:

  • Clean your refrigerator’s condenser coils every six months to maintain efficiency.
  • Ensure that any part you replace is compatible with your specific refrigerator model.
  • If these steps don’t resolve the issue, consider consulting a professional technician.

Finding Replacement Parts

To find the correct parts for your refrigerator, locate the model number, usually found inside the refrigerator on a side wall. Use this number to search for parts online, ensuring compatibility with your unit.


By following these steps, you can diagnose and fix common issues that prevent your refrigerator from cooling. Regular maintenance and cleaning can also help extend the life of your appliance.

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