What To Check If Your Refrigerator Is Not Cooling Properly


You just pulled out a carton of milk or a can of beer from the refrigerator and it’s barely cool. For most people, the first response is searching “refrigerator repair near me” and calling the professionals. However, sometimes the problem may not be big enough to call a repairman and if you can figure out the problem then you may save yourself from getting ripped off when the repairman comes. Let’s figure out what to check if your refrigerator isn’t cooling properly:

The Details

1. Check if the fridge is drawing power properly – The solution here seems too simple. However, it’s important to go through this step to save you a lot of hassle. Other things that you need to check are more complicated and if this problem is simple enough that can be fixed with a power cord check, you can save yourself a lot of time. Check the power cord and the socket. Check if it’s properly plugged in and isn’t loose. Your fridge may have worked with a loose power plug for a long time. 

However, when that happens your flipped breaker may kick in at any moment and this might have been that moment. Open the door and check if the lights turn on. If they aren’t turning on plug in the cord properly and if it still doesn’t work check the flipped breaker and switch it on. If the fridge lights turn on, then the problem was something else. 

2. Check the thermostat – When you buy a fridge the default thermostat setting is usually medium where the temperature is maintained within the limit of 35 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit to protect perishable foods. However, the thermostat dial can be accidentally bumped up by a food packet or carton of milk. If you have a modern fridge with an external digital thermometer, the curious hands of children in your home may have changed the setting. Check the thermostat and change it back to the default setting to reset the temperature. If you have an old fridge, the thermostat may not be working properly. To test things out, you can buy a refrigerator thermostat. 

3. Test the door seals – While this problem usually occurs in old refrigerators, it’s best to check for the problem in your new model as well. Check the door gaskets or magnetic seals on the door perimeter of your refrigerator. When these seals don’t work properly, they allow cool air to leak outside and bring down the efficiency and cooling performance of the fridge. Put a dollar bill halfway through the door border and close the door. Try to pull the dollar out. If you feel little to no resistance, then your fridge isn’t able to make a tight seal. In such cases changing the door gaskets can fix the problems. Moreover, it’s an inexpensive repair that shouldn’t cost you more than double digits. You can even check out the model and make of your refrigerator and buy the gaskets yourself for a bit of DIY fix.    

4. Check the leveling – The refrigerator doesn’t create a tight seal when the gaskets are damaged or worn out. The same can happen when the refrigerator isn’t level. As an early sign, you can see high utility bills driven by the inefficient refrigerator and it should also fail the dollar bill test mentioned above. When the fridge isn’t level, the heavy door may slide on its hinge more than usual and hence wouldn’t maintain a proper seal. To check that, you can use a carpenter’s level. Look at the bubble and see if it settles at any position other than the center of the glass tube. Adjust the legs till you can bring the bubble to the center. If you don’t have a refrigerator with adjustable legs, you can use tiles or wooden chucks.  

5. Clean condenser coils – Condenser coils carry the refrigerant liquid to enable cooling. However, they are usually exposed in older models and without proper cleaning and maintenance, they can accumulate dust and pet hair. This reduces the cooling capability of the fridge. You can fix that by cleaning the coils with a coil condenser brush. It usually costs around $10 and allows you to clean caked dust crusts easily with a few swipes. After you’re done losing the dust, you can vacuum it up. Make sure to clean the coils at least twice a year to get the most out of your fridge and keep the utility bill to normal levels. 

6. Check the air vents – The refrigerator uses vents to push and pull cold air and circulate it among the items in your fridge. When this flow of air is blocked, it can result in poor cooling and inconsistent drops or spikes in temperature. The first thing you need to do is locate the vents. Some manufacturers have the vents on their models along the side wall while some have them at the back. Check the manual if they are in a stealthy location. After you’ve located the vents, move the items that may be cramming those openings. 

While you should keep your refrigerator filled up for efficient cooling, you shouldn’t overstuff it which hinders the circulation of cool air. If vents are located mostly at the top and you have packed the shelves with too many items, there may not be enough gaps to reach the lower shelves. You should also make sure that there is no frost buildup in the freezer. The hardened ice can prevent airflow from the freezer to the refrigerator compartment and back. If there’s a lot of frost buildup, clean out your freezer, unplug, defrost and let the water drain. 


Now that you know about the things you should check out when your refrigerator isn’t cooling properly, you may be able to apply a quick fix to a mundane problem or figure out the root cause and get charged appropriately for the repair. If everything fails, you can search for “refrigerator repair near me” and call the professionals.