How To Fix Common Refrigerator Problems

There is one particular appliance in our house from which many of us seek comfort multiple times a day. Whether it is for a quick afternoon bite, a midnight snack, or just a random case of the munchies, we often turn to our refrigerators to serve as a therapist and restaurant combined. 

But, all joking aside, the refrigerator really is one of the most crucial appliances in our homes. If it fails, we are oftentimes at a loss as to what we should do in light of all the food that may potentially go to waste and all the frozen food which will melt, causing us a great deal of stress and putting a sizable dent in our wallets. 

The fridge is something we take for granted, and only when it fails do we realize how vital it is. To provide assistance in what is undoubtedly a stressful time, here are some common refrigerator problems and how to solve them.

repair man fixing common refrigerator problems

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Refrigerator Troubleshooting

Whether the problem is your appliance not being cold enough, being too cold, leaking water, not dispensing water, not making ice, having ice form in the wrong places, or making too much noise, we have detailed many solutions for you below.

If the fix involves a simple thaw, a housing adjustment, a cleaning, the removal of an obstruction, or a replacement of an easily accessible component, then feel free to go ahead and do it yourself if you feel comfortable doing so. But a more complicated component replacement like the main control board, temperature control board, or compressor may require the help of a professional. In the case of a compressor replacement, a professional should definitely be hired.

fridge repair using a multimeter

A number of the solutions mentioned below require a multimeter to test if a particular component has continuity. If you don’t have a multimeter, a simple, reliable one can be picked up for very reasonable prices from your local hardware or electronics store or online.

Safety First

First things first, stay safe when you are attempting to find a solution for your refrigerator problem! A fridge, like any other electrical appliance, bears the risk of shock or electrocution if handled improperly.

Generally, before you implement the steps below, it may be a good idea to unplug the refrigerator before you attempt to fix it, especially if the solution has to do with its inner workings. In such a case (or if the problem is more severe than you anticipated or beyond the bounds of your technical expertise), you might need to call a refrigerator repair company.

A professional repair service will be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions.

Fridge Not Cooling

fridge thermostat

One of the most common and basic problems you may encounter with your fridge (but also one that causes a great deal of stress and loss of money in terms of the wasted or spoiled food that you have to replace) is when the fridge simply isn’t cooling. 

Obviously, if the fridge is not cooling properly, then none of the food items are being properly preserved, and they will quickly go bad if the problem is not fixed as soon as possible. Luckily, there are a number of common reasons for this problem with relatively easy and workable solutions. You can thus save yourself time and money by diagnosing and fixing the problem yourself. 

Check the Power Outlet

First of all, make sure that the fridge has been properly plugged into the wall outlet and is getting power. The fridge light should turn on whenever you open the fridge door. If the fridge light does not come on but the fridge is plugged in, you may have a problem with the outlet. 

Try unplugging the fridge briefly and testing another electrical device that you know is functioning in the same outlet to see if that outlet is, in fact, getting power. If the outlet itself is not working, plug your fridge into another outlet that you know is functioning. If the light comes on, you may have solved your fridge non-cooling problem just like that. 

Unfortunately, fixing the problem of a fridge that isn’t cooling usually isn’t as simple as that. If it is the case that the fridge light does turn on when you open the refrigerator door, that indicates that the fridge is, in fact, getting power and that the reason lies elsewhere. If this is the case, there are a few other things you can check:

Check the Thermostat Settings

Take a look at the thermostat for the fridge and make sure that the temperature has been set correctly. It may not cool if someone has set the temperature for the fridge to be too warm by mistake. 

If the thermostat is set to cool at the proper temperature but the fridge still is not cooling properly, then rotate the thermostat control from as low a setting as possible to as high a setting as possible. The thermostat control should make a clicking sound. If you hear this clicking sound, then the thermostat itself is most likely functioning properly, and your problem lies elsewhere. 

If the thermostat does not click, you will need to use a multimeter in order to test for continuity in the thermostat. The thermostat for your fridge will need to be replaced if it does not possess continuity no matter what the setting is.

A defective thermostat will prevent the compressor, the evaporator fan motor, and the condenser fan motor which constitute the refrigerant system from receiving voltage and from running properly. Thus, if the thermostat lacks continuity, it is not functioning and will need to be replaced in order to get your fridge cooling properly again. 

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Dirty Condenser Coils

A refrigerator’s condenser coils are located underneath the appliance, and they serve to dissipate the heat as the refrigerant goes through. Dirty condenser coils will not dissipate heat as effectively. A buildup of debris on these condenser coils makes the fridge less and less efficient, which forces the fridge to try harder and expend more energy in order to cool down.

Condenser coils which are extremely dirty will prevent the fridge from maintaining a proper temperature. Thus, you should see if the condenser coils are dirty, and if they are, you should clean them. Remember to exercise safety precautions when cleaning them in order to prevent shock. 

Condenser Fan Motor

The condenser fan motor of a refrigerator serves to pull air through the condenser coils of the fridge and over the compressor. A defective condenser fan motor will hinder a fridge’s cooling ability. 

In order to check whether or not the condenser fan motor is faulty, inspect the blade of the fan for any obstructions. After this, turn the blade of the fan motor by hand. If the blade of the fan motor fails to spin freely, the condenser fan motor will need to be replaced. 

However, if there are no obstructions and the blade of the fan motor spins freely when you turn it by hand, you will need to use a multimeter to check for continuity in the condenser fan motor. If no continuity is present, then the condenser fan motor needs to be replaced. 

Evaporator Fan Motor

Another thing to check for is the evaporator fan motor, which draws air over the cooling (evaporator) coils and then circulates that cooler air throughout the compartments of the fridge and the freezer. Certain models of fridges may have two or more evaporator fan motors. 

If a fridge has just one evaporator fan motor, then it will be located in the freezer section. If the evaporator fan motor is not functioning properly, the cold air will not be circulated to the fridge section of the appliance. In such a case, the freezer may still be suitably cold, but the fridge may not be cool. 

To check whether or not your evaporator fan motor is working properly, turn the fan blade with your hand. If it fails to spin freely, it will need to be replaced. An unusually noisy evaporator fan motor should also be replaced. If the motor fails to function at all, check for continuity using a multimeter, and if continuity is not present, then the evaporator fan motor also needs to be replaced.

Freezer Not Cold Enough

freezer thermostat

Door Gaskets and Seal

If the freezer temperature is too warm, your ice cream is soft, and you can see a buildup of a lot of frost within the whole freezer compartment, it may be due to moist, warm air that is leaking in through the door gaskets of your appliance. Inspect the door gaskets for cracks, tears, or other damage that may cause leaks; damaged gaskets will need to be replaced. 

If the entire fridge or freezer door is sagging on the hinges and generating a gap between the gasket and its cabinet, the door hinges will require adjustment to retain a proper seal. Replace the hinges if they cannot be adjusted. 

Defrost System

If the buildup of frost is confined to the back wall of the freezer compartment, then it may be due to a failure of the automatic defrost system.

Check out the following video for detailed instructions regarding troubleshooting the automatic defrost system: 

Depending on the results of your troubleshooting, the defrost heater, defrost sensor, or another component may need to be replaced.

Evaporator Fan Motor

If the evaporator fan motor is not working, it will prevent the freezer from getting cold enough. Reference the section above on the Evaporator Fan Motor under the Fridge Not Cooling section for the solution.

Condenser Fan Motor

If the condenser fan motor is not working, it will also prevent the freezer from getting cold enough. Reference the section above on the Condenser Fan Motor under the Fridge Not Cooling section to solve this problem. 

Dirty Condenser Coils

Condenser coils which are too dirty can also cause your freezer to be not cold enough. Reference the section above on Dirty Condenser Coils under the Fridge Not Cooling section for the solution.

Thermistor

The thermistor reads the temperature of the air and directs that reading to the control board, which serves to regulate power for the evaporator fan and the compressor based on the readings given by the thermistor.

A defective thermistor will thus hinder the appliance from cooling properly. Use a multimeter to test it; the resistance should rise or fall in conjunction with the temperature of the fridge, and it should have continuity. If it lacks continuity or the resistance doesn’t change, the thermistor should be replaced.

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Fridge Too Cold

How To Fix Common Refrigerator Problems

Thermostat

An improperly functioning thermostat can result in the refrigerant system running much longer than necessary, making the fridge too cold. To check the thermostat, rotate the thermostat control from as low a setting as possible to as high a setting as possible. 

The thermostat control should make a clicking sound. If you hear this clicking sound, then the thermostat itself is most likely functioning properly. If the thermostat does not click, test for continuity in the thermostat with a multimeter. The thermostat for your fridge will need to be replaced if it lacks continuity at every setting.

Thermistor

A faulty thermistor can cause the fridge to become too cold. Refer to the Thermistor section above under Freezer Not Cold Enough for the solution to this problem.

Damper

The damper will open and close in order to let the appropriate level of cold air into the fridge compartment. A damper that is stuck open will allow too much of that cold air into the fridge and will make the temperature too cold. See if the damper is stuck open or broken, and replace it if needed.

Control Boards

The main control board and the temperature control board could also be faulty, causing inaccurate signals or voltage to be sent to the rest of the appliance components. However, a faulty main control board or a faulty temperature control board is usually not the case, so test the components which are usually defective first. If none of those are defective, then you may want to consider replacing one of these control boards.

Water Leaking On The Floor

How To Fix Common Refrigerator Problems

If your refrigerator is leaking water, it may be due to one of the following:

Frozen or Clogged Defrost Drain

A frozen or clogged defrost drain will cause water to overflow out of the trough and drip into the compartment bottom, and that water may then leak on the floor. See if the defrost drain is clogged or frozen. If this is the case, let the ice thaw and flush it with warm water to clear away debris.

Water Inlet Valve

Make sure that the water inlet valve, which supplies water to the ice maker and the fridge dispenser, is not cracked and does not have a loose fitting, which can cause water to leak out of the valve. If the water inlet valve is cracked, replace it. If it is fitted too loosely, secure it tightly to the supply line for water.

Water Filter

If the head of the water filter is cracked or the seal is missing or torn, it can cause water to leak out. Check the water filter housing to see if there are any cracks or tears. If so, the housing needs to be replaced.

Furthermore, the water filter itself may not be fitted to the filter housing properly. If the fit is not proper or secure, this will cause water to leak out of the filter. Fix this problem by removing and reinstalling the water filter to make sure that the filter is fitted properly onto the housing.

Drain Pan

A refrigerator that defrosts itself will possess a drain pan, which normally does not need to be emptied due to the fact that the water collected within is normally evaporated by the condenser. But if the drain pan is cracked, it will leak water onto the floor before it has a chance to evaporate. If the drain pan is cracked, it will need to be replaced.

Water Tank

The water tank assembly should be checked for leaks, even ones that are tiny and difficult to find. If the water tank assembly has a leak, replace it. Don’t try to fix it with glue; it won’t work.

Water Dispenser Not Working

water dispenser on fridge not working

Frozen Water Tube

A frozen water supply tube will prevent water from flowing into the water dispenser. To check if it is frozen, disconnect the supply tube at the door’s bottom and try blowing air through the tube. If the air doesn’t flow through, the tube is frozen and needs to be thawed out. Also, keep the freezer at the proper temperature, between 0 and 10 degrees F. A freezer that is too cold may cause the water supply tube to freeze.

House Water Pressure Too Low

Make sure the water pressure supplied to the water inlet valve is 20 psi or more. If not, it will not function properly, and your home’s water pressure is insufficient.

Water Inlet Valve

If the water inlet valve is faulty or the water pressure is below 20 psi, the water inlet valve won’t open. If the pressure is 20 psi or more, test the continuity of the water inlet valve with a multimeter, and if it lacks continuity, the water inlet valve needs to be replaced.

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Ice Maker Not Working

ice maker not working

Freezer Temperature Is Too High

In order for the ice maker to function efficiently, the freezer needs to be between 0 degrees and 5 degrees F. A temperature of 10 degrees F or more will severely hinder the ice maker’s function. If the freezer is too warm, check the solutions above for the freezer not being cold enough. 

Water Inlet Valve

Check that the water inlet valve has a water pressure of at least 20 psi. If it does, then check for continuity in the valve with a multimeter. If the pressure is good and the valve has power but the ice maker is not being filled with water to produce ice, then the water inlet valve likely needs to be replaced. 

Water Filter

If the water filter is clogged, this will hinder the flow of water needed to make ice. Replace the water filter every six months or so to keep the water flowing properly. 

Ice Maker Assembly

If one of the ice maker components is faulty, you may need to replace the whole ice maker assembly, since the components are usually not sold separately. So before you replace the assembly, check that the problem is not the water line, fan, and water inlet valve. If those are fine, the ice maker assembly may need to be replaced. 

Ice Forming in the Freezer

freezer has ice in it

Door Seal

Ice which forms in your freezer is most commonly due to a bad seal on your door, so follow the above Door Gaskets and Seal section under Freezer Not Cold Enough for the solution.

Fridge Too Close to the Wall

The fridge may be too close to the wall for air to circulate and dissipate properly. Simply move the fridge a bit farther from the wall to allow it more room.

Clogged Vents

The vents on the back and the bottom of the fridge may be dirty or clogged, causing improper air flow. If they are dirty or clogged, clean them to restore proper air flow.

Clogged Freezer Drain

If the buildup of ice is exclusive to the freezer, it may be that the freezer drain is clogged. In order to unclog it, you will need to unplug the fridge, remove the freezer covers, and pour hot water into the drain until you can see that the water is dripping down into the drain pan underneath the fridge.

Ice Forming In The Fridge

ice forming in fridge

Almost all the solutions for ice forming in the freezer also apply to ice forming in the fridge:

Door Seal

Ice which forms in your freezer is most commonly due to a bad seal on your door, so follow the above Door Gaskets and Seal section under Freezer Not Cold Enough for the solution.

Fridge Too Close to the Wall

Move the fridge a bit farther from the wall to allow more room for air to circulate and dissipate.

Clogged Vents

Clean any dirty or clogged vents to restore proper air flow.

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Fridge Too Noisy

How To Fix Common Refrigerator Problems

If your fridge is being unusually loud or noisy, here are some things you can check for and fix.

Fan Blade

If the fridge makes an excessive amount of noise, particularly when you open one of its doors, then the fan blade of either the evaporator or the condenser may be to blame.

Test out the fan blade of the evaporator first in the back panel of the freezer by turning it with your hand. If it fails to turn freely, see if there are any obstructions blocking or caught in the blade or if it rubs against something as it turns. If the evaporator fan blade seems fine, check the condenser fan blade for obstructions or rubbing as well.

If either the evaporator or the condenser fan blade is defective (does not turn freely or has an obstruction that cannot be cleared), it will need to be replaced if you want to make your fridge less noisy.

Evaporator Fan Motor

The problem may lie with the evaporator fan motor itself, which will oftentimes create a lot of noise if it is failing, noise that will become significantly louder when you open the fridge door. If the evaporator fan motor itself is causing the excessive noise, it will need to be replaced.

Condenser Fan Motor

The condenser fan motor might also be the source of the noise. If you have checked the fan blade already and it is not the problem, then the bearings for the condenser fan motor might be the problem instead. Replace the condenser fan motor if necessary.

Water Inlet Valve

If the fridge generates excessive noise when the ice maker fills, then the problem may be the water inlet valve, which supplies water to the ice maker and the fridge dispenser. Mineral deposits may build up in the valve and hinder water flow. If this is the case, the water inlet valve needs to be replaced. Replace it; do not try to repair it. Taking it apart may cause it to fail.

Compressor

Check to see if the noise comes from the compressor. If this is the case, the compressor might have internal damage, as the components may wear out after a period of time and become noisier than usual. Keep in mind that a compressor after it becomes noisy may still last for years, but that it will fail eventually. Contact a licensed repairman to replace the compressor.

The Wrap Up

If the solution is simple enough, don’t hesitate to try and fix it yourself, but make sure that you take the proper safety precautions. Remember that if the solution requires a multimeter, you can pick one up from your local hardware store or online here.

If the problem requires replacing a component like the compressor, you will need to hire a professional to do the job. You may want to hire a professional for replacements to the main control board as well. But if the solution is a simple defrost, cleaning, obstruction, or replacement, then fixing that with the above steps will save you a great deal of time and money.

If you still can’t fix the problem, then contacting an appliance repair technician may be your best move. To have a local tech contact you for a free quote, fill out the form below:

About The Author

Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. He likes to spend his spare time with his family, and doing DIY projects in the home and garden.

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