The unthinkable has happened! You brought home a car full of groceries (including raw fish), only to find that your freezer doesn’t…well..freeze anything!
Here are some quick tips to prevent your haul from spoiling:
If your fridge is working, but the freezer is not, it could be due to several reasons. Check the temperature knob in the freezer to make sure it’s not set too low. It could also be due to a low level of refrigerant caused by a leak. If you can hear the fan or motor running, but it isn’t cold, it’s likely a closed or blocked vent. Check the vents with a small mirror to see if they are closed or frozen.
Table of Contents
Check the Basics
Before you begin, know that there’s a chance of getting an electrical shock, so please ensure that the power is off before doing maintenance on your refrigerator.
It Lost Power
Especially if this is a new appliance, check the outlet. It should be a 3-prong outlet. Make sure this outlet isn’t operated by a light switch.
You can test the outlet in question by plugging in another household item (like a lamp). Check to see if a circuit breaker or a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlet has tripped. GFCIs have a square button in the middle to reset them.
It is recommended that you dedicate one circuit to the refrigerator/freezer alone. Sharing a circuit can increase the chances of blowing a fuse or tripping a surge protector.
Do not use an extension cord or adapter to plug in your refrigerator.
The Freezer isn’t Working
Factories set their appliances to the middle setting, which is normal for the average household. There should be a knob to adjust temperature and a knob to adjust airflow.
If a temperature adjustment is necessary, wait for 12 to 24 hours between each adjustment to adequately observe the change (or lack thereof).
If there are many items in your fridge/freezer, it may benefit you to lower the temperature setting to the minimum. Do the same if the room tends to be very warm or ice is used often.
Ensure that the fridge and freezer doors are shutting and sealing correctly. If the opening direction of the door was changed, there’s a chance it wasn’t reattached properly.
There may also be a lack of refrigerant, which might be reducing the cooling efficiency of your refrigerator. In that case, you need to refill the refrigerant.
Especially in cases of a leak, the refrigerant can run low and make it harder for the appliance to get cold. In such cases, you first need to identify and repair the leak, which isn’t the easiest thing to do by yourself.
So, I recommend getting in touch with your fridge manufacturer and letting them send a skilled technician to diagnose and resolve the issue.
Once, I had a third-party technician refill the refrigerant, only for the fridge to go back to the same old condition within a week because he didn’t check for any leaks.
Blocked Vents – No Air Flow
There are vents between the fridge and freezer compartments. Double-check to make sure these vents aren’t blocked by groceries in either compartment. You should be able to feel cold air blowing in.
As you unload your haul of delicious snacks and beer, be sure not to dilly-dally with the fridge or freezer door open. This causes the motor to run longer and harder, which leads to condensation or frost that blocks airflow and makes it harder for everything to operate.
One night, I left the freezer door open too long as I unloaded all my groceries. The next morning the compartment was not up to temperature even though I could hear the fan and motor running.
I checked the vent inside the freezer, and couldn’t feel any air blowing in. I used a small mirror to check inside the vent and saw that a small flap was shut.
The flap moves inside the vent to help regulate the temperature in the freezer or fridge. Since I left the freezer door open too long, condensation accumulated inside and froze the flap shut.
The best thing you can do now is turn off your fridge long enough for the ice to melt. Wipe all the walls and inside vents with a paper towel to ensure everything is dry.
It may be beneficial at this point to move the fridge (with caution and any necessary assistance) in order to clean it.
Cleaning Your Appliance
It is not common for household refrigerators/freezers to desperately need the condenser coils to be cleaned. But if the environment is extra greasy or there’s a high level of pet hair, it’s recommended that the condenser coils are cleaned about every 4 months.
The condenser coils are located on the front of the fridge near the floor. The covering usually pops off easily, allowing you access to clean.
Watch a video about cleaning your fridge/freezer below.
Find the brush that is meant specifically for cleaning condenser coils here.
You can also vacuum any vents, fans, or coils on your refrigerator/freezer. After you plug it back in and turn it on, you should hear the motor and fans running.
If you don’t, or only hear one or the other, it may be time to call the manufacturer for replacement parts.
Still Having Trouble?
If you have gotten this far and your fridge/freezer still isn’t functioning properly, here are some extra things to make sure of:
The refrigerator is level and has at least 4 inches of clearance on all sides of it. If it’s uneven, you’ll need to use a shim like this to adjust the fridge horizontally. There should be adequate space inside and outside your fridge for it to vent and have air circulation.
Testing or Replacing Parts
You can also access the fan or motor in the back to see if they seem to be running (you might need a screwdriver to access those). If one or both have stopped running, no matter what you try, those parts may need to be replaced.
I highly recommend referring to the user manual for instructions on where exactly those are located. If your appliance is under warranty, the manufacturer may be able to order new parts for you or send out a repairman!
A knowledgeable repairman can test each part to determine where the malfunction is. At least you can tell them all the great tips you tried out here today!