French door refrigerator in kitchen with blue cabinets

Refrigerator troubleshooting: how to fix a fridge

A functioning refrigerator is an essential for feeding your family and getting everyone through the day. When something goes wrong, it can feel like an emergency. But the solution may be simple and even something you can do yourself. Use this guide to help you pinpoint the problem and try a few refrigerator troubleshooting steps to repair it. If you find these solutions aren’t addressing the issue, then you’ll know you need a professional. Read on to learn how to diagnose and fix common refrigerator problems.

What are the basics of refrigerator troubleshooting and repair?

Before you start tinkering or taking things apart, consult your owner’s manual. Most manuals will have troubleshooting steps right in them so you can get model-specific instructions. Many refrigerator issues will have simple fixes or at least a simple way to diagnose the problem. Some problems will require professional help, but you won’t know until you try a few things first, so run through these DIY fixes before scheduling a service call.

Common refrigerator problems and solutions

Select the issue you’re having to get refrigerator troubleshooting steps:

Poor ice production or quality

If your icemaker isn’t making as much ice as you expect or the ice is too small or hollow, the solution may be simple. If you’ve just installed your refrigerator, keep in mind it will take 24 hours for ice production to begin and 72 hours for full ice production. If you’ve recently removed a large amount of ice, it can take around 24 hours to fully replenish. Before beginning to troubleshoot, check that the icemaker wasn’t turned off accidentally.

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Check the water line

Your icemaker could not be getting enough water. Make sure it’s connected to a water supply by checking the water line connection in the back of the fridge. If it’s securely connected, run down the line to check for kinks.

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Open the water valve fully

Locate the water shutoff valve: it’s usually in the wall behind the fridge (sometimes hidden in a panel), under the sink or in the cabinet next to the refrigerator. Make sure the valve is fully open by turning it counter clockwise.

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Remove the water filter

Remove the water filter and wait a few hours up to a full day. If ice volume improves, then the filter may be clogged or incorrectly installed. Replace the filter or reinstall it correctly. Learn more about how to check the water filter

If you’re still having issues, find more icemaker troubleshooting tips and videos on Whirlpool Product Help.

The refrigerator is not cooling

Before taking any action, consider if the power has recently gone out or a large amount of food has been added. If so, it can take several hours for the temperature to return to normal. Similarly, if the refrigerator has just been installed, it can take 24 hours to completely cool.

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Ensure the settings are right

Some refrigerators have a cooling setting that needs to be turned on for the refrigerator to get cold. Check if it’s been turned off accidentally. If you’ve just installed the refrigerator, check if it’s still in Showroom or Demo mode; consult the Use and Care Guide to learn how these settings turn on and off. If none of those things are true, turn the temperature setting colder and wait 24 hours for the temperature to adjust.

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Check for blocked air vents

In order to ensure proper temperature, you need to allow room for adequate airflow between the freezer and refrigerator compartments. Cool air enters and exits the refrigerator compartment from the freezer through vents located in both the refrigerator and freezer. Make sure there are no food items blocking these vents. See where your vents might be located.

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Clean the condenser coils

There is typically no need for routine condenser cleaning in a normal home environment. However, if the environment is particularly greasy or dusty, or there is significant pet traffic in the home, the condenser should be cleaned every 2 to 3 months to ensure proper cooling. Watch a video on how to clean the condenser coils

Find more solutions if your refrigerator is not cooling on Whirlpool Product Help.

The refrigerator motor seems to run too much

If your refrigerator is new, it may have a high-efficiency compressor that optimizes energy and better regulates temperatures to match cooling demand. You may notice that it operates differently than your previously owned refrigerator. It is usual for the high-efficiency compressor to run for extended periods at varying speeds to consume only the energy necessary for optimum efficiency.

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Check the refrigerator’s installation

Most refrigerators are designed to be used in a location where the temperature ranges from a minimum of 55°F (13°C) to a maximum of 110°F (43°C). They should not be installed near a heat source like an oven or radiator. A location that is too hot or too cold could cause the refrigerator motor to work too hard. Also, make sure there’s enough room around the refrigerator for proper ventilation, according to your owner’s manual.

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Keep the doors closed as much as possible

Opening doors too much or leaving them open for long periods of time will cause the temperatures inside to rise, making the motor work overtime to drop the temperature down again. Pay attention to how often the doors are open. Also, check the door seal to ensure it makes full contact with the refrigerator. If not, try wiping it down to remove any debris or obstructions.

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Set the controls correctly

Temperature controls are typically preset at the factory to the "mid setting," which should be correct for regular household use. The controls are set correctly when beverages are as cold as you would like. Setting the controls too low can cause the refrigerator to run longer than it needs to. Learn more about how to get the correct temperature settings.

Still have questions? Get more refrigerator motor troubleshooting tips on Whirlpool Product Help.

The water dispenser is not working properly

Whether your water dispenser is leaking, dispensing too slowly or dispensing cloudy water, the solutions will most likely be similar. Follow these troubleshooting steps to get to the bottom of most water dispenser problems.

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Check the water filter

A clogged or incorrectly installed water filter will reduce the water flow to the dispenser and slow down dispensing. Check for a problem with the filter by doing the following:

  1. Dispense water and note the amount of water flow.

  2. Remove the filter. The filter is located either in the base grille below the refrigerator compartment door or inside the refrigerator compartment.

  3. Dispense water with the filter removed. If the water flow noticeably increases, the filter is either clogged or incorrectly installed. A clogged filter will need to be replaced in order to correct the low flow. Learn how to replace the filter.

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Flush the water system

Flushing the system is needed every time the filter is changed or once the refrigerator is installed to the water supply line for the first time. The air in the water system may cause dripping at the dispenser that is considered a leak or for the water to dispense slowly. Get step-by-step instructions on how to flush the water system.

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Check the water pressure

Your water pressure should be between 30 and 120 psi. If it’s lower than that, a problem with the water supply connection or a clogged filter could be the culprit. A reverse osmosis system can contribute to low water pressure as well. Learn more about low water pressure and how to correct it.

Learn more about water dispensing problems on Whirlpool Product Help.

The refrigerator seems loud and noisy

Refrigerators and freezers make a variety of normal operating sounds, but you may not have heard them all before. These sounds may come from behind the refrigerator, inside the fridge or freezer compartment or from the ice maker. It’s important to know which noises are normal and which indicates a problem. Get a full run-down of refrigerator noises, what they mean and how to fix them with this refrigerator noises guide.

Do I need a professional to fix my refrigerator?

If you’ve tried the simple solutions in this article or on Whirlpool Refrigerator Help and you haven’t had any luck, your refrigerator may be experiencing an issue that requires professional help. If you have a Whirlpool® Refrigerator, schedule service and Whirlpool will connect you with an expert in your area. If you don’t have a Whirlpool® model, reach out to the maker of your refrigerator.

Is it time for a new refrigerator?

If your fridge is beyond repair or it’s time for a fresh start, Whirlpool is here to help with options for every kitchen. Visit the Appliance Finder to narrow down your options and find the right one for your home. Our refrigerators are filled with purposeful storage and innovations to fit any family.

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