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Stainless steel French door refrigerator

Why is my refrigerator not cooling?

There are several causes for a refrigerator that doesn’t cool, including dirty condenser coils, poor ventilation, improper installation, faulty or dirty gasket seals, unorganized food storage, appliance location and malfunctioning internal parts. Understanding the cause of a refrigerator that’s not cooling properly is the first step to fixing the problem. Some of these causes can be discovered and resolved with a little elbow grease, while others may require the help of a licensed technician.

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How to troubleshoot a refrigerator that isn’t cooling

When a refrigerator is not maintaining its proper temperature, there are a few warning signs you may notice, such as:

  • Food spoiling quickly, possibly causing odors

  • Excessive condensation on food and beverage packaging

  • Refrigerator interior temperatures are lukewarm or room temperature

Use the following guide to troubleshoot the cause of a refrigerator not cooling and get tips and ideas for finding a solution.

Tools needed:
  • Level

  • Tape measure

Materials needed: 
  • Refrigerator owner’s manual

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1. Installation location

Where you install your refrigerator can affect how well the appliance is able to maintain its proper cooling temperatures. Refrigerators designed for indoor use should only be installed in the household where temperatures are less likely to sharply rise or drop. If you have installed an indoor refrigerator in your garage, your fridge may not be able to cool properly as garages lack the controlled climate found inside a home.

Then, check that your fridge is installed in a location with enough clearance on the sides and the back of the appliance to allow for proper air circulation. Typically, refrigerators require ½ inch clearances on the side and 1 inch in the back. If your refrigerator does not have the proper clearances, you may need to move it.

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2. Food organization

Refrigerators that are overpacked or cluttered may have trouble regulating cool temperatures. This is because unorganized food can prevent proper air flow inside the appliance. If your refrigerator isn’t cooling due to a lack of proper organization, you can simply reorganize the the items in your refrigerator to keep air vents open and accessible.

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3. Dirty condenser coils

Condenser coils help your refrigerator cool properly, but they can’t function if they are covered in dust, pet dander, grease or spiderwebs. If your refrigerator isn’t cooling due to dirty condenser coils, you may need to give them a quick clean. Cleaning instructions for your condenser coils vary by the model of your refrigerator, so be sure to consult with your product manual before you begin cleaning.

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4. Blocked air vents

If your fridge is not cooling, the air vents may be blocked. Blocked air vents can prevent cool air from filtering inside the appliance. Check the vents inside your refrigerator and freezer and remove any items that may be blocking them. 

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5. Unlevel installation

A properly leveled installation helps to keep your refrigerator operating at its best. To check whether your refrigerator has been installed properly, place a level on the floor underneath the refrigerator to see if the appliance has been installed on a flat, even surface. If the fridge is not level, you may need to install shims to keep it level. For specific leveling information for your refrigerator, refer to your product manual.

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6. Dirty or broken gasket seals

The door gasket seals help to lock cold air inside your refrigerator. They may not seal properly if they are dirty, damaged or worn which can cause your refrigerator to leak cool air. Inspect your door gasket seals for dirt, crumbs or other debris and wipe away with warm soapy water. If air continues to escape after cleaning your gaskets and your fridge still is not cooling, then scheduling a service with a licensed technician may be necessary.

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7. Improperly set temperature controls

Ideally, your refrigerator should be kept between 32ºF–40ºF for optimal performance. Your fridge may not be cooling if the temperature controls are on the wrong setting. Occasionally, the temperature settings become reset if an item or your hand brushes against the controls. If this is the cause of your refrigerator malfunction, change the thermostat down to the desired temperature setting, making sure to check both the freezer and the refrigerator as they have separate controls. The change may not happen immediately and can take up to 24 hours to cool completely.

Stainless steel appliances in a modern kitchen Stainless steel appliances in a modern kitchen

When to call a professional to fix a fridge that doesn’t cool

If you’ve inspected all of the previous causes and your refrigerator still isn’t cooling properly, there may be a malfunction in one of the appliance’s internal parts such as the evaporator fan, condenser fan, compressor or start relay. Repairing and replacing these parts can be complicated and should best be left to a professional. To schedule a service appointment for your Whirlpool® refrigerator, visit the Whirlpool® service help desk.

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Discover Whirlpool® refrigerators & freezers

If you find that your refrigerator not cooling is a sign to replace your appliance, Whirlpool brand has the refrigerator options to make replacing your older model easy. With designs like French-door to keep fresh food at eye level and side-by-side to provide equal fridge and freezer space, you can browse different sizes and styles to find the right model for your kitchen.

Learn more about Whirlpool® refrigerators

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