Refrigerator Not Cooling - What to Check

Today we are going to talk a little about Troubleshooting a Refrigerator that is not getting cold and a few things to check to get you going in the right direction in repairing the problem.

There are a couple things that need to happen for your refrigerator to get cold.  The compressor has to run, the evaporator fan has to move the air around the refrigerator to cool down the entire inside of your fridge and freezer.  There are a couple components on your refrigerator that are going to control when the compressor and the fan run.  One being the defrost timer, the other being the thermostat or also called the cold control.  I have made a couple videos explaining how to test each one of these parts and what they look like to help guide you along in your repair.  I am still going to try to explain a basic walk through of what I would do if I was at your house.

The first thing I would check to make sure the Refrigerator was getting the proper voltage.  If you open up the refrigerator and the light is on, we can move on.  If you don't have a light inside the refrigerator, test the outlet that the fridge is plugged into and make sure that there is voltage at the plug in the neighborhood of 120VAC.  Now that we have gone over that lets move on.

On a no cool refrigerator after I have determined that power is not an issue, the next thing I would do is open up the freezer door.  There are a couple things that we are going to look for.  First thing you are going to want to listen for is the fan inside the freezer.  If the fan is running, good, if not, we have to figure out why the fan is not running.  The two parts we talked about earlier are in control of the freezer fan.  

If your fan is not running, check the compressor.  It is the black round motor in the back of the refrigerator that pumps the freon through the sealed system.  Is the compressor running?  If the compressor is running and the fan is not running we need to check the evaporator fan first.  If the compressor is not running we need to check the defrost timer and the thermostat first.

First thing I'm going to go over is checking the evaporator fan.  Most fans inside your freezer are 120 VAC fans.  When the compressor is running the fan will also be receiving voltage at the same time.  You are going to need to access the evaporator fan for this test.  At this point you are going to want to unplug the refrigerator from the wall and remove the back panel of your freezer.  You are going to need to access the evaporator fan motor.  The first test is going to be seeing if the fan is good or bad.  With the refrigerator unplugged from the wall, remove the wires that are plugged into the fan and test the resistance across the two  terminals on the fan motor.  You should not read and open circuit. Normally you should read something like 100 to 125 ohms or so.  If you test the fan and have an open circuit, the fan is bad and will need replaced.  For the next test with the fan we are going to see if the fan motor is getting the correct voltage when the compressor is running.  From here you are going to place your meter on VAC so we can test the current going to to fan.  So plug the fridge back in and test the wires going to the fan motor.  Make sure you can hear the compressor running when you do this test.  If you hear the compressor running and the fan is not getting 120 volts, the defrost timer is bad.  If your refrigerator does not have a defrost timer but has an ADC board, then its bad.  The ADC board and the Defrost timer do basically the same thing.  One is mechanical the other works off a control board.

Moving on, now we are going to run some tests for a refrigerator that the compressor and the evaporator fan are not running.  You are going to want to first locate the defrost timer on your machine.  The first check is going to be to see if it's stuck in defrost.  The fridge will go into defrost about 3 times a day.  So for around 30 minutes the compressor and the fan are shut down and the heater is turned on in the freezer to clear the frost and ice off the coils behind the rear panel.  The refrigerator does this to make sure that the cold freezer air can easily circulate throughout the whole unit, keeping everything cold.  Now for the test, grab yourself a flat head screwdriver and find the dial on the defrost timer.  You want to turn the dial clockwise.  You will hear some clicking as the timer moves.  There are two distinct clicks, first one being the timer entering defrost mode and the second distinct click coming out of the defrost cycle.  If the compressor and fan come on when you turn the dial, great, now you know that you have a bad defrost timer.  Now if that didn't make the fan and compressor come on then we have to test the thermostat.  The thermostat will also shut down the fridge when it reaches the correct temperature.   However if its defective, then it will shut down the goodies when it's not supposed to.  How to test the thermostat is pretty simple.  Unplug the fridge from the wall, remove the two wires that plug into the thermostat.  With the thermostat set to the factory setting, the midway point or so,  test the resistance across the two terminals.  If the thermostat is bad, it will read an open circuit.  If the thermostat is reading a closed circuit, then the timer is bad and not letting any voltage reach either the fan or the compressor.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and watch some videos.  I hope that the information in here has helped you locate the problem with your refrigerator and you are able to fix it.  If you have any questions or need some more help, I try to answer all my comments on my posts, either with a new post or in the comments themselves, so leave a comment with any questions you have or let me know if this helped you out.  Make sure you thumbs up the videos and add them to your favorites, that helps me out alot.

Good Luck with your repair, I hope I was able to save you some money by you not having to call out a professional.


  1. Very nice videos
    In my case I have an 18 cu ft Frigidaire top freezer
    No cold air comes out in the freezer
    but the fan is running
    not sure that the compressor is running though
    how can I check that?

    1. Pull the fridge out from the wall and put your hands on the compressor. See if it's hot or cool. Don't burn your hands because it could be real hot. You maybe able to hear it humming or you can feel it vibrate.
      Let me know what you find.
      send me an email

  2. This troubleshooting guide and videos were a HUGE help to me!!! My Frigidaire side by side had the classic symptoms.... warm refrigerator, cold at the bottom of the freezer, heavy frost on the back panel of freezer. Evap fan running, but not moving any air, compressor running continuously and NOT switching to Defrost Cycle .... Been like this for the past few weeks and I thought it was "done" and was ready to buy a new fridge... Then I ran across this guide and videos!!!
    Removed back panel and found everything encased in ice. Turned the defrost timer with a screwdriver until the evap fan & compressor shut off. The defrost heaters glowed red and melted MOST of the ice, but the defrost thermostat switched off the heaters even though it (defrost thermostat) was still encased in ice!!! I wasn't able to obtain good results when ohming out the thermostat... Rather than reading a "short" or "open" depending upon the temp, it semed to always be in the Megaohm range... The thermostat itself seemed to be a bit deformed, as if water had gotten inside it and froze...
    Stopped by the local appliance parts store on my way to work this afternoon, and 40 bucks later I had a new defrost timer and defrost thermostat!!! Beats the heck out of buying a new fridge!!! Can't wait to install the new parts in the morning and fire 'er up!!!
    Thanks again for this GREAT site!!!!

  3. Bill,
    Your videos are excellent.
    Question: I have a Roper model RS22AWXAL00 the compressor runs, the evaporator fan motor does does not run. There is no voltage to the evaporator fan motor. Could you please let me know what should I check and how? The defrost timer? If the defrost timer is the problem will the compressor run?
    Thank you very much,

  4. I was totally unaware of the facts regarding refrigerator problems and how to repair it without the help of a mechanic. I always face a lot of problems when my fridge stops working at odd hours and it is not possible to call a mechanic. Thanks a lot for sharing these tips. I hope i will be able to sort out the problem and fix it myself.

  5. Abraham J. Durand (Commonwealth of Dominica)November 12, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    You are the BEST! Thanks for this very explicit, very helpful site. My Frigidaire side-by-side has been giving a lot of problems for a while now, which a series of servicemen have not succeeded in fixing, while my electricity bill hits the roof. I have not yet fixed the problem, but thanks a million of de-mystifying how this thing works. I am now confident enough to have taken the refrigerator apart and in the process of isolating my problem. I am a bit of a Mr. Fixit myself, but this thing looked so formidable, I did not want to tamper with it. Thanks again, and I will give you an update on my progress and, I expect, success!

  6. I have a side by side frigidaire gallery that was up to 45-50 degrees in the refrigerator and 20 in the freezer. At one point a horrible squeaking noise started happening and the freezer got down to 5 degrees. I was so happy, but then the squeaking stopped along with my miraculous cooling in my freezer. I paid a guy from a local appliance place $70.00 to come look at it. When he took the panel off the back the fan was not working. He tapped the fan blades and they started running. The fan runs now but it is not keeping temperature and the coils on the bottom inside the freezer are not icing up when it is turned on. The top part of the coils is frosting up and the fan in the freezer is running great. Any help or ideas?
    Also, your post was incredibly helpful. Great information!

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  8. I have a whirlpool side by side and have this clicking sound. I already changed the starter and received a starter dev set but still have this clicking. My compressoror is hot. My fridge is only 4 years old. when I received my part, it is not from the manufactory. the old part had two white and one red wire, will the new part have the same wireing?

  9. I have a frigidaire with electronic temp controls. When I set the temps to a low temp it only stays that way for a few seconds and then the temp control goes back up to a high temp and stays there. My compressor works and all fans are work. No problems with defrost either. Could the electronic control be the problem it's not getting cold?

  10. I have a frigidaire and the fan is running, and the compressor is running but is cold. Could that be my problem why it isn't get cold in the frig and freezer?

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