Why Is Refrigerator Working but Freezer Not Freezing? – Troubleshooting Guide

Modern refrigerators are robust appliances until they can no longer keep your food cold as they used to when they were brand new. Like other kitchen appliances, single and double-door refrigerators are prone to electrical and normal wear and tear issues that render them inefficient year after year. 

When a refrigerator is working, but the freezer is not freezing, it is often due to dirty condenser coils, old and loose door gaskets, poor organization, and frost build-up in the evaporator coils. Solutions include cleaning your refrigerator and replacing damaged components with professional help.

Damaged start relays and faulty evaporator and condenser motors are other potential reasons your freezer is not freezing while the refrigerator is running. Nonetheless, we’ve highlighted some common causes for such problems and provided possible solutions in this article.

1. Your Freezer Is Poorly Organized

Sometimes the problem isn’t as far-fetched as you think, and a little organization in your food compartments might make a difference. Your freezer fans work by circulating the air in the compartments. This action helps the evaporator and condenser work together to expel the heat from the refrigerator.

If you pack too much food in the freezer cabin in a disorganized manner, it will be more difficult for the freezer fan to circulate the air in the freezer. The excess food could block the fans, too, rendering them less efficient in their job. This forces the fan motor to rotate longer and harder to keep the food cold. The result? A blown-out motor that needs immediate replacement, preferably by a professional.

How To Fix?

Fortunately, fixing a poorly organized refrigerator only requires rearranging the contents. 

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when emptying and reorganizing your refrigerator:

  • Empty your freezer and clean it if it’s dirty. If performing a thorough cleaning, ensure that you unplug the unit from the wall outlet and let it defrost before cleaning it.
  • Sort your food into categories convenient to you and your family. For instance, some people group meats together and vegetables together, whereas others do it per meal time, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
  • Throw out any empty milk cartons, containers, and expired food.
  • If you unplugged your freezer, plug it back in and wait a few minutes. 
  • Organize your items in the freezer and ensure they are manageable. You should be able to close the refrigerator door with ease. 

If you look into your freezer, you should be able to see the evaporator fan in the back. You should also be able to open the refrigerator compartments and retrieve items with ease. If you can’t, it’s time to declutter.

Read: How To Fix Frigidaire Refrigerator Vibrating Noise?

2. Dry or Old Refrigerator Gaskets

No matter how powerful your unit’s compressor is, keeping the contents at 0°C (32°F) will be more difficult if the door is not completely shut. A refrigerator door gasket is a rubber strip located around the edges of the refrigerator door, ensuring a tight seal in the freezer cabin.

Over time, these gaskets get old due to normal wear. When this happens, they cannot keep the refrigerator door completely shut. Warm air from the outside environment leaks into the unit, undoing the compressor’s hard work. Not only will a broken gasket increase your energy bill, but it could also lead to food spoilage if warm air enters and keeps disrupting the internal temperature balance of the fridge.

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How To Fix?

To maintain this seal, it’s important to regularly inspect your refrigerator’s gaskets for breaks or cracks and replace them when necessary.

  1. Inspect every inch of the rubber gasket along the refrigerator door.
  2. Shut the refrigerator door against a dollar bill and see if you can pull it out. If the dollar bill comes out easily, the gasket needs to be replaced. This needs to be done at several points on the refrigerator door to ensure that there is no leak.
  3. Purchase new refrigerator gaskets or contact your local appliance repair technician, who may have access to custom-made gaskets suitable for your refrigerator model.

To check if the gasket needs to be replaced, you can also pull on it gently but firmly and feel for any inconsistencies along its length.

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3. Frost Buildup in the Evaporator Coils

Frost buildup is not a new issue in refrigerator systems. When moist air gets in touch with the evaporator coils, the water vapor condenses and forms a thick ice buildup on the coil surface. This blocks the heat exchange between the air circulating in the refrigerator and the evaporator coils.

Frost buildup can be caused by issues such as:

Moisture in the Freezer Cabin

Whenever you open the refrigerator door, warm, moist air finds its way into the freezer cabinet. You can also introduce moisture into your system when you attempt to freeze hot, steaming food. Also, the rubber gasket around your refrigerator door is responsible for stopping the movement of moisture in and out of your freezer. 

If it is damaged or worn out, then moisture will travel in and out freely. Inspect this component for any tears or looseness.

Read: Does High Humidity Affect Refrigerator Ability To Cool?

Faulty Defrost System

Modern refrigerators are equipped with defrost systems comprising of:

  • A thermostat 
  • A defrost timer
  • A defrost heater

These components detect when the refrigerator temperature falls below a certain level or when there’s too much ice formation. The defrost heater turns on a few times a day to melt the excess ice that has formed on the condenser coils.

If the defrost heater stops working, frost will start to build up on the coils and eventually overwhelm the system.

Read: How To Fix The Frigidaire Refrigerator Ice Maker Clicking Noise?

How To Fix?

The evaporator coils are often hidden behind a panel at the back of the refrigerator.

  1. Unplug and defrost your freezer. Let all the ice and frost melt, or use a hair dryer set to low heat to melt off thick ice chunks. Wipe off the resulting water with a soft towel.
  2. Thoroughly clean out the unit and remove any dirt buildup.
  3. Check the state of the defrost heater by using a multimeter to test for continuity. This can be achieved by touching the heater terminals with the two multimeter probes. If there is no continuity, the defrost heater must be replaced.
  4. Check the defrost thermostat for continuity. A faulty thermostat must also be replaced.
  5. Check your refrigerator gaskets for leaks and replace them if worn out. 
  6. Plug your unit back into the power supply and wait a few minutes before loading it.

Defrosting your refrigerator by leaving it open for an hour or two should get it back up and running if frost buildup is the issue. Otherwise, consider seeking professional help in finding and replacing the damaged electrical components of the defrosting system.

4. Dirty Condenser Coils

The condenser is responsible for extracting heat from your refrigerant and dissipating it into the environment. Often dirt collects on the condenser coils and interferes with their normal function. It is advisable to clean this out every few months.

How To Fix?

Cleaning condenser coils is easy but needs to be done with caution to avoid scratching or puncturing the sensitive copper tubes.

  1. Disconnect your unit from the wall outlet and move it away from nearby walls. You need to create enough room to access the back of the unit.
  2. Remove the panel at the bottom of your freezer.
  3. Inspect the extent of the buildup and begin cleaning.
  4. Use a special condenser brush to clean delicate components and reach tight spaces. 
  5. Brush away all the dirt and then use a vacuum cleaner to collect it.

Consider making condenser cleaning part of your normal cleaning routine. Do this at least every six months to keep your unit in excellent condition.

Read: Is A Deep Freezer Good For Home Use?


Isolating why the refrigerator works but the freezer not freezing can be tricky since several components work together to maintain proper cooling conditions inside both compartments of your unit. However, by following some basic troubleshooting steps, such as checking for problems with thermostats, evaporator coils, and/or defrost heaters, you should be able to diagnose where any issues lie so you can make necessary repairs quickly.

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