Your Fridge Is Not Cooling – But The Light Is On? 6 Easy Things to Check

If your fridge is not cooling though the light is on, here is a list of six parts that you can check for failure. Sometimes the problem is as simple as the electrical outlet not having power, or food boxes blocking airflow into the refrigerator compartment.

First, we must understand a bit about refrigeration to know how to troubleshoot the parts. Skip this if you are already a refrigeration expert.

There are a few main parts that make your refrigerator work- Compressor, Condenser coils, leaking refrigerant, condenser fan, Air Damper, and the Thermostat.

Understanding Refrigeration

The compressor compresses the refrigerant gas. It increases the temperature. The vapor is sent to the condenser coil. The hot gas cools down in the condenser coil and becomes liquid. The cool liquid flows through the expansion valve.

It enters the evaporator coils inside the freezer and fridge. The refrigerant absorbs the heat inside while flowing through the evaporator coils. The refrigerant converts into vapor and goes back to the compressor. The cycle repeats.

It’s a simplified version of how your refrigerator works. It’s called a vapor compression cycle. Now, we can fix the problems.

The fridge is not cooling though the light is on

The light is connected to a separate internal circuit. If the light is working, it means the refrigerator is receiving electricity! Yay! That likely means the problem is in one of the 6 parts given below.

Evaporator coils frosted over so fridge is not cooling

What if Freezer is cooling but Fridge not cooling

This means the refrigeration is fine, but cold air not able to get into the fridge due to ice blockage.  Do not use sharp objects to chip away ice, as you might damage essential parts of the unit. Use a defrost cycle, as necessary.

First of all, remove back panel in the freezer in order to check thermostat and heater for continuity.

Both Fridge and Freezer are not cooling

If both the Freezer is not cooling and the Fridge is not cooling, the problem could be in any of the parts. Let’s see where the parts are located and how we can fix the problems

1. Compressor

The compressor is a pump and motor. This is the part that makes the sound you hear from behind the fridge.

This is where refrigeration begins. The compressor looks like a tank and is located behind the refrigerator at the bottom.

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Problem: Compressor relay switches on and off

If you hear periodical clicking coming from the compressor side, it most likely Start Relay failed and trying to start the compressor, but unable to.

It might be due to overload or due to the age of the compressor, which requires more current to start. It can be also due to a fluctuating voltage supply. This isn’t a big problem to solve.

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Solution: Change the start relay/capacitor.

Note: we may receive a small commission from your purchase, at no additional cost to you.

It’s a small white or black switch-like device located in the wiring of the system. It is mostly located on the bottom side. This could easily be why your fridge is not cooling.

It can be easily bought and replaced. See the link above for $13 part on Amazon. You need to ensure that the system is unplugged and you have given it time to slow down. The following video gives instructions on how to replace.

2. Condenser coils and 3. Refrigerant

The condenser is a heat exchanger that takes heat from the inside and cools the fridge.

It takes the latent heat from the refrigerant and cools it down. It is in the middle, above the compressor.

Problem: Refrigerant Leaking

The refrigerant passes through condenser coils during the heat exchange. Any leak in the coil can impact the cooling system.

Solution: Repair the condenser coil and replace the refrigerant

The condenser coil can be repaired. As the refrigerant is lost, the whole refrigerant has to be replaced. Low refrigerant is detrimental to the whole cooling unit.

Problem: Dirty Condenser coil

With time, layers of dirt and dust can settle on the coils. This layer disrupts the function of heat exchange and thus the cooling of the fridge.

Solution: Routine Cleaning

The condenser should be cleaned regularly; once a year is good. This is also preventive maintenance.

4. Condenser Fan

Problem: Condenser fan not working

The fan attached to the outside unit is the condenser fan. It helps in the dissipation of heat and maintaining airflow. No airflow could be the reason the fridge is not cooling anymore.

Solution: Replace the condenser fan

Check whether the problem lies in the wiring or motor itself. Find it and replace. The parts can be replaced. The technical specifications come with the unit.

5. Air Damper

Air Damper is the device that decides how much cold air enters the fridge’s lower portion from the freezer.

The Air Damper is housed inside a plastic box, sealed well to prevent loss of cold air. It is mostly found in the panel at the top.

Problem: Housing Damage

Damage in housing causes a loss of cool air. Even the slightest leak can give rise to both fridge and freezer problems, with no cooling issues.

Solution: Fix the air leaks if possible. Or, change the housing.

6. Cold Temperature Thermostat

The thermostat is the device that controls the temperature inside the refrigerator. It’s like the brain tells the refrigerator what to do. It is located behind the knob you use to set the temperature.

Problem: Thermostat is not working

You might be setting a low temperature but the temperature inside is not as per your settings.

Solution: Replace Thermostat

Open the unit inside the refrigerator and take the thermostat out. Remove the wiring, clean it and put it again. If it doesn’t work, you have to change it. You can’t repair a thermostat.

Conclusion: fridge is not cooling, light is on

When your fridge is not cooling, that’s always a big problem. But the fix might be simple and easy to fix. If replacing and repairing these parts seems beyond your skill set, do not hesitate to call a professional. If you diagnose the problem in the steps above, you might save your technician time determining the problem–which saves you money.

If the repair is taking more than half of the price you paid for the unit, don’t hesitate to go shopping for a new one. Spending hundreds on one failed part might be an indicator that more parts are on the way to failure. Don’t forget you can always get used appliances on the marketplace (people moving or upgrading), and an older unit can be sold for parts or scrap metal.

Links to brand specific troubleshooting guides

Magic Chef Mini Fridge

Whirlpool Refrigerators

LG Refrigerators

Maytag Refrigerators

Frigidaire Refrigerators

Samsung Refrigerators

Reader Comments (11)

  1. Hi,
    I have a Maytag Plus side by side fridge freezer in my new home. It was unplugged for at least 6 months before I bought the place. I plugged it in and the light turns on, but that’s it. Nothing else. No sounds, no compressor noise at all and of course no cooling. I left it for about 24 hours, but still nothing, and the temperature settings are at their recommended levels. What do you think the problem is, and how expensive to repair?
    Thanks!

  2. Hi,
    I have a Maytag Plus side by side fridge freezer in my new home. It was unplugged for at least 6 months before I bought the place. I plugged it in and the light turns on, but that’s it. Nothing else. No sounds, no compressor noise at all and of course no cooling. I left it for about 24 hours, but still nothing, and the temperature settings are at their recommended levels. What do you think the problem is, and how expensive to repair?
    Thanks!

  3. Hi Eugene,

    I have an LG fridge model LFX25778ST/00 that neither the fridge nor the freezer is cooling. As you may know it has a linear compressor. This compressor is the worst part ever . Unless than10 years. My question the ughwhat option do I have? And before doing anything stupid.

  4. Hi Eugene, thanks for the pages you do on this site.

    I have a newer LG lfc20770sb fridge that is not getting cold at all in either the upper or lower freezer compartment–room temperature always. I bought it used, the previous owner said it was working, bring it home, transporting it upright, plug in, no cold. It’s been running for 24 hours now with no cold–just room temp air flowing in the freezer. Called LG, they said run for 24-48 hours to “stabilize,” but that didn’t answer the issue of no cold air at all.

    The compressor seems to be running constantly; it’s warm to touch and makes a regular noise. The condenser coil next to it is room temperature. I unplug it, then plug it in, it waits a few seconds, then starts up like it is running normally. A bad compressor?

    • Mine is doing the same I had reset the higher temperature switch with a magnet but only heard 1 click and light went off and I don’t hear the fan r compresser kick on but I hear a click sounds sometimes

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