September 23, 2016

Troubleshooting a refrigerator not cooling video

This video from Sears PartsDirect shows how to troubleshoot problems when your refrigerator isn't cooling. There are a few different parts that could be responsible for the problem, including the automatic defrost system, the compressor, the evaporator fan or the thermistor.

We'll walk you through some simple tests to help narrow down the problem and provide links to more advanced tests to figure out which part or wire needs to be replaced to get your refrigerator cooling again. You also can check out our DIY refrigerator repair page for more how-to guides and videos, answers to common questions and error code charts.

Hi, this is Wayne from Sears PartsDirect. Today, we're going to talk about a refrigerator not cooling. Your refrigerator might seem warmer than usual for a day if you’ve just added a lot of food—wait 24 hours after adding a lot of food to see if the refrigerator cools properly. Also make sure none of the food containers are blocking airflow at the vents; the owner's manual usually shows where the vents are located.

But if you haven't added a lot of food during the past day, and you can’t hear your refrigerator running, the first thing to do is check for power. Open the refrigerator door and see if the light turns on. If the light doesn’t turn on, let’s check the power cord and the outlet. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that the refrigerator is plugged in and that the power cord isn’t damaged. Then make sure that the electrical outlet is working by plugging in a lamp or some other appliance that makes noise. If your outlet isn't working, you’ll need to have it repaired by a qualified electrician.

Frost buildup prevents cooling

Once you’ve confirmed that your refrigerator is getting power, the next thing you will want to check for is excessive frost built up on the evaporator, which can inhibit cooling. You may need to troubleshoot issues with the automatic defrost system if the evaporator is caked with frost. This video will walk you through that process.

Diagnosing compressor and evaporator fan problems

If there’s no frost on the evaporator coils, let's move on to some more advanced checks. Most refrigerators, like this common Kenmore model, have a diagnostic test mode that checks refrigerator operations. First, we'll check to see if the compressor and evaporator fan run in the test mode. To enter the diagnostic test mode on this Kenmore model, within 2 seconds, press the light switch 3 times and then press and hold it a 4th time until you hear a long beep. You're now in the test mode. If this doesn’t work on your model, check your tech sheet for instructions. You can usually find it located behind the bottom front grill or taped to the back of the refrigerator.

Press the door switch twice to start the compressor. The control beeps twice and then you should hear the compressor start. If you don’t hear the compressor turn on, check the start relay on the compressor. This video will show you how to troubleshoot issues with your compressor.

To check the fan, press the door switch twice within 2 seconds and wait for the two beeps. Repeat this step 2 more times. The control beeps twice and then starts the evaporator fan. If the evaporator fan doesn't run, unplug the refrigerator and check the evaporator fan. This video will show you how to troubleshoot problems with your evaporator fan.

Checking the temperature sensor

If the compressor and evaporator fan both work in the diagnostic test mode, you’ll need to check the thermistor, which is the temperature sensor. This video will show you how to troubleshoot problems with the temperature sensor.

To exit the test mode, within 2 seconds, press the door switch 3 times and then hold the switch down until the control beeps. Or just unplug the refrigerator.

Other possible problems

We want to help you determine the correct part needed to repair your refrigerator. Keep in mind it can be hard to diagnose the exact issue. Failures such as a broken condenser fan or the refrigerator being low on Freon, can also keep the refrigerator from cooling well. Don't hesitate to have a Sears technician diagnose and repair your refrigerator if necessary. Well I hope this video helped you out today. Be sure to check out our other videos, here on the Sears PartsDirect YouTube channel, and don't forget to subscribe.

Symptoms common to all refrigerators

Choose a symptom to see related refrigerator repairs.

Main causes: jammed ice cubes, broken ice maker assembly, dirty water filter, kinked water line, bad water valve, freezer not cold enough
Main causes: damaged door seal, faulty defrost sensor or bi-metal thermostat, broken defrost heater, bad defrost timer or control board
Main causes: leaky door gasket, defrost system failure, evaporator fan not running, dirty condenser coils, condenser fan not running
Main causes: control board or cold control failure, broken compressor start relay, compressor motor failure, defrost timer problems
Main causes: water valve leaking, frozen or broken defrost drain tube, overflowing drain pan, cracked water system tubing, leaking door seal
Things to do: clean condenser coils, replace the water filter, clean the interior, adjust doors to prevent air leaks, clean the drain pan
Main causes: blocked air vents, compressor problems, condenser or evaporator fan not working, control system failure, sensor problems
Main causes: blocked vents, defrost system problems, evaporator fan failure, dirty condenser coils, bad sensors, condenser fan not working

Repair guides common to all refrigerators

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your refrigerator.

How to clean refrigerator condenser coils

Help your refrigerator run more efficiently by cleaning the condenser coils. It's easy and takes just a few minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
How to replace a refrigerator water valve

Replace the water valve that feeds water to the ice maker and water dispenser if it no longer controls the flow of water.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
How to replace a refrigerator temperature control board

If the temperature in your refrigerator doesn't match the temperature you set, the problem could be the temperature control board—a service technician can give you a definite diagnosis. If the board is at fault, follow these steps to replace it yourself.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all refrigerators

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