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Understanding and Solving Refrigerator Cooling Issues

Incorrect Temperature Control Settings
A poorly functioning refrigerator can be more than just an inconvenience; it can pose health risks due to the potential growth of harmful bacteria and mold. You know the frustration if you’ve ever opened your fridge to find sour milk or lukewarm wine. Fortunately, there’s no need to rush out and buy a new refrigerator. Common refrigerator cooling problems you can only fix with special knowledge or tools. This guide will explore why your refrigerator is not cooling correctly and how to address these issues.

Incorrect Temperature Control Settings

Often, the first step in troubleshooting a fridge that is supposed not to be cool enough is to check the temperature settings.

Sometimes, unintentional adjustments can occur, such as children tampering with the controls or items in the fridge pushing against them. Additionally, a malfunctioning temperature control may be the cause if you hear the compressor running, but the refrigerator isn’t cooling as it should.


  • Adjust the thermostat to your desired temperature setting.
  • Check the freezer and refrigerator compartments, as they may have separate controls.
  • Be patient, as the temperature may take up to a day to stabilize

Optimal Fridge Temperature

The FDA recommends that refrigerators be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, while freezers should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. To verify these temperatures, consider using a separate appliance thermometer rather than relying solely on the internal gauges.

Dirty Condenser Coils

Dirty or dust-covered condenser coils on your refrigerator’s back can hinder its cooling efficiency. Regular maintenance involves cleaning these coils approximately every six months.


  • Unlatch the anti-tip brackets on the exterior bottom front of the cabinet.
  • Pull out the refrigerator and use the hand attachment on a vacuum cleaner to clean the coils.
  • Be cautious not to damage or bend the coils during the cleaning process.
Dirty Condenser Coils

Unclean Door Gaskets

Over time, the flexible door gaskets can accumulate dirt, food residues, and fingerprints, preventing the door from sealing properly.


  • Clean the gaskets with a sponge and warm, soapy water.
  • Wipe down the areas on the refrigerator where the gaskets make contact.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners, brushes, scouring pads, flammable fluids, or window cleaning sprays.

Understocked Refrigerator

Understocked Refrigerator

The mass of food within your refrigerator helps maintain cool temperatures. An understocked fridge may need to help maintain proper cooling levels, as it lacks sufficient mass to retain the cold.


  • Aim to keep your refrigerator about three-quarters full with food and beverages to allow for proper air circulation.
  • In a pinch, place a couple of water pitchers in the empty corners of your fridge to help maintain cool temperatures.
  • Avoid overfilling the refrigerator, as items need adequate air circulation to stay adequately cooled.

When to Seek Professional Help

If the cooling problem persists and you’ve ruled out the above issues, more complex mechanical problems may be at play. In these cases, it’s advisable to contact an appliance technician. Some potential issues include

  • Malfunctioning fan motor
  • The compressor is not turning on or off correctly
  • Compressor relay replacement is needed
  • Faulty thermostat
  • Issues with the evaporator fan

By addressing these standard refrigerator cooling problems promptly, you can extend the life of your appliance and ensure the safety of your stored food. If you have problems with your refrigerator, take a look at our SubZero manual:


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Understanding and Solving Refrigerator Cooling Issues
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