Refrigerator Not Cold Enough: 8 Possible Causes

A close-up of a refrigerator door.

A refrigerator not staying cold enough is a hassle, as you are at risk of spoiling the foods inside. Most often, this problem is caused by something easy to fix.

1. Faulty Door Gaskets

The door gaskets in a refrigerator ensure a sealed closure every time you shut the door. Torn or loose gaskets on the door can result in leaking cold air, and as a result, the refrigerator is left warm. Repetitive and frequent opening and closing of the refrigerator is also a possible cause because the warm air from outside replaces the cold air in the refrigerator every time you open it.

2. Dirty Condenser Coils

Dirty condenser coils can result in improper functioning of the fridge. These coils are located on the back or the underside. If you find this to be the cause of the problem, unplug the refrigerator before you attempt any cleaning, then pass the vacuum cleaner over the coil area.

3. Frost-free Feature Not Working

If the frost-free feature fails, it will cause a buildup of frost around the evaporator coils in the freezer. This causes a malfunctioning of the evaporator fan that blows cold air around. The fan can also be damaged if it hits the frost. You can tell when a fan blade gets damaged by the loud noise coming from the now unbalanced fan.

4. Faulty or Incorrect Temperature Control

A faulty thermostat can lead to a refrigerator that is not maintaining the desired coldness. Check for this problem and also ensure that the temperature is set to the correct level. Normally, refrigerators are set to a temperature of about 0°C (32°F), whereas the freezer sections are around -17°C (1.4°F).

5. Inadequate Air Flow Inside Refrigerator

A refrigerator that is loaded with too many food items can fail to maintain an adequate level of coolness across all the items kept in it. The surface items tend to be colder, and the items underneath do not become as cold. A refrigerator that has very few items in it can also fail to function efficiently. Try to ensure that your refrigerator has enough food in it at all times, but is not so loaded that the air flow gets constricted.

6. Vents Between Freezer and Refrigerator are Clogged

The vents between the freezer and refrigerating section permit the flow of cold air from the freezer across to the refrigerator. These vents should never get clogged with ice, but if for some reason it does, the impaired air circulation will keep the refrigerator section from cooling down. If this is the case, you can unplug the refrigerator, wait for the ice to melt or remove the impairement, then plug it back in.

7. Faulty Door Switch

The door switch is found around the perimeter of the refrigerator door opening, where it can activate this switch. It turns off the light in the refrigerator and resumes cooling action when you close the door. If this switch is not functioning properly, the refrigerator will not resume cooling as normal and may also be affected by the heat of the interior light not switching off.

8. Refrigerant Leak

A refrigerant leak is very unlikely but can obviously cause malfunctioning of your refrigerator. If you suspect this to be the cause, contact a service technician.

Refrigerator Not Cold Enough FAQ

Why is my refrigerator not getting cold enough?

Refrigerators are extremely reliable appliances...until they stop working the way you're used to. If your fridge is not getting cold enough, there are a number of different reasons this could be happening.

If this is a newer addition to your household, the refrigerator could be installed incorrectly or it may be in a location where it is receiving poor ventilation. All electronic appliances need some level of ventilation, including the fridge.

If this is a refrigerator you've had or a used one you just got, it's possible the condenser coils are dirty. The seals around the doors may be worn out as well.

Another likely issue is the amount of food in the fridge. If all the shelves are over-stuffed, you could be impeding the cooling air with too much food.

Why is my fridge not cooling but freezer is working?

If your freezer is still cold but your fridge is not, there are a few different mechanical issues that could be behind this temperature divergence. Your defrost system may have failed, for starters.

Another issue could be that the thermistor has gone bad. Your evaporator fan may have also stopped functioning, or it could be a problem with the damper control.

When you experience a warm fridge but a cold freezer, these are the common issues that cause this problem.

How do you reset a refrigerator that is not cooling?

If your fridge is not cool enough, try resetting the compressor to see if this alters the situation. First, unplug the refrigerator from the wall.

Keep it unplugged for several minutes, five or more. If you can, access the control panel for the fridge and turn off the refrigerator and freezer by turning them to zero or powering them off when that's an option.

Plug the fridge back in. Reset the controls for the fridge and freezer.

If this reset doesn't work, you have another problem with the fridge.

How can I improve the cooling in my refrigerator?

There are many ways to improve the cooling power of your refrigerator. Try cleaning the coils first, as this is a common problem behind low cooling power.

The fridge should optimally be set at 37 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. Check these settings to make sure everything is at the right temperature.

Shift items around in the fridge so that there are at least two inches of clearance for every wall of the fridge. Nothing should be right up against the walls to ensure proper air circulation.

Check the seals. These squishy parts of the fridge often break down and wear down over time.

Place a dollar bill in the door, closing the door with the bill half in and half out of the door. Try to move it.

If you can move the dollar easily, you need new seals. The cool air is leaking out around the seals and that's why the fridge isn't staying cold.

What are the signs of a bad refrigerator compressor?

If your refrigerator compressor goes out, you'll have temperature problems with the cooling power of the appliance. There are some signs to look for that can tell you if you have a bad compressor.

If you hear a loud noise from the fridge, it's a sign of a bad compressor because the refrigerator shouldn't be making noise. Feeling less cooling power in the fridge is another sign of a bad compressor, as is a sudden spike in your electricity bill.