Is Your Freezer Not Cold Enough? 9 Troubleshooting Tips

Opening the freezer door

Your Freezer’s Running But Not Freezing. What Next?

When was the last time you thought about the freezer?

Chances are you never do or never will — until something goes wrong. Modern freezers are so reliable that we find it unsettling when they don’t work as designed. It’s a mystery as puzzling as UFOs and a nuisance akin to the neighbor’s leaf blower.

Or maybe it isn’t. Sometimes a manual defrost will restore a freezer to good working order. The inconvenience and mess of an occasional manual defrost are preferable to a damaged compressor, a possible outcome if you continue to ignore ice buildup.

How Freezer Cooling Systems Work

  • All refrigerators and freezers use the same cooling mechanism.
  • The compressor releases a refrigerant to the condenser.
  • The condenser coils transform refrigerant from vapor to liquid while releasing heat — the same heat you feel blowing near the freezer in a cooling cycle.
  • Cooled refrigerant flows into the evaporator through an expansion valve.
  • The evaporator absorbs heat from the freezer, cooling its contents and transforming the refrigerant into warm vapor.
  • The warmed refrigerant returns to the compressor, where the next cycle begins.

Don’t worry — you don’t need to memorize these bullet points or understand the intricacies of refrigeration to do basic troubleshooting.

But it’s important to understand that any disruption in the cycle we describe will prevent the freezer from cooling. Before you despair and call a repair service like West Coast Chief, follow these troubleshooting guidelines to eliminate minor issues you can resolve on your own.

Some tips we offer, like checking seals and vacuuming coils, are clearly DIY. Others, like removing and testing components, may require special equipment and a level of experience with appliances.

If you’re at all unsure of your fix-it abilities, call West Coast Chief Repair and save yourself time, headache, heartache, and potential disaster.

Troubleshooting a Freezer That Won’t Freeze

1) Reset the thermostat knob to the correct temperature setting.

It seems kind of obvious. Nevertheless, you’d be surprised how often we go on calls where someone inadvertently bumped the thermostat and raised the freezer temperature. That’s easy enough to correct. Turn the dial.

But a defective thermostat won’t send power to the refrigerant system, in which case the freezer won’t cool.

Rotate the thermostat from its lowest to highest setting to see if it’s working.

If you hear a clicking sound, the thermostat may not be the problem. And with your handy multimeter (doesn’t everyone have a multimeter lying around?), you can test the thermostat for continuity, verifying the flow of electrical current.

If the thermostat fails the test, replace it, or call Chief to replace it for you.

2) Check the manual defrost timer.

  • Unplug the freezer before you remove the defrost timer.
  • Use a screwdriver to turn the advancement screw of the defrost timer clockwise until you hear it click.
  • Wait for 30 minutes to an hour. If the defrost timer hasn’t advanced to the cooling cycle, it probably needs to be replaced.

3) Clean the condenser coils.

Dirt and dust accumulate around your refrigerator’s condenser coils as they dissipate heat. You should clean rear-mounted coils at least once a year — every six months for optimum operation.

  • Unplug the refrigerator.
  • Brush or vacuum the coils to remove dust and debris. Use warm soapy water for stubborn dirt. Avoid dripping water on freezer components.
  • After an hour, plug the freezer back in and wait for it to cool.

4) Test your freezer’s door seal.

A faulty door seal lets in warm air and leaks out colder air, enough to prevent the freezer from freezing.

  • Close the freezer door on a dollar bill and pull it (the dollar bill, not the door, of course).
  • If you feel only slight resistance as you pull the dollar bill, the freezer seal may be damaged or dirty.
  • A dirty door seal should be cleaned. But if the freezer door still doesn’t seal properly after cleaning, you may have to replace the seal or realign the freezer door.

5) Check the evaporator coils for ice.

  • The defrost heater prevents frost from accumulating on the evaporator coils. Ice buildup on the coils could indicate a defective heater.
  • Use a multimeter to test the defrost heater. You’ll need to have it replaced if it lacks continuity (can’t support an electrical current).
  • Dirt and dust bunnies on and around the evaporator coils may also be responsible for inefficient heat and cold transfer.

6) Make sure the compressor is working.

  • With most refrigerators, you can find the compressor at the back of the unit and close to the floor.
  • A properly operating compressor emits a humming sound or steady noise.
  • A clicking sound indicates that the compressor is overheating or in overload.
  • If you don’t hear the compressor clicking and the freezer isn’t cooling, something could be wrong with the compressor or its starting components.
  • Test each component for continuity and replace any defective parts.
  • Also, replace a start relay that smells burnt.

7) See if the condenser fan motor is running.

  • Condenser fan blades should spin freely.
  • Obstructions can prevent the fan from turning. Motor bearings wear out over time.
  • If the fan motor runs rough, replacing it may get your freezer working again.

8) Keep your freezer full.

It sounds counterintuitive, but a freezer runs more efficiently when it’s stocked. It enjoys the company of frozen peas and berries!

An empty, lonely freezer works much harder, raising your utility bills and elevating the risk of eventual appliance failure.

  • Aim for a minimum freezer level of two-thirds of capacity.
  • If your frozen food runs low, fill the freezer with bottled water, ice cubes, or leftovers from the fridge.
  • Load the freezer evenly for maximum efficiency and to decrease appliance workload.

9) If All Else Fails, Call West Coast Chief Repair

Easy-peasy, right? We can sense most readers lapsing into a coma as they reach the midpoint of this “DIY” blog.

Modern appliances are more complicated than ever. Few people keep electronic testing equipment around the house. And a malfunctioning freezer can be a significant inconvenience for a family that relies on packaged food.

West Coast Chief offers same-day repair and stocks its trucks with parts for all major appliance brands.

And in the unlikely case that your freezer refrigerator has reached the end of its life and no longer justifies a repair, we can sell you a new unit at an attractive price and haul the old box off to the appliance graveyard.

Don’t suffer in silence. Call us today.



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  1. Fran Myers

    My upright freezer needs a new seal. Yesterday the motor continued to run but the freezer lost all cooling capability. Could this be caused by the weak seal? I hesitate replacing the seal if there could be more costly repairs ahead. Thanks.

  2. Amechi

    My standing freezer stops every 10 to 15 mins and picks again, so in 1 hour it picks and work just 4 times. It wasn’t like dat before now, what can I do pls


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