Freezer Is Cold but Refrigerator Is Warm? Here’s What to Do


Yes, it’s true; the freezer can be cold while the refrigerator is warm. Despite sounding rather odd, it’s a common problem that many people encounter, and it’s annoying when this happens. 

The good news is that you can still use your freezer while this is happening. However, you will need to get the refrigerator fixed fast. This guide will go over some quick solutions you can try before calling a repair person. There are also some ways of preventing this from happening.

1. Check the temperature

Before diagnosing the problem, first check the temperature of your refrigerator with a thermometer. The temperature should be 35-38°F (1.7-3.3°C). Then, compare the reading from the thermometer to the temperature the refrigerator is set at. 

If the temperature is still below 38°F or 3.3°C, leaving some perishable items in the refrigerator will be safe. However, avoid opening the refrigerator too much, as this may cause the temperature to rise further. 

2. Check the door

Check the door first before addressing other potential causes, because this is the most accessible component to check. If the door is not working properly, cold air can escape from the refrigerator. Here are some solutions you could try: 

  • Clean the rubber seal with a damp cloth; avoid cleaning products, like vinegar, that corrode rubber.
  • Remove heavy items from the refrigerator door, as it will be harder for the door to stay shut with extra weight. 
  • Make sure that your refrigerator is level so that the door does not have a tendency to swing open. 
  • Check that the door hinges are not out of alignment and realign if needed. 
  • If the seal is old and not working correctly, replace it with a new one. 
  • Use a strong latch, such as a child-proof one, to keep the door shut if needed. 

3. Check the condenser coils

The refrigerator can often be easily fixed just by checking the condenser coils. The condenser coils release heat to keep the fridge cool. However, their function is compromised when they are dusty, dirty, or damaged. For example, they cannot release heat adequately when covered in dust, because the dust traps the heat in the coils. 

Investing in a condenser coil brush is worthwhile because cleaning the coils every six months will improve the function of the refrigerator. In addition, these brushes are long and can reach under the fridge. 

Here’s how to check the condenser coils. 

  1. Unplug your refrigerator. 
  2. Pull the refrigerator away from the wall. The condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge. 
  3. Check that nothing is blocking the vent, and clean if necessary. 
  4. Unscrew the backplate. 
  5. Locate the condenser coils and clean them if they are covered in dirt and dust. 
  6. If the coils look broken, then you need to replace them. 
  7. While the backplate is removed, you should also check the other components. 

4. Check the condenser fan and motor

There is also a fan to help cool the condenser coils, and this fan is run by a motor. The condenser coils do not cool down when the fan stops generating cold air. As a result, the refrigerator can get warm. 

Assess the condenser fan

Check the fan first to determine if there is a mechanical problem. Here’s how you can check the fan blades: 

  1. Unplug the refrigerator and locate the condenser fan behind the backplate. 
  2. Try turning the fan to see if it spins. Remove the fan if it does not spin freely. 
  3. If you remove the fan, clean it and assess for damage. 
  4. If the fan is damaged, replace it.
  5. If the fan is not damaged, inspect the area it came from for obstructions, and remove any if necessary. 

Assess the condenser fan motor

  1. With the condenser fan in place, turn on the refrigerator to see how it works. 
  2. If the fan spins fine, there is no problem with the motor. 
  3. If the fan is spinning irregularly or not spinning at all, there could be a problem with the motor. 
  4. Try replacing the motor if no other issue is apparent. 

5. Defrost the evaporator coils

Sometimes when the freezer is cold and the refrigerator is warm, the evaporator coils are frosted. The role of the evaporator coils is to absorb heat from the refrigerator and freezer. However, they cannot absorb heat effectively when they are frozen. 

How to check the evaporator coils:

  1. Unplug the refrigerator and remove everything from the freezer. 
  2. Locate the back panel inside of the freezer and unscrew it. 
  3. Once the back panel is removed, you will see the evaporator coils (they look similar to the condenser coils). 
  4. If the condenser coils are frosted over, you can try defrosting them by leaving the freezer open. They will defrost slowly at room temperature. This method is the best way of defrosting them because it will cause the least damage. 

Determine why the evaporator coils frosted over

If you are lucky, the refrigerator may return to normal after the evaporator coils are defrosted. However, they will likely keep frosting over until the underlying problem is resolved. 

Potential causes:

  • Defrost timer is broken or malfunctioning
  • Defrosting heater is broken
  • Defrost thermostat is malfunctioning or needs resetting
  • Defrost control board is malfunctioning 
  • There’s condensation 

6. Control boards

If all else fails, you could try replacing the temperature control board or main control board.

Can’t find a problem, but the refrigerator is still warm?

If you can’t find the problem but suspect there is something wrong with the refrigerator, you will need to call a repair person. They can replace most parts. However, if the repairs cost more than the refrigerator is worth, they might advise buying a new one instead. 

If the refrigerator appears to be functioning fine, there are some other points worth considering:

  • Avoid frequent opening of the refrigerator to keep the cold air in. 
  • Avoid overloading the refrigerator so that cold air can circulate. 
  • Avoid placing the refrigerator near constantly running hot appliances. For example, it is not ideal to place a refrigerator near a big oven or deep fryer in commercial kitchens.

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