Refrigerators keep your food preserved, your ice cream frozen, and drinks cold. Having a refrigerator that will not run means something is wrong. There are 15 common reasons for ways to repair a refrigerator that will not run correctly. This includes simple troubleshooting methods to fix the problem yourself and repair your refrigerator. This you will save you time, money, and the hassle of waiting for expert help.
15 Reasons A Refrigerator Will Not Run
Table of contents:
Refrigerator constantly cycling
Condenser coils problem
Control board problem
Fridge lights stay on
1. Refrigerator running frequently
Refrigerator constantly cycling or running too frequently is a very common problem. As the refrigerator consumes too much electricity so it will increase your electricity bills. There are two main reasons due to which the refrigerator runs too frequently. You have set the temperature quite low, causing the refrigerator to struggle and run constantly to keep or reach the set temperature. To fix this adjust your refrigerator’s temperature a bit higher and see if it resolves the issue. Another reason for this may be the condenser coils are dirty. Any dirt on the coil will not allow the transfer of heat out from the coil, disturbing the refrigeration cycle. Unplug your refrigerator and clean the dirty condenser coils (in most models the condenser coils are located at the bottom of the refrigerator).
2. Start capacitor
Repair a refrigerator that will not run. Do you know, How do your refrigeration cycle starts? Your refrigeration cycle starts when you plug in your fridge then a signal is sent send by the thermostat to start the capacitor so your start capacitor triggers the compressor to start the refrigeration cycle. When there is a fault in the capacitor then your refrigerator will not start. To check the fault, take a multi-meter and check the capacitor by joining the two terminals, if the needle is not moving it means your capacitor has failed and you need to replace it with a new one. Consult a refrigerator expert if needed.
3. Faulty thermostat
As mentioned above thermostat is a switch and its function is to send a start signal to the start capacitor which then triggers the compressor and the refrigeration cycle starts. When your thermostat is out of service then there is no start signal thus your refrigerator will not run. To check your thermostat, take a multimeter and place the leads of the multimeter on the thermostat wire. If the thermostat is warm, then it should give zero reading and if it is cold, it should give an infinity reading when it is in working condition. But if it is not doing so, that shows the thermostat is faulty so call for a technical repair service to replace the thermostat.
4. Vents are blocked
The majority of the time your refrigerator is not cooling is due to the blockage to vents. Vents in your refrigerator circulate the cold air in the food compartment of the fridge. When something like an ice-cream box, frozen vegetables, leftover pieces of bread block the vent then it restricts the cold air circulation in the refrigerator, this will spoil the food inside and your refrigerator will not work. Try to keep your refrigerator vents free from any kind of blockage. Keeping the vents clear will repair a refrigerator will not run.
5. Ice buildup in the freezer
The freezer is an ice-making box of the refrigerator but when there is extra ice buildup in the freezer’s ice-making wall it is not good for the refrigerator. Ice builds in the freezer due to the rise in the humidity level of the freezer. Humidity increases inside the freezer when the door is kept open for long or direct air is somehow making its way to the freezer. To troubleshoot this unplug the refrigerator, open the doors and use a hairdryer to melt the ice or keep the door open while there is no refrigeration cycle going on, so ice will melt by itself.
6. Refrigerator is warm
The refrigerator’s function is to keep the inside cold by sending the heat out. When your refrigerator is warm and not cooling the compartment inside, it may be due to faulty condenser coils or condenser fan. Clean the dirt from the condenser coil and inspect the condenser fan motor and fan blades. Replace the condenser fan in case it is broken or its motor is out of service. Doing this may not be an easy task so get help from an appliance repair technician if needed.
7. Refrigerator doors do not seal correctly
When the refrigerator doors are opened or not sealed correctly then your refrigerator will not maintain the cold temperature inside its compartments. As cold air will not circulate inside the refrigerator but move out from the open space. There might be a door problem with the door hinge or the refrigerator door gasket is not sealing tightly. To troubleshoot this problem look whether the hinge or the rubber door gasket needs replacement. This is a relatively easy task so you don’t need any repair expert to handle this. Replacing bad gaskets on your fridge doors will repair a refrigerator that will not run correctly.
8. Dirty condenser coils
The duty of condenser coils in a refrigerator is to release heat out with the help of a fan by continuously cooling the refrigerator until the temperature inside the refrigerator becomes equal to the set temperature. Sometimes your refrigerator not running is due to excess dirt on the condenser coils of your refrigerator. The coils of the condenser are blocked by dirt thus this will not allow the transfer of heat out from the coils. As a result, there will be no cooling in the refrigerator. You need to clean the coils and remove all the dust with the help of a vacuum cleaner. It is recommended to clean the condenser coils once in 6 months.
9. Refrigerator is noisy
Your refrigerator is noisy due to the faulty fan’s motor. In a refrigerator, there is a condenser fan and an evaporator fan. As the condenser fan cools your condenser coil and evaporator fan pull the air over the evaporator coil. These two fans run at the same time but when there is a fault with any of the fan or fan’s motor then your refrigerator will start making loud noises. When your refrigerator becomes louder, unplug the refrigerator first and inspect the fans to check and replace the defective fan blade or fan’s motor if needed.
10. Electronic control board
The Electronic power control board monitors the temperature and controls the compressor, fans, and defrost system. It is not common to have a faulty electronic control board. To check whether the electronic control board is faulty or not, unplug your fridge and remove the main control board and inspect if there are any burned connections, damaged foil, or arcing. If you found the refrigerator control board to be defective, then replace it. This task may not be easy so consult an expert refrigerator repair technician to replace the main control board. Replacing a bad refrigerator control board will repair a refrigerator that will not run.
11. Refrigerator lights stay on
Lights are on when you open your refrigerator doors, so what is wrong when the lights stay on when the doors are closed? To find out if the lights stay on, touch the lights immediately after opening the doors, if the lights are warm it means the light stays on even when the doors are closed. To fix this try to manually turn off the light by pressing the off button. If the button is not working then you need to replace the light switch.
12. Defrost problem in the refrigerator
What is frosting/defrosting? Within the refrigeration cycle, humid air inside the refrigerator freezes and is stuck with the evaporator coil in the form of frost. The refrigerator has a defrosting cycle which melts that frost in the evaporator coils. When there is frost in large amounts, then it may stop the airflow thus your refrigerator will not run. Defrost problem means the frost on the coils will not melt. The reason for the defrosting problem is usually a faulty defrost timer. The defrost timer switches the refrigerator between defrost mode and cooling mode. When it is faulty then the refrigerator stops the cooling mode thus frost will spread even more. When the heater is faulty then it will not melt the frost. To fix the issue, consult a repair expert and replace the faulty part.
13. Insufficient power to the fridge
A refrigerator is a complex electrical device, to function properly it needs a sufficient amount of current or power. When there is a low voltage of current supply, then the refrigerator will not switch on or it switches on but cools poorly. Check your current at the outlet with a multimeter or voltmeter. For most household refrigerators the voltage is 120 volt. So make sure a sufficient amount of current is being supplied. Check the breakers or the GFCI outlet to see if they have tripped.
14. Faulty thermostat switch
The thermostat is an on/off switch. How does a thermostat work on a refrigerator? The thermostat controls the cooling process by monitoring the temperature and then switching the compressor on and off. When the sensor senses that it’s cold enough inside a refrigerator, then it turns off the refrigerator compressor. If it senses too much heat, it switches the compressor on and begins the cooling process again. When you have a faulty thermostat then it can’t sense the degree of coldness and it will not send the signal to the compressor thus the compressor will not stop. Then the refrigerator will either freeze the food inside or spoil the food. In that case, get help from a refrigerator repair expert and replace the faulty thermostat. Replacing a bad thermostat will repair a refrigerator that will not run.
15. Insufficient refrigerant or compressor
The coolant or refrigerant keeps your refrigerator and freezer cold. This refrigerator coolant flows through the evaporator coil, absorbs heat, and converts into gaseous form. It then releases the heat outside and then converts again into liquid form and the cycle begins. Coolant or refrigerant needs to be in a sufficient amount to function properly. When the coolant is low the refrigerator may not run or may not operate correctly. To correct this refill your refrigerator with a sufficient amount of refrigerant by a refrigerator repair expert. In this situation, another issue can be that the refrigerator compressor may be faulty and needs to be replaced. The compressor is the component that cools your refrigerator. If the compressor is bad, having the correct amount of coolant will not make a difference. Check the compressor or start relay with a meter to find out what is faulty and replace as needed.
NOTE: Always unplug the refrigerator before performing any troubleshooting action.
Need help? We can help you to fix a refrigerator that will not run. Please tell us the problem and include the model number of your refrigerator in the comments below and we will assist.
Allen is the author and creator of this website. He has years of experience with appliance repair, commercial food machinery maintenance, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, vehicle maintenance, and critical aviation related systems.