How to Fix Refrigerator Temperature Problems

If the main compartment in your refrigerator is too warm or too cold and adjusting the temperature controls doesn’t seem to help, first vacuum the compressor and condenser coils. If they aren’t cleaned a couple times a year, the refrigerator won’t be efficient.

If dirty coils aren’t the problem, check and reset the temperature in the food compartment. It should be between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. A freezer should be between 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

It really doesn’t matter what the dial says if you know exactly where it should be to get the temperatures you need. You can try to readjust the dial controls by following the steps below, but it won’t work for everyone.

Some do-it-yourselfers can fix the temperature control if it’s accessible. To find out whether yours is, take the front panel off the control panel. You will see a small oval or cylindrical copper tube with a sensor bulb on one end. (The tube might be a few inches to a couple of feet long, depending on the model and make of the refrigerator.) If you can see all of tube, you can replace it and fix the control. If it leads into a side wall and hides there, forget it; there’s nothing you can do. For those who have accessible controls, follow these steps:

  1. Unplug the refrigerator.

  2. Mark the wires so you know where they go into the switch.

  3. Take out the switch and tube.

  4. Go to an appliance parts store with the switch and tube and the model and serial number of the refrigerator and get a new part.

    Do not kink, bend, or fold the new tube as you carry it home or install it. Doing so will permanently damage it because there’s liquid inside the tube.

  5. Put the new tube into the refrigerator just as the old one was installed with either push-on clips or wires that have to be screwed together.

  6. Screw the panel onto the control housing.

The temperature switch and tube are preset by the manufacturer; you shouldn’t try to change anything. If they quit altogether or else raise the temperature all the way up, they’re bad and should be replaced. But also check to see whether the vents are plugged up or free. Like air conditioners, refrigerators must have air to operate, and they won’t self-defrost if they’re too full. Remember, too, to vacuum the coils and evaporator fan blades.

If the temperature switch appears to be fine and you think the food compartment is still too warm, check for gaps in the seal along the door. If the door isn’t hanging right and the seal isn’t working, warm air may be getting in.

It takes little more than a screwdriver and a new switch to replace faulty door switches. Pry up the ring beneath the push-button switch with a screwdriver. If you wrap the tip with an old rag or masking tape, you won’t scratch the finish on the refrigerator. After the switch and ring are loose, pull out the wires. Attach the new switch to the wires.

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