You go to pull out the chicken from your freezer to defrost for tonight’s dinner, and it’s nice and cold. Then, you decide to pour yourself a drink, but the beverage in your fridge is lukewarm or even warmer. What is going on? Why is your freezer cold but not your fridge?
Your refrigerator’s freezer may but working fine, but your fridge is warm for these reasons:
- Bad thermistor
- Damper control assembly no longer works.
- Defrost timer has broken
- Evaporator fan motor failure
In this post, we’ll explain in more detail what these parts are and how you fix them, as well as the science behind why your freezer can be fine but not your fridge. If you’re having issues with specific fridge models such as an LG, Samsung, or Frigidaire, we’ll discuss repairs for these fridge brands too. Keep reading!
Why Is My Freezer Frosting up and My Fridge Not Working?
If your refrigerator is running warm, your first inclination may be to adjust the internal temperature. If that doesn’t work, then it’s likely one or a combination of these fridge components that have gone bad.
Within your fridge is a thermistor, a resistor that tracks how cold or warm your fridge gets. The thermistor then sends that data to your fridge’s control board, which can determine what to do based on the temperature data it receives. This usually involves running the fridge’s compressor to either elevate or reduce temperatures.
Thermistors can break down on you for several reasons. Sometimes, they just get old. In other instances, excessive heat, severe thermal changes, or incorrect handling can all kill the thermistor.
Without it, your compressor has no way of knowing when to run. It may run all the time or not at all, which can cause the temperatures in your fridge to creep up.
Damper Control Assembly
Another refrigerator component that can go wrong is the damper control assembly. This part takes cold air that travels from your freezer’s compartment and sends it to your fridge’s compartment. Blockages, such as cramming too much food in the freezer, can affect the damper control assembly’s functioning.
Once the damper control assembly stops working, your fridge isn’t getting nearly as much cold air. That makes it easy for the interior to warm up.
Your fridge may have an accumulative or continuous run defrost timer depending on the make and model. An accumulative timer kicks on as your fridge compressor does, defrosting on demand. The continuous run defrost timer is always on. Only when you unplug your fridge does this timer stop.
The defrost timer is part of the defrost system and relies on information from a control board that tells the accumulative defrost timer when to run. The defrost system also spares evaporator coils from freezing, which would affect how well your fridge works.
When the defrost system goes bad, it typically takes down everything with it, the timer included.
Speaking of the evaporator coils, these stay cool thanks to the evaporator fan. This fan is essential, as within the evaporator coils is refrigerant. This liquid will get hotter thanks to the air temperature. Then, as the evaporator coils are cooled, the refrigerant is cooler as well, which keeps the fridge at a comfortable temperature.
Most evaporator fan issues have to do with motor failure.
How Can a Fridge Break but Not the Freezer?
You can see from the above section that while your refrigerator and freezer share some components, that’s not the case with all. Thus, if some parts of the fridge stop working, including the evaporator fan or the defrost timer, that will only affect the fridge and not the freezer.
How Do You Fix a Warm Fridge and Cold Freezer?
Using the info from earlier, you’ve narrowed down your fridge warming issue to one or two culprits. Some of the failed components are fixable with a bit of elbow grease, but more than likely, it’s ideal to call a fridge repair person.
Before you give up on the defrost timer, try changing its cycle to defrost. Then, wait a half an hour for the defrost cycle to finish. If you have no change to your fridge temperature, then it’s time to reach out to the pros.
You can install a new evaporator fan motor if you feel inclined. Here’s a handy YouTube video from PartSelect that shows you how it’s done.
What if you have a Frigidaire, Samsung, or LG fridge, and you’re experiencing an issue where the freezer cools, but the refrigerator does not? Here are some troubleshooting suggestions.
Frigidaire Refrigerator Not Cooling but Freezer Working
Besides the four issues we’ve covered, your Frigidaire fridge may have failed on you because the control board has gone down. This happens less frequently than other issues, but it’s a possibility, and so is one we want to discuss. A breakdown of this nature would require a new mainboard.
The temperature control board, which gives the fan motors and the compressor electricity, should prevent excess voltage from getting to either component. Like the fridge control board, the temperature control board doesn’t break often, but if it does, it can be catastrophic.
Samsung Refrigerator Not Cooling but Freezer OK
Most Samsung fridges with issues are usually attributable to a faulty evaporator fan motor. You can try accessing your evaporator fan and twisting it a bit manually to see if it spins. Obstructions to the blade that prevents it from spinning are a sign that you need a new fan motor. Another symptom of the motor dying is that it runs much louder than usual.
LG Refrigerator Not Cooling but Freezer OK
The same issues that may have afflicted your Frigidaire or Samsung fridge are also likely to occur in an LG refrigerator. Start by checking and replacing the evaporator fan motor if necessary. Should that not work, the damper control assembly could have gone wrong, as could the thermistor.
You might want to consider looking into a new fridge brand if the above models are giving you a headache. Read more: Best Refrigerator Brands on the Market.
How Can I Tell If My Fridge Is Cold Enough?
What if all your refrigerator components seem to be working well enough, but your fridge still seems warm to you? How cold should a fridge run anyway?
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration or FDA, your fridge should be around 40 degrees Fahrenheit on average and the freezer zero degrees. These are the appropriate temperatures for storing perishable food items, so they don’t prematurely expire.
Thus, if your fridge is around 40 degrees, or if it can at least reach 40 degrees, then your refrigerator is indeed getting cold enough.
What Happens If the Fridge Is Too Warm?
If you’re worried that you wouldn’t be able to tell whether your fridge is too warm, trust us when we say that won’t be the case at all. The following symptoms will indicate that your refrigerator is having some significant issues.
Noticeable Temperature Decrease
In the summertime, especially, it’s always refreshing to open the fridge because you get a nice blast of cold air. Except lately, your fridge greets you with a warm gust each time you pull open its doors. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of year it is, either, this is what always happens.
The decrease in temperature, especially if it’s to the point where you can feel it, is a dead giveaway that something is wrong.
If you can’t tell by the temperature of your fridge alone, then try cracking open a bottle of water, Gatorade, or even a soda. Even if these drinks have sat in your fridge for days, they still feel very lukewarm, which does not make for a lovely sipping experience.
More Fridge Odors
Your fridge usually isn’t so stinky, but it seems like every time you swing open the fridge doors to grab something to eat or drink, you release another unpleasant smell. Even sometimes, with the fridge doors closed, you can still smell some pretty rank stuff.
Food Goes Bad Fast
What your nostrils are inhaling is the scents of your food going bad. Remember, you want to maintain temps of 40 degrees in your fridge, or everything in there will begin spoiling. From fruit to vegetables, meats and poultry, butter, and anything else that isn’t sealed or packaged will rot. This is a massive waste of your money, as you get a day or two out of foods that should last upwards of a week or more.
My Fridge Is Not Cooling at the Bottom – Why?
Let’s say that you figured out why your fridge was warm thanks to the tips in this post, and you’ve since gotten the appliance fixed. The issue you’re having is that even though the fridge is at the right temperature, the bottom is unusually warm.
Although the bottom of your fridge is a spacious area full of drawers for your meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies, anything you stash here dies fast since the temperature is too warm.
It sounds like your fridge’s temperature could be set too low, so try adjusting that first. If a temp boost doesn’t help, then next, inspect your condenser fans. If these don’t work as they should, cold air can’t reach the whole fridge. The same is the case if your damper control assembly is buried behind mountains of frozen goods in your freezer.
How Do You Know if Your Refrigerator Is Dying?
Is your fridge living out its final days in your kitchen? Here are some pointers that your refrigerator is dying:
- Your energy bills keep getting higher and higher as your old fridge sucks up too much power.
- Your fridge sweats or condenses a lot, likely because the seals are broken.
- The bottom or back of your refrigerator is always warm, even if the rest of the appliance isn’t.
- The fridge doesn’t hum, but chugs, and quite loudly at that.
- Your food goes bad all the time well sooner than it should.
Uh-oh, do you need a new fridge, stat? Check out this post: Where to Buy a Refrigerator? [Top 25 Online Stores]
If your refrigerator is warm, but the freezer isn’t, check your thermistor, damper control assembly, defrost control board, or the evaporator fan. If these problems are accompanied by odors, a high electricity bill, and food that expires too fast, it may be time to consider a new fridge. Best of luck!