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Tyler Z.
Tyler Z., Appliance Doc
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Experience:  9+ years being an appliance technician with factory training.
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My refrigerator/freezer will not get cold enough

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My refrigerator/freezer will not get cold enough
Hello, and thank you for using this service. I'll be helping you with your problem today.

How long did you turn this unit off to defrost for?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

overnight, 10 hours


OK and does the refrigerator or freezer cool at all?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

History: for some time, the freezer has been short cycling, running in 5 second bursts sounding as if it wants to run but is never able to come on. However, the freezer stayed cold enough until a few days ago. Noticed ice melting. Turned freezer off overnight with door open. Refrig side lost it's coolness even though was not turned off. freezer now freezing but will not cycle. refrig is at 40* after running all night and day.

OK so the first thing you need to do is pull everything out of the freezer and remove the lower back panel inside the freezer. What do the silver coils look like behind the back panel? I'm assuming they won't be packed with frost but are they lightly frosted from top to bottom? Some frost on top but not on bottom? etc..

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The coils are covered from top to bottom with a light frost.

OK so that's actually a good thing. Have you checked the actual temperature inside the freezer section? Is it below 0 degrees?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

just moved the thermometer from refrig to freezer. it is however, colder in freezer but still will not cycle and does not feel near 0. refrig is a 41

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

btw, the dial for the refrig is on 9, and the freezer is on 7. with 5 being the norm

So the fact that the coils are frosted from top to botXXXXX XXXXXghtly means that everything is working normally now but let me explain a few things.

Defrosting the unit will take 24 hours for the temperatures to get back down to the correct temperature and the refrigerator may not shut off at all in those 24 hours. I think the unit is working normally at this point. The problem is what was going on before. That is a serious issue.

You said that the compressor was only running for 5 second bursts. This means that your compressor is overloading and cutting out.  It will turn off for a few minutes and then try again over and over.  Now since you unplugged the unit, the refrigerator has been working. This generally means that the compressor itself is the faulty part. Your refrigerator is made by Frigidaire for Sears and Frigidaire is known for having compressor that will swell up as they heat up while working, then seize and won't turn over. Letting the compressor cool down for a few hours gets them to free up and start working again, but usually the issue comes back anyways from a few days later to 2-3 months later, but the issue almost always comes back. So if the unit stops cooling again and you get those 5 second bursts, that means the compressor needs to be replaced.

One last thing. You said that you turned the freezer off and that stopped the refrigerator from cooling---that's 100% normal. The way this unit works is that the refrigerator cools by stealing air from the freezer. So if the freezer is shut off, the refrigerator can not cool anymore.

Change the setting back to 5 and 5 and just give the unit 24 hours to cool down and it should be fine until the compressor decides to act up again.

Please remember to rate my service before you leave. If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. You can continue asking follow-up questions until you have all the information you need even after rating my service. Thank you!

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am not sure I clearly explained the sound I hear in the freezer. It is the fan I hear in short bursts. It may be the compressor that is trying to start up. I do not know. But, it is a constant burst after burst like someone is exhaling deeply over and over. It never stops doing this and it has operated like this for months. I never hear the compressor run for any period of time. Also, the unit was only unplugged for a few minutes while cleaning underneath. The dial was turned off to the freezer and the door left open. The refrig was left running during all of this.

Hmm, the only thing that can make a noise in the freezer is the evaporator fan motor. Either way, you'd really need to wait for the unit to act up to be able to see what is wrong because as of right now it sounds like everything is working, you just have the settings set too cold so it takes forever for the unit to get down to temperature when you have the setting set to low. Aside from that, make sure the fan above the coils is running and if the noise comes back, check the fan above the silver coils and if it's acting up---replace it.

Again! The refrigerator can not cool when the freezer is turned off. it's impossible. The refrigerator cools by stealing air from the freezer so if the freezer is thawing out, the refrigerator will warm up as well whether it's turned on or not.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Not ready for you to write me off yet. The unit sounds exactly as it has for months. WHEN I stick my head in the freezer I believe I hear a constant sound faintly which may be the compressor. But the fan definitely is operating in short bursts. How do I know if the compressor is bad or not? Also, could the massive amount of dust build up underneath have caused the thaw out in the freezer to begin with?

I'm not sure what else to say. I have given you all the knowledge I can for this problem. You can't know if the compressor is bad or not. You need to listen to it and if it's short cycling and turning off when you hear those burst---IT'S BAD. The massive amounts of dust could have cause the compressor to possibly overheat to begin with yes, but that is already corrected so it's not something you need to worry about anymore.

If the fan is operating in short bursts--replace the fan motor it's really that simple.
Tyler Z. and 4 other Appliance Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I removed the upper panel in the freezer and it is the fan motor not running correctly. thank you for your help.

OK so that would explain why the air isn't circulating properly. Just replace that fan motor and you should be good to go again.
Tyler Z. and 4 other Appliance Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I still need help with this problem. Do I need to ask a new question? or do I post it here?


You just post right here, but what seems to be the issue?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

the unit is getting cold enough. I replaced the fan motor inside the freezer but there is no change. The fan operates intermitantly. It acts as if it does not get consistence power. It never gets to full speed, or even half speed.

Hmm, I'm really sorry to hear that. Let's see if we can track down the problem a bit more. So look at the top of the silver coils and there is a 1" round device with 2 wires going to it. That is your defrost thermostat. Remove this part and check continuity through this thermostat. You should have less than 1 ohm (between 0.1 and 1 ohm). If not, then replace this thermostat because it cuts neutral to the fan motor.

Now other than that, only one part sends power to the fan motor and that's the adaptive defrost control board (ADC) mounted up inside the control panel of your refrigerator section. So if the fan is new and it's still not spinning properly then you'd need to replace the ADC. Below is a link to that part.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I just check the temp for the first time since last night. You instructed me to turn the dials back to 5. I had disconnected the fan motor overnight. This is the first chance to chexk it. The temp in frig is 65* and the coils har completely thawed. They were very frozen last night. As I looked for the 1" part , it was attached to a copper tube in the back. I was able to spin it completely around the tube, very loose fitting. Do not have an ohm meter. I can go but a new one or is it possible that the spinning around the copper tube could be a problem?
The part is supposed to spin around the tub, that isn't a problem.

But what doesn't make sense is that you say the coils are completely thawed. If the compressor is running, the coils should have a light coating of frost from top to bottom. Can you pull the refrigerator forward and see if the fan next to the compressor is running and if you touch the compressor is it blazing hot, warm, or room temperature?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Please pardon the delay. I am rustling around picking kids up from school. As of last night, the compressor was warm. The fan next to it was running when I vacuumed out the coils down below. 30 minutes ago I heard the compressor come on and I watched as a frost began to form on the coils inside the freezer. There was no frost pryor. That reminded me that I had reset the temps to "5". Also, I had disconnected and removed the fan in the freezer last night. I will be back home in a few minutes.


So you may end up needing to just call a technician out because everything you're saying is starting to contradict what makes sense. The fan running has nothing to do with the coils not frosting up. It doesn't matter if the setting is set to 5 or 7 or 1, the refrigerator should always be running until it gets down to temperature which is well below 65 degrees no matter what setting you have the unit on. The compressor is running but you had no frost on the coils but now the compressor is still running and there is frost on the coils.

You're going to need to come up with more concrete symptoms if there is going to be a way for me to help you---otherwise you're going to need to call someone out to look at the system so they can see what is happening.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Ok, I am in front of the unit. The coils are completely frosted over, the compressor is running, the compressor fan is running, the compressor is warm, not at all hot. temp in frig is 65

So the coils are completely frosted over and the fan above the coils is still running sporadically?

If that's the case, then you either have a bad defrost thermostat or a bad ADC as I originally said. If you don't have a multimeter to check the defrost thermostat, you can unplug the 2 wires going to the thermostat and put a jumper wire between the 2 wires to "bypass" the defrost thermostat. If the fan still acts up, replace the ADC. If the fan starts working, replace the ADC.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thankyou, I will try all of that

OK, good luck.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Tyler, One last question: Should there at any time be a heavy frost build up on the coils in the rear of the freezer? If the answer is no, then the problem has to be with the defrost thermostat. The man at the parts supply house talked me out of buying the parts, saying that it must be a wiring problem if there is no build up of ice on the coils. And, if the fan was running at all then the problem couldn't be the ADC board. I just returned home to find a large amount of frost on the coils. It may had been there before but thawed mostly before I saw it. Thoughts?

So the answer is no, there should never be heavy frost---but at the same time frost will build up heavily just do to the fan not running properly because it can't circulate the air. So the fan not running properly is going to explain the frost building up. But it's not correct to say that if the fan is running at all that the ADC is not the problem. You're still down to a bad defrost thermostat or a bad ADC.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thank you. Back to the parts store I will go.

Alright, good luck again.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I realize this is early on a Sunday morning, so don't feel rushed to respond. I have another question about my unit. I replaced the ADC, which included a new wiring harness, and the fan motor (because I accidentally pulled out the connectors from the motor). The unit has been working well, freezer slightly below 0. However, the unit runs constantly. I think I might have positioned the refrig thermostat sensor incorrectly. I am wondering if this might cause the unit to continually run? How should the thermostat sensor be positioned?

If the thermostat was positioned incorrectly and the unit runs all the time, the refrigerator would be way too cold and freezing everything. If the refrigerator temperature is normal, the issue would have something to do with the fan (maybe the blade is on upside down or something) or if there was too much frost on the evaporator. Those would be the only options really.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks, I will check after church


Ok good luck.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Back at the unit again. It seemed to run too much so I kept unplugging it at night so the compressor wouldn't run all night. I plugged it in yesterday and let it run. This morning all of the temps were good. Freezer was at 0*. I checked the compressor and it was not running and warm, not hot. an in freezer was not running. Opened the door for a couple of minutes and compressor kicked on and fan in freezer kicked on. Everything appears to be working well. However, I did notice a few minutes ago while trying to adjust the water filter connection so that the filter will stop getting pushed out of connection, that the fans were running but the motorized control door in the top of the frig was closed, not allow air into frig. I would have thought it would be open since the frig front door had been open for 10 minutes. could this be a problem? I replaced the wiring harness when I replaced the ADC. Not at all sure how the frig thermostat should be located behind panel.

That flap stays shut if the door is opened if the door is opened for at least 2 minutes. It's hard to explain but it's called inner liner protection mode. It stops the air from circulating from the refrigerator into the freezer and vice versa. Either way, it doesn't sound like you have a problem. It's cooling properly.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Last thing, can you tell me how to place the thermostat probe inside the frig, around the "flap" or against the foam between freezer and frig, or how. Where does it go?

I really couldn't say without seeing it, but I think it wraps around the front of the damper around the outside of the vent opening itself.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for all of your help. Everything should be great now.

No problem and good luck to you.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Tyler, I still have problems. I don't know how the compensation works for you when a problem persists and is not easily resolved. Do I need to start over?

I'm not not sure where to go from here. Perhaps you can explain the problem that you currently have and what you're seeing but at this point you may just need to get a technician out there to look at the unit.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

1) replaced ADC and evaporator fan

2) unit appeared to be continually running, both the evaporator fan, compressor and compressor cooling fan. Freezer temp stayed at 0*, frig at 35*. Both settings were on "5".


3) yesterday I took the panel apart in the upper left section of frig to adjust the thermostat bulb. I had previously wedged it in between the foam of the damper and the side of the frig/freezer. I wrapped it around the damper housing, inside the wire housing panel. I also opened up the evaporator panel inside the freezer to make sure it wasn't frozen up. There was a little frost but appeared to be correct.


4) thought everything was fixed. Although I had heard and seen the unit (compressor and evaporator fan) shut off and come back on, I was still skeptical about the unit running constantly.


5) yesterday afternoon my wife heard a loud "clanking" noise. When I went to check a couple of hours later, the freezer was at 31*. I moved unit out to check compressor and heard a clanking noise. The compressor was fairly warm but I would not say "hot". The freezer is still at 31* this morning. The unit still seems to run constantly.

So you would need to see if the fan inside the freezer is running. If the fan is running and the freezer warmed up that much that quickly---you have an issue with the compressor itself and would need to contact a technician to come look at it because anything dealing with the sealed system is not something you can fix yourself.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Let's assume for a moment that the conditions remained as they did for several days with the temp constantly at 0*in freezer and 30* in frig. However, the unit ran constantly without shutting off. What would be the most likely cause?

Something is wrong with the thermostat because the refrigerator is too cold and not shutting off, or you don't have the thermostat bulb in the correct position.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The position of the thermostat bulb is something I have been asking for a week. Then I believe I may have worn out the compressor because of the thermostat bulb being in the wrong place. Where does it go?
Do you have a diagram, drawing, instruction or anything?

There is no diagram unfortunately. You also never said it was getting down to 30 degrees in the refrigerator until just now. If you don't remember where the bulb of the thermostats goes you're going to need to have someone come out there and see where it belongs.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Oops! I typed that wrong, the frig never got below freezing. It was within "REF" range on my thermometer. It is still within range. The freezer is on the edge of the "FREEZE" range.

Then nothing is wrong with the thermostat. If the refrigerator was running and never shutting off but the freezer and refrigerator weren't getting too cold, the issue is with your sealed system. Because if it never shuts off and it was running all the time it should be freezing everything or at least the freezer section being -15 degrees while the refrigerator is close to normal.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


My thought is clearly, if the temps were both in range (freezer stayed a little too cold at 0*), evaporator never froze up. However, the unit ran constantly, what would be the cause?

A sealed system issue. Whether the fan down by the compressor isn't running to cool the compressor, you have a freon leak, or you have a bad compressor.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for all of your help. I am done now.

OK. Sorry about all the problems you're having but I do wish you only the best.