You depend on your refrigerator to keep your food at a cool, safe temperature. When your fridge is no longer reaching temperature, you may assume it has simply reached the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced. But this is not necessarily the case. There are a few rather minor problems that can impede your refrigerator's ability to stay cold, and they are worth looking into before you throw the fridge away and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new one.
Here are four possible reasons why your fridge is not staying cold, presented in order from least to most serious.
1. Dirty Coils
Along the back of your refrigerator, you should see a series of metal coils. Inside these coils, there is a coolant chemical. The coolant absorbs heat from the fridge and discharges that heat, through the metal coils, to the air outside the fridge. Coils have a tendency to attract dirt and debris over time. If the layer of dirt gets too thick, it impedes the exchange of heat across the coils. Eventually, it may get to the point that the fridge cannot discharge enough heat across the dirty coils to maintain its temperature.
Thankfully, cleaning the coils is pretty easy. Unplug the fridge, and pull it away from the wall. Use a vacuum with a small brush attachment to suck up as much dirt and dust as you can. If there is any residue left after vacuuming, wipe it away with a damp cloth. Plug the fridge back in, and check the temperature every hour or two. Chances are, your fridge will have a much easier time staying cool after this cleaning procedure.
2. Loose and Broken Gaskets
The problem could be that all of the cold air your fridge generates is just leaking out. Refrigerators have strips of rubbery plastic running along the edges of their doors. Known as gaskets, these pieces are meant to stop the flow of air through the gap between the door and the fridge case. But gaskets can become worn, torn, and frayed over time, resulting in air leaks.
Check the gaskets in your fridge. If they are not sealing properly or appear to be broken in any way, head to the hardware store to buy a new gasket. Locate the screws that hold the existing gasket into place, and loosen then just enough to slide the gasket out. Then, wiggle the new gasket into place. Use a utility knife to cut it down to size, and then tighten the screws to anchor it to the door. With any luck, your fridge will stay colder now.
3. Broken Thermostat
Sometimes, the thermostat that checks the refrigerator temperature and turns the cold air on when the temperature gets too high might be broken. If the fridge does not seem to be blowing out cold air at all, this could be the problem that's to blame. Your appliance repair specialist can usually replace a thermostat pretty easily, and it's a lot cheaper to do this than to buy a whole new fridge.
4. Leaking Refrigerant
Sometimes, the refrigerant or coolant found in your refrigerator's coils might start leaking out. This can happen if a fridge is damaged during transportation or is not made properly. Put a sheet of paper on the ground under the coils, and leave it there for a few hours. If any colored liquid appears on the paper, you have a refrigerant leak, which is keeping the fridge from reaching the desired temperature.
A refrigerant leak is a pretty costly problem to repair, so most appliance specialists will just recommend replacing the fridge if this occurs.
Do not assume you need a new fridge until you check the gaskets and clean the coils. Both of these issues are easy to fix in under an hour, and they don't cost more than a few dollars, either! Contact a company that offers appliance services for additional information.