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The Home Depot

Why is the Refrigerator Not Working?

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Appliance > Why is the Refrigerator Not Working?
Why is the Refrigerator Not Working?

When your refrigerator doesn’t work, your household may screech to a halt. You’ll quickly lose perishable foods if the temperature is too warm inside the fridge. In fact, foods not properly refrigerated can even cause food-borne illness, which could be unpleasant for your family.


Once you determine why your refrigerator isn’t working properly, take fast action to either fix it or replace it.

  1. If the light is on but you don’t hear the fan or the motor running, it’s possible that the compressor isn’t functioning.

    1.Assess the Situation

    Determine what problems you’re having with the refrigerator. Has it stopped running completely, showing no signs of power? Is it not keeping your foods sufficiently cool? Do you hear strange noises? Is it leaking? Does the freezer work or is it malfunctioning, too? Your answers to these questions will determine what might be wrong with the refrigerator.

  2. 2.No Signs of Power

    If you did not find any signs of power before unplugging the appliance – no light, no motor, no fan sounds, the first thing to determine is whether your electrical outlet may be malfunctioning. Plug a lamp into the outlet to see if it has power. If the lamp works, then the problem lies with the refrigerator. If the lamp doesn’t work, then you may have a blown fuse or circuit breaker.


    If the refrigerator is getting power but won’t work, you may have a wiring, compressor, thermostat or overloaded relay issue. Unless you have specific appliance-repair skills, you may need to call in an expert.

  3. 3.Insufficient Cooling

    If you’ve suddenly noticed that your food in the refrigerator doesn’t seem as cold as it should, check a few things to figure out the problem. Check the thermostat setting to make sure that it’s set properly. If the light is on but you don’t hear the fan or the motor running, it’s possible that the compressor isn’t functioning. The problem could also lie with the thermostat, the defrost timer or the condenser fan.


    Take a look at the evaporator coils located in a panel in the freezer section of the appliance. If you find excessive frost built up over the coils, you may have a problem with the defrost timer. To fix this, you may need to turn the unit off to defrost the coils completely before the refrigerator will be able to cool properly again.

  4. 4.Strange Sounds

    If you hear strange sounds, determine where they’re originating. If the sounds are coming from the freezer, this could indicate an evaporator fan that’s needing lubrication or replacement. If the sounds are coming from the outside back of the refrigerator, you may be dealing with the compressor, the condenser fan or the defrost timer. These parts often wear out and need replacing. If the noise is coming from the bottom of the unit, this may be a simple issue – your drain pan may be shifting. You can duct-tape the pan in place to stop the rattling.

  5. 5.Leakage

    A leaking fridge can mean a variety of things. If the water is coming from the bottom front, the drain tube may be clogged. You can probably fix this yourself. If water is coming from the back, you could have issues with the icemaker or your drain pan. Check the valves to make sure they’re tight – they may need replacement if the valves are leaking. Check the drain pan for leakage or cracks – this is an easy replacement. If water is coming from under the fridge, you may have a broken water line.

  6. 6.Troubleshooting

    Troubleshooting is one thing, but before doing anything that involves opening up compartments of the fridge or freezer, unplug it from the wall. You don’t want to risk electric shock by opening it while it’s still connected with the power source.


    Once you narrow down the problem, decide on whether to repair or replace your unit. It might just be time for a shiny new refrigerator in your kitchen.

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