April 18


Why Does A Refrigerator Freeze Up?

By Robin Hatch

April 18, 2021

If your refrigerator is freezing food, the most common causes are a faulty thermostat that fails to regulate temperature, a broken door seal letting out cold air, blocked vents or coils preventing proper air circulation, or a malfunctioning defrost system allowing frost buildup. Adjusting temperature settings, sealing doors, clearing obstructions, and replacing faulty parts like the thermostat or defrost heater will resolve freezer issues.

Opening your refrigerator only to find solidly frozen food and beverages is a big inconvenience. But what causes refrigerators to unexpectedly freeze up, and how can the issue be fixed? This guide covers the common culprits behind fridge-freezing items and practical solutions to get your appliance back to cooling properly.

What Causes Refrigerator Freezing?

Refrigerator freezing up

Here are the most likely reasons a refrigerator starts freezing its contents:

Imbalanced Air Temperature

Improper air circulation between fridge and freezer compartments leads to imbalance. Causes include blocked vents, iced flappers, and incorrect food arrangement.

Faulty Thermostat

If the thermostat fails, it can’t accurately regulate temperature via the compressor and fans. This leads to over-cooling.

Broken Door Seals

Damaged fridge or freezer door seals allow cold air to escape, forcing the unit to overcompensate by overcooling.

Blocked Evaporator Coils

Dirt, grime, or frost buildup on the coils blocks proper air circulation, leading to freezer malfunction.

Defective Defrost Heater

A broken defrost heater allows ice to accumulate on evaporator coils and restrict air flow, causing freezing.

Sensor Failure

Inaccurate temperature readings from a defective sensor lead to incorrect cooling by the compressor.

How to Fix Refrigerator Freezing Food

Once the source of the issue is identified, these solutions can resolve freezer problems:

  • Adjust the thermostat – If set too low, gradually increase the temperature setting.
  • Replace door seals – Use seal tester paper to check for leaks and replace worn seals.
  • Clear obstructions – Remove any blocked vents, coils, flaps, or ports restricting airflow.
  • Replace thermostat – Swap out inaccurate or malfunctioning thermostat for proper temperature regulation.
  • Replace defrost heater – Install a new defrost heater to prevent frost buildup on evaporator coils.
  • Replace sensor – Faulty sensors reporting incorrect temps must be replaced.
  • Professional repair – For complex airflow or compressor issues, hire an appliance repair technician.

Preventing Freezer Failure

Follow proper refrigerator practices to avoid freezing issues:

  • Set the temperature between 36-40°F for the fridge compartment.
  • Allow space between items for airflow. Don’t overpack.
  • Use airtight containers for moist foods vulnerable to freezer burn.
  • Regularly change water filters and clean condenser coils.
  • Replace seals immediately when any leaks are detected.
  • Listen for abnormal noises that may indicate a faulty component.

With vigilant maintenance and temperature regulation, you can prevent common refrigerator freezing problems.

FAQs About Refrigerator Freezing Up

What temperature should a refrigerator be set at?

The ideal refrigerator temperature is 36-40°F. The freezer should be 0-5°F. Use an appliance thermometer to verify settings.

Can a clogged freezer vent cause freezing?

Yes, any blockage of the vents or air circulation pathways between the fridge and freezer can disrupt balancing and lead to freezing issues.

Why does my fridge get cold but not the freezer?

If the fridge gets very cold but the freezer stays warm, it is likely due to a defrost heater failure allowing frost buildup and restricted airflow in the freezer section.

Should refrigerator doors close tightly?

Properly sealing doors are vital to prevent cold air leaks. Immediately replace any seals that appear cracked or allow paper to slip through when closed.

Can a full freezer cause the refrigerator to freeze?

Yes, overloading the freezer compartment can obstruct air vents and circulation, leading to cooling imbalance and freezing in the refrigerator section.

Don’t tolerate a freezing fridge that ruins your food. Identify the underlying cause, implement the right solution, and restore proper chilled temperatures. With a fully operational refrigerator, you can store foods safely again.

Below are more articles to help you with your refrigerator.

How To Fix Knocking Noise In Refrigerator

Refrigerators Made In The USA

How Refrigerators Make Ice Cubes

How Does A Refrigerator Freezer Work?

Where Does Refrigerator Water Come From

Robin Hatch

About the author

For over a decade, Robin has been a real estate agent, interior design specialist, and mother. Through her trials and tribulations, she wanted to create the perfect website to help you save money and make your home look beautiful.

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