5 Common Freezer Problems

Question 1: Why doesn’t the freezer work at all?

 Answer 1: Are you sure that the freezer is getting power? If you can’t tell if anything is on at all, plug something else into the same outlet, such as a small lamp or hair dryer. If you have power, it’s time to troubleshoot. If you don’t have power, check the fuse or circuit breaker. If you do have power, does the interior light work, or do you hear a fan turning inside? You can try setting the thermostat to a colder setting. Does the compressor kick in? If that doesn’t work, you can begin checking the same items that would cause the freezer to freeze poorly.

 Question 2: Why doesn’t my freezer freeze?

 Answer 2: The first thing to do is to set the thermostat to a colder setting. If that doesn’t work, you can begin checking the defrost timer. Test this by manually advancing to the defrost cycle. You can usually manually advance this timer with a screwdriver. Insert the screwdriver into the advancement pinion and turn clockwise a 1/4 to 3/8’s of a turn. The timer should advance out of the defrost cycle in less than an hour.

To test if the cold control is bad, you can temporarily jump the two wires at the cold control. If this jumping gets power to the compressor, the cold control needs to be replaced.

If there is a break in the wiring, your freezer will not work. Testing wiring is a long, tedious process. You need to check each wire with a meter to see if there is continuity. If there is, the wire is fine.

See if the compressor motor is running. The compressor is at the back of the freezer near the bottom. If it’s humming, or making a steady noise, and your freezer is still not cooling properly, there could be a problem with one or more various components. If it is running, but your freezer is still not cooling at all, there may be a problem with the condenser or evaporator coils.

Sometimes you can hear a click-buzz-click sound coming from the compressor. This is the relay/overload at work. If you hear this, power is getting to the compressor. If you do, something is wrong with either the compressor or the compressor starting components. If you have a newer model with solid-state starting components, you may not hear anything at all.

If there is power to the starting components, you may be able to test each part and replace any bad parts. There is also a 3-in-1 unit that may work on your model which replaces all the components in one unit. If the compressor still won’t start, you have a bad compressor and need to replace it. If it does start, wire the 3-in-1 part in permanently. Make sure the one you buy is rated for the horsepower of your appliance. We sell these in our parts finder area.

Sometimes the evaporator coils get frozen over and air can’t pass over them. This can result in your freezer not freezing properly. You can manually defrost your freezer by turning it off for 24-48 hours and turn it back on to see if it begins to work properly. These coils can get dirty, and they will not transfer heat or cold very well.

 Question 3: Why is there a lot of frost built up inside the freezer?

 Answer 3: A frost build-up inside the freezer usually means that there is a problem in the self-defrost system. You may even have damaged door gaskets. When you open the freezer door, you also let in a blast of warm, often humid air. This moisture usually freezes onto the evaporator coils immediately.

Self-defrost freezers are supposed to self-defrost themselves. Every 6-12 hours they turn off the compressor for a few minutes. A defrost heater then turns on to melt any frost build-up on these coils, which allows the frost and ice to melt, then it drains off to the pan underneath. Unfortunately, though, when a component fails, too much frost can build up on the evaporator coils. With no air flow over the coils, cooling in the freezer compartment becomes almost non-existent.

You can manually defrost your freezer by turning it off for 24-48 hours and turn it back on to see if it begins to work properly. If your freezer now works the way it’s supposed to, test the three other components in the self-defrosting system, the defrost heater, the defrost thermostat, or the defrost timer.

You can visually inspect some defrost heaters to see if there is a break. If it looks physically broken, then it needs to be replaced. Otherwise, check the defrost heater for continuity.

The defrost thermostat, which is just a bi-metal switch, lets current pass through at factory set temperatures. It also prevents current from passing through at the temperatures set by the factory. The set temperatures for the defrost thermostat vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

You can test the defrost timer by manually advancing to the defrost cycle. You can usually manually advance this timer with a screwdriver. Insert the screwdriver into the advancement pinion and turn clockwise a 1/4 to 3/8’s of a turn. The timer should advance out of the defrost cycle in less than an hour.

If, after testing these components, it still does not cool properly, there may be a problem with the refrigerant level and you will need to contact a professional appliance repair person.

 Question 4: Why does the freezer keep running?

 Answer 4: Your thermostat controls whether the compressor is running or not. When the thermostat senses the internal temperature is lower than the setting, it turns off. If the thermostat won’t cycle off, the thermostat may be bad and you will have to replace it. You may also have the temperature set too high in the freezer. Try adjusting the thermostat to a lower temperature. If this turns the compressor off, you may have had it set too high. With the help of a freezer thermometer, you can find a more ideal setting that will keep your food cold, but not so cold that the compressor is always running. If raising the temperature setting doesn’t help, it may be a problem with the thermostat and you will need to replace it.

If your thermostat is working properly, there’s a chance that you have low levels of refrigerant in the sealed system. If this is where the symptoms lead you, you need to contact a professional appliance repair person. Only an EPA certified technician can legally work on a sealed system. If you attempt to do work on this system, you will void the warranty.

If this is a new refrigerator/freezer, it will run for a long time, almost constantly, before it gets cooled enough to stabilize the interior temperature. Allow up to 24 hours for it to stabilize.

Another common cause is a leaky gasket. Try putting a dollar bill between the gasket and the frame of the freezer as you close the door. If the dollar comes out without resistance, then you need a new door gasket.

When installing a refrigerator or freezer door gasket, you should allow the gasket to adjust to room temperature before removing it from the carton. When carrying or handling the gasket, you want to carry it by the corners. This will help to prevent breakage of the flexible magnet. Should the magnet be found to be broken, it will NOT impair its effectiveness. If the gasket is deformed or twisted from long storage, you can heat the deformed section with an electric heater, hair dryer, or a 150-300 watt light bulb. Holding the heat source about 1 inch to 3 or 4 inches from the gasket, move the heat source back and forth to maintain even warming. Apply heat until gasket has resumed its original shape. This can also correct an already installed, deformed gasket. Make sure you use caution so as not to damage the inner door panel.

Make sure that the freezer has enough air clearance on all sides. There is a condenser coil on the back or under the back near the compressor that needs to radiate heat away from itself. If it can’t radiate enough heat, it will cool poorly and will run for longer periods of time.

Verify that the door light switch is working properly. Push the switch with your finger to verify the light is turning off. If the light stays on, it will actually warn the interior of the freezer. Fix or replace the switch if it is faulty.

Modern freezers start and stop very frequently to maintain an even temperature. They may run for a long time initially. This is especially true if you have just put a lot of warm food in the freezer, or if it is very hot and humid. It can take several hours to get back to the cool temperature you have it set for after putting a large amount of food in it.

Question 5: Why do my frozen meats look burned?
Answer 5: Simply put, freezer burn is when the food in your freezer gets dehydrated from the freezer unit sucking out the moisture from the food. This is because the food wasn’t wrapped tightly enough to prevent evaporation of the moisture in whatever you’re freezing. It’s still okay to eat, but it probably tastes bad. The best way to prevent freezer burn is to seal food very well in sealed storage bags before freezing.

For more Appliance Repair help, please search this blog and for appliance parts visit us at APWagner.

57 thoughts on “5 Common Freezer Problems

  1. I’ve got a 6 yr old Whirlpool GD5SHA GOLD side x. about 1 1/2 years ago I had a defrost problem The parts place said it sounded like bi metal switch so I checked it cold and hot and checked out to have and have no resistance. So they said might be the electronic timer, since no way to bench test I bought one of those for $75 but still had same problem. Since the heater worked etc. I removed the plug behind the panel in the freezer compartment and crimped down the connections. Well it worked for about 1 1/2. Now it’s starting to act up again about every 3-5 weeks it builds up with frost and ice. I’m thinking the defrost cycle is not staying on long enough to melt all the build up. I accidentally bought a maytag thermostat thinking I had one . when I went to install it I noticed it and called the parts place I DID not buy it from and she said since it is only a 7 degree difference it should work. the new one is 38 part # 64013-4 degrees the old was 45 degrees #2196155. I didn’t want to waste the $40.00 on the maytag switch cause I don’t think the other place will take it back. 800 541 4493 Stephan

  2. It’s important to use the one specified by the manufacturer. If the freezer is designed to turn off the defrost system at 45, but it turns off at 38, there may be some issues.

  3. Hi. I just got a used freezer off a friend and it’s not been used for 6 years. I switched it on and after 36 hours, only the bottom part has started to freeze some items. But items on top are still not frozen.
    Should I turn the freezer upside down to allow the gas to circulate?? Or do you have another suggestion?

    Thanks a lot.

  4. Oh, by the way, the model is an Ignis S 32/04/G that’s built in Italy. It is 3 cubic ft and is a compressor system type. Also, I got it in very good condition (nice & clean).

    Thanks again.

    – Theodora

  5. Hi Theodora,

    Is this a standing freezer or a chest freezer?

    One issue I think you could be having is a leak near the top of the freezer if it is a chest freezer. To determine if you have a leave, stand next to the freezer while the lid is shut and see if you can feel a lot of cold air. if you can feel this with the freezer shut door shut, this might indicate a leak which might be caused by a cracked, loose seal also called a gasket.

    Do not turn your freezer upside down as this could cause the oil in the freezer to mix with compressor gases which will destroy your freezer!

  6. I have a norfrost aura chest freezer. Had it for about a year. The other week I switched it off to defrost it after which I was left with a pool if water in it. I preceeded to pour this out by tipping it into the bath. Since I done this the freezer has died. No water got into any of the electric components of this I am pretty sure. The power on switch still lights up but there is no sound and no freezing. If I pull the plug out for a few minutes then plug it back in a humming noise comes from the ? Compressor nut stops after about 10 seconds. There’s also the odd clicking noise coming from it bit still no FREEZING!! Any suggestions welcome.

    • Hi Derek,

      I am not familiar with Norfrost Aura Freezers.

      Here’s some general (generic) freezer repair info. below. If this is not helpful, I suggest posting your question on the Refrigerator and Freezer Repair Forum.

      The click-buzz-click sound coming from the compressor. This is the relay/overload at work. If you hear this, power is getting to the compressor. If you do, something is wrong with either the compressor or the compressor starting components. If you have a newer model with solid-state starting components, you may not hear anything at all.

      If there is power to the starting components, you may be able to test each part and replace any bad parts. There is also a 3-in-1 unit that may work on your model which replaces all the components in one unit. If the compressor still won’t start, you have a bad compressor and need to replace it. If it does start, wire the 3-in-1 part in permanently. Make sure the one you buy is rated for the horsepower of your appliance. We sell these in our parts finder area.

      • Hi Dave,

        I am sorry AP Wagner was not able to help you. We carry millions of parts for almost every major household appliance by numerous name-brand manufacturers.

        While AP Wagner does handle Sunbeam Major Appliance Parts, we are unaware of a source for Sunbeam Water Cooler Parts.

        I am doing some research on companies that do carry water cooler parts and will e-mail you or post my answers shortly.

        Thanks for your comments!

  7. I have a new frost free tall freezer purchased about 2yrs ago but have only just started using it. On the 2nd day of use, it went off suddenly. There is no power to the freezer at all, although the socket works when I try other appliances. I have also tested the fuse in the freezer appliance socket and it works on other appliances so I’m struggling to figure out what the problem might be.

  8. Recently the food in my freezer has been collecting a lot of ice, much more that it used to. The ice forms fairly quickly – 4-5 days. It is a Kenmore, about 4 years old and is not a frost-free type. The icing problem includes unopened bags of frozen foods such as vegetables. The door seal appears to be good. There is some resistance when pulling a dollar bill between the seal and frame. The temperature inside is abut 5 degrees F. Any ideas? Thanks.

  9. Hey everyone! I have a Roper (whirlpool) side by side fridge and freezer. We recently purchased our first home (!) and the fridge came with it. Everything worked great for the first couple of weeks, and then we started to notice our freezer was thawing out everything! The ice maker bin was literally filled with water. We thought we had left the door open (sometimes if you shut the fridge door too hard it will allow the freezer door to open a slight bit). we’ve been keeping an eye out and are making sure the door is shut! Well…this morning, I went to get ice from the ice maker (outside the door) and a bunch of water came out with a few cubes…when I opened the door, Surprise! things were beginning to melt! (so sad to see my bluebell ice cream melted!). We checked the fan, and it is running, cleaned the vents and all that good stuff, but we are still experiencing this “cycle” of thawing and re-freezing. Also, When the freezer is doing this, we noticed the fridge isn’t as cold as it should be. I would say this happened about 1 – 2 times a week, sometimes even longer/sometimes more frequently. What could be causing this? Should we get a new fridge? The Fridge is about 11 years old. I’m guessing it was original with the house.
    Thanks for any help!

  10. We have a Kenmore mod #51582200 in the garage, when the outside temp drops to 35 degrees or less the freezer stops running and the contents begin to thaw. I’ve asked other people that have a freezer in their garage and they do not have this problem. Our garage is not insulated and get cold in the winter months. Last year we had to toss alot of the contents after we realized the problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I just noticed it happening again this week.
    Thanksin advance for the help

  11. Hello, I just got a new freezer with the brand name Premium and the outer insulation flaps is bent awkwardly. Above you mentioned that applying heat to the gasket would return the flaps to its original shape. I was wondering if this might be the solution I’m looking for or maybe should I try something else.

  12. Hello,
    I have a 4 yr old Maytag which hates baths…

    We decided to clean the fridge from top to bottom and had the fridge and freezer open for about two hrs to do all the cleaning… now the fridge is sparkling clean but stopped working. The fridge sounds like it’s working but is not cold and the freezer is not making ice cubes.

    Any ideas?


  13. 2 year old Danby upright freezer – only 3-4 months past the warranty. The food all thawed and rotted while my Mom was in the hospital; we came home to a horrendous smell…. The freezer sounds like it is running, but it is barely cool. Could this be a condensor issue? Is it worth having someone to come in to repair it?

      • Was it a Danby upright you returned to Costco? Mine just stopped working. Seems like it tries to start up and then clicks off. It is also from Costco. How long did you have it before you returned it to Costco and what did you need to have? Mine is just under two years but I do not have the receipt anymore or the manual.

  14. My 6 yr old Holiday 5 cu ft chest type freezer (Lowes Home Improvement) has begun to defrost (lose freezing ability) and is making odd clicking sounds every so often, as if it is going off and on. I no longer hear the familiar gurgling sounds it is supposed to be making either. Anyone have any ideas, or should I just trash it? (which I really can’t afford a new one at the moment)

  15. i have a whirlpool fridge freezer with auto defrost the light is on inside but it is not frosting up what can i do

  16. h, im Ve ,i have a ge free standing frezzer only two yrs old. we turned off the frezzer for a few months then restarted only to find out that the bottom frezzez and the top is cold but not freezing. did we leave it off too long or did i i have a major problem/

  17. Hi
    I have a Swan SR 5020 ive had it for about 4yrs. I opened the door, (but wasn’t sure if it had been closed properly) and all food defosted. After emptying it turned on the auto freeze and that worked, but I turned that off it de-frozed again, ive turned up the thermostat to2an ahlf from it orginal 2 and still nothing.What could be the problem.


  18. I have a chest type freezer that has water on one side, down low near the bottom. I would think it’s some type of condensation but this just appeared a few weeks back. I checked the compressor and it’s dry Any ideas?

  19. 3 Months ago, we bought an upright freezer thinking it would be great. No more bending down, no more defrosting, it’s an energy saver, yadda yadda yadda. Ha! What a joke. That is the worst purchase ever! I’ve already had to defrost it. Now, it’s making some weird howling noise. It seriously is making a noise just like you would hear on a hallowe’en CD. Our dining room sounds like it is haunted…especially at night.

    I wish we had done more research on upright freezers. It is considered a final purchase @ Leon’s. Therefore we are stuck with it. : (

  20. I have a Frigidaire fridge/freezer and its not getting cold enough to freeze the food all the way. I have had it for amost a year now and it was working fine till last week. Any body have a clue to what might be wrong with it?

  21. I have a frigidaire LFFU1442DW13 Chest type Freezer NON-frost free. Recently the top shelf does not ?Freeze but the bottom three do freeze and get ice on them but not a tremendous amount. Please advise. I like it alot and cannot afford a new one.

  22. I have a 5.0cf Roper chest freezer. Wife left it open and I discovered it a week later. It ran continously afterward. I emptied it and defrosted it and turned back on empty. It seems to be running very hot. The right side is almost too hot to touch. Is this normal? Thanks Tom

  23. I have a Galaxy chest freezer, it ha been unplugged for months, and plugged it in and 1/2 day later still isn’t cold. Does anyone have any idea what could be the problem?

  24. What does it mean OR what is wrong when the freezer door sticks to itself and I have to really pull on door to “pry” open?!?

  25. How about a refrigerator that works but the freezer on top, does not get cold.
    Ice forms at the top of the refrigerator.
    It is an RCA

  26. Hi there I have a Bosch frezzer that has completly stopped working no lights not anything is it for scrap or is there any parts i can test ?

  27. I have a GE Monogram that’s 10 years old. Fresh water started running of the freezer that sits below the refrigerator. I took out all the frozen food and discovered a ice buildup on the freezer floor so I powered it down and removed the ice. One day later I discovered the water starting to freeze again? Thanks

  28. I was accidentally break the evaporating coil of the freezer by using a steel knife and after that my freezer doesn’t work anymore. What should I do? Response please thank you.

  29. I purchased a hoover fridgefreezer from a asian guy who deals in slight damage but new only a couple of scratches i purchased for £260 in 2012 about a month ago i noticed fridge part was getting cold and freezing while the freezer does not freeze i had to throw all the food away in the freezer and i cannot afford a new one advice please.

  30. I have an all freezer GE Monogram also approx. 6 yrs. old. It holds temperature and the door seals after you open it but there a huge build up of ice on the bottom where it actually grows around the bottom drawers. I’ve tried removing it sev. times but it just comes back. I never see water on the bottom tray.
    Same problem w/my GE Monogram all refrigerator.

  31. hi
    I live in Alberta Canada and I have an old gold coloured fridge/freezer outside in the non heated garage. It works fine in the summer, keeps food cold in fridge and the freezer keeps items frozen. However in the winter once the temperature outside falls to about 5 degrees Celsius the food in the freezer starts to thaw.
    How Can I address this issue? Thanks

  32. I hv a lg evercool single door fridge I accidently damaged the freezer part with a knife where we keep the ice tray while defrosting now it is making some leakage noise what is d matter

  33. We had a power outage due to stormy weather last week and when the power came back on 12 hours later, my Sunbeam chest freezer didn’t. It’s about 4 years old. It has power, the light by the thermostat knob is on, but it won’t cool. It doesn’t try to turn on, I don’t hear anything happening from the freezer. None of the usual noises, no noises at all. It has since completely defrosted. I unplugged it, reset the breaker and tried again, same results. How do I test anything on my chest freezer to determine the problem? We had a serious build-up of frost inside prior to the power outage, not sure if that had anything to do with the demise of my freezer. But since the day we bought it, it’s been developing frost in the back left corner so we just thought that it was because it’s an El Cheapo freezer.

  34. My freezer and week ago went off had to empty it. Unplugged it worked great until today been checking it daily. Is a GE compact chest freezer.

  35. I have a GE 7 cu. ft chest freezer, we keep it in the pantry. We have had it for 7 yrs or more. It has been a great freezer but I was cleaning the pantry last week and I was trying to set my table leaf back beside the freezer (where I keep it stored) and in the process of doing so….I accidentally dropped the leaf and the corner of it slammed into the control panel of the freezer and the whole plate shattered. Now the freezer will not power on at all. I seen the 5 most common problems, was wondering what does it mean exactly when it says to jump the two wires to the cold control? How do you do that? Thank you in advance.

  36. I have a Whirlpool fridge/freezer & for the last couple of mths. the floor of the freezer when I pull the freezer door out that it’s accumulating ice. Every couple of wks. I have to keep breaking a shot of ice from the floor of the freezer. Could it be the gasket? What would happen if I’m away & I don’t open the freezer for a mth?

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