6 Reasons Why Your Freezer Won’t Freeze

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated February 14, 2022
A senior woman taking ice cream out of the freezer
Photo: Edwin Tan / E+ / Getty Images


  • Freezers above 0 degrees Fahrenheit are not operating at a safe temperature.

  • To diagnose the problem, start with a seal test and reorganize your freezer for better airflow.

  • The problem could also lie with dirty coils, a bad start relay, or a broken compressor.

  • Some issues warrant a call to an appliance repair pro who can fix your problem correctly.

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Has your triple-mint fudge ice cream gone soft? Watching pricey frozen goods thaw further with each minute that your freezer isn't cold can be annoying. Luckily, there are some quick troubleshooting steps you can take to get to the bottom of the problem.

Freezers stop working for two main reasons. The first comes down to how you're using your freezer. This can mean that a clog or gap is preventing the transfer of hot air to cold air. The second is a broken component that is preventing the freezer from cooling down properly.

You may be able to put your freezer problem on ice using these tips.

1. Your Freezer Is Too Full

If you're noticing that frozen goods are soft, start with a quick survey. Your fix for a busted freezer could be as simple as clearing out or rearranging items that are blocking a fan's airflow. Yes, it could be as simple as finally throwing out that big bag of freezer-burnt leftovers and giving everything else room to freeze.

2. The Seals Are Loose

A man looking into the freezer
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

The gaskets on your freezer door could be letting out air because they're loose. Luckily you can diagnose a loose seal in seconds:

  1. Open your freezer door

  2. Slip a standard sheet of lined paper against your seal

  3. Close the door

Did the paper stay in place? If so, the seal probably isn't the issue. If your paper slid down, your seal could be busted.

If your paper did stay in place, go ahead and tug on it. If it comes out easily, that's a sign that your seal is loose and letting out cold air. Try this trick multiple times around the door.

You'll probably need to buy a gasket replacement for your freezer model if a loose seal is to blame. Gasket replacements can range from $20 to $100, and you can easily DIY the installation.

3. The Coils Are Dirty

Here's how to check if dirty coils are hurting your freezer's performance:

  1. Pull your freeze/fridge away from the wall

  2. Locate the coils running across the bottom of the unit

  3. Attach the brush/detailing attachment to your vacuum

  4. Vacuum your coils

Freezer coils are responsible for condensing your refrigerant. When dirt clogs them up, heat stays trapped inside the coils, and things don’t freeze up properly. This quick cleaning could be all you need to solve your freezer issue.

4. There's Too Much Ice in Your Freezer

Does your freezer look like an ice cave? Time to defrost.

Ice buildup on freezer walls can make it hard for coils and vents to work. A telltale sign that it's been too long since you've defrosted your fridge is the presence of ice crystals. Doing a freezer defrost at least once a year is an important part of maintaining your fridge and freezer.

Clearing the ice out of your freezer will also fix a clogged defrost drain that has frozen shut.

5. The Start Relay Is Bad

A man looking for ice cream in freezer
Photo: Grace Cary / Moment / Getty Images

Your freezer's start relay is inside the compressor circuit. Its job is to protect against overload by prepping the circuit for the compressor's running speed.

To check your start relay, unplug it from the compressor. (Just be sure to unplug your freezer first). If you hear rattling when you shake the start relay, it's time for a replacement. While replacing a start relay isn't much harder than swapping one part for another, it's important to confirm that this is the actual problem to avoid wasting time and money. Your best bet is probably to call an appliance repair pro near you unless you have experience in this sort of work.

If it passes the shake test and you want to take on the project yourself, you can remove the start relay and check the terminals with a handheld voltage tester to see if it’s working properly. Again, just be careful, and don’t attempt this type of work unless you’re sure you can do it safely.

6. The Compressor Went Caput

A bad freezer compressor is the most common reason why freezers stop cooling properly.

In addition to causing your food to spoil, ignoring this issue can raise your electricity bill before ultimately causing your unit to die. While you can’t necessarily fix a bad freezer compressor, it can be replaced for between $50 to $300 just for the part. However, this is a pretty complex job that requires an understanding of the electrical workings of a freezer, so be sure to hire a local freezer repair pro and expect to pay roughly $150 for labor.

What's the Next Step When Your Freezer Isn't Freezing Properly?

First, keep an eye on how low temperatures are dipping in your freezer. It's a good idea to confirm freezer temperature with an appliance thermometer before eating anything from your freezer because unsafe temperatures can lead to food-borne illnesses.

A freezer temperature should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) in order to keep food safe, according to the FDA.

Next, decide how deep you want to get into diagnosing your loss of deep freeze. For most people, anything beyond trying to vacuum the coils, check seals, or defrost the freezer can be intimidating.

While you may want to try the troubleshooting options listed above at first, you can get solid answers by bringing in a pro to diagnose the issue. You can often save money by swapping parts instead of purchasing a new freezer.

A repair pro can also help you determine if the fix is under warranty if you have a newer unit that's still covered.

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