Kenmore Refrigerator Not Cooling: Troubleshooting Guide

Having a refrigerator that’s not cooling properly can be a major inconvenience. Food spoils quickly without proper refrigeration, leading to waste and even health hazards if bacteria grow. Kenmore refrigerators are generally reliable, but occasionally, issues that prevent proper cooling can arise. This comprehensive guide explores why a Kenmore refrigerator isn’t cooling correctly and provides fixes to get it back up and running.

Kenmore Refrigerator Not Cooling Troubleshooting Guide

How Refrigerators Work

To troubleshoot why your Kenmore refrigerator fails to cool, it helps first to understand the basic components and how they work together to lower temperatures.

At the heart of the system is the compressor. The compressor pumps refrigerant, a special chemical that easily changes from liquid to gas and back again, through a closed-loop system. As the refrigerant passes through narrow tubes in the evaporator coils, it expands into a gas, absorbing heat in the process. This cooling effect is circulated by a fan, lowering the temperature inside the freezer and refrigerator compartments.

In the condenser coils, the now heated gas is cooled back into a liquid state, releasing its heat outside the refrigerator so the cycle can start again. The components involved in this process include:

  • Compressor – Powers refrigerant circulation
  • Condenser coils – Cools refrigerant back into liquid
  • Evaporator coils – Absorbs heat to lower interior temperatures
  • Refrigerant – Chemical that transports heat
  •  Expansion valve – Controls refrigerant flow into evaporator
  • Fans – Circulate cooled air

If any part of this cooling cycle fails, the interior temperatures will start to rise. Let’s review the most common issues that can cause a Kenmore refrigerator to stop cooling properly.

Top 10 Reasons a Kenmore Refrigerator Isn’t Cooling

1. Compressor failure

The compressor is the heart of a refrigerator’s cooling abilities. If it fails, the entire cooling process shuts down. Compressors can fail due to age, overheating, electrical issues, or mechanical breakdown. Replacing the compressor is the only fix for a confirmed failure.

2. Refrigerant leak

Refrigerant leaks are another common source of cooling issues. The refrigerant loops through the system under high pressure. If a leak develops, the refrigerant can escape, reducing efficiency and cooling capacity. Refrigerant leaks often require repair by a certified HVAC technician.

3. Condenser or evaporator coil clogs

Dirt, dust, and other debris can gradually clog up the condenser or evaporator coils over time. With airflow obstructed, heat exchange suffers, and the interior temperatures creep up. Carefully cleaning the coils with compressed air, mild detergent, and water can restore cooling performance.

4. Defrost system failure

Frost inevitably builds up on the evaporator coils. Kenmore refrigerators have an automatic defrost system to melt this frost so it doesn’t impede airflow periodically. If the defrost heater or control board fails, frost can build up, decreasing cooling capacity. Replacing the non-functioning defrost components remedies the issue.

5. Thermistor problems

Thermistors measure interior temperatures. If they fail, the refrigerator doesn’t know if its cooling efforts are sufficient. Faulty thermistors must be replaced to maintain proper temperature control.

6. Fan motor failure

Fan motors push cooled air into the freezer and refrigerator compartments. Slowing or stopping fans limits airflow, reducing cooling effectiveness. Fan motors usually require replacement when they fail.

7. Control board issues

The main control board oversees the refrigerator’s major components and systems. Electrical shorts, power surges, and general electronic failures in the board can impede cooling. Swapping out the malfunctioning control board is the solution.

8. Door seal damage

Door seals keep the cooled air contained inside the refrigerator. Cracks, gaps, or tears allow warm ambient air to seep in, increasing interior temps. Inspecting door seals and replacing them if damaged resolves most open seal problems.

9. Thermostat defects

The thermostat controls the temperature settings. A thermostat stuck in the warmest setting fails to initiate proper compressor cycling to maintain colder temperatures. Replacing a defective thermostat restores normal function.

10. Condensation build-up

Excess moisture collecting on the back wall of the refrigerator can eventually migrate onto the electrical components, causing shorts and failures. Removing accumulated condensation and improving ventilation helps prevent future build-up.

Step-by-Step Kenmore Refrigerator Troubleshooting

When your Kenmore refrigerator is not cooling properly, use the following diagnostic steps to isolate the issue:

1. Verify the electrical connections: Ensure the refrigerator is plugged in and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Test the outlet with another appliance to confirm electricity is flowing properly. Faulty connections are an easy issue to identify and fix.

2. Check the condenser coils: Dirty condenser coils are one of the most common reasons refrigerators fail to cool adequately. Inspect the coils located in the lower back of the unit. If covered in dust, lint, and pet hair, turn off the refrigerator and thoroughly clean the coils.

3. Confirm refrigerator is level: Refrigerant and oil don’t circulate properly if the appliance is tilted out of level. Check that the refrigerator is evenly supported on all four corners. Add shims if needed to bring it back into proper alignment.

4. Listen for compressor operation: Place your ear against the lower back side and listen closely. If the compressor isn’t running, the issue is electrical or mechanical in nature. If it is running, cooling system faults are more likely.

5. Inspect the door seal: A damaged one is one of the easiest problems to identify. Even small gaps allow warm air to enter and raise the interior temperatures continually. Carefully run your fingers along the seal, looking for cracks, splits, or detachment.

6. Check the condenser fan: A working condenser fan is essential for heat exchange located behind the lower grille. Confirm the fan blade spins freely when the compressor operates. Replace it if it seizes up or slows.

7. Monitor freezer and fridge temps: Use thermometers to check the freezer and refrigerator compartment temperatures over a 24-hour period. Temperatures more than a few degrees above normal indicate an ongoing cooling issue.

8. Test components with a multimeter: An electrical problem is likely if the compressor tries but fails to start. Use a multimeter to check continuity through essential parts like the start relay, thermistors, and temperature control board.

9. Inspect the evaporator coils: Covered in frost or ice, evaporator coils inefficiently absorb interior heat. Test the defrost heater and control board to see if the frost pattern suggests frequent defrost failures.

10. Check for refrigerant leaks: Professionals use dyes and electronic leak detectors to confirm refrigerant loss. Repairing leaks often requires recovery of the remaining refrigerant, sealing the leaks, and recharging the system.

DIY Kenmore Refrigerator Repairs

While some Kenmore refrigerator problems require a certified appliance technician, there are a few common issues you can troubleshoot and repair on your own as a homeowner.

Cleaning Condenser Coils

Dirty condenser coils are one of the most prevalent reasons a refrigerator fails to cool properly. Regular cleaning keeps them operating at peak efficiency.

Supplies needed:
– Coil brush or vacuum attachment
– Mild detergent
– Spray bottle for water

1. Unplug refrigerator
2. Remove the outer grille covering the coil compartment
3. Vacuum loose debris from coils
4. Prepare the detergent solution in a spray bottle
5. Wet coils with solution, let sit 5 minutes
6. Scrub coils from top to bottom with brush
7. Rinse coils thoroughly with clean water
8. Replace the outer grille when fully dry

Replacing Door Seals

Over time, refrigerator door seals get brittle and damaged. Replacing them stops cool air from escaping the cabinet.

Supplies needed:
– Replacement seal sized to fridge’s make and model
– Small flathead screwdriver
– Petroleum jelly

1. Remove old seal from the door by prying it out with a flathead screwdriver
2. Make sure channel area is clean before installing a new seal
3. Starting at the hinge side, press the seal into channel around the door’s perimeter
4. Use a screwdriver to seat the seal into the channel fully
5. Apply a thin coating of petroleum jelly to seal edges to aid flexibility
6. Allow 24 hours for a seal to adhere before frequent opening/closing

Adjusting Door Alignment

Doors that sag over time won’t form an airtight seal with the refrigerator body. Realigning the door prevents air leaks.

Supplies needed:
– Phillips head screwdriver
– Wood shims

1. Open the door to expose the hinge cover at the top
2. Use a screwdriver to remove the cover screws and detach cover
3. Loosen screws on the hinge mount just enough to move a door
4. Add shims above the top hinge to raise or below the bottom hinge to lower the door
5. Retighten screws when the door aligns evenly with the cabinet
6. Replace hinge cover

When to Call an Appliance Repair Technician

While DIY repairs can resolve many minor cooling issues, more complex refrigerator malfunctions require a trained appliance technician. Call in professional service if you encounter:

– Compressor failure
– Refrigerant leaks
– Electrical shorts and burned-out control boards
– Faulty components in sealed systems

Technicians have the specialized tools, equipment, and licenses needed to diagnose issues in modern, high-tech refrigerators properly. They can also legally handle refrigerant materials.

Don’t take apart or try to modify sealed components on your own. Not only could you accidentally damage the appliance even further, but tampering with refrigeration systems can be extremely dangerous if done improperly.

Also Read:

LG Freezer Not Freezing. How to Fix?

Samsung Freezer Not Freezing: How to Fix?

Extend the Life of Your Kenmore Refrigerator

Regular maintenance helps prevent many common points of failures that lead to cooling issues in Kenmore refrigerators.

– Keep it clean: Wipe spills quickly, vacuum dust from vents, and clean the condenser coils every 3-6 months.

– Defrost regularly: Don’t allow more than 1⁄4” of frost to build up before manually defrosting the freezer compartment.

– Use gently: Avoid over-stuffing storage areas, opening the door frequently, or placing hot items inside before they fully cool down.

– Maintain proper temperature: Ideal fridge temp is 35-38°F. Freezer temp should be maintained between 0-5°F.

– Check door alignment: Confirm proper seal and closure by performing the dollar bill test. A bill should have light friction when closing the door over it.

– Clear ventilation areas: Don’t block air intake grilles along the front bottom or hot exhaust across the back top when installing the refrigerator.

When to Replace Instead of Repair

Repairing refrigerator cooling issues typically costs $200-$500 in parts and labor. If your Kenmore refrigerator is over 10 years old or has experienced multiple cooling failures, replacement may make better financial sense than paying for another repair.

Newer refrigerators are significantly more energy efficient as well. Today’s units use at least 30% less electricity than models made 10-15 years ago. Upgrading can provide long-term cost savings on your electric bill.

Be sure to dispose of old refrigerators properly. Refrigerants and components, like compressor oil, require specialized handling to avoid environmental contamination. Contact your local municipal waste department to arrange pickup or drop-off services.

Troubleshoot Cooling Issues for Optimal Food Storage

Proper food storage depends on a refrigerator that maintains consistent interior temperatures. Warm zones lead to faster spoilage and potential foodborne illnesses. Don’t ignore early signs of cooling failure. Use this guide to get your Kenmore refrigerator’s cooling performance up to par.

Quick diagnosis and repair means you can return to storing fresh and frozen foods safely. Take action at the first indication of rising temperatures to restore ideal chilling and avoid the need to throw away spoiled groceries. With some basic maintenance and timely repairs when required, your Kenmore refrigerator can provide many years of reliable service.

Credit: Byrd Appliance Specialists

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