Fridge Repair: Fridge Doesn't Run, but Light Works

A woman standing in front of an open refrigerator.
  • 5-10 hours
  • Advanced
  • 200-500

If your fridge is not working even though the light is on, you might save yourself some money on costly repairs by doing some simple diagnostic checks to some of the possible causes. Some of it can be performed at home with a few basic tools.ridge doesn’t run but the light is in working condition.

Step 1 - Disconnect the Electrical Supply

It is always a good idea to disconnect your refrigerator from the electrical supply before you undertake any repair project. Of course, this also means that you will have to remove any perishable or frozen goods and store them in another place, like a neighbor’s house if he/she has the space.

Step 2 - Check the Temperature

There is a temperature setting knob located inside the fridge. If the temperature is set too high, the compressor will not kick in and the fridge will not cool, so adjust the knob so that it is set to a lower temperature and see if the compressor starts. If not, there could be a problem with the temperature controller itself. If you are good at working on electrical projects, you can save some money and replace the temperature controller unit yourself. Otherwise, you should ask a repairman to do it for you.

Step 3 - Check for Airflow

Your fridge needs adequate room all around it for airflow. Ideally, there should be at least three inches of space between the fridge and the walls of your house, and at least one inch of space between the ceiling and the top of the fridge. If this is the problem, consider moving the fridge to a more suitable location.

Step 4 - Check the Condenser Coils

The black coils at the back of the fridge are known as condenser coils. These coils are what allow the fridge to cool by dissipating heat. If they are not cleaned regularly, they can lose their efficiency and over a period of time, can stop cooling entirely. Check to see that the condenser coils are clean, and if not, use a vacuum or a brush and some soap and water to thoroughly clean them.

Step 5 - Test the Compressor

If the fridge is still not cooling, disconnect it from the mains for two hours. Afterward, plug it back in and switch it on. If the compressor starts up, then there may be a problem caused by the compressor overheating. You should ask a professional to look into this problem.

Step 6 - Check the Defrost Setting

Older fridges come with a button for manual defrosting. Sometimes, the button may become stuck in the defrost mode, causing the fridge to stop cooling. Try to pull the button back out and see if this causes the refrigerator to kick on. If yours is a newer model and fitted with automatic defrost, there could be a problem with the defrost timer unit instead. This will have to be checked by a professional as well.

Fridge Doesn't Run, but Light Works FAQ

What is the first thing to check when a refrigerator stops working?

When you notice your fridge not working properly, the first thing to check is the breaker. Sometimes, circuits get overloaded and they can shut off.

If the breaker for the fridge has shut itself off and the fridge isn't receiving power, it certainly won't work.

Why would fridge suddenly stop working?

Refrigerators can stop working all of a sudden for a number of reasons. The compressor may be going bad, which is a common issue with refrigerators as they get older.

You may also have dirty condenser coils, or the vents may be blocked with dust or debris. The interior of the fridge might also be too tightly packed with food.

The thermostat could also be failing, or there could be a coolant shortage. Refrigerators have a lot of parts and that means there are multiple things that can quit working.

Do refrigerators have a reset button?

You can attempt to reset the fridge if it has stopped cooling. Unplug the fridge from the wall first.

Leave the fridge unplugged for about five minutes and switch the temperature for the fridge to off. Do the same for the freezer.

Plug the fridge back in and reset both temperatures. This may work to reset the refrigerator compressor.

What happens if refrigerator compressor stops working?

The refrigerator compressor regulates the temperature inside the fridge. When the compressor goes bad, the food will begin to spoil and the fridge will not function the right way.

Is it cheaper to repair or replace a refrigerator?

In many cases, it is worth it to get your fridge repaired as long as it is not very old and the problems are not immense. If the repairs will cost more than half the price of a new fridge, you might want to consider getting the new fridge.

Otherwise, it's probably worth it to repair the appliance and get a few more years out of it.