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How to Know When the Thermostat Is Broken in a Fridge or Freezer

Meredith Jameson

The thermostat in a refrigerator or freezer controls the temperature inside the unit and allows users to make adjustments as necessary to make the interior temperature warmer or colder.

The thermostat is commonly located inside the upper rear of the refrigerator compartment.

Some refrigerators and freezers have a thermostat control dial inside the unit and others operate via an electronic control panel on the front of the appliance. If the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer does not seem accurate or consistent, there may be a problem with the thermostat. Determining if this is the case can generally be accomplished through some troubleshooting steps.

  1. Ensure the refrigerator/freezer is firmly plugged into a working power supply and the electrical cord is connected to the unit, as well. Replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker if necessary.

  2. Listen to the compressor, which is located in the rear of the unit near the bottom. If the compressor is running or making a humming sound, move to step 3. If the compressor is not running, disconnect power to the unit and contact a service technician, as either the compressor or thermostat may be defective. If the compressor is running, move on to the next step.

  3. Set a cup of water with a cooking thermometer in it in the refrigerator and a cup of cooking oil with a cooking thermometer in it into the freezer.

  4. Adjust the thermostat to a much cooler setting or much warmer setting. Close the doors to the unit and leave them closed for several hours to allow time for the temperature to change.

  5. Check the temperature of the water and/or cooking oil after approximately 12 to 24 hours. If the temperature has changed accordingly to the changes made to the thermostat, the problem is most likely not the thermostat. If issues continue with the interior temperature of the unit, contact a service professional, as the problem may lie with a number of things, including the condenser fan motor, defrost timer or evaporator coils. If the temperature did not change, contact a service professional for assistance repairing the thermostat.