Why Is My Refrigerator Freezing My Food?

If your refrigerator is freezing food, then it's not doing its job – there's a freezer for that! But if your fridge is freezing your food, it doesn't mean you need a new fridge. Usually, this issue can be easily diagnosed and repaired. In this article, we'll explain how the refrigeration system works, some of the reasons why food may be freezing in the fresh food section, and what parts you may need to replace to fix your refrigerator.

How Does a Refrigerator Work?

The basic operation of a refrigerator is such that we have an evaporator, which is where the cooling portion of the system takes place. It will be located in the freezer, whether it's a side-by-side, or top-mount, or a bottom-mount refrigerator.

Air from the freezer is then circulated into the fresh food compartment and back into the freezer in a continuous circulation. Typically, we would see about 80% of the air stay inside of the freezer and about 20% go into the fresh food compartment. With that ratio, we typically will get a temperature range of about 0 to +5 Fahrenheit in the freezer and about 36 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit in the fresh food section.

Thermostat Control

If your fresh food section is cooler than that, you may have a problem with the thermostat control, that's the device that turns the compressor on and off.

That thermostat monitors the temperature of the air, either in the freezer or in the fresh food compartment, depending on the model. The typical hydraulic control for a refrigerator consists of a capillary tube that senses the temperature and a set of electrical contacts enclosed in a casing. If it becomes defective, it is a non-serviceable item and will need to be replaced.

Before replacing the thermostat control, verify that somebody hasn't inadvertently turned the temperature up too cold. Set it back to the manufacturer's recommended setting, and allow about 24 hours for the temperatures to stabilize in your refrigerator. If that does not solve your problem, then you'll need to replace that control. Shop Replacement Thermostat Controls >

Damper Control

Another reason why you may be experiencing freezing temperatures in your fresh food section could be related to the damper control. Most modern refrigerators use an auto damper to control how much air comes into the fresh food section from the freezer. Normally, about 20% will enter the fresh food section, but if the damper for some reason or another, sticks in an open position, you may have more air enter the fresh food and the temperature will drop dramatically.

The damper control is typically located in the top section of a side-by-side, or the midsection on a top mount refrigerator. Your freezer temperature air enters from the freezer into the fresh food section. It will either be a flapper type door behind this grill or slide gate to regulate how much air comes into the fresh food.

If you're experiencing freezing temperatures in your fresh food compartment, you would suspect that damper assembly should be closed if it's working properly. If it is wide open, that means it is defective or the sensor that controls the damper is defective.

To diagnose and repair this issue, begin by making sure that there are no mechanical defects with it that are causing it to be jammed in an open position. Now, if you've determined that there does not appear to be any mechanical issues with your auto damper, the next thing we may suspect is the temp sensor that is associated with that. Most auto dampers will use some type of an electronic temp sensor to control the actual motor that drives the shutter or gate on that auto damper. The temp sensor is typically located somewhere close to that airflow and will often have some type of a connector on the end of it that it can easily be plugged in. Some manufacturers use a hardwired type of temp sensor and it's simply a matter of cutting those leads and splicing in a new one if you need to replace it.

To test a temp sensor, we, first of all, need the manufacturer's specifications for that particular sensor and they will indicate the resistance of that sensor at a specific temperature. Normally, they will show something for room temperature and give it a specific ohm reading. We simply need to take our multimeter, connect it to the leads or connector on that temp sensor, and then consult the chart to verify that the reading is what it is supposed to be. If you get a reading that is not consistent with the manufacturer's suggestions, you will need to replace that temp sensor. Shop Replacement Damper Controls >

Electronic Control

Another reason why your refrigerator may be freezing in the fresh food section could be related to the electronic control. Many modern refrigerators use electronics to control both the compressor, evaporator, and condenser fans in your refrigerator. Using sensors located throughout your refrigerator, that information is fed back to an electronic control to operate those devices. If the control interprets that data improperly, it may turn on the compressor and fans when they're not necessary.

To troubleshoot whether the control is at fault, we, first of all, need to locate that control. On some models, this is located in the control housing at the front. In other models, it may be located on the rear of the refrigerator. Once you have located it, we can then identify where each of the leads is for the individual temp sensors or thermistors located throughout the refrigerator. You can trace those back to the appropriate connector, or we can disconnect that connector and we're able to measure the resistance of those individual thermistors to verify whether they're working properly or not.

If we've identified that the thermistors are working normally, we can then suspect that we have a defective control board and that can be replaced. Shop Replacement Electronic Controls >


Diagnosing and repairing issues with your appliances can seem daunting at times, but we hope this article showed you how simple it can truly be! Do you need to replace any of the parts mentioned above? Don't worry, did you know that PartSelect.com also sells genuine, manufacturer-approved replacement parts? Shop Refrigerator Parts Now