Your refrigerator's job is to keep your food cold enough to delay or prevent spoilage. So when it is not reaching the appropriate temperature, there is clearly something amiss. Some problems that cause increased refrigerator temperatures can easily be addressed at home while others require you to call an appliance repair company. Here's a look at the most likely culprits and how to handle each one.
The coils are generally exposed on the back of your fridge, which means it's easy for them to accumulate dust and dirt. The dirtier they get, the harder your fridge has to work to discharge heat through the coils. (The layer of dust acts as an insulator of sorts, preventing direct contact with the coil and the air.)
Luckily, cleaning the coils is pretty simple. Unplug your fridge, and pull it out from the wall. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up all of the larger grains or dust. The wand attachment should make it easier to get into the little cracks and crevices. One the big pieces are gone, use a damp rag to wipe off the finer dust. Let the coil dry, and then plug the refrigerator back into the wall.
If all of the cold air is leaking out of your fridge as fast as it is being created, the fridge will not stay cool. The most common cause of air leaks is old, peeling gaskets. Look at the gaskets were they run along the door's edge. Are they splitting, cracking, or bowing away so they don't provide a tight seal against the fridge? Then it's time to replace them.
You can purchase lengths of all-purpose refrigerator gasket material at most any hardware store. You'll just need to cut it to the proper length. To remove the old gasket, use a screwdriver to loosen the screws that are holding it in place. Pull the gasket out. Slide the new gasket into place, and then re-tighten the screws. To keep your new gaskets in better shape, wipe them down with soap and water every couple of weeks.
Your refrigerator has a thermostat that measures the temperature inside and adjusts the cold air output accordingly. This part can start malfunctioning if it becomes exposed to moisture and develops rust or even due to natural aging effects if your refrigerator is older. If you clean the coils, check the gaskets, and still have issues with your fridge maintaining a cool enough temperature, then the thermostat may be to blame. This is an issue a professional will need to address. Usually, they'll just be able to replace the thermostat, though if your fridge is already quite old, you may want to just buy a new one and avoid the need for future repairs.
Is your fridge making strange noises when it's running? Some buzzing or clunking may indicate that the fan is not working well. When the fan breaks, it won't spread the cool air evenly throughout your refrigerator, so some places will get extra cold while other areas stay too warm.
Since the fans is protected by a plastic or metal casing, you probably want to have a professional handle this repair. Sometimes they may just need to clean around the fan to get it moving freely again. Other times, they may need to replace the fan or replace some wires that control it.
If your fridge is feeling a bit warm, don't put off addressing the problem. Even a fridge that's a few degrees too warm can allow your food to spoil faster, leading to problems with food poisoning and waste.