If your chest freezer doesn’t freeze your food, is it really a freezer? Or is it just a big, expensive box? Don’t ask us – we’re not philosophers. We’re the people who are going to tell you how to get your freezer back in working order. We’ve put together 5 proven tips for fixing your stubborn appliance.

The first thing to check is the power supply. Your freezer may just be unplugged, or you could have a frayed power cord or the wrong type of outlet. You should also check whether the rubber gasket is sealing. If you still haven’t found the problem, try cleaning the condenser coils, defrosting the machine, and making sure the condenser fan can turn.

Want more detail on how to get your freezer frosty again? Take a look at our advice below.

#1: Make Sure It’s Plugged In

We know this makes us sound like the tech support people in a thousand hacky jokes. But you should still start by checking that your freezer has access to power. Things happen! We promise we won’t laugh if this turns out to be the problem.

Check the condition of the power cord, too. It’s easy to pinch or fray wires by mistake when you’re moving heavy equipment around. Try plugging something else into the outlet to make sure it’s still providing power. If not, your freezer may have tripped the circuit breaker.

You should also double-check that you’re not using a GFCI outlet. These specialty wall sockets turn off as a safety measure when lots of juice flows through them. The problem is that their threshold is too low for big appliances like freezers.

#2: Inspect the Seal

Your freezer has to maintain a firm barrier against the outside world. That means the rubber gasket has to seal snugly around the lid. Otherwise, warm air will infiltrate and keep your food from freezing.

Take a look around the edge of your freezer door while it’s closed and see if you can spot any gaps. Then pop it open and look for tears in the rubber, or debris stuck to it and breaking the seal.

If you’re lucky, you might find and remove some piece of scrap that was blocking the seal. If not, you may need to replace a busted gasket.

#3: Clean the Condenser Coils

If you’ve ever looked underneath your couch cushions, you know how fast debris can build up inside nooks and crannies. The same thing can happen to the coils of your freezer’s condenser. As time goes on, they accumulate a layer of grime.

Dirty freezer condenser coil
Heat gets trapped inside and can’t be effectively released when the condenser coil is covered with dirt and debris. This will lead to inefficient cooling.

This can stop the unit from working efficiently. Condensers have to exchange heat with the air around them to do their job, and a layer of dirt gets in the way. So if those coils look like the inside of your vacuum cleaner bag, you’ll need to clean them off.

Unplug the freezer before you start, or you’ll be risking a nasty shock (literally). Depending on the model you have, the coils will either be on the back or inside a panel near the base of the machine. Take off the grill cover, if there is one, and vacuum up any loose detritus you can.

Then go over the condenser with a coil brush. A paintbrush will do if you don’t have a dedicated cleaning tool. If there’s still any goop caked on the coils, scrub it off with a wet, soapy rag. Dry off the condenser before plugging your freezer back in.

#4: Defrost Your Freezer

There’s such a thing as a freezer getting too frosty. As ice builds up on interior surfaces, it slows down the cooling process. This is bad enough when it’s forcing your freezer to draw more power for the same amount of work. It’s even worse when it ices over your freezer’s evaporator coils.

The evaporator is the other half of the heat-exchange system that cools down your perishables. It absorbs heat from the air in the freezer and passes it on to the condenser, which releases it outside. When it’s covered in ice, it can’t do its job.

Most chest freezers need you to defrost them manually. Here’s how:

  • Take out your frozen goods and stash them in an ice-filled cooler.
  • Unplug the freezer and pop open the lid.
  • Open the drain plug if your unit has one. You may need to set out a bucket for it to drain into.
  • Set a big bowl of hot water inside to heat up the air.
  • Scrape the bigger chunks of frost off with a plastic ice scraper or spatula. Don’t use metal tools – you can pierce the walls of your freezer if you’re not careful.
  • Wait. It usually takes at least a couple of hours for a freezer to thaw out. You can keep scraping ice and replacing the hot water throughout the process to speed it up.

You should do this at least once a year to keep your freezer working. If it’s especially frost-prone, you may want to defrost every few months.

Defrosting a frozen freezer
When warm air meets cold air, it condenses or turns to water. Each time you open your freezer, a little bit of warm air seeps in and condenses.

If your freezer has an automatic defroster, check your manual to see if you can adjust the defrost timer. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you may need a replacement. 

#5: Lubricate the Condenser Fan

A freezer with its condenser in a compartment instead of hanging off the back will also have a fan to blow the hot air outside. Like the coils, the fan can get bogged down by rust or grease. This will keep your freezer from getting cold enough.

To check if that’s what’s happening, unplug your freezer. Then unscrew the panel in front of the condenser. This is usually on the front or the side of your freezer near the bottom. Find the small fan inside and try to push the blade around with your finger.

If it sticks or catches, you might be able to loosen it up with some oil. Spray a bit of lubricating oil into the space around the shaft. Wait a few minutes and see if the fan now turns without a hitch.

Other Possibilities

If none of the steps above worked, it’s probably time to get a technician involved. You may need to repair or replace your freezer’s compressor. You might need to replace the coolant inside the coils. Those complex jobs are a bit beyond the scope of this article.

Conclusion

A faulty freezer can cost you a lot of time and stress, not to mention the expense of replacing a bunch of spoiled food. Hopefully, the tips above will keep your chest freezer working and your ice cream ice cold. Don’t forget that routine cleaning and defrosting can help you steer clear of this issue in the future.

Thanks for visiting the Appliance Analyst! Feel free to stick around and browse – we have lots of other guides on how to get the most out of the gadgets in your home.