Refrigerator Running Constantly? Here’s 7 Possible Fixes

All jokes aside, if your fridge is constantly running, you’re going to need to catch it! Well, it’s less about catching your fridge and more about fixing it. A fridge that won’t turn off likely has a few easy to fix problems. 

A fridge that is always running is going to be a huge drain on your energy bills. Your fridge consumes a lot of electricity and this gets worse if it won’t stop running. This is also a food safety problem as a fridge that constantly runs is likely struggling to stay cold. 

A fridge constantly runs when it is struggling to maintain a cool temperature. This can be caused by issues as simple as dirty condenser coils or a broken fan motor. These repairs can be quickly done at home with minimal skills and equipment. 

It’s time to catch your runaway fridge! Let’s get started with these fixes. 

What You’ll Need

You might need a few extra tools to handle some of these repairs. This all depends on the model of refrigerator that you own. Most refrigerators can get away with just a simple screwdriver set, but other models will need wrenches and nut drivers.

Here’s a list of the tools we’ll need to go through all of our fixes.

  • Screwdriver set
  • Nut driver set
  • Wrench set
  • Replacement parts as needed
  • Cleaning supplies 
  • Vacuum with brush attachment 

What to Do When Your Fridge Keeps Running?

Let’s start with some of the most simple fixes and I work our way towards some more involved repair jobs.

#1 Clean Your Condenser Coils

Your condenser coils have one of the most important jobs in your fridge. They dissipate the heat that builds up and the refrigerant that keeps your refrigerator cool. These coils can also become clogged with dust, hair, and debris. You should plan on cleaning these at least once a year to help prevent any problems from starting.

man fixing condenser coils of a refrigerator
Condenser coils requires seasonal maintenance to ensure it works properly and efficiently

Here’s what you’re going to need to clean your condenser coils.

  1. Unplug your refrigerator
  2. Carefully slide in your fridge away from the wall
  3. Remove the condenser coil cover. They should be located on the bottom of the back of the fridge. This is held in with screws or nuts
  4. Clean your condenser coils with the brush attachment of your vacuum. You can also clean them with a rag or a brush, but that will take much longer
  5. Replace the cover
  6. Slide your fridge back into place and plug it in 

#2 Check Your Temperature Settings

There are a few different temperature controls inside of your fridge that we’re going to need to check.

Your fridge should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the freezer should be kept at 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Setting either of these any higher than that causes some serious problems.

The biggest problem is food spoilage. Food needs to be kept at these temperatures in order to be safe to eat. Food can begin to grow bacteria and mold when it gets above these temperatures.

Your refrigerator can also struggle to keep things cool if the temperatures are set too high. Temperatures that are set too high mean that the fridge heats up quicker. This causes the fridge to stay on constantly in order to keep things cool.

Your fridge should have its thermostats located on the inside. Keep in mind that the numbers are backwards on your fridge’s controls. The higher the number, the more energy your fridge is going to put into keeping things cool.

If your fridge has been running constantly and is a little warm, consider lowering the temperature. 

#3 Faulty Fan Motors

Your fridge also has a few fans that help keep things cool. These fans are designed to exhaust hot air and bring cool air back into the system. If any of these fans fails, your fridge has to work constantly in order to maintain a cool temperature.

Here’s how you replace a faulty refrigerator fan motor. 

  1. Unplug your fridge and move it slowly away from the wall
  2. The condenser fan is located on the bottom of the back of the fridge 
  3. The evaporator fan is located right above the evaporator coils 
  4. Examine these fans
  5. The fans should spin freely and not be too hot
  6. You can replace either fan by unscrewing it from its mounting and disconnecting the electrical cable connectors 
  7. Connect your new fans
  8. Screw the new fan back into the mounting
  9. Reinstall any covers you had to remove 
  10. Slide your fridge back into place and plug it in

#4 Frosted Evaporator Coils

Make sure the evaporator coils don’t get frosted completely, defrost from time to time

The evaporator coils of the other half of the condenser coil system. After the refrigerant is condensed in the condenser coils, it expands in the evaporator coils and cools down your food.

Evaporator coils can develop a layer of frost. This will inhibit their ability to keep your fridge cold which will cause your refrigerator to run constantly but you.

Here’s how you can get the frost off your evaporator coils.

  1. Empty everything out of your freezer
  2. Unplug your fridge
  3. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for accessing your evaporator coils. They are typically located behind an access panel in the freezer. You will need it to remove this panel with a screwdriver
  4. If you see your evaporator coils are covered in frost, you’ll need it to defrost them
  5. Set all of your fridge’s thermostats to their warmest settings
  6. Keep your freezer door open and allow the frost to melt
  7. Dry off everything in your freezer
  8. Plug your refrigerator in
  9. Once it’s nice and cool, push your food back in your fridge and freezer

Getting the frost off your evaporator coils is only a temporary solution. You’re going to need to figure out how they got frosted in the first place. Let’s take a look at what causes your defroster to break down. 

#5 Problems With the Defroster 

The defrost heater assembly, defrost thermostat, defrost timer, and defrost control board all work together to keep your fridge frost free. Any of these parts can break down and cause your fridge to run constantly. 

Fixing problems with your defroster can get a little tricky. You’ll need to inspect each component separately to find the one that’s not working correctly.

Once you’ve located the broken part of your fridge’s defroster, all you need to do is replace it. This might be better handled by an appliance repair technician. The defroster assembly is the single most complicated part of your refrigerator systems. 

#6 Replace Your Door Gasket

There is a gasket that forms a seal every time your fridge or freezer door closes. These gaskets are made out of a flexible rubber material. They can break down and become brittle over time which causes them to no longer seal the door shut.

It’s pretty easy to tell if you have a broken door gasket on your fridge. You’ll notice that the fridge no longer seals shut on its own, but instead freely swings open after you close it. You can also feel cold air blowing out from the crack in the door.

man replacing the rubber gasket of a fridge
Always have the gasket of the fridge inspected for any damages

Here’s how you can replace a fridge door gasket.

  1. Use a flat head screwdriver to pry one corner of the gasket out of the fridge door
  2. Slowly peel the gasket out of the fridge door
  3. Use household cleaning supplies to clean the door
  4. Pop the new fridge gasket into one of the corners of the door making sure to line them up
  5. Slowly feed the gasket in to the door
  6. Make sure that the gasket fits properly by closing your door and making sure the seal is tight 

#7 A Broken Main Control Board

If all else fails, you could have a broken main control board in your fridge.

The main control board is the brain of your fridge. This little piece of circuitry controls all of your fridges systems and makes sure that they run on time and normally. If the main control board fails, your fridge can start to run constantly in an attempt to compensate for the broken part.

The control board can be replaced just like any other part of a fridge. You only need to keep in mind that every fridge manufacturer has their main control board in a different location. You will also need to special-order the main control board that goes with the make and model of your fridge. 

Is it Bad if Your Fridge Always Runs?

Yes.

There are a few reasons why it’s bad if your fridge is constantly running.

The most obvious reason is that this is going to increase your energy bill. Your fridge consumes a lot of electricity and if it never shuts off your bill is going to be that much higher. However, this is far from the most important reason why it’s good to fix your fridge.

If your fridge is always running, this most likely means it is struggling to keep things cool. This is going to lead to food spoilage and unsafe conditions. Your fridge needs to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep food safe. If it keeps falling out of that temperature, bacteria and mold can start to grow in your food.

Following our fridge repair guides is a great way to help keep your family safe. 

Catching Up With a Runaway Fridge 

Whether it’s just a dirty condenser or a broken motor, fixing a fridge that won’t stop running is something that you can do at home. This will help save you on your energy bills as well as keep your food at a safe temperature.

Have you been having other problems with your fridge? Check out our other fridge repair and cleaning guides below to keep it the centerpiece of your kitchen in great shape.