The mini refrigerator works on the same principles at a regular sized refrigerator does. It is therefore susceptible to similar problems with cooling. The top two reasons that most mini refrigerators stop cooling are that it has a faulty sealed system or a defective thermostat.
This article details how to fix the above issues as well as some other more obscure causes and fixes for a mini fridge is that is not cooling.
Should you Repair or Replace your Mini Fridge?
Mini fridges typically range in cost from $70 – $300. In many cases, it may be more cost effective to replace rather than repair. But before you begin troubleshooting or make the choice to replace your mini fridge, check the warranty. Most compact-size fridges come with a one-year warranty. If your mini fridge is still within its warranty period, it could make sense call the manufacturer and follow the appropriate procedure to get it replaced.
It your mini fridge is past the warranty period this article details the top 5 causes for mini fridge cooling issues and their fixes. Here they are.
1. Faulty Sealed System
What is a refrigerator sealed system?
At first glance, you would think that the sealed system for the refrigerator has to do with its door seals and latching system. However, the sealed system includes the condenser, compressor, and evaporator usually sealed behind an aluminum panel behind the refrigerator.
Check the Condenser
The condenser cools the gas after it flows through the compressor. You may have a restricted condenser or a small leak in the capillary tube attached to the condenser. The capillary tube connects the evaporator to the condenser.
The problem could also be dirty condenser coils or improper refrigerator spacing. Look up the manual of your mini fridge to ensure it is spaced correctly, allowing the proper condenser ventilation. If not, your mini fridge has to work in overdrive to make cold air.
You should also check dirty condenser coils as they tend to collect dust, debris, and pet hair over time. You can usually access them through the back panel or underneath the unit. The most efficient way of cleaning the condenser coils is to use an electronic duster, but you can also go in with a manual brush.
If your condenser coils are working correctly, the mini fridge should start cooling in a few hours.
If your appliance is still not cooling after checking the evaporator and condenser coils, this could result from a faulty compressor. Compressor replacement can cost you up to $300, so it would be prudent to replace the mini refrigerator rather than replacing the compressor.
Check the Compressor
The next part of the sealed system to check is the compressor. The compressor pushes Freon into the condenser. Here, you should focus on what sounds it is making.
To access the compressor, you need to slide out the unit. The compressor is found at the back of the appliance. Get down and listen to any sounds it may or may not be making. The compressor typically makes a low pitch humming sound when it is in proper working condition. If you hear any knocking as the compressor cycles on and off, it is likely that your compressor is the issue and needs to be replaced.
Check the Evaporator
The evaporator performs the critical job of evaporating Freon for a cooling effect. If you find that the capillary tube is not leaking, the problem could be a failed evaporator.
It is important to note that all mini fridges do not have evaporator coils. Check your model to see if your mini refrigerator is equipped with them. If yes, these coils can also become defective. Evaporator coils usually have frost hindering their performance when temperatures are extremely low.
A maintenance specialist can quickly defrost frosted evaporator coils, but it could indicate a fault in the compressor if this becomes a recurring problem.
On the other hand, some mini fridges have evaporator coils switched for a freezer box. This eliminates the possibility of faulty coils.
2. Defective Temperature Thermostat
Check for a defective temperature thermostat, as it is usually one of the most common reasons why your mini-refrigerator might not be cooling. The job of the thermostat is to send temperature readings to the compressor so it can start working.
The thermostat controls the cooling as it keeps the temperature in check and switches the compressor on and off accordingly. If the temperature is cold enough inside a refrigerator, it turns off the compressor. If the temperature is high, it turns the compressor on and begins the cooling process again.
A faulty thermostat will not detect the fridge temperature increasing, and thus, the compressor will not start.
Repairing a defective thermostat is costly and complicated, so consider getting a mini-refrigerator replacement.
Check the Temperature Control Knob
You should also check the temperature control knob; if it is not functional, you will need to replace it. A cracked temperature control knob will turn but fail to adjust the refrigerator thermostat.
3. Defective Start Relay
A faulty Sealing System or defective thermostat are certainly where you should begin your investigation. A Defective Start Relay is the next potential point of failure.
The job of a start relay is to make the compressor run repeatedly, maintaining the cooling unit’s temperature. The click sound followed by a motor sound in a mini fridge indicates that the start relay has turned on the compressor. Not hearing an audible click sound could mean that the start relay has failed.
You can easily find a new start relay to replace a faulty one for around $30. So, luckily it is a relatively cheap fix.
However, if you can hear clicks, then the start relay is likely not the problem. Your mini refrigerator then might not be cooling due to a different fault.
4. Faulty Control Board
Some new mini fridge models with user-programmable settings have a control board, which acts as the unit’s brain. They help save power, dial-in required temperatures and even initiate a power cool cycle if the fridge door is accidentally left open for too long.
A defective control board will result in the compressor not working at all.
Troubleshooting a control board is usually not worth the effort owing to its high price.
5. Failed Compressor
If, after all the above checks, the mini refrigerator is still not cooling, the worst-case scenario is a failed compressor. If the compressor is overheating and not making any noise at all, this means that it has failed.
Repairing a failed compressor can cost you around $350. If your compressor has failed, you are better off buying a new mini fridge.
The problems mentioned above are the usual reasons why your mini fridge is not cooling. However, there can be times when your fridge is not cooling up to the desired temperature despite a running compressor.
What to do if the Mini Fridge is not Cold Enough Despite a Running Compressor?
Sometimes, even with the compressor running, your fridge might not be getting cold enough. There can be several reasons for this. We will discuss them all below.
Failed Evaporator Fan Motor
If your mini fridge is equipped with an evaporator fan motor, its failure is usually the main reason why your fridge is not getting cold enough.
If the evaporator fan motor has failed, it will result in restricted cold air circulation. In other cases, there may be no air circulation at all. This will cause the air inside the refrigerator not to get cold.
Something could be restricting the evaporator fan. You can check if the motor is functional with the help of a multimeter. You can usually find it at the back of the fridge or freezer compartment.
Faulty Condenser Fan Motor
Another reason why your mini refrigerator might not be getting cold is a faulty condenser fan motor. However, not all mini refrigerators have a condenser fan motor. Thus, it is essential to check if your model unit has one.
A defective condenser fan motor will hinder proper heat exchange between the condenser and compressor of the fridge. This will cause the mini fridge not to get cold as desired.
Partial Restriction in the Drier Filter
A partially restricted drier filter can also cause the mini fridge not to get cold. The primary function of a drier filter is to filter the Freon in the refrigerator from compressor oil and water condensation.
If there is a restriction in the drier filter, it will not do its job. A partially restricted drier filter will hinder Freon’s ability to move to the refrigerator quickly.
7 Potential Quick Fix Options for your Mini Refrigerator Not Cooling
Sometimes you can quickly fix the problems causing your mini refrigerator to not work after making the checks mentioned below.
- Ensure the refrigerator is plugged in properly.
- Look for the outlet for power and make sure it is functional.
- Flip the circuit breaker if it is tripped.
- Make sure the thermostat temperature is set accordingly.
- Check the seal – ensure the door gasket is sealing correctly.
- Inspect the vents – make sure the vents have a good flow of cool air; move food around and clean any restricted vents.
- Defrost the fridge if there is ice build-up.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should a mini fridge last?
According to the US Appliance Industry, the life expectancy of mini fridges is less than an average-sized refrigerator. While a fridge can last anywhere between 10 to 18 years, with an average life expectancy of 14 years, a mini fridge can last between 4 to 12 years. The average life expectancy of a mini fridge is eight years.
What is the best temperature setting for a mini fridge?
It is safest to go for mid-temperature range options. For food safety, your mini fridge temperature should read under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have a temperature-setting knob ranging from 1 – 7, you should go for a setting of 3 or 4 on the dial. Stick in an instant-read digital meat thermometer to check the temperature is not too high or too low.
Do mini fridges use a lot of electricity?
Mini fridges usually consume 80 to 100 watts per hour. If your mini refrigerator runs for 8 hours a day at 80 watts, it will consume around 0.640 kWh in a day. Multiply the number with the average cost of electricity (13 cents) in the United States. By this calculation, the running cost of a mini fridge is around $30 a year.
Please note that running costs for different fridge models may vary.
When identifying the problem with a non-cooling mini fridge, always start by listening to the compressor. If the compressor is working, you can automatically eliminate several reasons why your mini fridge might not be working.
Keep the manual handy to know what parts are present in the mini refrigerator. For any repair work, call a technician, if you are unsure about doing it on your own.
Look up the repair cost for different parts. Many refrigerator parts can be expensive. If you face such a situation, it is usually better to replace the fridge than repair it.