Why won’t the freezer in my garage refrigerator freeze?

Has your garage refrigerator’s freezer stopped working in the summer (non-winter) months? Then click here to read this: Summertime blues: my garage refrigerator no longer works; no longer keeps things cold

There’s nothing wrong with your refrigerator, the problem lies with your refrigerator being outside and the outside air temperature. Refrigerators are designed to work inside a home where air temperatures are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermostat, located in the refrigerator part of the appliance, senses when the temperature rises above the set level and turns on the compressor causing the freezer to cool and pushing the cold air produced in the freezer part into the refrigerator part.

For a refrigerator located in the garage, where the air temperature gets much colder, the thermostat does not sense a rise in outside air temperature and therefore, never kicks the compressor on. Because the compressor does not come on, cold air is never produced in the freezer. The temperature in your freezer rises and begins to thaw out all your frozen foods. Not good.

To get around this, install a garage refrigerator kit. The kit gets installed next to your refrigerator’s thermostat and produces a small amount of heat which “tricks” the thermostat into thinking it is in a much warmer environment. It then kicks your compressor on, which all

Garage Refrigerator Kit

Garage Refrigerator Kit, $23.29, click on photo for more info.

ows your freezer to produce enough cold air for the fridge, but more importantly, for the freezer. A garage refrigerator kit will provides the proper heat source to keep the refrigerator working properly while in very cold temperatures.

Another option is to discontinue use of the refrigerator during the winter months altogether, especially if you use it mainly as a source for keeping drinks and food cold for summer entertaining. Turn the refrigerator off, clean it out, and leave the door slightly ajar. This will help prevent mold and mildew from accumulating in the refrigerator.


45 responses to “Why won’t the freezer in my garage refrigerator freeze?

  1. Is the same true for an upright freezer? Will it stop working when it gets too cold in the garage?

    • Not normally….but ( why always a but? ) might depend on how cold the room/garage gets. Might get so cold the oil in the compressor gets thick and the compressor cannot run or damages the compressor. Might get so cold the freezer doesn’t run properly, but normally doesn’t stop freezing all together.

  2. how about the opposite problem?? mine works fine in the garage in the winter but both freezer and fridge are basically useless in the summer months. will a garage kit fix the reverse as well?

  3. The appliance salespeople at Sears and HH Gregg tell me that you can’t use a refrigerator/freezer in a garage unless it’s heated/airconditioned. They say the “new” freon will turn to gel below 55 and to gas above 80 – and therefore ruin the compressor. Has anyone heard this?

    My garage unit needs immediate replacement – but I don’t want one that only works part of the year!

    • I am not sure about the “new freon” bit, I will have to investigate that and I will and reply to you here with what I found out.

      Your refrigerator might not cool in a garage for the reasons I stated in the post above. In the summer, your fridge should work just fine, however if you live in a climate that is incredibly hot, your fridge will have to work harder to keep cool. Dirty coils and other problems might will cause your fridge to work harder as well.

  4. My refrigerator is in the kitchen but does not keep the food frozen. Reasons?

  5. My chest freezer doesn’t work in our unheated garage. Is there a garage kit for these. I thought of wrapping heat tape (for pipes) around my compressor/motor. Would this work, or is it a thermostat issue?

    • Hi Tim,

      I would not tamper with the compressor parts at all as any damage to the compressor is a very expensive repair.

      The garage refrigerator kits acts like a heater and raises the ambient air temp in the garage (which is below freezing) so the compressor kicks on to make more cold air.

      As for trying to rig some sort of lightning source, I have read of people doing that on other repair forums and blogs, however, I have not heard how successful it was in solving the problem in the long term.

  6. Would wiring in a small heat source, such as a night light, help raise the temperature enough to make it work?

  7. You could take out the freezer part and use it all as a fridge.

    However, I got two chest freezers, converted one to a fridge with a love temperature switch, and sold the refrigerator. The chest fridge/freezer combo uses less than 30% the electricity that was used by the old refrigerator.

    I am glad to be rid of the constant loss of cold air and energy use of the old refrigerator.

  8. My upright freezer is inside. And even in the summer it won’t freeze. It cools down, but won’t freeze. The temp alarm just keeps going off – even if there are only 2 or 3 things in there.

    What can I do? I need my freezer.

  9. I’ve been told old freezers are great to store paint in because paint and chemicals will not freeze in them in the winter. Is this true? that non-working freezers keep things from freezing?

  10. Hi,

    My freezer in the garage just stopped cooling all of the sudden. The garage is pretty cold since the temperature has been below 30 pretty much all winter. After reading the above notes, is it likely that the gas is low and compressor is not kicking in to generate cold air or something else? What process of eliminations should I look for before I call a service person? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  11. We have a Kenmore Side by Side refrigerator it does not freeze food it only keeps stuff cool.

  12. I have an Amana ABB1921DEQ refrigerator with a bottom mount freezer. I want to put it in the garage. Winters here are well below freezing.( I live in Northern Indiana) Will the freezer work and if not, is there anything I can do to make it work in the winter?

  13. I live in MN. My garage temp dips to a few degrees below freezing in the winter months. Run an extension cord to the inside of the refrigerator and plug in one or two small (7 Watt) night lights. The heat from the night lights will force the refrigerator to see a need to kick on several times a day. Since the temp sensor for the freezer and refrigerator is located in the above freezing portion of the box (The refrigerator not the freezer) the entire unit will stay at the same temps you experienced through out the summer months. This has worked for 6 years.


  15. I have a different problem. I live in a warm area. The refrigerator I am talking about is in the kitchen, in climate control, central air/heat, but still, the refrigerator freezes my vegetables every other week or so in the winter, usually when the outside temperature drops suddenly. Is this just the way it is? Why does this happen if I have central heat? It is hard to anticipate when the temperature will drop to change it, and even if I try, it takes the refrigerator about a day or so to adjust to a new setting…

  16. Jervil got it right for fridge/freezers in a cold garage problem. All you need is a small heat source inside the refrigerator near the temperature sensor. I have a small upright lamp with a 7 watt bulb on the top shelf of a Kenmore side-by-side fridge and that solved the problem. You need to have a heat source in the refrigerator side, since that is where the temp sensor is. The freezer doesn’t have one. The heat source has to stay in there until temperatures stay above 45 F. When temps are below 40 F, the refrigerator never warms up enough to signal the compressor to come on unless there is an inside heat source. I put sensors inside both compartments and outside the fridge (I work in a DOE lab). The heat source inside the refrigerator does not affect anything below the top shelf. The freezer has stayed between -5F and 10F all winter.

  17. my freezer will keep frozen meat frozen but will not freeze unfrozen meat??
    Please help

  18. Do they make garage kits for Frigidaire side-by-side units? I have a model # BFHS2611LM and would love to install a garage kit if they exist. Any help would be appreciated.

  19. one issue not mentioned with fridges in cold (like garage or unheated cottages) is that frost free cycle comes on (usually weekly or daily?) and that adds heat to the bottom of the fride freezer area. Therefore if fridge does not call for cooling, the temp in freezer will rise above freezing as it is well insulated! Best is to keep freezer section empty in winter or unplug fridge and clean out and leave doors ajar. In Canada in winter stuff is cool enough in garage (may even freeze!) so you don’t need the fridge plugged during cold weather.

  20. I’m wondering whether to put a small (12.1 cu. ft.) upright freezer in our garage or our laundry room. We’re in AZ where garage temps get well above 85 in summer. What do you suggest?

  21. The ap Wagner device says for temperatures that stay above 34 degF. I’m looking for a solution for my camp that is rarely used during the winter, but I’d still like to keep things frozen. The temperature inside may very well fall below 34. Is there another solution?


  22. We have a house in the Pocono mountains in Pa and when we leave I turn the heat down to low around 40.When we returned the freezer was defrosted.I’m assuming this is a similar problem.It’s a Frigidaire cheaper model that I purchased this past spring.Thank You

    • Horst Mielke, St. Catharines

      The problem is that the defrost heater works on a timer (not temperature). So heat get put into the freezer compartment every 12 hours (not specified in most manuals) while the fridge hardly ever calls for cooling. So everything in the freezer spoils. So leave your freezer compartment empty or unplug the whole fridge and leave the door open. Freezer that are not auto-defrost do not have this problem.

  23. I have installed this kit in my fridge in my garage and it worked however now everything in the fridge portion is freezing. Why? I turned the temp down in the fridge and still fridge is freezing.

  24. Hi – Just found your site. I have the cold garage-frig/freezer issue here in Montana. Bought the frig at Sears after the salesperson said it would make a great garage frig! I store fruits, vegi’s, meats, flours, drinks. Now that the temps here have dipped below freezing, it is once again not working properly. I was wondering if I could purchase a small space heater and place it beside the frig (not too close of course) pointed towards the space in back of the frig if this would work? Thanks for your help…

    • Jervil | November 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Reply

      I live in MN. Outside temps can get to 30 degrees below zero. My garage can get down to +28 degrees. Run an extension cord to the inside of the refrigerator and plug in one or two small (7 Watt) night lights. (2 bulbs because when one burns out the other will be just enough heat to keep the frozen goods solid.) The heat from the night lights will force the refrigerator to see a need to kick on several times a day. Since the temp sensor for the freezer and refrigerator is located in the refrigerator half, not the freezer half, the entire unit will stay at the same temps you experienced through out the summer months. This has worked for me for 10 years.

  25. Don’t try to heat the garage with an electric heater. That’s over 1,000 watts of wasted energy. Use the 7 watt night lights. It works.

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  32. How can I “splice” one of the Electrolux garage kits into a Hotpoint refrigerator? I was told it was universal…and GE/Hotpoint do not make a part similar to this.

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