how to tell if refrigerator damper is bad
Kristina Davis

Learning how to tell if refrigerator damper is bad is essential to ensure your home appliance keeps working well.

✅ And in many cases, a refrigerator that freezes food has something to do with a damper issue.

If your refrigerator is overcooling or freezing your perishables, it can seriously disturb your daily life.

Therefore, it is vital to figure out what is wrong and how to solve it.

Clearing up the vents and even tinkering with the thermostat or damper might be practical first steps in troubleshooting.

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It may take more experience to test and replace other components.

fixing the issue

But how to test refrigerator damper, and how do you know your damper has to be blamed here?

Your refrigerator damper may not be working if you notice your food freezing for no apparent reason, but a manual inspection of your damper may also be needed. 

Understanding the Cooling Mechanism of Your Refrigerator

cooling mechanism fridge

The freezer is where the fridge’s cold air comes from.

After that, the cool air goes through an endless cycle of being transported between the fresh food section and the freezer. 

Eighty percent of the air in a standard refrigerator stays in the freezer, while twenty percent moves to the fresh food section.

Tip: To avoid any temperature-related issues, be sure to close the door of your refrigerator as quickly as you can. 

Including the Damper in the Cooling Equation

including the damper

Suppose your fridge is reportedly 28C, even though the lowest temperature setting is 34C.

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Why does that happen? It appears that the damper assembly is at fault.

If the fridge is overcooling, check to see if any vents are blocked.

👌 A damper, which may be manually adjusted or automatically regulated by the thermostat, controls how much cold air enters the refrigerator.

Understanding the Functioning of Your Refrigerator Damper

function refrigerator damper

The damper in your fridge is a smack flap or door that opens and closes to permit cool air from the freezer into the refrigerator.

It regulates how much cold air is allowed into the fridge to keep the storage area from freezing.

A baffle, typically operated mechanically, regulates the flow of cool air into the food storage area.

refrigerator damper definition

There may not be enough cool air entering the fresh food compartment if the baffle is broken or there is a problem with the linkage to the control knob. 

Tip: Keep ice from accumulating in your refrigerator, or eventually, you will end up facing issues related to temperature fluctuations. 

How To Tell if Refrigerator Damper Is Bad or Not?

the damper has issue

The damper is often located in the gap between the refrigerator and the freezer.

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It is operated by a thermostat that either opens or closes depending on the fridge’s internal temperature.

If you notice the temperature in your refrigerator hovering around the freezing point, it could indicate that the damper is terrible. 

Still, you may have to inspect it manually. Here is what to do:

Turn Off Your Refrigerator

fridge unplugging

Since the damper can be found inside the refrigerator, you must practice caution when accessing it.

Remember that you should always unplug the appliance first and then open the door.

You can look for it near the vents that bring cool air into the area where you keep your perishables. 

Inspect the Housing

housing inspection

Once you have located the damper, you need to inspect the housing.

👍 In order to minimize the risk of air leakage, the damper’s housing is often constructed of plastic and lined with Styrofoam.

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It is essential to check the housing thoroughly without damaging the Styrofoam or the seal within. 

Check the Bulb

check the bulb

If you notice no visible problem with the damper, check the temperature-sensing bulb, if available.

A temperature-detecting bulb connected to this control allows some refrigerator models to adapt automatically to new temperatures within the appliance.

Verify that the detecting bulb is placed correctly and not broken. 

Check the Position of the Damper

damper position checking

You may have to move the damper to confirm it is working fine manually. Sometimes, it feels stuck in a closed position or fails to move freely.

It could be the reason why you notice temperature issues in your refrigerator.

If the damper is not moving freely or is stuck, you may have to replace it, and that is when it is crucial to let a professional take care of it. 

Check the Voltage

checking the voltage

As long as the door to the refrigerated fresh food section is open, the sound of the damper opening and closing can be heard.

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If you notice something is off, you will have to go ahead and test the voltage.

You should test the damper’s voltage when turning on the unit to see if it opens and closes appropriately.

You may have to replace the damper if you detect any voltage here. But if there is no voltage, you will have to replace the switch. 

How Can You Replace the Bad Damper?

bad damper replacement

To replace the bad damper, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the breaker or unplug the refrigerator if it is plugged in.
  2. Find your refrigerator’s damper.
  3. Disconnect the damper by first removing the control housing from the roof.
  4. Remove the vents if you have to, or check the user manual.
  5. Remove the malfunctioning damper and its wiring connections.
  6. Now, carefully install the new one.
  7. Make sure the connections are secure before installing the new damper.
  8. Turn on the refrigerator to see if everything works. 
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throwing your damper

If your refrigerator’s damper control becomes permanently jammed in the open or closed position, it must be changed.

Fresh food in the fridge could freeze if the door becomes stuck open and the cold air does not escape.

Further, if the damper is jammed shut, the refrigerator will not get as cold as it should.

Tip: Make sure to keep your refrigerator away from your walls and maintain a gap to help you function properly.

What Else Can Mimic a Bad Refrigerator Damper?

cause of bad damper

Once the damper is opened, you can test the registers to see if the air is flowing. If it seems fine, you will have some more tinkering to do. 

Incorrect Thermostat Temperature Setting

A thermostat manages the cooling of a fridge. To keep the food in your fridge at the ideal temperature, you must ensure the thermostat is adjusted correctly.

The ideal temperature range for a refrigerator’s food compartment is 36F-39F. 

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Food can spoil at temperatures above this and freeze at temperatures below this.

Check the temperature settings if the food in the fridge suddenly turns to ice. 

Faulty Evaporator Fan

evaporator fan faulty

Evaporator fans are used in refrigerators and freezers to help distribute cold air throughout the appliance. 

A damaged fan is the most common cause of a warm food section in a refrigerator, although an overcrowded food section can cause the fan to overwork by blocking the cold sensors.

When a refrigerator’s fan is always on, it forces frigid air into the fridge, freezing everything within.

✅ Do not store unnecessary items in the fridge, as doing so puts unnecessary strain on the appliance’s compressor and evaporator fan.

If this is the case, it is best to hire a professional refrigerator repair service. 

Faulty Temperature Sensor

temperature sensor faulty

A thermistor is a type of temperature sensor that is typically installed in or near an airflow.

There could be as many as four separate thermistors in a given refrigerator model.

The thermistor communicates with the control board, which then distributes power to the appropriate parts of the cooling system.

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For example, a broken thermistor might cause the refrigerator to over-cool since the fan and compressor will operate constantly. 

You will have to use a multimeter to check if the thermistor is indeed bad. 

multimeter usage

Temperature-dependent resistance and continuity tests may have to be performed on the thermistor.

For the thermistor’s ideal resistance, knowing which refrigerator model you have is essential.  

Tip: Make sure to clean your refrigerator's condenser coils regularly to avoid any cooling-related problems. 


Learning how to tell if refrigerator damper is bad can help you keep food fresh for longer. In many cases, the issue is with your damper, and it is easy to spot.

But it may also be due to other factors, including a faulty thermostat or a malfunctioning temperature sensor.

Be prepared to test everything, but if you are unsure, let a professional handle it for you.