Temporary Repair | Warm Refrigerator – Cold Freezer

By Todd Fratzel on Appliances

Defective Refrigerator Air Diffuser

The other day I wrote about how our refrigerator was warm (50 degrees) yet our freezer was cold (0 degrees). Our side-by-side Kenmore Elite refrigerator was not working properly and I diagnosed the problem as a defective refrigerator air diffuser that was restricting cool air from the freezer compartment from entering the refrigerator compartment. The result was a warm refrigerator with a cold freezer.

Temporary Air Diffuser Repair

Broken Air DiffuserI ordered a new air diffuser and a thermistor in order to repair our refrigerator. In the meantime while we wait for the parts I created a temporary repair. If you look closely to the inside of the air diffuser  you’ll see I inserted a black plastic zip tie into the holes of the louver door. The zip tie keeps the door from completely shutting and therefore letting the cool air move into the refrigerator.

After I inserted the zip tie I put the diffuser back in place while I wait for the new one. The temperature has gone from 50 degrees down to 35 degrees. So now the milk is safe and we can make due until the part comes.

If your refrigerator air diffuser is broken this temporary fix should help you keep your food cold while you wait for parts!

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. J. says:

    Thanks a million for this (or at least the $75 I would have had to spend on a service call). A day before you posted this, I noticed my milk seemed a bit warm. Once I read this, I put a temp gauge in the refrig. and it read 50. Freezer was fine. I pulled the diffuser and noticed ice had formed on the end of the thermostat wire as well as in the diffuser itself. I think the ice was keeping the diffuser stuck shut and the ice at the end of the thermostat wire was giving it a false read. (I spent a long time over the weekend cleaning the refrigerator and freezer, which I think led to the ice forming) Short story long, I cleaned out the ice, reinstalled everything and I’m back in business. Thanks again!

  2. Roger Janezic says:

    I love the net. If you are persistent, the answers are out there. Your post hit the nail on the head. I haven’t applied yet what you suggest but I already can see that this is the solution. Thanks a million. You took the time to write what the manufacturers should have put into their documentation. Designed for failure. Our MBAs are taught to maximize the bottom line. Engineers and craftsmen ought to run the companies.
    Thanks again.
    Roger in Rochester.

    • Todd says:

      Roger – I hope it helps. Do me a favor and report back so we all know if it worked for you.

    • robert says:

      thank you soo much for the repair advice. 4 gallons of cottage cheese later. they were trying to sell us a service agreement for 225 dollars. cha ching!

  3. Don says:

    Thank you for the awesome information. I did your temporary fix with one modification; I didn’t like how the diffuser was pushing on the plastic strap I installed when it tried to close(the diffuser seemed to be continuously cycling open/closed), so I waited until it was open, and disconnected the power connector. Overnite the refrigerator dropped to mid-30’s temperature, so I ordered the diffuser $31.28 and thermistor $7.63; they should be here Tuesday 6-29-10. Parts cost $39 (cheap in my mind), and taxes shipping about $24.50 to get them in 2 days. I’m going to use the freezer temp to control the refrigerator temp for the next couple days. I don’t care what the service call would have cost, even if it was cheap (ya, right!) I will get much satisfaction out of doing this myself!
    – Don in Littleton Colorado

  4. Moe says:

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks a lot for all the useful articles!

    I need to do this temporary fix but I don’t seem to find a way to open the diffuser as I have a newer model: 106.57863801

    I can see from outside that it has frosting stuff inside it but I dont see any screw to open the cover.

    Can you please help?

    • Todd says:

      Sometimes they are held in place with a type of spring clip and sometimes they are held in place with screws from the freezer side.

      • Moe says:

        Thanks Todd,

        I couldn’t remove the panel but I was able to insert a plastic screw inside the diffuser door and it’s half open now all the time but still I don’t get and cold air inside the refrigerator area.

        • Todd says:

          Have you searched for a parts diagram? without getting that cover off it’s possible that you haven’t opened it all the way. It’s also possible that something else is wrong like a bad defrost timer.

          • Moe says:

            Yes but I couldn’t find anything for it on the web.

            Now the bottom part of my refrigerator is freezing cold (all the fruits there have been frozen) and the top part of the refr. is still warm)

            I think I have to call someone to check it as I don’t know what to do…

            Thanks again.

          • Todd says:

            Sure sounds like the diffuser is the issue. Right now all you have is cold air falling down to the bottom, freezing things, the air is circulating properly.

  5. Suzanne says:

    I am trying this temporary fix on a Kenmore Elite Model 106.55612400 and can’t figure out how to get the styrofoam off. I’ve got the plastic cover off the wires and the diffuser on the refridgerator side. Anyone give some guidance. Thanks,

    • Todd says:

      If my memory serves me the foam was stuck on there really tight. I had to pull pretty hard to get it off.

      • Suzanne says:

        Well I tried pulling it off and the foam broke. In the meantime, my other half was doing something and now the electronics are not displaying anything. Looks like it is time for the repairman. Will update you on our resolution.

  6. Alain says:

    Warm fridge cold freezer

    Sometimes it is simple..The ehaust vents to fridge, in the freezer, were frosted shut move the frezzer food to fridge and and defrosted freezer, with the help of a blow dryer et Voila..What caused the frost up that’s another question maybe someone left a door ajar ??

  7. Jacj says:

    I woke this morning to the same situation with my Kenmore Side by Side: Freezer cold, refrigerator warm. Placed thermometer in each section and discovered Freezer – 0 deg. Refrigerator – 54 deg. After looking for anything obvious, I went on the internet and saw your post. The only difference in my situation compared to your situation that I found was that I did note some air flow coming out of the diffuser; not much and definitely not enough to make my hand cold. In your first post you said “I could not feel any cold air coming out of the refigerator vents” but in posting on the defective Air Diffuser you used the slightly different terminology of “restricting cool air”. Did your diffuser shut out all air flow or did it significantly restrict? Accordintly I am not sure that I have experienced the same prblem which plagued you but regardless, you have given my a great step by step primer for checking the sitution out further. Thanks

    • Todd says:

      This problem could leave you with many different air flows depending on how the louver breaks. It could break in the closed, open, or in between stages. Certainly very likely to be the diffuser or thermostat.

  8. Mike says:


    I appreciate your input and expertise! My Kenmore sideXside has similar circumstances in that freezer cold and refrig. warm. I have been dealing with this since last summer when I called service man. He came out and removed back shield in freezer and the coils were covered in ice. He defrosted and checked everything out saying the diffuser etc. was working. He reset the settings and said should be ok & it was for two or three weeks until it froze up again. Since I had watched what he did I have done this probably three or four times since. However I just had to do again for first time since early winter. After defrosting the diffuser seems to blow cold air pretty well for a time but eventually freezes up again and then it will not blow much air at all and it is not cold. Does this still sound like the diffuser and if so would you recommend replacing it and the thermistor? Thanks for your advice!

    • Todd says:

      Mike, certainly sounds like some kind of issue with the diffuser. The trouble is I can’t say if it’s that, the thermistor, or the control panel. I’m a “replace” this piece and try it kinda guy when it comes to appliances.

  9. Sandra says:

    Our side-by-side is a Maytag PSB2151GRW. We had these same symptoms- warm fridge, freezer cold. Emptied it out, removed inside back of freezer to expose the coils they were frozen up pretty solid. Thought maybe we had too much shtuff in the appliance and had blocked the airway tunnels, still unsure what caused the freezeup. Were able to do the temp fix by loosening the control panel in the fridge side, but couldn’t figure out how to get all the way into the damper to lodge it open. It was enough to get it down to 38. Went ahead and called the tech – he ordered $290 worth of parts – said we’d need new defrost-defrost controller and a new damper unit. Apparently even though it is a three part piece, they only sell it as an expensive assembly now. And it will take 2-3 weeks to come from the factory. :-( OH WELL. Guess that is cheaper than a new fridge.

  10. michele says:

    side by side fridge freezer cold fridge warm fridgadare pure source help

  11. Lindsay says:

    Need a new damper, but cant figure out how to remover the old one that is in the styrofoam to do the temp. fix while I wait for a new one. Suggestions? The black motor? maybe not sure what it is, is what seems to be glued into the styrofoam. Thanks.


    • Todd Fratzel says:

      The styrofoam box is glued on, be careful when removing it.

    • khizzy says:

      Lindsay, the Styrofoam is glued to a plastic piece that has clamps, those clamps are accessible from freezer side. Once you push the clamps back the diffuser is lose on the fridge side. Don’t pull on Styrofoam it will break.

      • Lindsay says:

        Yeah I broke it HA. But I couldn’t for the life of me find in the freezer how to open it up. I called our local repair man who came out to check out the model and is ordering the parts for us. It was the damper, so I temp. fixed by taping the damper open. Nice and cold now LOL. Here is hoping the parts are not over $100. Shesh. His services and fixing it total is going to be $100.

  12. Chuck Miller says:


  13. RICH says:


  14. Joe Joson says:

    Very similar situation here. KENMORE Elite 10657703700 side by side. Freezer zero, ref 50. Evap fan was acting up and would not run. Got a new fan. Fan now runs but occasionally stops and wiggles in place and has to be pushed to run. By the way, while this fan works now, there is NO continuity to it when resistance is read.

    Diffuser has been tied temporarily in the open position. What else could be blocking air passages. I do not get any air coming in through the six air windows in the ref.

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