How to Fix a Refrigerator Light that Won’t Come On

January 6, 2020
Refrigerator Repair

You open your refrigerator door and the light doesn’t come on. Normally, this would mean that there’s a power outage or your fridge plug has been kicked, but you can still feel the cold and hear the hum of the fridge so you know it’s working. If you have a freezer light or an ice maker, you can even test these to make sure the fridge power is still consistent. However, if your fridge is still functional but the light is out, you have something that needs fixing.

Believe it or not, it’s not always the lightbulb itself. There are a few different things you want to check if your refrigerator light won’t come on. It could be the door switch, the wiring, a dirty socket, or just a loose lightbulb. If you’re looking to fix your fridge light, we can walk you step-by-step through identifying what’s wrong and making it right. 

Check the Door Switch

The first and easiest thing to check is the door switch. This is a small often triangular-shaped plunger switch that depresses when the fridge door is closed and springs out when the door opens. This is your light switch. When the door is closed, the light is off, and the spring-loaded plunger makes an electrical connection when the door is opened to make the light come on. This ensures your light doesn’t burn out illuminating food no one is looking at.

Test the door switch. With the fridge door open, press the switch and release it. No response? It could be anything. But if the door switch looks particularly dirty or feels broken, it could be the cause. However, if to toggle the door switch a few times and the light comes on, it may have just been a loose wire inside. 

Tighten the Lightbulb

Next, the next easiest thing to check is the lightbulb, and whether it’s in place securely. To do this, you’ll need to open up the cover. Not every fridge has the same cover construction so it may take a little inspection to do this. You may be able to get it open simply by pressing a few latches and pulling away from the cover. Or you might need a screwdriver. Use your mechanical intuition and understanding of plastic covers to get through.

Once you have physical access to the lightbulb, twist it clockwise to tighten. Just like the head of a flashlight, sometimes the fridge will shake just enough with door closings and bumps to shake the bulb until it doesn’t connect. If the light comes on when you twist, then problem solved and congratulations. If not, continue troubleshooting. 

Secure the Wiring

With the light cover still removed, check any wiring you can reach. Shaking of the fridge can also cause some loose wiring connections to pull free of the electrical contact that lights the bulb. Wiggle the wiring you can reach and see what happens. If you get a flicker, do your best to pull or press the wires toward the back of the light socket. This can help to re-establish a connection. Hopefully, your light comes back on. But if not, try the next troubleshooting step. 

Check the Bulb

When you’re sure it’s not the wiring, remove the bulb by gently turning it counter-clockwise until it comes loose. take a close look at the inside of the glass compartment. If you can see broken filaments, then the bulb is burnt out and will need to be replaced. Shake the bulb lightly. If you can hear a small scraping or tinkling sound like a tiny holiday bell, then the bulb is busted and will need to be replaced. 

Check the Bulb Socket

The next step is to inspect the connection more closely. Check out the base of the bulb and the socket at about the same time. There’s a chance that they have corroded or become dirty with aerated food from the fridge. Yes, this can happen. Dirty light sockets inside a plastic protective cover happen surprisingly often. Take a damp cloth or a paper towel wet with glass cleaner and wipe both. Dry the socket and the base of the bulb and try screwing the bulb back in.

There is a chance that your lightbulb will flicker back on as you reattach the connection. If so, then you successfully removed the grime that was either preventing a tight screw-in or preventing the two metal pieces from making conductive contact. 

Replace the Lightbulb

If the bulb is clearly burnt out or cleaning the base has no positive effect, you’ll want to try replacing the lightbulb next. Fridge bulbs are usually 120V and somewhere between 25 and 40 watts. You can use your current bulb as a guide, many have the size, style, and wattage printed somewhere on the bulb. If you can’t find helpful markings, take your bulb into the local hardware store (or hardware section of a department store). The clerk there should be able to help you find the right replacement bulb in the right wattage. Remember to mention that it’s for your fridge.

When you have a new bulb, screw it into the socket. If it doesn’t come on now, there’s one more thing that’s relatively easy to do. 

Replace the Door Switch

Finally, if nothing else works, then you can change out your door switch. Start by ordering a replacement door switch based on the make and model of your refrigerator. When you have the replacement switch in hand, prepare to replace it. Start by unplugging your fridge, just in case. Pry the old door switch out with a flat screwdriver or a putty knife. Switch out the wire connection for the new switch and press the new switch into the socket. Plug your fridge back in and press the door switch.

With a new bulb and a new door switch, your fridge light should come right back on. And if it still doesn’t work, it’s time to call a professional appliance repair technician. Contact us if you’d like to schedule an inspection of your refrigerator and get that light back on. 


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