Almost Everything that Could Go Wrong With Your Ice Maker and How to Fix It

how to fix an ice maker

It’s a luxury anyone can appreciate. Refrigerator ice makers eliminate the hassle of refilling ice trays and fighting the ice cubes to come out. If your ice maker is displaying problems, try performing some diagnostic troubleshooting.

While it’s impossible to give specific details here for each brand and model, they all work on the same basic principles. By running through the possible causes for each symptom, you can possibly eliminate the easy things you can fix yourself.

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How an Ice Maker Works

Your ice maker is essentially another small appliance situated inside your freezer. It works fairly simply: To start a cycle the ice maker signals the fill valve – usually situated near the bottom on the outside rear of the refrigerator – to open, and water flows into the ice tray (also called an “ice mold”) inside the ice maker. A set amount of water flows in (as determined by a switch and cam inside the unit) for a given time – usually up to 10 seconds. The water begins to freeze; when a dedicated thermostat near the ice reaches 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, “ice harvesting” begins.

A small heater under the ice tray warms the tray just enough to loosen the cubes, which are then released from the tray into the waiting bin underneath. As the ice dumps, an attached wire raises to allow the ice to fall. If the bin is full, the wire cannot return to its lowered position, and the ice maker stops. If, on the other hand, the wire is able to drop completely after dumping the ice, the ice maker repeats the cycle.

Common Ice Maker Problems

Try running through some simple solutions before calling a repair technician. While some internal components are best serviced by a professional, many problems are things you can fix yourself. You may need to pull your refrigerator away from the wall for some of the troubleshooting measures. Have someone assist you to prevent injury; refrigerators are extremely bulky and heavy.

Not Producing Ice

  • First, look at the shutoff arm – the wire that raises and lowers to release the ice. Sometimes it may get caught in a raised position, in which case removing the obstruction will solve the problem. Raise and lower it a couple of times to ensure it moves smoothly.
  • Check the water supply valve (the shutoff valve). Most appliances have a dedicated shutoff valve – either a lever or a knob – that controls the water flow to the appliance. If the water was shut off, the ice maker cannot make ice.
  • Look at the water supply line entering the freezer. If it gets bent or damaged, water may not flow into the ice maker.
  • What’s the temperature in your freezer? Believe it or not, too cold isn’t good. Of course water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so the temperature must be below that. Most freezers specify a minimum temperature for ice production – typically around 4 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. Keep your freezer between zero and 32 degrees F for best results.
  • Inspect your water inlet valve. Located near the bottom of the refrigerator rear, the inlet valve is the assembly to which the water line connects after leaving the water shutoff valve. Unplug the refrigerator (always a safe practice when repairing electronic appliances) and turn off the water valve. Pull the hose loose from the inlet valve and ensure it isn’t plugged. Clean around the inlet opening. If the inlet itself is bad – typically indicated by corrosion – it removes with a couple of screws and two or four wires. Contact a professional for further information.

If these steps fail to locate the problem, contact a service technician. Other potential problems include the ejector gear or motor, the internal shutoff switch, the holding switch, the water inlet switch or the ice mold heater along with the internal thermostat. As many of these parts differ by manufacturer and involve electrical circuits, professional assistance is recommended.

Makes Too Much Ice/Won’t Stop

Too much ice becomes a problem when it overfills the bin. One of two things is normally the cause – either the shutoff switch is malfunctioning or the shutoff arm is stuck in the up position. Check the arm first and wiggle it to ensure it will swing freely. For a shutoff switch problem, consult a service technician.

Ice Supply Problems

Your ice cubes may be smaller or larger than normal. You may suspect that the ice maker is simply not making as much ice as it used to.

  • Adjust the cube size control as specified by the refrigerator manufacturer.
  • Look for excess ice buildup around the ice maker. Thaw and correct as necessary to prevent small ice cubes.
  • Check the water supply valve (the shutoff control) to ensure it is open enough to supply good water pressure. While you might think it needs to be completely open, it doesn’t. The water pressure coming through the water supply line is likely higher than needed. If someone else installed your refrigerator, chances are good that the valve is only partially open. The proper water pressure for ice makers ranges from 40 pounds per square inch up to 120 psi. You can find water flow testers that will tell you the exact water pressure at the supply line. Too much pressure may affect your ice maker operation, but too little pressure will definitely cause problems.
  • Test the water supply line, the water inlet valve and the inlet switch as indicated in the “Not Producing Ice” section above. Check for a screen at the water inlet valve, in particular. If one is present and it becomes clogged with hard water deposits, it can restrict the flow of water, affecting the ice maker. Remove the screen and clean or replace it. Soaking it in vinegar will dissolve most hard water buildup.
  • Check the water filter. Most new refrigerators use a water filter to filtrate the incoming water supply for both the ice maker and water dispenser. It’s recommended to change these filters about twice a year to prevent excess sediment that may clog the filter and reduce or stop water flow. Consult your owner’s manual to determine how to access your filter. Remove and replace or bypass the filter temporarily until you can put a new one in its place.

Contact a service professional if your erratic and irregular ice problems persist. There may be other causes best addressed by a knowledgeable technician who is trained for more advanced repairs.

Ice Looks or Tastes Bad

Your ice should taste – like ice. It shouldn’t smell, look cloudy or contain flecks of any contaminant. A few simple steps will keep your ice fresh and clear.

  • Clean the ice bin. Regular washing will keep it sanitary.
  • Avoid storing uncovered foods and liquids. Any bit of food or odor can invade your ice. Wash out your freezer compartment and use boxes of baking soda to remove and prevent odors.
  • Flush the water supply line to remove hard-water buildup and other contaminants.
  • Replace the water filter, if equipped. If your ice maker doesn’t use a filter, have one installed. Consult a repair technician for further assistance.

Water Leaks

Pooling water under the refrigerator indicates you have a problem. Fortunately, most leaks are fairly simple. Fix the leak as quickly as possible – sitting water invites mold and rot, along with insects and other pests. If you can’t locate the leak, contact a service professional immediately.

  • Test the refrigerator for level. Use a carpenter’s square, running from side to side first, then front to back. Adjust the leveling legs as necessary to correct a tilting fridge, which can cause water leaks and other problems.
  • Ensure the ice maker is also level. Adjust as necessary.
  • Look over the water supply line to ensure you don’t have leaks.
  • Check the water inlet valve. Sometimes dirt buildup can cause a water leak.
  • Look for leaks around the ice maker. The fill cup in particular may be out of alignment. Incoming water flows to a fill tube, which spills into the cup and onto the ice mold. Adjusting the position may require removing the ice maker assembly. Ask a service professional for further assistance if you feel uncomfortable attempting this yourself.

Note: A newly installed ice maker probably won’t work instantly. The ice tray must drop in temperature to begin the ice making. Give your ice maker 24 hours to stabilize and begin normal operation.