An ice maker is a great feature to have on a refrigerator, but like most appliances, it can have problems from time to time. When operating normally, water is delivered to an ice maker through a length of 1/4-inch water line tube that connects to a cold water pipe on one end and a fitting on the back of the refrigerator at the other end. Ice then descends in to your glass, giving it to you in the form of crushed, cubed, or even nugget ice (if your fridge is readily equipped).
But when something goes wrong and you need to make an ice maker repair, you'll need to investigate to find the cause of the problem. Often, a simple fix is all that's needed to get your ice maker back in order.
Common Ice Maker Problems
There are several reasons an ice maker can stop working properly. Some of these reasons are a faulty water inlet valve, a leaking or frozen ice maker, a problem with the control arm, or low water pressure. Most repairs don't require specialized plumbing tools but some may. Whatever your problem might be, always unplug your fridge and make sure the water supply valve to the refrigerator's ice maker is shut off before troubleshooting and beginning your ice maker repair.
Ready to solve your ice make problems? Here are some of the culprits:
1. A Control Arm Issue
Many ice makers have a control arm that stops the maker from producing more ice when the ice bin is full. If there is more ice on one side of the bin than on the other side, the arm can tilt and stop it from producing. To fix, do the following:
- Smooth out the ice cubes in the bin so that it is equal on all sides.
- If the ice maker is still not producing ice cubes, empty the bin and make sure the arm lowers to the down position.
2. Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure to the ice maker will usually be caused by a few things: a dirty or clogged filter, a defective water inlet valve, or an issue with the water line from the water pipe to the refrigerator. The water pressure to your refrigerator should be at least 40 pounds per square inch. Here's how to fix this issue:
- Using a large measuring cup to collect the water, run the refrigerator water dispenser for 20 seconds.
- Check the fullness of the cup. If there is less than 13 ounces, there is a problem.
- Bypass the water filter by removing the filter and reconnecting the water line. Run the dispenser again for 20 seconds.
- If you are still getting less than 13 ounces of water, the problem is low water pressure in the feed line. Check your home's water pressure and check the shutoff valve on the refrigerator supply line to make sure it is working correctly and is open all the way.
- Check the water filter screen on the water inlet valve, located at the back of the refrigerator, and clear it if it's clogged. If the water inlet valve is defective, it can be removed and replaced (usually after removing a few screws). Be sure to turn off the water supply before removing the valve.
- If you are getting 13 ounces of water with the water filter out, you most likely have a clogged filter. Replace your current filter with a new one and run the water in the dispenser for a few minutes to remove air. It is normal for water to appear cloudy or white after installing a new filter, and running the water will clear it up.
3. Frozen Supply Tube
The supply tube that connects the water supply line to the ice maker can sometimes freeze if the freezer temperature is set too low, preventing the ice maker from working. One option to mitigate this is to defrost the freezer by turning off the refrigerator and waiting until it thaws, but this can get messy. An alternative way to thaw the tube is to remove it from the back of the refrigerator by loosening a few screws. You could also try this ice maker repair, which involves a hair dryer and a turkey baster:
- Carefully heat the inlet tube at the back of the refrigerator with a hair dryer.
- If heating the tube doesn't work, unplug the refrigerator and turn off the water supply.
- Remove the ice maker by loosening the screws or bolts holding it to the freezer wall.
- Use a turkey baster to pour hot water on the tube until it is thawed and clear of ice.
- Reinstall the ice maker and turn on the water and electricity. Adjust the freezer temperature so the tube doesn't freeze again.
4. Ice Maker Leaks
If the refrigerator or ice maker is not level, it could lead to leaks inside the freezer. Either the ice maker is tilted so much that water drips from one end, or the fill tube and fill cup are out of alignment. The fill tube directs water into the fill cup, and from there, it flows into the ice mold. Another possible cause for leaks is a cracked fill cup. Here's how to solve this issue:
- Place a level on top of the refrigerator to make sure it is level from side to side. If it is not, adjust the leveling feet on the front of the refrigerator. You may have to remove the grille on the bottom of the appliance to access the leveling feet. In most cases, you simply turn the bolts to move the refrigerator up and down. Most manufacturers recommend that the refrigerator be about 1/4 inch higher in the front than the back to help the door close on its own.
- With the refrigerator level, make sure the ice maker itself is also level. The ice maker is attached to the side of the freezer by screws at the top and bottom of the ice maker. Loosening the top screws will allow you to adjust the position of the ice maker.
- On some ice makers, you can remove the fill cup by depressing tabs on the side of the unit. On others, you will need to remove the ice maker to swap out a new fill cup for the old one. This repair is best left to a professional.
5. Trouble With the Water Supply
A water supply issue can take on many forms — like low water pressure, a water line leading from the ice maker becoming kinked, or a clogged supply line that is making ice that tastes off. To fix water supply issues, try the following:
- Pull the refrigerator from the wall and check for leaks around the ice maker fill valve, usually located at the bottom of the refrigerator. If the fill valve leaks, you will need to replace it. Consult the owner's manual for information on replacing the valve.
- Follow the water line from the refrigerator to its source. These lines are usually routed through cabinets and sometimes under floors. Most connect to the water supply under the sink. Look for damp spots and kinks in the line. If there is a problem, replace the supply line.
- If you think the line is clogged, turn off the water at its source. The water shutoff should be located before the ice maker's water line connection. Disconnect the water line at the fill valve and place the end of the line in a bucket. Have a helper turn on the water supply and flush the water line. If flow is restricted, there may be a clog, and the line will need to be replaced. Finally, reconnect the water line to the fill valve.
Troubleshooting an Ice Maker
If your ice maker is on the fritz but does not fall under these common problems, there are a few things you can try, starting with the easy stuff first.
- Make sure the ice maker is on. For ice makers with a bail arm, the arm should be down to start the process. Some models have on and off switches that can sometimes be hard to find. Some new models have a button located on the refrigerator's control panel. Consult your owner's manual for the location on your refrigerator.
- Set the freezer thermostat to zero degrees. That is the optimal temperature, but if the freezer is too warm, the ice maker may shut off by itself.
- Change the water filter. Refrigerators with water dispensers have water filters that should be changed every six months. A clogged filter, especially in areas with hard water, can cause the ice maker to stop working.
- Inspect the tap valve where the ice maker water line connects to the house plumbing. If it is a saddle valve, which is a valve that clamps to the water pipe and pierces it, this is a red flag that should be corrected by replacing the valve. Saddle valves often fail, and they are prohibited by most plumbing codes. There are a number of possible replacements, such as dual valves that can provide water to the sink as well as the ice maker, and each leg of the valve has its own shutoff.
Ice Maker Repair and Costs
As with all kitchen appliances, refrigerators are becoming more complex, and sometimes, only a pro can fix or replace your ice maker. The labor cost for appliance repair is about $75 to $125 per hour, although many companies charge a flat rate for repairs. Repair and replacement costs usually reflect the original cost of the refrigerator, and for high-end models, it will cost more to repair or replace the ice maker compared to standard models.
The average repair will cost around $90 to $250. Of course, it depends on what part of the unit is being repaired. The most common repair is to the fill valve, which you can expect to pay $100 to $200 to replace. The most expensive repair is replacing the motor, which could cost as much as $400.
Sometimes, it makes more sense to have the unit replaced rather than repaired. Ice makers themselves are not that expensive, but the labor costs can add up. Expect to pay $300 to $500 to replace an ice maker. If the refrigerator is old, it might make sense to replace it rather than spending hundreds of dollars fixing the ice maker. Newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient than older models, which saves you money in the long run.
Fran Donegan is a writer and editor who specializes in covering remodeling, construction and other home-related topics. In addition to his articles and blogs appearing in numerous print and digital media outlets, he is the former executive editor of the consumer magazine Today's Homeowner and the managing editor of Creative Homeowner Press, a book publisher. Fran is the author of two books: Paint Your Home (Reader's Digest) and Pools and Spas (Creative Homeowner Press).