How To Fix an Ice Maker
An icemaker is like an appliance inside an appliance. In many cases the icemaker is a complete and separate unit that is simply added onto a standard refrigerator freezer as an upgrade feature. An icemaker’s operation is dependent upon the freezer only to provide the cold and the electricity; everything else is a function of the ice maker itself.
If your ice maker is malfunctioning, take a look at our troubleshooting chart to isolate the problem. From there we’ll guide you in how to test and repair an ice maker.
How an Ice Maker Works
There are three common styles of ice maker; modular, flex-tray and component (aka compact). The flex-tray uses a twisting force to free the ice from the flexible tray. This style of ice maker is not found as often anymore and is not covered specifically in this site, although some of our articles are relevant to this style. The other two styles use a metal ice mold with an electric heater to loosen the ice and both are substantially similar in operation.
Water travels from a tap, usually under the kitchen sink or behind the refrigerator, to the back of the fridge. Water lines are commonly copper or plastic tubing. The water line connects to the water inlet valve, which controls the flow of water. When the inlet valve receives electrical current from the ice maker, the solenoid on the valve is triggered and allows water to flow. Water travels through the outbound water line into the freezer and into the ice mold.
The cycling of most ice makers is initiated by a thermostat attached to the ice mold. It monitors the temperature of the mold and when it drops to a preset temperature, the thermostat signals the ice maker to begin an ice making cycle.
The motor turns the ejector blades which rotate until they contact the ice. Because the ice is frozen to the mold, it cannot be pushed out and the motor stalls. As the blades continue to press on the ice, the ice mold heater begins heating the mold. Once the ice loosens the ejector motor turns, the mold heater shuts off and the ice is pushed out.
The shutoff arm is located over the ice bin and it rises up while the ice is being ejected and then drops back down afterward. If it does not drop down far enough, because the bin is full, no more ice will be made. Only after the ice level drops sufficiently, will the ice making cycle resume. The shutoff arm can be used to manually shut off the ice maker by moving it to the up position.
In component models, while the ejector motor is turning, a cam engages the holding switch and the water inlet switch. The holding switch temporarily keeps the ejection cycle going even though the shutoff arm has been raised up.
After the ice has been pushed out of the mold, the inlet switch signals the water inlet valve to release more water to refill the ice mold. The amount of water released is determined by how long the inlet switch remains depressed by the cam. Most ice makers have adjustments for controlling ice cube size. It may be a knob, lever or possibly a set screw hidden beneath the face plate. Increasing or decreasing the length of time the inlet switch is depressed will affect the amount of water that flows into the ice mold and thus the size of the ice cube.
On modular units the ejector motor momentarily completes a circuit to signal for water flow from the inlet valve.