Whether your refrigerator has an ice dispenser built into the door or you retrieve the ice from a bin in the freezer compartment, the ice maker itself is one accessory that seems increasingly essential as the weather turns hot. If the ice maker is not producing ice like it once did, you may need to replace it with a new one. But before you do that, you should understand how a properly-functioning refrigerator ice maker works. That way you can more accurately troubleshoot the reason for your own icemaker’s malfunction.
How does a refrigerator icemaker work?
For optimal ice making, the temperature in the freezer compartment should be zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower. When the appropriate temperature is reached, the ice maker will go into a “harvest” cycle where a gear motor will turn a rake or twist the tray to eject any frozen cubes into a storage bin. Towards the end of this cycle, the ice maker will send power to a water inlet valve for approximately five to seven seconds which opens the valve and allows water to flow through a hose and fill tube to refill the icemaker tray (Note that the home’s water pressure should be between 20 and 120 pounds per square inch for the valve to work properly). The ice cubes can be retrieved manually from the bin or they may be dispensed through a chute in the door when the ice dispenser lever is depressed. The cycle continues until the bin is filled to capacity (the volume of cubes will often lift up an ice level arm, or block a beam in the door, that automatically switches off the icemaker).
- If the ice cubes are hollow or too small, there is probably insufficient water pressure going to the inlet valve or a restriction in the valve itself. To help determine this, close the water supply valve, and detach the water supply line from the inlet valve. Hold the line over a bucket and open the supply valve. A weak water flow is an indication that the home’s water pressure is low or there could be a problem with the supply valve. However, if the flow is strong, then it’s likely there is a restriction in the water inlet valve and the valve should be replaced.
- If the ice maker is not making any ice at all, first check to see if there is water or ice in the tray. If there isn’t any, it’s possible that the fill tube has clogged with ice which is usually caused by insufficient water pressure or a defective inlet valve. You can use a hair dryer to thaw the ice in the fill tube to unclog it.
- The temperature in the freezer compartment may also be too high for the ice maker to produce ice. If the freezer temperature remains above fifteen degrees Fahrenheit and you’re unable to lower it, there may be a cooling problem with the refrigerator; if the temperature is ten degrees Fahrenheit or lower, but no ice is being produced, then the ice maker itself is probably defective and will need to be replaced.
How to replace a refrigerator icemaker
While the procedure to replace an ice maker can vary greatly from model to model, here are some general steps you can follow:
- Unplug the refrigerator’s power cord.
- To reach the icemaker on bottom freezer models, you may need to remove one or more freezer drawer assemblies and bins.
- Some larger refrigerator models may require you to uninstall an upper panel to access the ice maker.
- For most side-by-side refrigerators, you will first pull the ice bin straight out to remove. You may have to depress a button to release the bin.
- Next, you may need to remove an icemaker cover. Some models may require an ice auger motor assembly be uninstalled before you can access the ice maker.
- Unthread any screws securing the icemaker to the liner. Some models may only require a retaining tab to be depressed to release the icemaker from its housing. For other models, you can fully remove a lower screw and loosen the upper screws that the icemaker mounting bracket is supported on.
- If applicable, lift the old icemaker off of the upper screws, then disconnect the wire harness to fully remove the assembly. For some models, you will need to detach a thermal fuse as well before you can remove the icemaker.
- Before you install the new ice maker, you may need to transfer a mounting bracket, a fill cup, the ice level arm, or a wire harness from the old assembly to the new one.
- Returning to the freezer compartment, connect the wire harness and secure the thermal fuse if applicable.
- Align the ice tray or fill cup with the fill tube as you position the new icemaker mounting bracket on the upper screws or, if required, slide the assembly into the housing and snap it into place.
- If applicable, tighten the upper screws and replace the lower screw, or rethread all of the mounting screws.
- Reinstall the ice auger motor assembly if necessary or replace any covers.
- Realign the ice bin on the rails and slide straight back. You may need to rotate the ice auger to seat the drive coupler and fully position the bin.
- If required, reinstall the upper panel or the freezer drawer assemblies.
- Plug the refrigerator’s power cord back in and confirm the ice maker is working properly.
Find the right icemaker with Repair Clinic
Since icemakers will vary depending on the refrigerator model, it’s important to identify the exact ice maker that works with your refrigerator. To do this, enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic search bar, then choose “Ice Maker” from the part category filter to find the ice maker you need. Repair Clinic carries icemakers for all the top name brand refrigerators, including Bosch, Frigidaire, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Samsung, and GE, but you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the specific icemaker assembly that fits your model.