It’s easy to take your ice maker for granted until it suddenly stops working or produces smelly or misshaped ice cubes. The convenience of having unlimited fresh ice cubes on demand becomes more apparent than ever.
Luckily, ice makers, and especially portable ice makers, are not overly complicated machines. With a little investigative work, you can often get it working right again without having to spend money on repair or replacement.
What's In This Guide
As with any machine, understanding the various parts and inner workings of an ice maker is important in being able to maintain it. So before we get to some easy fixes you can try, here is a brief primer on how ice makers work and their various components.
How Ice Makers Work
Like the ice mold in your freezer, ice makers work by simply turning liquid water into ice. But the process between the two is quite different. While the water in a tray takes hours to freeze, an ice maker can spit out perfect ice cubes in less than 15 minutes.
A good way to visualize ice makers is as mini ice making factories. The entire process is fast and automated. You just have to provide the water, either through a water line or by filling a reservoir, and clear the basket when it’s full.
In most ice makers, the water is passed into a set of molds where a refrigeration system freezes the water into ice cubes. A heating system is used to unstick the frozen cubes which are then pushed into the basket, ready for scooping. Sonic and clear ice makers have a slightly different process.
Large commercial ice makers may also work a bit differently. To fully understand your particular ice maker, check the manufacturer’s manual. If you don’t have a physical copy with you, it should be pretty easy to find one online in PDF format.
The manual will list all the parts in that specific model and will usually contain handy troubleshooting advice.The following tips are therefore meant to be basic fixes for common problems.
Depending on your type of ice maker, you may need professional help. When fixing your ice maker, always make sure you work within the warranty terms and conditions. That is if the warranty period is still active.
Additionally, double check that the power is turned off and power cord unplugged before you take apart the ice maker. Check out these common ice maker problems and possible fixes you can try. If none of these solve your problem, consider calling a pro.
Ice Maker Not Working
Ice maker not making ice is one of the most common problems people encounter. It can happen suddenly, but it is often preceded by certain issues you may have ignored. That’s why it is important to check your ice maker even at the smallest problem. It could save you money and time down the road.
- The ice maker is turned off.
- The ice maker is not receiving any electrical power.
- The ice maker is not receiving any water.
- The water is not getting delivered to the ice tray (or whatever ice-making component your ice maker uses).
- Clogged water supply line.
- Full ice bin.
Try these fixes
If the ice maker had stopped suddenly when it was working perfectly well the first thing to check is the power connection. The plug could have come off by accident or maybe your power source is faulty.It may seem obvious but make sure you also check that the ice maker is turned on.
Most ice makers will indicate when they are on. Depending on your ice maker model, you may also have hit the pause button without realizing it. Also, check whether the ice bin is full which could be preventing the ice maker from making more ice. If none of that is the issue, make sure there is water coming into the ice maker.
This applies to larger ice makers that require a water line. The inlet tube could be clogged, or there could be a problem with your home water supply. For clogged tubes, find out what is causing the blockage and remove it.
If it is frozen water, a hair dryer should do the trick.If you have a portable ice maker, check the water level in the reservoir. If it is too low or there is no water, the ice maker will not make ice even if it is on.
If you are shopping for an ice maker, I recommend buying one that alerts you when there is no water in the reservoir. The other common issue is water not reaching the ice-making area of the machine. This could affect any ice maker, whether it uses a water line or a reservoir.
For this problem, open the ice maker and check the tube that provides water to the ice tray for clogging. Depending on your model, there could also be a pump problem that causes water not to circulate properly within the ice maker. The pump may need a professional checkup or full repair.
Ice not Ejecting
At first, you suspect that the ice maker is not making any ice at all since you can’t find any in the ice bin. But when you open up the ice maker, you find that there is some ice in the tray. So the issue is not that the ice maker is not making ice but that the ice cubes are not ejecting into the collection bin.
- Faulty ejector mechanism
- Faulty heating mechanism
Try these fixes
To remove ice cubes, an ice maker uses a heating system to heat the bottom of the ice tray. This unsticks the ice from the tray. An ejector mechanism then sweeps the ice cubes out into the basket where you can scoop them.
If either of these two components fails, that’s when the above problem occurs. To fix it, you need to inspect individual parts within these systems. Check for any loose wires, corroded parts or broken components. You may have to replace a few things.If the damage looks severe, get a pro to look at it.
Ice is Smelly
This is another common problem that you’ll likely encounter at some point. Good quality ice should be like water – tasteless, odorless and fresh. Then one day you make a batch that tastes and smells funny.
Most people describe it as a stale taste as if the ice has been cooped up in an airless space for days.The stale taste transfers to beverages that you put the ice in.
The stale taste and smell are even more apparent if you prefer eating ice from a nugget ice machine.
- Dirty ice maker.
- Low-quality water.
- Leaving ice in the bin for too long.
Try these fixes
Cleaning the ice maker usually sets everything right again. Refer to your manual for specific instructions on how to disassemble and thoroughly clean every component. Pay close attention to the tray, making sure you wipe it down properly.
Experts recommend running two cycles using water mixed with vinegar and discarding the ice. By the third cycle (with water only), your ice should taste and smell fresh. Note that new ice makers can cause ice to have a particular ‘plastic’ taste.
Use the same cleaning process to get rid of it. Sometimes the problem may not be the ice maker; it could be the water you are using. Low-quality water results in low-quality ice. Some ice makers come with a built-in filter that helps purify incoming water.
If you have an ice maker with a water line, consider adding a filter to the line. For portable ice makers, only add clean and filtered water to the reservoir. Sometimes there is no problem with the ice maker at all. Staleness is caused by leaving the ice cubes in the basket for too long.
After a few hours in there, they lose their freshness. The problem is especially common with ice makers that re-use melted ice water. When you don’t empty the bin, the ice melts, and the water is pumped back to the reservoir where it is used to make more ice.
If the ice maker keeps reusing the same water, your ice might taste stale. Even for basic ice makers that don’t recycle water, experts recommend changing the water in the reservoir every 24 hours.
Plastic Bits in Ice
This is one of the most worrying ice maker problems. It can occur whether you have been using your ice maker for three years or you just used it for the first time. Most people report seeing foreign objects, usual bits of plastic, embedded in the ice cubes.
- Broken component inside the ice maker.
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The plastic bits have apparently come from inside the unit. Most ice makers use a lot of plastic parts inside that could end up in the ice, though it’s not very common.
Because of a manufacturing error, aging or damage during transport, a component could get loose and mix in with the water being frozen. If it often happens with an old ice maker (5-7 years old), I’d recommend replacing the entire unit.
There are a lot of affordable ice makers nowadays. If it’s a new or relatively new ice maker, you need to check inside for anything that might be broken.
Sometimes it could just be a few plastic bits left over from the factory, in which case a thorough cleaning process should solve the problem. It could also be a broken part that needs replacing.
The Ice Cubes are Misshapen
If you are using an ice maker in a commercial establishment, then the shape of the ice cubes matters a lot. Though it may not be a big deal at home, it will still bother you if your ice maker begins to produce ice cubes in weird shapes.
Maybe the ice cubes are too big, too small or just a shape that is not in the ice maker’s settings.
- Defective water valve.
- Faulty ice cutting mechanism.
- Type of water used.
Try These Fixes
Before you declare it a problem, check the number and type of shapes of ice cubes the ice maker can produce. Most ice makers can make two different ice cube sizes while others can produce several different shapes.
You may have changed the settings by mistake.If that’s not the issue, then it could be a mechanical problem. The common culprit is the water valve that controls the amount of water dispensed to the ice-making area (usually a molded tray).
It could be producing too much water or too little, thus affecting the normal size and shape of the ice. A faulty valve is often caused by clogging, where mineral deposits prevent the valve from opening and closing regularly.
It could also be that the valve has reached the end of its life. First, try to clean the valve and the water inlet area and if that doesn’t correct the shape problem, get a new valve.
If your ice comes out as one big chunk, or the ice cubes are not fully separated from each other, the problem could be the ice cutting grid.
This is a mechanism that uses heated wires to cut an ice block into individual cubes. The source of the problem could be electrical or mechanical. Check whether there are loose wires or anything blocking the mechanism.
You may have to replace some parts. Finally, if the above two issues are not to blame, the water could be the problem. Hard water contains a lot of dissolved solids.
When the water is frozen in the ice maker, these solids could cause an unusual shape.Always use filtered water to get the best quality ice and to prolong the life of your ice maker.
Water is Leaking
No one wants to see their machine leaking, whether it is a car or an ice maker. It indicates a serious internal problem. In the case of an ice maker, you’ll notice a pool of water on the floor near the bottom of the ice maker. This may be accompanied by other issues such as unusually small ice cubes or the ice maker not working.
Try these fixes
Open up the ice maker and check for any defective component. Most likely, you will find a broken hose or tube. If the leak is serious, you should be able to spot the broken part easily.
If it is a small leak that takes hours to turn into a pool of water, it may take more time to discover where it is coming from. Make sure you also check the valves, the pump, water outlet (for units with drainage), reservoir and ice bin for any issues.
Once you find the faulty part, call the manufacturer to find out if they sell replacements. If your ice maker is old, a better solution would be replacing it.
The leak is most likely a sign of aging and an indication of more problems to come. If you find a leak but the leaked substance doesn’t appear to be water, you may have a coolant problem on your hands. That is much more serious.
Although quite uncommon, problems with you ice maker could be originating from the cooling system. Specifically, the liquid used to freeze the ice may be leaking. This causes the ice maker to start producing less ice and in some cases stop working completely.
If you find an oily substance on the floor near the ice maker or inside on various components, it could be the coolant liquid. This is a bigger problem than leaking water.
- Rough handling when carrying the ice maker.
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Only professional can fix this problem. Call them, so he can give you some advices. He can change the coolant in your ice maker or it will be necessary to replace the entire cooling system if it's broken.
If that’s the case, contact your manufacturer for more advice. If your ice maker is still covered by a warranty, they might even replace the entire unit for free.
Ice Bin Overflowing/Ice Maker Doesn’t Stop Making Ice
The ice maker keeps making more ice even when the ice bin has filled to the brim. The only way to stop it is by switching it off.
Try these fixes
Most ice makers, whether potable, countertop or built-in, have a sensor that detects when the ice bin is full. It triggers the ice maker to stop making more ice until the basket has been emptied.
If the sensor is faulty, the above problem will occur. The best solution is to replace the sensor. Call your manufacturer to find out if they sell replacements.
If it’s not possible to replace it, ask a repair technician to check if the sensor can be repaired.If all fails, you have to manually control the ice making process. Keep an eye on the ice bin. Once it fills up, shut off the ice maker until you need more ice.
Need to Replace Your Ice Machine?
Check out our reviews of the best ice makers sold online, below.