Ice Makers have become a standard feature in modern homes. The ability to have crushed or cubed ice on demand enables us to make the cocktails and the chilled drinks customarily associated with service at a high-class establishment. When the ice maker fails, the reason is usually a simple one.
The most common causal factors of an Ice Maker not getting water are:
- the main water supply to the house or ice maker
- the power supply to the house or ice maker
- the water inlet control valve and switches in the ice maker
All three are easy to rectify and get the ice maker working again.
Getting the ice maker working again can be an easy fix that will not require the need of a specialist repairer. The troubleshooting and repair should take no more than a few minutes and can be safely performed by you.
Let’s look at the potential failure modes that would prevent water from getting to the ice maker.
Why Is the Ice Maker Not Getting Water?
The process of fault-finding is a simple technique and yet one at which many people fail as they do not look for the simple reasons first. First, establish that the basics are working.
- The water supply to the house must be functioning and the mains switched on?
- The power supply to the house must be on?
- The ice maker plugged into the wall socket and switched on.
- The inline water filter must be unclogged and allow water to flow freely.
I have often started troubleshooting on the device that is failing to work without checking whether the power supply is connected and there is power to the device. I doubt that I am alone in making this mistake. I would approach this problem as follows:
1 – Check That the Mains Water Supply to the House Is On
The water supply to the property may be interrupted for various reasons. Check that you have water flowing from other cold water faucets in the house. If you have water flowing to other faucets, check that the water supply line to the ice maker is connected and that water is flowing at the connection point.
If the other water outlets in the house do not have cold water flowing when opened, it may be that the supply line to the house is frozen or that the main valve has been shut off.
Check that the main water shut-off valve is open. The main supply lines to the house are typically protected from freezing up.
If the water supply to the main shut-off valve and water meter is not working, maintenance work may be in progress on the water lines. You will have to confirm this with your utility company and wait for the water supply to be reestablished.
You can stop right here as no further fault finding will be possible until the water supply has been reestablished.
If you have a water supply at other cold water outlets, undo the supply line to the ice maker and open the shut-off valve to check that the water flows to the machine.
If no water flows directly from the supply line, check that the line is not pinched or kinked between the waterline and the delivery point to the ice maker.
All refrigerators fitted with ice makers and cold water dispensers will have an in-line water filter. According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, these water filters can get clogged over time and should be replaced.
Check whether the cold water supply works. If not, replace the in-line filter. Once you have established that water flow to the ice maker exists, you can move on to the next step in the fault-finding process.
2 – Check for Power
Ice makers have an electrically powered water control valve. If the power to the ice makers is off, the control valve will remain in the shut-off position and not allow water to flow into the ice maker.
Check the electrical distribution panel that the main supply switch is on and that no switches have been tripped into the off position. Check that the lights in your house are working and that other electrical devices are working.
Contact the utility company if the electrical supply to the house or the distribution panel is interrupted.
Ensure that the ice maker is plugged into the electrical wall socket and switched on. Check that there is an electrical supply to the wall socket by plugging in a light or checking with a multimeter.
If there is no power to the item at the outlet, check that the trip switch on the distribution panel is on.
If you cannot get power to that specific power outlet, contact an electrician for assistance. Plug the ice maker into another outlet that has power.
If the power and water supply to the ice maker has been established, the control valve on the ice maker should open up, and the machine will start working.
3 – Water Inlet Control Valve on the Ice Maker Is Not Working
The water inlet control valve is an electrical solenoid which may be the last and most common cause of not getting water into the ice maker. To check this aspect, we have to look at the following:
- Do we have water pressure and power supply to the ice maker?
- Is the solenoid control valve good
- Is the solenoid control valve clogged
- Is the solenoid control valve getting power
- Is the switch good
- Is the switch sending power to the control valve
- Is the in-line filter clogged
As we have already checked the first and last aspects of this list, we can narrow the problem down to the solenoid control valve and the signal switch on the ice dispenser side of the device.
This aspect of the system check and repair will require some knowledge of electricity, the use of a multimeter, and the testing for continuity of supply.
If your ice maker or refrigerator is still under warranty by the supplier or store where it was purchased, contact them and arrange a repair. Attempting the repair yourself will invalidate the warranty, and you will have to foot the repair bill.
If the appliance is already out of the warranty cover and you do not feel confident working with electricity and electrical diagnostics, contact a qualified technician to do the repair.
A repair of this nature will take a qualified technician no longer than one hour to repair. For a novice DIY person, this repair will require that you have a multimeter (voltmeter) and that you know how to use it.
There are some easy-to-follow instructions on YouTube that will show you how to repair yourself.
Repairing the Solenoid Valve and Switch on Ice Makers
Having checked that you have a water supply and power supply to the appliance and the in-line water filter is not clogged, we are left with only two other potential failure sources preventing the ice maker from getting water.
Pull the fridge or ice maker away from the wall, allowing you to access the appliance’s rear panel. Remove the screws that is holding the back panel in place and remove the panel to get access to the solenoid valve at the water supply inlet.
On a refrigerator that has a cold water dispenser and an ice dispenser on the front door, there are two solenoids at the rear control valves. One of the solenoids will be triggered when the switch on the front door is engaged.
If the water dispenser is working, but the ice dispense is not working, the problem is either with the solenoid of the water supply valve to the ice maker or the switch on the ice dispenser.
Using the multimeter set to the Ohm-scale, check for continuity across the connectors of the solenoid that controls the supply valve to the ice dispenser. If there is no current across the solenoid connectors, the solenoid needs to be replaced.
If the solenoid does indicate a current across the connectors, then the solenoid is still good.
In a refrigerator with two solenoid valves, the electrical connectors can be switched from the water dispenser to the ice dispense valve. If the water dispenser switch is engaged, water should flow into the ice maker. This will indicate that the solenoid on the ice maker is defective or not getting power.
Using the multimeter, check that you are detecting 120V power supply on the connectors. Suppose you have established that both solenoids are working well and show continuity and that you have 120V power at the solenoids.
In that case, the only problem that it can still be is with the switch on the ice dispenser not sending a signal to the solenoid valve.
As you had checked that the switch from the water dispenser did send a signal to the ice dispense valve when you switched the connections around, this conclusively proves that there is no signal coming from the ice dispenser to the ice dispense solenoid valve.
You can close the back of the appliance and move it back into its operating location.
Open the freezer door and completely remove the ice collection tray to reveal the ice dispenser and tilting mechanism inside the freezer compartment. You will notice an adjuster screw on the faceplate of the dispenser unit.
This adjustment screw controls the switch on the ice dispenser unit to allow water to flow into the ice cube holder until it is full.
Slightly adjust the screw control to be slightly more open. Engage the ice dispenser switch on the door and check for water flowing into the ice trays. If you open the adjustment screw, too much water will continue to flow and flood the inside of the freezer compartment.
Make minor adjustments to allow the water to flow in, fill up the ice tray, and then stop. If the tray overflows, set the adjustment screw back again. Once you have reset the water flow switch between the ice dispenser and the water supply solenoid valve, your ice maker should be operational again.
If this adjustment method fails to correct the condition, the adjustable switch may be defective and need to be replaced. The part description is on the switch component and should be referenced in the user manual.
Refrigeration technicians are familiar with this type of problem and will most likely carry the correct electrical spare components to affect a repair. This repair step is best performed by someone that has experience in repairs of this nature.
DIY repairs can be very rewarding but extremely frustrating and costly if done incorrectly.
Ice makers have become a standard appliance in the modern household. Ice makers can be stand-alone appliances or form part of a modern fridge/freezer. In both instances, the operating principle is the same. If you have established that you have the device’s main power and water supply, the most prevalent failure mode is the solenoid control valve not functioning correctly.
Suppose the solenoid control valve functions correctly and gets the correct electrical supply and water pressure. In this case, the problem may be the signal from the ice dispenser not activating the control valve effectively. This failure mode can be determined and repaired by an experienced DIY enthusiast.
There are numerous video guides that can be accessed via YouTube to show you have to do the troubleshooting and repairs in a safe and easy-to-follow sequence. If you are not confident working on electrical appliances and using electrical diagnostic equipment, it is recommended that you call in a qualified technician to do the repair.
The danger of getting electrocuted is not worth the savings. A replacement solenoid valve will cost in the order of $50, and the duration of a callout should not exceed one hour. Take careful note of how the qualified technician does the repair and ask questions that will allow you to attempt the repair by yourself in the future.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies…I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.