The majority of refrigerators today are equipped with an automatic ice maker. The water valve supplying the ice maker is a key component of the ice making system, and it should be the first thing you check if the ice maker’s performance is erratic, or if the ice maker stops working.
When the ice maker calls for ice, its switch closes an electrical circuit and energizes the solenoid-operated water valve. This allows water to flow through the valve and into the ice cube tray. The water is frozen into cubes, and the cubes are dumped into the ice bin.
As time passes, strange things may happen to the refrigerator’s ice making capability. The cubes may be small or there may be a solid chunk of ice instead of individual cubes. It’s also possible that the ice maker will stop working. These are all signs of a malfunctioning water valve.
The valve is equipped with a screen on its inlet to remove minerals and sediments in the water supply. Over time, minerals and sediment build up on the screen and restrict flow through the valve, or even block it completely. Minerals that make it through the screen can cause the valve to stick in the open position, overfilling the ice cube tray in the process. This is a common problem in areas with hard water, but it can happen just about anywhere.
Another malfunction that will cause the ice maker to stop working is a break in the solenoid coil winding. This is known as an open coil. The coil winding generates a magnetic field as current passes through it, and this magnetic field opens the plunger valve that controls water flow. A break in the coil winding stops current flow and this prevents the valve from operating. The ice maker is not the only problem that can occur with refrigerators—see more in How To Fix 3 Common Refrigerator Problems.
Test and Inspect
1. The ice maker’s valve is easy to inspect and test. First, gently pull the refrigerator away from the wall and unplug it. Turn off the water supply to the ice maker by closing the shut-off valve in the copper waterline leading to the valve. Use a screwdriver or nut driver to remove the rear lower access panel from the refrigerator’s back.
2. Next, remove the fill tubing from the water valve. Use a wrench to loosen the flare nut on the brass fitting on the inlet side of the valve (above). Place a container under the valve to catch the small amount of water that will spill from the valve and tubing.
3. Now use a screwdriver or a nut driver to remove the screw holding the valve’s mounting bracket to the refrigerator cabinet. Pull the valve out of the compartment and remove the tube on the valve’s outlet. Then, remove the solenoid’s electrical contacts.
4. To test the solenoid valve, use a multimeter (also called a volt-ohm meter). Set the meter to the RX-100 scale. Touch the probes to each terminal on the solenoid coil. The meter should read in the range of 200 to 500 ohms.
5. If the meter needle does not move, the coil is bad. You may be able to purchase the coil separately from the valve. If not, you will need to replace the entire valve. An ice maker valve costs about $30 to $50 from the manufacturer or an appliance parts distributor.
6. Rip 5/4 stock to 1 1/2 in. wide for the shelf rails and crosscut each rail to exact length. The K-D fittings that secure the rails to the posts are made up of 10mm steel cross dowels and connector screws that thread through the cross dowels at right angles. The cross dowels fit into blind holes bored in the top edges of each rail.
7. If the coil tests okay, the inlet filter is probably clogged. To clean the filter, first remove the large brass nut on the inlet side of the valve. Then gently pry the screen out with a small screwdriver. Clean the screen using an old toothbrush. Rinse the filter clean, reassemble the valve, and install it.
8. Before installing the back panel on the refrigerator cabinet, test run the ice maker. Look for leaks, and tighten any leaky connections. If necessary, use Teflon tape or a similar product to ensure tight connections. Discard the first ice cubes that are produced because they are likely to have sediment in them.
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