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Don't Get Burned: Fix Your Icemaker Yourself

By Brett Freeman
Don't Get Burned: Fix Your Icemaker Yourself

If your refrigerator's ice maker has stopped working or has started making ice badly, the problem may be a clogged inlet screen or a broken solenoid. If it suddenly started to fill the ice cube tray and didn't shut off when the tray was full, causing water to leak all over the floor, you probably have a bad valve. Fortunately, all of these problems can be repaired in less than an hour for under $50.

How the Valve Should Work

Your refrigerator has a 1/4 inch plastic or copper tube that connects it to the water supply. The flow of water to the ice maker is controlled by a valve, which is activated by a solenoid. When the ice maker is turned on and the ice tray is empty, a low-voltage signal is transmitted to the solenoid, which opens the valve. When the ice tray is full, the electric signal stops, and the solenoid closes. As the water goes through the valve, it passes through a small screen that acts as a filter.

Locate the Valve

Begin by pulling your refrigerator away from the wall far enough to allow you easy access to the back and unplug it. Next, shut off the water at the source. Toward the bottom of the refrigerator, where the water line enters, is a panel that you need to remove. You should now be able to see where the water line enters the valve.

Remove the Valve

The next few steps can cause water to leak out of the flow (inlet) and outlet tubes, so put a towel on the floor beneath where you are working. Using pliers or a wrench, disconnect the flow tube by unscrewing the brass nut that fastens it to the valve. Unscrew the bracket holding the valve in place and pull out the valve so that you can access the outlet tube.

Remove the outlet tube and the solenoid's electric contacts from the valve. If you have a refrigerator that dispenses drinking water, the valve has a second outlet tube and solenoid. Remove these from the valve as well, making note of which outlet connects to which outlet tube. If your refrigerator's problem was an open valve (ice tray overflowing, water leaking out of the freezer), bring the valve to an appliance store, get a replacement, and skip the following step.

Time to Test

If you have a multimeter, you can test the solenoid yourself. With the multimeter's probes touching the solenoid's contacts, you should get a reading between 200 and 500 ohms. If you don't, bring the valve to an appliance store and get a replacement.

If the solenoid is still working, the problem is probably with the inlet screen. Many valves have a large brass nut on the inlet side that can be unscrewed. After doing so, remove the inlet screen, clean it with a small brush, replace it, and reassemble the valve. Some valves are assembled completely out of molded plastics and can't be disassembled. If that's the case, you need to get a new valve.

Put it Back Together

Reinstall your new or repaired valve and reconnect the water line. After plugging the refrigerator back in, open the water line and check for leaks. Tighten anything that needs tightening, reattach the back panel to the refrigerator, and push it back to the wall. There might be some sediment in the line, so throw away the first three or four batches of ice cubes. If your refrigerator has a water dispenser, run out about a gallon of water.

Source: Popular Mechanics, Repairing an Icemaker Water Valve, by Steve Toth

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