COMPREHENSIVE TROUBLESHOOTING FOR SHUT OFF ARM CONTROLLED ICE MAKERS
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COMPREHENSIVE TROUBLESHOOTING FOR SHUT OFF ARM CONTROLLED ICE MAKERS and matching solenoid valve(s)for Most Upright, Bottom Freezer and Side by Side Models
JUST ICE MAKERS(TM) does not get involved in repairing or replacing internal ice maker parts so I will not be able to help with those questions. We can try to isolate the system problem so your repair $$$ are spent ONLY ON THE NECESSARY REPLACEMENT PART. Here are some valuable tips that should help YOU isolate the problem........BEFORE YOU BUY!!!!
Among the most simple and effective troubleshooting methods is priming. If an ice maker has stopped working and there is no formed ice in the tray(ice maker mold) then go ahead and pour 4-6 oz of water into the tray and wait 2-3 hours. If that water just freezes and does not eject then the ice maker system is broken...no doubt whatsoever. If the ice maker ejects the primer ice and completes the rotation cycle, and water does not come on command, then there are water intake problems.
THE LEAKING ICE TRAY (PROPERLY REFERRED TO AS THE ICE MAKER MOLD)
This design and the others from Frigidaire and GE have a finish on the ice mold that is there to seal the mold to contain water, and make for an easier release during the cycle. These mold finishes commonly begin to deteriorate after 4 years. Some go a little sooner some not depending on the home water supply, hardness of water, chlorine content and so forth. Even under the best filtration systems...these mold finishes still deteriorate and go south. When they do begin to deteriorate the water WILL begin to leak through the mold into the ice bucket or the mounting bracket. THAT SMALL LEAKAGE IS NOT BEING CAUSED BY OVERFILL PROBLEMS!!! When it does happen, it is time to get a new ice maker. The cost of replacing the mold after 4+ years is not worth it and may actually cost more than just replacing the complete ice maker.
WATER INTAKE PROBLEMS
If there are obvious water intake problems causing overfilling then all inlet tubes must be clear of any possible frozen water before facilitating the repair. Sometimes however, water intake problems may be the ice maker, but those are usually limited to minor overfill problems or an incomplete rotation cycle. Mostly, when there is major flooding in the freezer it is the solenoid gone defective. The bad news is that an ice maker can be damaged by this. AS A GENERAL RULE, ICE MAKERS AND SOLENOIDS 8-9 YEARS AND OLDER SHOULD BE REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME WHEN THE FIRST OF THE TWO GO DEFECTIVE!!!!
THE SOLENOID VALVE
The water inlet solenoid valve is its own working part and may need replacement even if the ice maker is working just fine. The basic solenoid valve has seen minor changes in shape, and color over the years and different refrigerator makes and model will obviously take different valves. Some valves designed for refrigerator model A can be retrofitted for refrigerator model B. This can and should be done only in instances where the basic vale design is very generic and mounting is not an issue.. In most cases, the original valve should last an average of 9 years but some of the earlier part numbers have averaged 5 or 6 years. If and when a valve does go bad there are some obvious signs to look for. And again...contrary to popular opinion...jumping the T and H is not a foolproof method of proving the solenoid valve is functional or not. Over the years, I have found that the best way to make sure a valve is 100% is to have it working as designed with it's designed counterpart, a functioning ice maker.
There are two basic types of solenoid valves and that would be one for an upright or bottom refrigerator freezer, and another for the side by side with water and ice service. In both cases the valve for all refrigerator ice maker systems is activated on command by the ice maker motor. When the ice maker is cycling as designed and the rotation of the ejector blades is unimpeded, the valve will activate on command for water supply to the ice maker and shut off automatically, as the cycle is completed as designed. So in essence, the solenoid valve when functioning properly 'can not tie it's shoes without permission'. These basics are the standard rule of thumb for all ice maker/solenoid valve systems. The only difference between the side by side with added chilled water service, is that the valve is an added 'half' that actuates on command via the chilled water dispenser. These 2 halves work independently from each other and in most cases the ice maker half will go into disrepair first because it usually 'works' 20x more than the chilled water half. These averages of course would all depend on individual household use. For valves designed for water and ice service, there is no way to replace just the bad half that I am aware of. Some earlier designs will allow the the terminals to take either refrigerator plug in. If that is the case one can avoid replacing the solenoid valve by using the terminal connection for the chilled water on the ice maker using the ice maker plug in with the chilled water half of the valve. This will work but it is not recommended and of course the chilled water service will be obviously forfeited.
There are only a few signs of malfunction exhibited by a solenoid vale when it is in disrepair. Again this part can and does go bad even if the ice maker is fully functional. In most cases, when a valve goes bad it will begin sending up arbitrary amounts of water albeit still on command. This will cause the fill tube to block up with ice and the fill spout as well at times. THIS IS A VERY COMMON AND ROUTINE SIGN OF MALFUNCTION!!! The only other reason for the fill tube blocking up with ice would be caused by any disruption of water supply to the refrigerator. If we have to turn off the water supply to the refrigerator for any reason...the ice maker system should be shut off until water supply is restored. The second sign of disrepair is that the valve simply goes dead and will not respond the the ice maker command to send up water. INTERNAL ELECTRICAL WIRING IS VERY VERY SELDOM THE CASE FOR ICE MAKER SYSTEM PROBLEMS OF ANY KIND!!!!
The third and far more serious sign of solenoid valve malfunction is failure to close on command. This can be caused by sediment build up within the valve or a failed electrical connection. The sediment inside a valve can be cleaned out from time to time. Valves can be removed and taken apart ( and put back together) fairly easily but to save how much $$$ ???? I have never bothered and there is something to not being so penny conscious that we are not dollar wise. If the ice maker is overfilling and there is some flooding in the freezer, first turn the system off by raising the shut off arm. If the water stops then it very well may be that the ice maker got stuck in a cycle just during the water command. This happens all the time and then it isolates the overfilling to the ice maker. In most cases the ejector blades will be in the 12 to 1 o'clock position (facing almost straight up). If turning the ice maker system off does not solve the water overflow problem, then immediately close the home supply line and make arrangements to replace the solenoid valve.
Again, if any of these signs of malfunction are showing up, do yourself a favor and replace the valve if you intend on keeping the refrigerator for a few more years. If the ice maker system is 8 or 9 years out of manufacture date and you are still on original parts, then you have beaten the odds and averages on the ice maker by almost 2 to 1, and based on that the time would be right to replace BOTH the solenoid valve and the ice maker
THE GOOD FOR NOTHING SELF PIERCING SADDLE VALVE
Poor water supply may be another reason why the ice maker is making smaller than normal ice cubes. A normal crescent shaped cube will be about the size of ones thumb. If cubes are smaller they can get stuck between the rotating blades and the stripper arm and this in turn can cause the motor to break. Many refrigerators water supply originate with the self piercing saddle valve. Though these at first seem convenient and easy for almost any one to install, over the long term they are the worst supply valves on the market. Over time the internal o ring will deteriorate and the small hole all too often gets blocked up with pipe sediment which will impair the intended water supply to the refrigerator. In a good many cases, these valves are the reason the ice maker system is not working properly because of the anemic flow of water to the refrigerator etc. If your saddle valve is 10 years old, do yourself and your ice maker system a favor and have it replaced with a good and more reliable handle valve (with a 1/4" outlet) similar the ones used for water supply to the kitchen faucet. Most plumbers will charge $150-$250 for that service but it will be worth it in the long run.
FILL TUBE ICE BLOCKAGE
If a inlet fill tube is blocked up with ice it could only be caused by a few reasons. The most common would be a defective solenoid valve. When this happens the valve will send up improper amounts of water and that will cause a freeze up in the fill tube. Another reason would be if plumbing was done in the house. If some work was done in the house involving turning off the home water supply, the ice maker system will still try to function. When that happens again, the solenoid valve will send up a lesser amount of water and that will cause ice blockage. When turning off the water in the home for any reason, the ice maker system should be turned off as well. That will either entail lifting up the shut off arm to the off position perpendicular to the ice maker, or turning the control board on/off to the off position. In most cases, these are the primary two reasons as to why the fill tube would or could be blocked up with ice and preventing the water fill to take place at the end of the cycle.
CLEARING THE FILL TUBE IF IT IS BLOCKED UP WITH ICE
Ice Blockage in the fill tube - The fill tube is not the 1/4" tube that goes up the back of the freezer but it is the approx 1" in diameter tube that goes through the freezer and feeds water directly into the ice maker. If this gets blocked up with ice is can be cleared by pulling it out from behind the freezer inlet hole, removing, and running under hot water etc. Or you can clear it by removing the ice maker and blowing it clear with a hair dryer. Some of the new Whirlpool units may prove very difficult to remove from the rear of the freezer and if push comes to shove, please do not try to force it out!! That is the time to step back, take a deep breath and invoke the hairdryer method. The idea in all this is to avoid having to call a service repair technician, and if we are breaking some refrigerator parts while trying to fix others we are defeating the purpose. A little extra time and the tube will clear up via the hairdryer buy you may want to unplug the refrigerator or turn the cold controls to zero while using that method.
Some Maytag, Amana, and Kenmore models have 2 working dual solenoid valves which makes this repair a little more complicated and expensive...but still very doable via Just Ice Makers solenoid valve instr. IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO MAKE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT THE ICE MAKER FILL TUBE HAS NO ICE BLOCKING THE REFILL PROCESS WHEN DOING ICE MAKER OR SOLENOID PART(S) REPLACEMENT!!!
In most cases hollow cubes are NOT CAUSED BY A DEFECTIVE ICE MAKER. In most if not all cases they are a result of insufficient water supply. There is a small white flat head screw on the shut off arm side of the motor module and this can adjust the water intake some. Turn counterclockwise 180 degrees for more water intake and the opposite for less. This minor adjustment probably WILL NOT SOLVE THE HOLLOW CUBE PROBLEM. It may be that the filter is clogged and needs to be changed, or the refrigerator water supply is being fed by a Reverse Osmosis Filtration System. For the latter...try the small white screw adjustment. The hollow cube problem in the highest percentage of cases is caused by and old and deteriorating self piercing water supply saddle valve. These will clog up with rust and sediment and should be replaced every 10 years at minimum. A good many refrigerators have their water supply from these types of valves and local repair service experience has proven over and over again that these deteriorate, clog up, and reduce water supply to the refrigerator over a period of time. Most homes in the US have sufficient water pressure for proper appliance function. Most repair techs in this business do not like these valves because they do cause problems over a period of time and reduction in water pressure is one of them.
THE SUSPENDED SHUT OFF ARM
If the arm is not coming down as designed then that means that the arm itself is out of alignment. Please make sure that extra food and drink items are not placed in the ice bucket. The ice maker needs to be taken out of the unit and the arm has to be aligned. To do this please remove it from both ends and then fully re-insert it into the module end via the very small white slit...Please make sure that it is pushed in all the way. ON the other end. you will see the arm suspended near the fulcrum hole at the fill spout. That part of the arm should be within a millimeter or 2 of that hole. If it is up. down or not suspended RIGHT NEXT TO THE HOLE almost so close that it is almost in the hole as suspended then the arm is out of alignment. You may adjust while the other end is fully inserted. While the i/m is out you will be able to tell if the arm is fully aligned because you will be able to raise it to the off position...then release it back down where it will follow the spring and snap into the on position. These arm are adjustable and if I can do it anyone can.
THE ACCERER-ICE/MAX-ICE/ICE MAGIC PLUS FEATURE
This is an added feature that Whirlpool came up with around 2001. It does have it's benefits but may be more trouble that what it's worth. THIS FEATURE NEVER HAS TO BE PURCHASED ALONG WITH A NEW REPLACEMENT ICE MAKER as it is never responsible for an ice maker in disrepair. The way in which this feature clips on to the original via the small black clips is the same way it will clip on to any new OEM replacement ice maker. If the new OEM unit comes with the white 4"x4" plastic module cover it can be very easily removed by hand or with an any size flat head screw driver. Simply remove the white cover and then remove the Max Ice unit from the original ice maker and clip it on to the new replacement exactly as it removed from the original. The dimensions of the new OEM unit will be identical to the original and the clip 'holes' will be in all the same places. Once you clip the max ice unit on to the replacement unit and plug in the wiring harness..the feature should turn on and off as designed.
THE ICE MAKER SYSTEM IS NOT RESPONSIBLE WHEN....
There is a Frozen Sheet of Ice at the Base of a Side by Side Refrigerator
Oftentimes in local service calls and on line I get calls that there is a sheet of ice forming at the base of the freezer on a side by side refrigerator. The 'miniature ice skating rink begins to form under the bottom shelf or drawer of the freezer on a side by side refrigerator because the defrost drain tube is frozen up with ice and all the moisture is spilling over into the freezer when it should drain into a plastic pan below the refrigerator. This problem is all too commonly blamed on the ice maker system and the solenoid valve in particular. When the ice maker system is showing signs of malfunction, the signs of improper water overflow will appear in the ice bucket and or immediately around the ice maker. If there are no signs of a miniature ice slating rink in the ice bucket or other water freeze ups in the ice maker rill spout of the fill tube going through the freezer, then the malfunction is most likely not being caused by the ice maker.
To correct the drain tube problem is simple enough. Behind the bulkhead (rear freezer liner) behind the bottom drawer(s) there is in most cases a funnel that is supposed to direct the defrost droplets into the plastic pan below the refrigerator. If you can remove the liner with either 1/4" hex or Phillips screws, you will find usually an aluminum drain that will be blocked up with ice. This can be unblocked with a hair dryer and some boiling water fed by small amounts into the small funnel plate. In the beginning it will be obvious that the approx 3/4" in diameter drain tube is not allowing the hot water to pass through. But after about 15 minutes of both the hair dryer and hot water application...the tube will unblock and the hot water will funnel through. And so for another 6 years or so this should solve the saga of the ice forming at the base of the freezer floor on a side by side refrigerator. This procedure is simple enough for almost anyone to perform, and SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE ASSISTANCE OF IN HOME SERVICE REPAIR PERSONNEL!!
There are Freezing Air Issues....
If there are any freezing air issues in an upright or side by side refrigerator then those problems should be addressed first before even looking at the ice maker system. One way to tell if the freezer is freezing as designed is with ice cream. If ice cream is not remaining as ice cream while in the freezer then the defrost timer may be out ...or the relay switch or the worst case scenario...the compressor itself. I do not have experience replacing any of the afore mentioned but I would not touch either the ice maker or the solenoid valve until the refrigerator freezer is functioning fully as designed in both compartments. I would recommend raising the shut off arm (or turning the on/off switch to the off position until the refrigeration issues are fully addressed. After the freezer is back to 100% for 24 hours...then lower the shut off arm ( or turn back on the on/off switch) and the ice maker system should cycle on its own if the parts are functioning properly. Again, it is always best to turn the ice maker system off until other refrigerator repair issues are fully addressed, and then turn the system back on after 24 hours etc. If after turning the ice maker system back on, the ice maker does not begin cycling full ice cubes every 2 hours or so, then please refer to the troubleshooting tips section for the appropriate ice maker system you have.
There is insufficient water supply.
Sometimes water pressure going to the refrigerator can diminish over time and it will be for one of 2 reasons. The easiest to check is to make sure any filtering systems have their replacement cartridges changed on manufacturers schedule. This will be the case for refrigerator embedded filters and external ones installed by the homeowner. The most common reason why water pressure diminishes over time would be the good for nothing self piercing saddle valve used for tapping water supplies for refrigerators. That valve is fast and convenient in the beginning but does evolve with problems over time. Eventually they will not close at all and will need to be replaced. They also provide a very small hole for the water to pass through the main pipe and if some sediment gets caught in that hole it will hinder water supply causing smaller ice cubes to be made that can get stick in the rotation and can cause the ice maker motor to break. If at all possible it is always best to originate water supply with an appropriate full size handle valve with a 1/4" feed outlet that will not need adapting for the refrigerator supply tube/solenoid valve inlet which will always be 1/4" compression. In some cases the solenoid valve will clog up with sediment and in those cases it would be best just to go ahead and replace it...Some favor cleaning it but to save how much $$$ ???When dealing with any household water related issues it is ALWAYS to be dollar wise over being penny conscious. Inappropriate water supply will be evidenced by ice cubes approx the size of ones pinkie finger instead of ones thumb which would be the correct average size. If the water dispenser is slow that will also be an obvious sign of less than ideal water supply for proper ice maker system function. There average water pressure in most homes in the U. S. is approx 60 P.S.I and American made refrigerator manufacturers have that well in mind in their designs and production of refrigerator ice maker systems.
WINTERIZING - Very simple procedure to winterize...first turn the ice maker off...this is done via the on/off switch to off position either via the receiver on/off if infrared sensor controlled, or the ice maker itself having an on/off switch...or the shut off arm being raised to the off position. From there, please turn off the water supply to the refrigerator and disconnect the 1/4" supply line tube inletting to the valve, AND outletting from the solenoid valve (going up the back of the refrigerator wall) and draining all excess water. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE ICE MAKER IS TURNED OFF WHEN THE WATER SUPPLY IS EITHER DISRUPTED TO THE REFRIGERATOR OR TURNED OFF FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME. When 'summerizing' an ice maker system...please reconnect outlet tube, turn water supply back on, THEN and THEN turn ice maker back on.
The average live expectancy of shut off arm controlled ice maker system parts are as follows:
Ice maker - 4-5 years
Solenoid valve(s) - 8-9 years
Sometimes we can rack our brains with the whys and the wherefores. Certainly we want to be cost efficient and isolate problems as best we can, but sometimes it is just better to bite the bullet and replace all working ice maker related parts especially if the refrigerator is 8 years or older. Any more questions after we have done the basics...call me at 3018904340 and I will answer any more questions that you may have. - Don Schlesinger Owner Refrigerator Ice Maker Repair Service
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