COMPREHENSIVE TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS FOR INFRARED SENSOR CONTROLLED ICE MAKER SYSTEMS
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COMPREHENSIVE TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS FOR INFRARED SENSOR CONTROLLED ICE MAKER SYSTEMS
JUST ICE MAKERS 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!!!!
BEFORE GETTING STARTED....
All modular, microswitch, and circuit board controlled ice makers have their own internal thermostat that freezes the water and then detects the formed ice commanding release for the next cycle. These thermostats are activated THE FREEZING AIR AND TEMPERATURES THAT ARE ROUTINE FOR A FREEZER!!! Some temperatures vary but let's say the average freezer temp is between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If the freezer compressor or evaporator motor is out, then the freezer temperature will be well below normal obviously and this will automatically suspend the ice maker from making ice. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ANY OF THE ICE MAKER SYSTEM PARTS ARE BROKEN. Freezer conditions must be NORMAL for an ice maker to cycle as designed.
If an ice maker is cycling is lesser frequencies the refrigerator may be going through a defrost cycle. If there is no freezing air blowing into the freezer then the unit may be going through a defrost cycle causing a production slowdown. Please make sure these bases are basic freezing conditions covered before working your way through the information below....
Water pressure should be average and equal to the rest of the home. Self piercing saddle valves can deteriorate over time and impair water supply going to the refrigerator. For side by side units...hit the chilled water dispenser and that will be a good indication. Water supply tubing should not be 'elbowed' or 'crimped' anywhere from start to finish.
THESE BASICS SHOULD BE COVERED BEFORE PURCHASING REPLACEMENT PARTS AND SUPPLIES!!!
If there is proper freezer temperature, and the water supply is unimpaired, then there is no question whatsoever that some part replacement will be necessary. Please see troubleshooting tips section for your ice maker system design (infrared sensor controlled or shut off arm controlled) for more help in isolating the problem. Wiring harnesses and internal refrigerator electricity supply is very, very, very seldom the cause for a malfunctioning ice maker system.
Basic Introduction to Troubleshooting and Ice Maker System Part Replacement
1) Freezer temperature must be at 10F or less to ensure proper conditions for ice production
2) The wiring harness MUST show basic continuity on all 4 connections. The freezer outlet also must have this but it is very, very rare for refrigerators to have internal wiring issues. It is more common for the ice maker wiring harness to go bad if you have an FSP Whirlpool manufactured ice maker and thermal fuse wiring harness. The voltage reading will not matter in most cases...if you have continuity you will have power when the cycle process is initiated.
The best way to test an ice maker AND a solenoid valve for functionality is by priming the ice maker. This involves adding 6 oz of water manually into the ice maker mold (tray). It is best to raise the shut off arm to the off position for 3 hours for cooling, and then lower the arm. If you have an infrared sensor controlled system then turn the on/off switch off for three hours, then back on and close the freezer door. In either case if the ice maker does not complete the cycle within 5 minutes there is no question that if steps one and two are covered, the ice maker itself (or infrared sensor control board) has gone bad. This is a much better and 100% fail safe proven method over any other because it puts the ice maker system it it's designed function environment with water that freezes into ice, and then ejects when read by the thermostat. If all is well, the thermostat, heating element, and motor will ALL function as designed. Jumping the T and the H does some of this but not all...leaving the thermostat read and activation of the system out. Having said that I can not recommend in good conscience replacing the thermostat if the T and H works. Over the years I have had too many call backs in local repair jobs for trying to 'fix' broken ice makers. So I only recommend whole part replacement in local repair jobs and on the internet.
Priming the ice maker is ALSO the best way to test for a bad solenoid valve because it puts the valve in its natural function condition which is reading the ice maker on command. It is very seldom that BOTH parts go bad at the same time but at 10 years out of manufacturing date one is better off replacing BOTH system parts. For test and troubleshoot purposes the priming test should work well that if the ice maker is bad, the valve in all probability is o.k. and visa versa. In all my years in local repair I have not jumped a T and H once but I would assume it also should indicate a good solenoid valve, but no test is equal to both parts being tested via their 'natural conditions for function' setting. I have also seen numerous cases where proper voltage was put directly on a solenoid valve and it activated but did not read the ice maker. In those cases I have recommend replacing the valve and had success 100% of the time if the ice maker was also 100%. Very , very seldom will an ice maker cycle as designed and NOT signal the valve for water and even more seldom are there wiring issues from the ice maker to the valve.
So that is is our best advice based on years of experience. Please cover these bases when troubleshooting and the rest on this page before ordering parts. This is all so basic and the process can be easy and cost efficient if we will work it one step at a time.
THE WHIRLPOOL DESIGNED 5 AND 8 CUBE INFRARED SENSOR CONTROLLED ICE MAKER SYSTEM
These seem to break routinely after 3-4 years. There is another related working part in this system which is the P.C. board 4389102. Both of these parts have to be 100% functional for the ice maker to work as designed. In most cases the P.C. Board does not go defective this soon. You may want to try resetting the control board according to the installation instr as follows:
BEFORE GETTING STARTED!!! MAKE SURE P.C. ON/OFF IS TURNED TO OFF POSITION AND UNPLUG REFRIGERATOR!!! WHEN FINISHED, PLUG REFRIGERATOR BACK IN AND THEN TURN P.C. BOARD ON/OFF BACK TO THE ON POSITION!!! Close the freezer door for 4 minutes. This procedure will re-set the on/off board to read the new ice maker!!!! The ice maker may cycle and fill on it's own in the first few minutes. If it doesn't then please 'prime' the ice maker as follows:
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...no doubt whatsoever!!!
If the ice maker has ice in the mold/tray and it has been sitting there for 3 hours plus...then either the freezer is not cold enough or the ice maker (system) is malfunctioning. Because this is a 2 part system the control board may be involved in the disrepair equation.
THE INFRARED SENSOR CONTROL BOARD 4389102
Contrary to popular opinion, there are no foolproof diagnostics on these. If the receiver board (the on/off switch) is not flashing 2x...then pause...then 2x then pause then the control board is out and has to be replaced no question whatsoever. This is the bare minimum if the on/off is on OR off!!!. If the control board is on and in flash/pause sequence...then you may depress the emitter board flapper without covering the infrared hole and look for a solid red. That is another minimum for a working board. Theoretically is should be final word but is some cases has PROVEN NOT TO BE. Those cases are in the minority but still very much part of the equation. For the most part though, if they are 4 years since purchase with the minimum diagnostics are there, the percentages are high that the control board set is functioning according to design and ordering a new ice maker will be enough to effect the completed repair. Just follow control board re-set procedure when installing new replacement ice maker and you should be fine. Crossing the 5 line on these reduces the percentages in the short and long term. If the control board dies while the new ice maker is still under warranty...IT CAN VIRUS THE NEW UNIT FROM RECEIVING SIGNALS FROM THE REPLACEMENT CONTROL BOARD AND THAT IS NOT THE ICE MAKER OR THE SELLERS FAULT. A bad control board can virus a good ice maker but never the other way around. So at 5 years I recommend both working parts be replaced if both are the originals that came with the refrigerator when purchased.
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.
THE INFRARED CONTROL BOARD 4389102
If the control board is 4 years or less outside of manufacturing date then the odds are that it is o.k. Some good preliminary indications of functionality are as follows:
Turn the on/off switch to 'on' position
The receiver light should blink 2x, pause then repeat.
Depress the emitter flapper and hold without covering the transmitter hole...the receiver light should go solid red and hold until the flapper is released,,,then return back to 2 flashes...pause...repeat etc.
THIS DIAGNOSTIC IS NOT FOOLPROOF AND THERE NO FOOLPROOF METHODS OF TESTING THIS CONTROL BOARD.
Why replace the ice maker and the control board at 5 years? If the control board goes bad during the tenure of the new ice maker...it can virus it and prevent it from receiving signals from the new replacement control board...EXPERIENCE,EXPERIENCE, AND MORE EXPERIENCE!!! This is the exception and not the rule but it does happen enough to sit up, take notice, and make repair/part replacement decisions accordingly.
When changing filters ALWAYS TURN THE ICE MAKER SYSTEM OFF!! When turning off the water supply to the refrigerator...ALWAYS TURN THE ICE MAKER SYSTEM OFF!!!After the filter has been changed or whatever plumbing work has been completed, then turn the system back on.
WHEN WINTERIZING FOR A SEASONAL RELOCATION, OR GOING ON VACATION...ALWAYS TURN THE ICE MAKER SYSTEM OFF!!!
WATER INTAKE PROBLEMS
The other working part is the inlet solenoid valve and it is very rare for this working part to go defective under 6 years. In all ice maker repair/replacement situations, it is always best to turn the system OFF while waiting for replacement parts. 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.
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 infrared sensor controlled ice maker system valve has seen minor changes in shape, and color since this came out in 2000. 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 or via the on/off switch. 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.
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.
In this system after 2-3 years 75% of the time it is the ice maker and not the P.C. Board or the solenoid valve. IF THE SYSTEM HAS GONE BAD AFTER 5 YEARS THEN IT IS IN THE CUSTOMERS BEST INTEREST TO REPLACE BOTH THE ICE MAKER AND THE P C BOARD AT THE SAME TIME, BUT NOT NECESSARILY THE SOLENOID VALVE!!!
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. Either the solenoid valve 4389177 is shot or there is some frozen water in the fill tube. Once it is determined that the line going through the freezer is clear...prime again and the results will speak for themselves.
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 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 hear 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 BOTH the 1/4" tubes inletting 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 life expectancy of these ice maker system parts are as follows:
Ice maker - 3-4 years
Control Board - 5-6 years
Solenoid valve - 8-9 years