Introduction: Fix Refrigerator Ice Maker and Water Dispenser

About: Photography teacher, woodworker, and general repair man

My ice-maker decided to stop working about two years ago and it's been on my list of home repairs ever since. If you have time to wait, I suggest tackling this quick project in the winter because you may need to put your frozen food somewhere else that is cold while you defrost your freezer.

There are really just three ways that your ice-maker can be "broken." I'm going to cover all three issues because mine experienced a mix of all of them at some point or another.

Also, there isn't much in terms of skill required in this project. These things are incredibly simple machines and most work roughly the same. Remember, this technology was developed in the 1950s so it's basically all mechanical (at least the physical making and dispensing of water and ice).

All of these fixes assume that your water lines are not broken. If they are broken, you should have a puddle developing under your refrigerator any time the ice maker or water dispenser is dispensing water.


  • 1/4 hex opening screwdriver (preferably magnetic)
  • inlet valve (depends on the problem, $20)
  • ice maker replacement (depends on the problem) ($50 or $100 versions work the same)

Step 1: Frozen Water Line

This is the easiest to fix and should be your troubling shooting starting point. Water must flow into your ice-maker through a tube. It also has to flow through your door and out of the dispenser through a tube. Those tubes run through the freezer side. So, it stands to reason that the most common form of a "broken" ice-maker or dispenser is just a frozen line.

Diagnostic Checklist:

1. You can hear the hum of an electrical thing but no water dispenses.

2. You can hear the hum of an electrical thing but no ice is being made.

To fix it, empty your freezer into coolers (or outside). Turn your refrigerator off and open the freezer door for 30-45 minutes (the fridge side should be ok as long as you don't open the door a lot).

Once you plug it back in, if you now have water dispensing or your ice tray is now filling, congratulations, You fixed it! Now, set your freezer side to be a lower temperature and it should permanently solve the issue.

If that did not fix the issue, go on to step two.

Step 2: Broken Inlet Valve

If, after defrosting your freezer side for 90 minutes or so, you still don't have water flowing to your ice machine or out of your dispenser then you may have a broken inlet valve.

If you have water flowing to the ice-maker and out of the water dispenser but still don't have ice, go on to the next step. You may have a broken ice-maker.

Diagnostic Check:

1. When you press the water dispensing button, you do not hear an electrical hum.

2. Water is still not flowing to the ice-maker.

Now, it is important to note that just because you can't hear an electrical hum, your valve may not be broken. You just may have a fancy unit that does a good job insulating for sound. Also, just because you have water coming out of your door dispensing unit you may still have a broken valve (mine was a two-part valve).

My valve was on the back of the unit, at the bottom. It should be pretty easy to find on any unit by following the inlet tube. You can buy your valve at any online appliance part store. Mine was about $15 on Amazon.

SHUT THE WATER OFF BEFORE DOING THIS! (and unplug the unit because you will be working on electrical components)

I know what you're thinking. "How much water can really come out of this little tube?" The answer is A LOT! (see pictures)

Remove the inlet valve (mine was just one screw behind some cardboard). Remove all the electrical connections. Grab your new valve and connect it just like the old one was. Before putting the fridge back in place, check to make sure that you have water flowing into your ice-maker and dispenser.

Step 3: Broken Ice-Maker

If your inlet valve is working and you're getting water to the places that it needs to go but still aren't getting ice, chances are, something is broken with the ice-maker.

I don't have any photos of the ice-maker removal process but it was pretty simple. Mine just sat in the freezer freely on two screws and then had an electrical connection to remove and that piece of junk was in my hands in no time.

My ice-maker suffered from the plastic top shield thing getting bent. I don't know how it happened so I'll blame my kids for it because I would never jam the top area of my freezer full of stuff (complete sarcasm, I'm sure I broke it because they can't reach it). I broke the little tab off and the ice maker worked for another six months. Eventually, the arm's gears stripped so ice got stuck on top of the ice maker causing the gears to completely strip. The little arm couldn't remove the ice (see photos).

At this point, you need a completely new ice-maker. They're about $100 on Amazon (or, get the off brand which works just as well for $50). I was lucky enough to be able to bend everything back in place so I didn't need to buy one.

Fix your unit, if possible, or replace it with a new one. Put it back into the freezer and connect everything.


There should be a little screw somewhere which adjust the amount of time that the fill cycle is on. Somewhere in my process, I must have turned it all the way to maximum on resulting in a massive overflow. This is also the thing that you want to turn to get the perfect sized cubes that aren't joined.

This concludes the main issues that you may face with an ice-maker or in-door dispenser outside of a broken water line.