Updated: Apr 14
Can Ice Makers be Repaired? Yes, of course! Anything can be repaired.
It is, however, a rather complex endeavor to fix an ice machine. It has many moving parts including motors, pressure controls, valves, temperature probes, and don’t forget that it has water passing through it day in and day out. It can be quite the confounding machine. Why, the first time I looked in an ice machine on my ice machine maiden voyage I just stared at its innards confused. I understood the principles of refrigeration, but this machine seemed an abomination; copper pipes, wires and valves with what seemed no regard for logic or beauty. I really wanted to just close the machine back up and stop looking at that confusing mass of copper. Perhaps I am a little over dramatic but out of all of the refrigerated machines I have looked at over the years, ice machines are possibly the most confusing. That, of course, is until you understand the method behind the madness.
Let’s break down some of the basic parts in an ice machine and empower you: The evaporator, the condensing unit, the water system and the control system. The part where the ice is made is called the evaporator. In the vast majority of ice machines water passes over the evaporator and freezes to it, building up ice until it touches the ice thickness probe which tells it to drop the ice into the bin. An image of an evaporator and an ice thickness probe is below:
Manitowoc Ice Machine Evaporator in Austin
The system behind or to the side or sometimes outside that makes the evaporator cold is called the condensing unit. The basic components of the condensing unit are the condensing coil, the metering device and the heart of the system, the compressor. The compressor raises the pressure of the refrigerant gas and pushes it into the condensing coil where it cools and turns into a liquid. Then it passes through the metering device which drops the pressure before it goes to the evaporator where it makes the ice before it comes back to the compressor to do it all again. This is a painfully simple explanation of the condenser but it gives you a little bit of a background into what is happening. Below is a picture of the condensing portion of the ice machine with pointers to all of the visible parts:
The water system is pretty much just that. It consists of valves, probes and a pump. These control how much water is brought into the machine and circulation of water over the evaporator so it can freeze. Below is an image of the water level probe and the water pump.
Ice Machine Water Pump and Water Level Probe in Austin
The control system is almost always a control board that takes input from sensors and responds with switching on and off different parts of the machine. Is there enough water? No? The board will turn on a water valve to add water until the water level probe tells it to stop. Is it time for the machine to make ice? The board will make sure that it is sensing what it needs first and then will turn on the compressor, condenser fan, water pump and whatever else is needed for that part of the ice making cycle. Below is an image of an ice machine control board.
Ice Machine Control Board in Lubbock
The issues that can be wrong with an ice machine don’t just revolve around the refrigeration system. Don’t get me wrong, if the refrigeration system goes down your ice machine will not make ice. But with ice machines there are other systems operating to make ice. Water valves, float switches, water pumps and water drain systems can all cause your machine to not make ice or erratically make ice. Electrical parts that determine if the ice is thick enough, if the water is too cold, or if there is even enough water all could be culprits. The parts that could cause your ice machine to fail are numerous and most people’s assumption that it is ‘low on Freon’ is pretty much always wrong.
When first looking at an ice machine our technicians start the ice machine making ice and note how long it takes to make ice, the shape of the ice and watch for anything out of the ordinary: pumps not working, fan blade not spinning, compressor amp draw out of the ordinary, water valves not working, drains backed up and of course mold or scale build-up. Ice machines with control boards sometimes attempt to narrow down what the issue is for you but this only helps so much. To diagnose an issue with an ice machine you begin by eliminating the parts that don’t appear to be problems to focus on parts that could be problems and it all starts with attempting to make ice. It is not uncommon for a technician to run an ice machine through an ice making cycle a few times to narrow it down.
Once narrowed down to the problem, it is a matter of identifying a failed part and replacing it, adjusting something that has gotten out of adjustment or repairing leaks or electrical issues. On occasion repair may not be economical. For example, damaged evaporators are a death sentence to an ice machine. Replacing an evaporator is typically as expensive as a new machine due to the cost of the evaporator itself.
There are so many varieties of ice machines that it is very hard to be able to write about all of the potential failures and why but as I said before anything can be repaired. There are several major manufacturers of ice machines and each of those produces about 50 ice machines each. Each manufacturer has a slightly different way of building their machines. There are multiple types of ice being produced in an array of different methods from each manufacturer. I’ve just given you a taste of one type of common machine that produces cubes.
If you need help repairing your ice machine give us a call. We send a technician to your location so they can see, feel, and experience what is happening with your machine to solve the issue and get you up and running again.
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