Summer will be here before you know it, and that means your ice maker is about to get a workout. Prompt, efficient ice making is critical when heat and humidity are on the rise, so you definitely want your ice maker to work at peak capacity.
But what happens when you open your ice machine only to discover there are no ice cubes inside? You can always fill an ice tray or two in your freezer as a backup plan, but you’ll want to get to the bottom of the issue with your portable ice maker as soon as possible — without having to give up and buy a new one on Amazon. As a rule, portable ice makers are much easier to use and more reliable than the ones found inside a standard kitchen freezer, but they might occasionally give you a bit of trouble.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy fixes to try to get your ice production back on track — before you have to call in a professional for repairs. Here’s what to do when your portable ice maker won’t make ice.
1. Check the Power Cord
This may sound silly, but any time you’re having trouble with home appliances, the first thing to do is to check the cord to make sure you have a steady power supply. First, take a look at the plug to make sure it’s securely plugged into the outlet. Sometimes vibrations from the ice maker or other nearby appliances can shake it loose, especially if it’s plugged into an older outlet. If your plug is loose, fix that first and try to operate the machine again.
It’s also a good idea to inspect your cord for fraying or a loose connection. If your cord isn’t properly attached to the machine, your ice maker may not be getting a steady flow of electricity. If you suspect the cord is damaged, you can replace it with a new one. Most hardware stores have everything you need to get this job done without too much fuss, although it’s a good idea to check your ice maker’s user manual to ensure that replacing the cord yourself won’t void the warranty.
2. Test the Outlet for Power
If you can’t find any problems with the cord, make sure you actually have power running to the outlet in question. You can try plugging your ice maker into a difference receptacle for an easy test. If it works in a different outlet, you’ll need to figure out what’s wrong with the original outlet. Check the circuit breaker on your electrical panel to make sure something hasn’t tripped it. If the breaker has been tripped, flip the switch and try again. If the ice maker continues to trip the circuit breaker, you may need to consult with an electrician to find out the cause of the trouble.
If you don’t find any problems in your breaker box, you can also test the receptacle in the wall to make sure it has electricity flowing to it. Use a special tester tool to check that your outlet has power and is properly grounded. If it isn’t, call an electrician for help getting this squared away.
3. Check the Water Level
Once you’ve determined that your ice maker has power, the next step is to make sure it has a steady water supply. Check the water reservoir and add water if needed. Many portable ice makers will turn off automatically if there’s a problem with the water supply line — including an empty tank.
Occasionally, a portable ice machine will shut off if it’s either too full or too empty, so be sure to refill the machine only to the water line indicated on the tank. Once you’ve filled the ice maker, try turning the machine on again to see if it begins to make ice. If the water sensor indicates an empty tank even after you’ve filled it, try locating the sensor and cleaning it off, making sure no debris is causing a false reading.
4. Clean All Water Filters
If your ice machine has the right amount of water but it’s still not making ice, the water supply line could be blocked. This can happen over time if you haven’t cleaned the machine in a while — especially if you have hard water, which can lead to mineral buildup. Start by consulting your user manual to locate any water filters in your ice maker. If possible, remove the filters to give them a thorough cleaning. First, soak them in white vinegar or lemon juice to dissolve mineral deposits; then use a toothbrush to scrub away debris. Finally, rinse the filters and replace them.
You should then check any other water connections, including places where pipes or water lines come together and any spot where a water valve or cap may be. These areas are also common places for blockages, so inspect and clean them thoroughly. If your machine has a water separator pipe, you may need to remove it and use a soft cloth to clean blockages from each hole as well.
Pro Tip: If mineral buildup is a problem, you may want to switch to soft water for use in your ice maker to avoid future issues.
5. Adjust the Temperature
Sometimes your water supply line can be blocked with ice instead of debris. The best way to solve this problem is to melt the ice. To start, unplug the ice maker and let it sit for several hours in a warm room until things melt naturally; then, continue your troubleshooting to determine the root cause. If you’re in a rush, though, you can try filling a turkey baster with warm water and bathing the water supply lines until the ice inside melts and you can flush water through again.
Conversely, your ice machine will struggle to make ice if the water inside is too warm. When you refill the machine for further testing, make sure that you use cold water from the tap. Hot water will often make it impossible to create ice in your machine — at least not until it cools back down to room temperature. You can try moving your ice maker away from other kitchen appliances or closer to an air conditioner if it’s very warm out, since too much hot air around your ice maker could also affect its ability to make ice.
6. Check the Ice Storage Bin
If water and power aren’t the problems, it’s time to check the ice compartment itself. If the ice bin is full, your ice maker works — but it’s probably shutting down to avoid having ice spill out onto your kitchen counters. If this is the case, empty the bin and store excess ice in your freezer while you make more. You may have to toggle the power button on and off to reset the machine after an automatic shutoff.
If your ice bucket is empty or only partially full, check to make sure the ice sensor isn’t blocked. For some machines, this is a wire armature that rises as ice fills the bin. If this is bent upward, it could be telling your machine to stop making ice. The ice maker might have other sensors on the walls of the bin, which could become blocked by the ice scoop and trigger a false shutoff. Wipe the sensor clean and move anything that might be blocking it before resetting your countertop ice maker.
7. Check for Leaks
If your ice maker still isn’t working, make sure that it isn’t leaking. Inspect the machine inside and out for any hairline cracks or chips that could be a problem. Be sure to look on the counter beneath the ice maker for puddles or drips as well. If a large amount of water is seeping out of your machine, there won’t be enough left to make ice. It’s also possible that the compressor coils are leaking refrigerant, which will make it impossible to complete the ice making process. If you discover a leak, don’t ignore it. It’s time to call a qualified technician to make repairs. Consult your owner’s manual to learn who to call so you can maintain any warranty you might have.
Pro Tip: Lost your user manual? Google the model number or check out Manuals Online for a PDF version.
When all else fails, it may be time to consider buying a new ice maker. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that the best portable ice makers are designed to be easy to clean and maintain. These two key traits should also eliminate some of the common problems listed above. High-quality ice makers should also be solidly built, with stainless steel and other sturdy components to ensure a long life. Whether you’re looking for a large capacity ice maker or one that make crystal-clear ice for your mixed drinks, look for a machine that makes ice quietly and efficiently so you can entertain all summer long.