What to do when your ice maker arm gets stuck

Written by David Lewis
6 Min read
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Table of contents

Ice (made by automatic ice makers) is to drinks what good seasoning is to food – you don’t necessarily need it, but when you do add it, it makes everything so much tastier and more satisfying!

Automatic ice makers have been a regular fixture in our lives for over 50 years since the company Frigidaire invented a model that was built into the refrigerator door – a feature that is now commonplace in fridge freezers around the world.

Such is the popularity of ice makers, that manufacturers also now make stand-alone ice machines that can either be freestanding or built into the framework of your kitchen, perfect for big families or anyone who loves entertaining and needs quick access to lots of lovely ice.

Ice makers make life more quick, convenient, and efficient; after all, who wants to fiddle around manually filling ice trays, or spend money on bags of ice at the grocery store only to find it’s melted before you’ve even arrived home? But unfortunately, as an electronic appliance with a fair few moving parts, things occasionally do go wrong leaving you out in the cold (or maybe that should be in the warm!)

One of the most commonly reported ice maker faults on Whirlpool ice makers is an arm that is stuck either up, down or is simply not moving at all. We’re going to tell you what to do if this frustrating problem arises and how to quickly fix it so you can enjoy a cool refreshing beverage again before too long.

How ice machines work

The first step to fixing any kind of electrical or mechanical problem is to understand how the machine should be working in the first place.  In the case of ice makers, the following process takes place:

  • The ice-making cycle begins when water is sent to the water valve which is located at the back of the refrigerator – this valve is connected to the central operating circuit which tells the valve to open
  • The valve opens for a few seconds which is just enough time for enough water to fill the ice molds to make the perfect-sized ice cubes before the valve closes again
  • Once the molds are filled the machine begins to freeze the water via the cooling unit, closely monitored by a thermostat which monitors the temperature. As soon as the newly made ice drops to a certain point the thermostat closes the electrical circuit using a switch
  • This switch kicks into action an electrical current that very slightly heats a coil at the bottom of the machine, which defrosts the bottom of the mold to loosen the cubes
  • Plastic notches in the mold push the ice into the collection bin
  • A feeler arm senses the amount of ice in the collection bin and will automatically shut off production when it has reached its maximum capacity. When ice is ejected from the mold it pushes the arm up, if the arm is then able to fall back down again this means the ice-making process can begin again.

How often should my ice maker drop ice?

If you only use your ice maker a couple of times a day you might be fooled into thinking your ice production is a lot greater than it is…until demand increases, and your ice maker struggles to keep up with demand.

Whilst this can be frustrating, it’s worth remembering that making ice isn’t a quick process. Due to the time involved in the process ice makers can only produce a certain number of cubes in a given time – even the very best ice maker working at full capacity can only produce around 8-10 cubes every hour and a half. A typical built-in ice maker will make a bit less than this, achieving between 3.5lb and 6lb of ice a day.

Common ice maker problems

  • The ice maker has paused or been switched off – sounds obvious but it’s not always easy to see when an ice maker has been inadvertently switched off
  • Temperature too high or low – If the temperature in your ice machine is too high or too low then it cannot operate properly. Adjust the temperature of your fridge/freezer to get the ice cycle back on track again
  • Clogged water lines – it goes without saying that water is the most essential element of ice, and if the water can’t get through the line properly because it is clogged, the obstruction will need to be cleared before it can work properly again
  • Faulty water filter – When was the last time you changed your water filter?  It it’s longer than six months ago then you need to replace it pronto!
  • Ice stuck in the mold – If your ice is misshapen, broken, fluffy or frosted then you’ve probably got bits of ice stuck in the mold. Simply switch off the ice maker and gently fill the tray with warm water to melt away the stuck bits

4 tips for freeing up the arm of your ice maker

Before you start troubleshooting, remember to create a safe environment to do so.  Freezers and ice makers run on electricity which can be extremely dangerous, especially when there is water involved.

Unplug your refrigerator to completely disconnect it from the power source before attempting any of the following fixes:

Reset your freezer

Has your ice maker got a reset button?  If so, press it.

If not, you’ll need to manually reset the system which sounds much more complicated than it is. In order to perform a ‘hard’ reset you simply unplug the appliance and wait for around five minutes before switching it on again.

Realign the ice maker arm

Possibly the easiest repair in the world, but if it works you can tell your family and friends it was way more complicated for maximum DIY points.

All you need to do to realign the ice maker arm is push down on it to try to set it into a lower position.

Replace the ice maker arm

If your ice maker arm is bent out of shape or broken it will probably need to be replaced. You can do this by gently maneuvering the faulty arm out of the head and housing and replacing it with a new one. You shouldn’t need any special tools or equipment to perform this repair and the entire process should only take you around five minutes.

Activate the defrost cycle

Freezers need to run at a constant temperature of between -10 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but when you open and close the doors moisture and heat find their way in and condense into water, turning into frost. Over time this could lead to a build-up of ice, which could be why your ice maker arm is stuck.

Most modern freezers have something called a defrost cycle which quickly heats up your freezer cabinet to defrost any ice, which is then evaporated when it reaches the heater.

Closing summary

The majority of problems relating to the arm of your ice maker can be quickly and easily fixed, most without even having to reach into your toolbox. If in the unlikely event your investigations don’t uncover the issue, it’s worth referring to the appliance manufacturer if your product is still within its warranty or an independent appliance specialist if not.

FAQs

Should the arm on an ice maker be up or down?

Remember our earlier tutorial on how ice machines work?  The ice maker arm tells the machine when the collection bin has been filled so it knows to switch itself off – if the arm is stuck in the up position, the ice maker will think it is full and won’t make any more ice. The lever needs to be positioned in a down position.

What does an ice maker arm do?

The ice maker arm functions as an automatic shut-off so that your freezer doesn’t overflow with ice. At the point ice is pushed out of the mold, the arm gets pushed up, and if the arm falls back down again the system knows there is still space in the collection bin and the ice-making process can start again.

How do I force my ice maker to cycle?

You can force your ice maker to complete a cycle by carrying out the following steps:
·       Open the freezer door and remove the ice collection bin
·       Empty the ice from the bin and replace it
·       Make sure the ice-making function has been switched on
·       Remove the front cover of the ice maker using a flat edge screwdriver
·       Rotate the gear on the front of the ice maker clockwise until you hear a click
·       Replace the front cover
·       Push the ice maker arm into a down position which should start the ice-making process

Why is ice sticking to my ice maker?

If your ice is all sticking together inside your ice maker, there are a few actions you can take to resolve the issue:
·       Make sure the freezer light is switched off when you close the door
·       Try setting your thermostat to a cooler temperature
·       Make sure your freezer isn’t too full or too empty
·       Make sure you regularly use the ice that’s being made

Appliances made simple. 

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