Solving Common Soda Fountain/Countertop Ice Machine Issues

Reading Time: 5 minutes Troubleshooting

glass with ice is raised toward soda fountain to be filled with a beverage

Ice dispensers found on soda fountain ice machines are popular with all types of businesses from offices to fast/casual dining establishments. Since the method of ice delivery is different, it means that countertop ice dispensers face a whole set of problems you won’t encounter with a standard ice machine and ice bin setup.

Here, we’ll discuss the most common problems you’ll find if you have an ice maker on top of your soda fountain, like the example depicted below.

Hoshizaki ice machine sits on top of soda fountain

How to Tell If There is a Problem with Your Ice Makers

The most common problem we hear regarding soda fountain ice dispensers is that they won’t dispense any ice. We’ve written a lot about the issues that cause ice machine to ice production slowing down or not producing ice altogether, but the presence of a soda fountain adds a whole set of different problems. It can be difficult to tell whether a lack of ice is due to the ice machine not working or a problem with the soda fountain’s ice dispenser itself.

3 ice cubes

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The easiest way to tell where the problem is stemming from is to look to see if there is ice in the soda fountain’s storage bin. If you see that the bin has ice in it, there’s a really good chance the problem is with the fountain, not the ice machine.

If there isn’t ice in the bin, there’s a higher probability that the issue lies with your ice machine unit. Any number of problems can cause this, including but not limited to:

  • Blocked drains
  • No electricity getting to the machine
  • No water getting to the machine
  • Not enough space for the machine to operate effectively

Let’s look at the most common problems you’re likely to see with a soda fountain ice dispenser.

Clogged Dispensing Tubes

Countertop ice makers have dispensing zones, where ice drops when a customer or staff member places their cup beneath the dispenser to get ice.

Ice must travel through a dispensing tube before it makes its way into someone’s glassware. When the dispensing tube is clogged due to balled up ice in the bin or the dispenser door not opening due to scale or dirt, it blocks any additional ice from dispensing.

If you notice that ice isn’t dispensing, look inside the bin to see if a large chunk of ice is covering the dispensing tube. If so, open the bin out and see if you can remove the ball of ice that may have frozen to the wall of the bin.

ice cubes clogging ice dispenser

Slushy Ice

Nope, we’re not talking about the drink.

Soda fountain ice machines have drainage tubes that drain extra water out of the bin, so ice stays solid.

Dispensers also have stainless-steel agitators, which consist of claw-like metal arms that spin to loosen ice so it doesn’t stick together.

3 ice cubes

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When drainage tubes freeze over or are clogged by ice, water fills the bin, mixing with the ice.

The agitator starts grinding the ice with the water, effectively becoming a blender, which turns the ice and water into a slushy mess.

ice slush
Oftentimes, removing the ice blocking the drainage tube will return the machine to operate properly.

Slushy ice can also occur if the agitator spins more often than it should. Grinding the ice up until it starts to resemble crushed ice.

With agitator problems, it’s best to call an ice machine technician who can repair the agitator and get the ice machine back to working condition.


Leaking can come from either the ice machine or the soda fountain and with a little observation, it’s easy to figure out where the leak is stemming from.

Leaks that come from behind the machine are often stemming from the ice machine.

If you notice leaking from the bottom of the ice machine or the dispensing tube, there’s a good chance that the leak is coming from the dispenser.

This also happens in conjunction with a clogged drainage tube. When the water fills up, it leaks out of the seam between the ice machine and dispenser.

You May Simply Need a Bigger Ice Machine

Although business owners are aware their business is picking up, they may not make the connection that more customers mean higher ice needs.

When this happens, owners simply believe their ice machine is slowing down, but that’s not the case.

There is a simple way to determine if your ice machine is working or if it’s not dropping ice fast enough.

If you notice your dispenser’s bin is empty, measure the amount of time it takes to drop a batch of ice.

If the machine doesn’t drop a batch of ice in at least 45 minutes, there is likely a problem with your machine and you should call an ice machine technician to do a production test.

If the machine does drop ice, the ice machine is most likely working fine. If this is the case, check to see if your business has picked up and consider looking for a larger ice machine that can keep up with your increased ice needs.

Preventive Maintenance Leads to Happy Customers

Sure, there’s a good chance that your countertop ice machine or dispenser will encounter a problem at some point in time, but regular preventive maintenance can drastically reduce the chance of any of the problems we listed above from occurring.

Scheduling a good ice machine technician to come out every six months to test and service your ice machine is the best way to identify problems before they occur.

The less problems your ice machine encounters the more reliable your ice supply will be when customers come walking through the door.

Bottom line, treat your ice machine well and it will treat you well in return.

Call the Ice Experts

Our expert technicians are dedicated to treating your ice maker right so you can treat your customers right. We can service portable ice makers, your countertop ice maker, and any other appliance you use for producing ice. No matter what particular ice maker or portable ice machine you have, we know how to work on it.

Whether you’re struggling with slow ice production, dirty ice, or any other common issues, we can fix it. If you want to keep your crystal clear ice production running smoothly, you can turn to us for routine maintenance at an affordable price.

Don’t trust your ice maker to just anybody. If you’re tired of using old ice trays when your machine breaks down, call the Ice Experts. No one knows about making ice machines last quite like us! Contact us today or read about our managed rentals now to learn more.

Our team is available to help you get started today!