Why Does My Ice Maker Freeze Up?

Reading Time: 5 minutes Learn About Ice Machines, Troubleshooting & Maintenance

Believe it or not, ice can harm your ice maker and cost you a lot of money. An ice maker freeze up happens when too much water is spread in and around your ice maker and freezes, resulting in damage to vital components. Luckily, there are warning signs and ways to identify when an ice maker freezes up. Know the signs and protect your investment by taking preemptive action whenever your ice machine freezes.

What is an ice maker freeze up?

If the evaporator plate can’t release ice during the harvest cycle, your ice maker is likely to freeze up. This is because if ice gets stuck while the water continues to flow over the ice cubes, it will gradually freeze until a large block forms.

A freeze up can cause your ice maker to start dropping ice into the ice bin more slowly, or even stop producing ice altogether. But issues with ice production are the least of your worries in this situation.

An unresolved freeze up can result in leaking water and other issues that can seriously damage your ice maker. The greatest risk of further damage occurs when your ice maker is part of a larger appliance, like a refrigerator or water dispenser.

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The risks of a refrigerator ice maker freeze up

Excessive internal ice is enough of a problem when it’s part of a dedicated ice maker. If the ice grows large enough, it can damage the evaporator plate or other internal components. This is doubly true for a refrigerator’s ice maker.

The water line and other internals can be at risk, and if they suffer damage, you might need to repair or replace the entire refrigerator. No one wants to replace a unit unnecessarily, so it’s important to be aware of the risks.

Other issues that can cause an ice maker to freeze include a frozen inlet tube, a frozen water line, or issues with your freezer temperature. With so many potential causes, it can be hard to diagnose why your ice maker freezes up even though it’s obvious when it’s happening.

The short-term fix can be as easy as blowing hot air over it with a blow dryer, but you’ll find that the issue just keeps coming back. When this happens, you need to address the underlying issue to prevent the ice maker from repeatedly freezing up every time you thaw it.

What causes an ice maker freeze up?

Freeze ups can happen for many reasons, but there are a few common issues that you should look for first.

Scale and stuck ice cubes

Scale is the result of hard water in your ice maker, and it happens when calcium and magnesium form together and cling to surfaces where water continuously flows. If you live in an area with hard water, you’ve likely seen scale forming around your faucet, on your shower tiles, or in your coffee maker.

These deposits can seem harmless, and they often are. However, it can become a serious problem when it gets out of control. This kind of scale buildup is a common cause of poor water pressure, and left unchecked, it can rupture a water line, or worse.

Scale is such an issue because ice makers form ice by flowing water from a water dispenser down a small funnel over a freezing evaporator plate. As the water flows, it begins to freeze to the evaporator plate little by little until it forms a cube.

When the ice grows large enough, the machine harvests the ice by increasing the temperature of the evaporator plate. Additionally, flowing water assists in releasing the ice, allowing it to drop into the storage bin.

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However, when scale covers your evaporator plate, ice has a much harder time releasing. If an ice cube can’t release from the evaporator plate over continual freeze cycles, that one ice cube can grow into a large chunk of ice that can harm your ice maker.

The best way to avoid this is by getting routine professional cleanings to get rid of scale in your machine. If you live in an area with hard water, a water softener or phosphate filter can help to screen inside your machine and reduce scale.

Bin control malfunctions

Bin controls monitor the amount of ice that’s harvested in ice bins. When working correctly, it shuts the ice machine down when it reaches the maximum capacity. Without a bin control, your ice machine would continue to produce ice around the clock, and when a bin control malfunctions, that’s exactly what happens.

If the ice machine can’t shut down, it will produce ice until it eventually builds up through the drop zone and backs up into the ice machine. Once the drop zone is plugged up, ice can’t deposit, and the machine freezes up.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure your ice machine gets at least two preventive maintenance visits a year from a qualified ice technician. If you notice your ice machine isn’t shutting down once the bin is full, shut it down manually and call a professional ice machine technician right away.

Float switch issues

In Hoshizaki ice machines, a float switch controls the amount of water used during a freeze cycle.

If the float switch malfunctions, it may cause the machine to make larger than normal ice, which is harder to release from the evaporator plate during the harvest cycle.

This can lead to a freeze up as well. If you notice larger ice in the storage bin, you should call a qualified technician to check the machine’s operation.

Clogged water lines

Your water supply line is responsible for providing water to your ice equipment. Water lines won’t be able to deliver the proper flow of water to your ice machine if the line is too small or plugged by mineral content. The cold temperatures of the winter months can lead to frozen water lines, which is among the most common ice maker problems caused by cold weather.

Low water flow means the ice machine will not be able to release ice cubes off the evaporator plate. This leads to malformed ice cubes that eventually can eventually cause a freeze up.

In these instances, you’ll likely need a plumber to fix this issue. If you’re dealing with frozen water lines, they will likely need to be insulated so the problem doesn’t persist.

Avoid costly freeze ups with preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance and cleaning are vital if you want to avoid costly repairs. A freeze up can lead to damaged evaporator plates that are expensive to repair and can lead to lots of down time. However, you can stop these problems before they happen.

A skilled technician can catch small problems that lead to freeze ups before they end up hurting your pocketbook. That’s why we make sure all of our machines receive biannual maintenance and cleaning to keep them running.

If you’re interested in one of our ice machine subscriptions, complete with maintenance and cleaning, contact us today!

Our team is available to help you get started today!