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It’s summer, and you can’t wait to get some ice-cold water. The only problem is, even though the ice maker says it’s full, it’s shooting blanks. Nothing’s more disappointing, which is why I searched all across the internet to bring you these tips on how to fix your ice maker.
Fixing an ice maker that says it’s full when it’s not is typically simple, but the process will vary by the model. Luckily, I’ve covered multiple ice maker models in the following article, with tips on finding solutions for specific models.
Ready to get your ice maker back to normal? Let’s go!
Craig has helped thousands of other homeowners repair their appliances since 2016.
Andy is one of our resident appliance repair experts with over a decade of experience. He currently runs his appliance repair company with a team of trusted technicians.
Fixing an Ice Maker That Says It’s Full When It’s Not
Let’s start with ice makers within refrigerators, which are the most common type.
Note: many ice makers have a ‘reset’ or ‘test’ button inside them. After trying each of the below solutions, try hitting the reset button if you can find it. The button will reset the ice maker and run it through a full cycle, which should help to clear any issues.
Fixing A General Refrigerator’s Ice Maker
In my experience, modern fridges use what’s known as a ‘feeler arm’ to detect when they’re full of ice. The arm is a small piece on the side of the ice maker interior that typically gets pushed upwards as the ice tray fills.
I’ve found that sometimes, the arm can get stuck in place in the fully upright (OFF) position. When the ice maker’s arm is up, it won’t dispense ice.
To fix a standard ice maker saying it’s full, gently brush away any ice that’s sticking to the feeler arm. Then gently push the feeler arm down – don’t force it. If the arm is stuck, use a hairdryer to melt the ice around it, until you can move the arm down with a gentle push.
Checking the Optics Board
If your ice machine keeps saying the bin is full, it might be due to a fault with the optic board sensor. The optic board sensor tells the ice maker when the ice cube holder on the door is full. On many models, the optics board uses a red light source on one side and a sensor on the other side of the freezer.
When the light is interrupted or blocked, power is cut to the ice maker. I’ve found that problems with the optics board sensor system can cause the ice maker to think that the ice tray is full, even when it’s not.
While diagnosing a faulty optics board is relatively easy, fixing it on your own isn’t, so I recommend you contact a professional to handle the repair or replacement.
A common culprit is the board housing itself, which has a sliding door that, if closed, will block the sensors path. Sliding the door back to the ON position can be all that’s needed to fix the issue.
Thankfully, while OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, AKA original parts) boards can cost hundreds of dollars, good aftermarket models work just as well for much cheaper (as low as $17-18 on Amazon).
If you want to get any replacement part – or see how much one would cost – click to enter your model number in the search bar below. Our partners at AppliancePartsPros stock almost every part with free guides on how to install them.
Fixing An Undercounter Ice Maker
If your ice machine keeps saying the bin is full and you own an undercounter model, the slideway could be to blame.
Instead of feeler arms, undercounter ice makers often use what’s called an ice slideway. The slideway is a mechanism with a magnet attached at one end. The slideway rotates when the ice bin gets full, eventually disconnecting the slideway from the magnet.
Similar to other ice maker types, there’s a component used to detect how much ice is in the bin, and it could be stuck.
Here’s what to do to fix an ice-full light coming on when your undercounter ice maker is empty:
- Open your ice maker.
- Check your slideway.
- Remove any debris.
- Rotate the slideway to test functionality.
- Check back within 2 hours.
I find that, in many cases, there’s some frost buildup or a burr on the magnet or panel that’s causing the two to become separated.
Burrs are common manufacturing issues that aren’t really a problem until your ice maker is acting up. You can file the burr down with sandpaper if you feel it’s causing issues. When you rotate the slideway and the magnet is touching the panel again, look at the LED screen on the front of the door.
Check that the light turns off when the magnet touches the panel. If everything operates as it should, go ahead and close the freezer and wait to see if you have ice in a couple of hours.
If All Else Fails
From what I’ve seen, in most cases, the main culprit is ice buildup affecting a component responsible for detecting whether your ice maker is full.
Icing over can extend to other parts of the ice maker and, over time, lead to functionality issues. A great cover-all solution is to defrost your ice maker.
To defrost the ice maker, you’ll also have to turn off your fridge and follow a few good practices, such as moving consumables to another cold storage or filling the fridge with dry ice to keep it cool.
To defrost your ice maker, unplug the power, leave the door open, and optionally blow a standard fan towards the open ice maker. Depending on the ice buildup level, the process can take between 4-24 hours. Defrosting should free any locked components from being stuck in ice or frost.
Why Doesn’t My Ice Maker Ever Get Full?
There could be several reasons your ice maker isn’t filling up your ice bin even after you’ve been waiting for hours.
Not Enough Water
Your ice maker is hooked up to your water line, filter, and valve. Sometimes, these components can fail due to clogs or simple malfunctions.
First, I recommend you check the line running to your ice maker to see if there are any clogs in the pumps. If you live in an area with abundant hard water, it can cause a calcium buildup over time. There’s a sensor on your ice maker that tells it when it’s time to add more water to the ice tray. When the sensor breaks or is obstructed, your ice maker will never fill up completely.
Luckily, if the water filter, line, or valve is causing the issue, replacing them is very simple and shouldn’t take long.
There’s a Mechanical Issue
There could be a mechanical issue when your ice machine keeps saying the bin is full or won’t even fill up with water.
With ice trays, you have to manually fill them with water and place them gently inside your freezer for a few hours to get ice., but with your ice maker, the entire process is done automatically.
The only way for your ice maker to know which step it’s at is to have a series of mechanisms and sensors in place.
Each sensor lets the ice maker know important information such as:
- When it’s time to add water.
- When the water has frozen.
- When it’s time to pop the cubes out.
- When the ice maker is full.
If the mechanisms and sensors are damaged, the machine won’t be able to complete its cycle and keep popping out fresh cubes.
If you’re having trouble keeping your ice bin full, ensure all your components are working correctly.
It’s Not Cold Enough
If your ice machine isn’t cold enough to freeze your cubes, your ice machine won’t be able to know when it should make another batch.
Your ice maker has a built-in thermometer that lets it know exactly when the water has frozen to make ice cubes. When water hits the freezing temperature, it signals the machine to pop the cubes out onto the tray below.
If the water never hits a freezing point, your machine won’t keep trying to crank out more cubes.
Lower your temperature inside the freezer little by little. Make small adjustments and wait a few hours to see whether that improves the situation.
I recommend making small changes to the temperature over time. You don’t want to lower your freezer temperature as low as it will go, as it can cause unnecessary stress on the appliance.
If you notice the temperature doesn’t change, no matter how often you dial in different settings, there’s a good chance your freezer’s thermostat is faulty and needs replacing.
How to Reset an Ice Maker That Keeps Saying It’s Full
Even if you followed all the steps in this article, your ice machine might still be telling you the bin’s full, even when it’s clearly not.
The good news is you have one last strategy to fix the issue. In some cases, resetting your ice maker completely can get things back to normal.
The best way to know how to reset your specific ice maker/fridge model is by checking your User Manual. If you don’t have it handy, please refer to our free resource below.
Some freezers have a reset button that makes it very easy to reset them. Others require a complicated set of specific actions that need to be done in sequence to reset the machine.
If resetting your ice maker doesn’t work, it’s time to call a professional. Reach out to a repair specialist and have them look at the issue.
Fixing an Empty Ice Maker That Says It’s Full
Having an empty ice bin on a hot day when all you want is a cold drink is very annoying. However, I hope the tips in this article have helped you see that you can easily fix an ice maker that keeps saying it’s full even though the bin is empty.
In many cases, something as simple as resetting the feeler arm and checking your water valve can go a long way in getting things back to normal.
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Have a wonderful day!