Ice machines break or have issues about once a year, and always at the worst time. Today, we are going to give you some basic steps for prevention and some basic troubleshooting you can do to get it back on track.
If your ice machine is currently broken, scroll down. This section will just make you angrier. If your ice machine is still working, great! Now is the best time to prevent future problems.
First off, make sure you are cleaning your ice machine, buckets, and bins weekly. That means
emptying all of the ice out, sanitizing it, rinsing it, and wiping it down. The best night to do this is probably Saturday night as that is a night when you will likely use a good amount if ice, and also not need as much the following day. Fill your ice bins then turn off and empty the ice machine and clean it. Some machines may have a cleaning mode, but don’t use just this method, still hand clean as well.
Cleaning weekly will prevent clogs and also disgusting ice and diseases.
Don’t forget to turn the machine back on.
When troubleshooting anything whether an ice machine, printer, or POS system, step back before you start and think about how it likely works. Then, try to find the problem. In the case of an ice machine, it uses electricity to power a cooling unit. The cooling unit then freezes water until cubes form that are then cut and fall into a bin. Melted cubes turn to water which should drain out somewhere in the bottom.
On that basis, make sure the machine is plugged in. Many have a hidden on, off, or cleaning switch behind the front panel. Make sure it is on. There is a hose or pipe that feeds the machine with water, is the spigot or valve turned off? These are places to check first.
Most ice machines have one or two dials either in the back or hidden behind the front panel. If there is one dial, it likely controls the size of the ice. Turn it, typically towards the right, to get bigger cubes. Check back after a short while to see if things are improving. If your issues are worse turn the dial the other way. If there are two knobs, one likely controls the cube size while the other controls the size of the bridge between the cubes.
Another issue may be low water pressure. Check to make sure the valve to the machine is fully open. If your machine has a hard time getting enough water the cubes may be dropping before fully formed.
See the melty ice section next if that didn’t solve your problem.
If that didn’t solve the problem, your machine may be too warm. If your condenser is running hot it may be need to be repaired or replaced. If it doesn’t seem overly hot, check your water inflow. It should be only cold water. If a nearby pipe is hot it may be heating your cold water too much, try insulating your line better.
Additionally, most machines have a fan to vent out the hot air. Unplug the machine then make sure this is not bent, clogged with dirt, or blocked. Plug the machine back in, make sure the machine is on and check to see if it is spinning. If not, you may need to call a repair person to come and fix it.
Slower Than Normal Production
Another possible cause of melty ice or slower than normal production is overuse of the machine. If your bin is near empty from overuse the machine won’t hold the cold as well, causing it to warm up. This causes melty, small ice that forms slower than normal. Try to limit ice machine visits and maybe fill your ice bins periodically throughout the day if possible. This will allow less strain on the machine and allow it to produce faster.
If you have to go purchase ice due to low production, throw a couple bags in the bin to help it cool the machine so it produces faster.
If you have standing water in the bottom of your machine that is melting the ice, you likely have a clog in the drain pipe. Stop serving any ice from the machine as it is likely contaminated! Grab some buckets (not your typical ice buckets) and empty the ice bins of as much ice and water as possible.
Find the drain hole in the bottom of the bin. Remove any debris you see. Plunge out the hole using a clean hand plunger you keep just for this situation.
Interrupting Note: Do not under any circumstance use a plunger you use for unclogging toilets or for cleaning out the garbage disposal in your ice machine! If I have to explain why, you should not be in the food and beverage business.
If it is not unclogging, you will need to call a plumber.
After the clog is clear, clean your ice machine with heavy sanitizer or bleach. Then hard scrub everything. Rinse everything clean. Rinse again. Wipe down all walls with a clean, dry cloth. Rinse again thoroughly. Let it air dry. Rinse again. Turn the machine back on and let it fill with a good amount of ice before taking any ice out. Sample the ice yourself, it it tastes off or like cleaning supplies, empty, reclean, and thoroughly re-rinse everything.
Is it plugged in? Did you try restarting it? Is the water valve open fully? Is the machine on? Is there another switch you didn’t know about?
If you can hear and see water pouring into the machine but you have no ice, check to make sure you don’t have a giant frozen block of ice preventing new ice from forming. If you do, this is typically caused by a broken cutting grid that causes ice to back up into the machine. Turn off the machine and let the block melt. Then, remove, and repair or replace the cutting grid.
If there is not an ice backup blocking the machine, your cooling unit is likely bad. Check your sizing knobs, if you have them, just in case before you call a mechanic.
If the water isn’t coming in and all the valves are open, you likely have a clog or other problem in your inbound pipe. You’ll need to call a plumber.
Ice Is a Solid Block
If your ice continues to harden into a block you may have one of four problems.
You have a leak in the area that freezes your ice. This water is dripping down and then freezing once it hits the other ice causing it to form into a block. Patch the leak to fix this, you may need to order a new catch tray or hose.
Another possibility is that your cutter grid may be broken or dull. Carefully inspect the cutter. Remove and sharpen if needed. Replace if broken.
If you don’t use your ice machine often you may have a brick in the bottom due to ice melting and freezing underneath the fresh ice. This usually occurs more frequently in machines that are not being cleaned weekly. Empty and clean your bin more frequently to prevent this.
The last cause is that you are starting to get a clog in your drain pipe causing slow drainage and refreezing. Go read the section on excessive water above and follow the instructions there to fix your ice machine.
This should give you several troubleshooting steps you can take to help repair your ice machine without having to call a mechanic or plumber. If I didn’t cover your issue, go back to the troubleshooting tip, “When troubleshooting anything whether an ice machine, printer, or POS system, step back before you start and think about how it likely works. Then, find the problem.” When all else fails you may need to call someone to fix it, but at least you know you exhausted all of your options first.