I’ve been in this position many times, and it’s super frustrating.
I have a portable ice maker sitting on your counter, and I’m excited to fill my cup with ice, but to my surprise, there is no ice to be found. My portable ice maker is not making ice, and I need to figure out why and how to fix it as soon as possible. If you’ve been in this position before, you know how frustrating it can be. An ice maker is ready, but no ice is in your cup.
In this article, I will explain why your portable ice maker isn’t making ice and how you can fix the issue.
Before we get into the issues that keep your portable ice maker from working, I want to discuss how portable ice makers work. This will give you a better understanding of how you can fix your unit.
A portable ice maker produces three types of ice: bullet-shaped ice, nugget ice, and clear ice.
The type of ice your ice maker produces will determine how the ice is produced.
Nugget Ice uses shaved ice that’s compressed into small nuggets. They were introduced to portable ice makers when Opal (now owned by GE) created their portable unit and released it to the world. It was well accepted, and now you can find portable nugget ice makers everywhere. They have a far more complex process than your conventional portable ice makers and, because of that fact, cost far more money.
Bullet-shaped ice is water that forms around a cylinder with freon and freezes into a hat-shaped piece of ice. These pieces of ice are larger and more dense. They’re perfect for any beverage and great for throwing in a cooler. I find that bullet-shaped ice does melt faster.
Clear ice forms when water runs down over a square grate and freezes layers until a square piece of ice is formed. Then the ice is heated to loosen and fall into the ice storage container. Portable ice makers that produce clear ice are the same as commercial ice makers, only on a smaller scale.
The mechanics of a portable ice maker are pretty straightforward. You have your water reservoir, pump, compressor, bucket where the freon tips are placed, and a sweeper for pushing the ice into the ice storage basket.
A portable ice maker that produces clear ice would have similar parts, but you wouldn’t have the freon tips or the water storage container. The ice forms over the metal grill and falls into the storage basket.
A nugget ice maker is far more complex than the ones listed above. You have to make shaved ice, compress it into a cylinder, and then cut off the pieces into manageable sizes where they fall into a storage bucket.
In this article, we’ll try to diagnose nugget, clear, and bullet-shaped portable ice machines.
The step to troubleshooting your portable ice maker is to ensure it’s getting power to the unit. This starts with ensuring the unit is plugged in and the outlet works correctly.
Sometimes you pop a breaker, and the ice maker lacks power. You think the ice maker is dead, but the issue is solved by flipping on the breaker. I’m actually guilty of this, I am ashamed to admit.
The best way to test an outlet is to plug in a light or another small appliance to ensure it works correctly. You can use an outlet tester if you have one available.
Most portable ice makers will have a small power indicator on the front of the unit. This could be a red or green light, but it lets you know that the portable ice maker is receiving power and is ready to make ice.
If your portable ice maker is receiving power, but will not turn on, then you can try to find a manual reset for your unit. Not all portable ice makers have this feature, so you must check for it in your user’s manual. A manual reset switch should reset controls and power up your ice maker again.
If this doesn’t solve the problem, I have bad news for you. It would seem like your portable ice maker’s circuit board is blown. This could have happened by a short or just a faulty circuit board in general. If this is the case, it would be better for you to purchase a new portable ice maker and replace the broken one. It would not be worth fixing your old unit.
Water Supply Issues
Water supply issues are the first reason a portable ice maker may not make ice. This could be as simple as low water in the reservoir or a faulty water reservoir sensor.
Make sure that you have your water reservoir filled to the full line and that your water sensor is cleaned and working properly. It may be a good idea to wash your portable ice maker to ensure all sensors aren’t dirty and causing it to malfunction. If your water reservoir is filled with water, you notice an “add water” indicator light on the front of your unit. This may indicate that the “add water” sensor is faulty.
Use filtered water to protect your ice maker from mineral build-up, which can cause the sensor to malfunction, and make sure all visible water lines are not plugged. Usually, nugget ice makers will have two lines on the back of the unit for draining water. Ensure that these lines are not kinked or plugged and that your unit is getting water.
If water isn’t moving around in your portable ice maker, it could be a water pump issue. Typically, when a water pump is damaged, you hear a loud whining sound coming from the back of your unit. A loud whining sound could be low water or a pump that will die soon.
Replacing a water pump in a portable ice maker isn’t worth the trouble. It’s better to purchase a new unit, or if your ice maker is under warranty, return it for a new one.
Low Ice Production
If you look in your ice maker and notice that you don’t have a lot of ice, there could be several reasons for this.
First, make sure your portable ice maker isn’t in direct sunlight. We love bringing our portable ice maker outside, but when it’s in direct sunlight, the ice melts faster than usual. Remember that portable ice makers do not have built-in freezers, so the ice will eventually melt over time. Having your ice maker in the sun will fast-track that process.
I gave my brother-in-law a portable ice maker, and he brought it to Africa. Because it was so hot, even inside their house, the ice maker didn’t produce the expected amount of ice in a day. Unusual warm temperatures can cause your ice maker only to produce a small amount of ice.
If you have your portable ice maker outside, I would suggest placing it in the shade or placing a towel over the viewing window to block the sun.
Second, make sure your portable ice maker is clean. It’s very common for a portable ice maker to produce smaller pieces or small batches of ice because the ice maker isn’t clean. You’d be surprised how many portable ice makers I’ve fixed by just cleaning the unit.
Portable Ice Maker is Making a Knocking Sound
If your portable ice maker is producing a loud knocking sound, then give these troubleshooting tricks a try.
If you’re using a nugget ice maker, then it’s probably ice jammed in the unit. It’s best to turn off your unit for an hour or so and let the ice melt before continuing.
I actually wrecked my nugget ice maker because I let it continue knocking and making a loud noise while it was making ice. Some portable ice makers that produce nugget ice will actually have a safety that turns off the unit if ice get stiuck. This is a great feature, but not all nugget ice makers have this, so you’ll want to be careful. I know that the NewAir Portable Nugget Ice Maker does have this feature, so if you’re looking for a nugget ice maker than you may want to check it out.
You’ll also want to make sure your portable ice maker is level on your counter and that your ice is empty and water levels are normal. A metallic pinging could be your compressor and would probably require professional help. If you hear any type of loud noise coming from your compressor, I would return it to the store. I should clarify that statement. The compressor in a portable ice maker is going to make noise, but it should never make banging or loud pinging noises.
Ice Isn’t Ejecting
If you notice that ice from your portable ice maker isn’t making its way into the storage basket, then I suggest you give these solutions a try.
First, ensure that ice hasn’t jammed the sweeper and your ice sweeper is working correctly. The ice sweeper is that paddle that pushes the ice up over the edge of your machine into the storage bin. If the sweeper isn’t moving, you can help it and see if it’s jammed in place. Unfortunately, it may also be a faulty sweeper which needs to be replaced.
You can check to ensure that all wires are connected and that no pins have let loose.
Sometimes, the ice hasn’t formed correctly because of a dirty ice maker, or the area is too warm, and the sweeper can’t reach the ice to push it into the storage bin.
My Ice Stinks!
Don’t use a dirty ice maker! It’s gross.
Portable ice makers get considerably dirty over time, and that dirt makes its way into your ice.
If you don’t clear your portable ice maker at least once every two weeks, your ice will taste terrible and begin to smell. It’s not uncommon for mold to begin to grow inside the unit, and mold can make you sick.
You have to clean your portable ice maker, and if your ice smells, you have to clean your potable ice maker right now. I’ll give you my simple steps to cleaning a portable ice maker below.
Cleaning Your Portable Ice Maker
First, you’ll want to unplug your portable ice maker.
Next, drain out all of the water. Moving it closer to your sink is probably best so that the water drains right into your sink. A nugget ice maker typically has drain hoses on the back, and the rest have a drain plug on the side or bottom.
Use a mild cleaning solution to wash your portable ice maker. You can remove the storage basket and soak it into some soap water.
Scrub down your portable ice maker and use a brush to get to the places you cannot reach. You want that cleaning solution to travel through the unit and clean all the hoses and places you cannot see. So, just run the unit several times and throw away the ice.
Next, drain out all the water, and rinse all the cleaning solution with the drain plug open. You’ll want to rinse it several times to ensure that all the cleaning solution is gone. I have a pull-out tap so I spray that water inside the unit and make sure that it’s rinsed real good.
Once the portable ice maker is all clean, you can begin making ice again.
You should notice, with a clean portable ice maker, that your ice is clearer, cleaner and tastes better. You’ll also notice no unwanted smell. Your guests deserve the best ice around, so make sure your portable ice maker is super clean.
When your portable ice maker doesn’t work, it’s frustrating. Just because it doesn’t work doesn’t mean that it’s garage. There are logical reasons why your unit stopped working and possible solutions.
Remember how portable ice makers operate and follow the steps for adequately diagnose the issue. Once you figure it out remember to always be safe and never mess around with live wires or parts you don’t understand. Be careful taking your unit apart, and always make sure your portable ice maker is unplugged before working on it.
If your portable ice maker is beyond repair, it’s not the end of the world. One of the great features of a portable ice maker is that they are inexpressive. Several portable ice makers are available on the market today that will be a perfect fit for your home.
So, don’t sweat it. Do your best to solve the issue, but if you need a replacement, we have some awesome choices here.