Ice cube maker says it's had enough, but hot wiring convinces it otherwise

Saturday's Hero

November 18, 1995|By ROB KASPER

THIS WEEK,my refrigerator make ice cubes. That may not sound like fun to sophisticated pleasure seekers. But for me, the sound of ice cubes landing in the fridge's ice bucket was sweet music. It meant I had saved about $125. That is what a new automatic ice maker costs.

I know, because I bought one. I brought it home, and then realized I didn't need a new ice maker. So I sheepishly took it back to the appliance parts store and got a refund.

Although there might be evidence presented here that indicates otherwise, the problem with the fridge was not caused by bad wiring in my brain. Rather, the problem was that the stiff wire that ran along the bottom of the ice maker was out of position.

This stiff wire has one function. It tells the ice maker when to work. It does this in a simple manner. When ice cubes land in the plastic bucket sitting under the ice maker they pile up until they push against this wire. When the wire feels pressure, it sends a message to the ice-making part of the machine. The message is "enough already!"

Conversely, when the pile of ice cubes is low, the wire senses that nothing is pushing up against it and sends a "send-in-the-cubes" signal to the ice maker.

Somehow, in the rough and tumble of freezer life, the wire in my ice maker got pushed into the "enough already!" position. This meant that even though there was not a single ice cube in the storage bucket -- a clear "send in the cubes" situation -- the ice maker remained idle.

I attempted to remedy this problem by doing what I do best, unplugging stuff. First I unplugged the refrigerator. I did this one morning when no one else in the family was in the house. You don't want to unplug your fridge when your house is full of people. That would be like trying to repair a busy stretch of road in the middle of rush hour. It would be chaos. It would be aggravation. And it would be difficult to get any work finished.

Next I unplugged the ice maker. I knew how to do this because I had watched a real refrigerator repairman do it a few years ago when he found the source of the mysterious chirping noise (a faulty fan hidden behind the back wall of the freezer).

I had seen him unplug the ice maker by freeing it from a receptacle that sat on the back of the freezer wall. So I pulled this plug as well.

And, after loosening a few screws that had secured the ice maker to the freezer walls, I slipped the entire ice-making apparatus out of the fridge.

I looked it over. I checked the spring that was supposed to flip the tray of ice cubes down into the bucket. The spring was fine. The tray was fine. This part of the ice-making apparatus was in fine flipping form.

Then my investigation turned to behind the fridge, to the water line hook-up. This is the line that runs from underneath the kitchen sink and up the back of the fridge. It feeds cold water to the ice machine, which, when things are running right, transforms cold water into ice cubes.

I looked at the part of the line that was made of clear, plastic tubing. I saw water in the line. This told me the trouble was in the ice maker, not the water line. I decided I had a faulty ice maker.

I called an appliance parts shop and was told a new ice maker was about $125. That sounded like a lot of money for frozen water. But I am very fond of frozen water. Moreover, once I start a repair job, I want to finish it, usually within the next 12 months.

So I drove out to the appliance shop and bought the new ice maker. I brought it home and as I was reading the sheet of instructions, I saw this section saying, in effect, "Hey, stupid, don't push the wire up."

There was also an illustration that warned about making sure the wire was in the correct position. I looked at the illustration and I compared it to the position of the wire on my "faulty" ice maker. I felt REAL STUPID.

I tugged at the wire on the ice maker in the fridge. The wire moved out of what was an "enough already!" position, and went into its "send in the cubes" posture.

After about 24 hours -- you can't rush an ice maker -- ice cubes appeared in the ice bucket.

A few days later, I took the new, unused ice maker back to the appliance parts shop, and was told a check was in the mail that would refund most of my $125. There would be a deduction for something called a "restocking fee."

I was delighted. I regarded the check as "found money." It once was spent and now is coming back into circulation. I looked upon the "restocking fee" as a polite way of telling me: "Hey, stupid, next time the ice cubes don't fall, check the wire."

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