How to Troubleshoot a Refrigerator Water Dispenser and Solenoid
Water dispensing refrigerators have become common in households these days but there are a few repair issues associated with these appliances. The most common repair issues that homeowners may have to contend with are solenoids. A solenoid is basically an electric control valve that opens when the water dispenser button is pressed. Some refrigerators have dual solenoids to control the ice maker as well. You will need to have your make and model number of your refrigerator if you need to order a solenoid valve as they can be different for various models.
Before you replace the solenoid water valve for your water dispenser there are a few items you need to check first.
Verify that you are getting water flow through the water dispenser in the door. If not, then you may have a water supply problem or a clogged water filter.
Check the water tube in the freezer that fills the ice maker. Make sure that it is not frozen. If it is, it will need to be defrosted. Sometimes the water line freezes when the refrigerator is overloaded and the cold air cannot circulate, other times the plastic tubing in the door freezes. If you suspect this use a hairdryer to warm the inside of the door behind the dispenser, it can take 20 to 30 minutes.
Check your water filter. High efficiency filters can clog quickly especially if you have a lot of sediment in your water. Most refrigerators come with a bypass cap that can be installed where the filter is attached. Install the bypass cap and check the water dispenser; if there is no water flow, then you probably have a bad valve.
Check the saddle valve to see if it is clogged. The saddle valve is located on a cold water line under your sink or in the basement. Carefully open and close the tee handle to loosen any scale from the needle that pierces the pipe. You may want to shut off the valve and remove the connection to the water line and then slowly open the valve to verify that water comes out.
If the solenoid buzzes but does not dispense water you could have a failed valve. You can access the valve by unplugging the refrigerator and removing the bottom panel on the back of the refrigerator. Remove the wires from the ice maker water valve. The solenoid valve has two wires attached to it. Using a volt ohm meter, check the resistance across the leads of the water valve. You should read about 300 ohms. If not then the coil is bad and the valve will need to be replaced. If you do read 300 ohms, you may still have a clog or mechanical failure in the valve.
You can try removing the sediment screen inside the solenoid and flushing it with water to clean it, and at the same time you can inspect any seals or diaphragms to ensure that they are sound.
Replacing the Solenoid
As stated before, you may have a single or dual solenoid, depending on whether you have a water dispenser and ice maker. Make sure that you have the correct parts before starting your repair. There are several appliance parts distributors online to choose from.
1. Unplug the refrigerator.
2. Turn off the water supply to the refrigerator.
3. Remove the back panel on the bottom of the refrigerator.
4. Remove the wires from the water valve.
5. Remove the screw from the bracket that secures the water valve to the refrigerator.
6. Remove the water tubes from the old valve and attach them to the new valve. To remove the water tubes, you should have to just push in on the collar where the tube attaches to the valve. Older valves will have brass ferrules and nuts on the water lines.
7. Reconnect the water line or lines.
8. Reattach the wires and screw the bracket back onto the refrigerator. Make sure that you have the right wires attached to the correct terminals on dual solenoids.
9. Turn the water supply back on and check for leaks.
10. Plug the refrigerator back in and test the operation of the valves and check for leaks.
11. Replace the back panel on the refrigerator.
See my article on Installing a Water Line for your Refrigerator.