How to Repair the Ice Maker in Your RV Fridge
My Retro-Winnie Developed a Water Leak in the Freezer
I have an older Winnie motorhome that I have been using for travel for a while and I call it my Retro-Winnie. After our first two camping trips, I noticed that we had a lot of water accumulating in the bottom of our fridge.
While we were camping in Lynchburg, Virginia, we even started getting ice buildup on the bottom of the freezer section itself.
The fridge in our Winnie is a 4-door NorCold model. II checked the serial numbers and rear labels only to find out it was original equipment in my RV.
The fridge and freezer worked great when we tested it out before our shakedown trip, but we never did take the time to use the ice maker, mostly because it only operates on 110-VAC, so we didn't use it until we were in a campsite and hooked to campsite power.
Now, back to my problem:
Side View of the Ice Maker in a NorCold Fridge
Fixing a Water Leak in the NorCold Freezer
This problem had me stymied at first. Our ice maker worked great for several days and then, one morning, I opened the door and saw that several of our frozen food packages had a thick coating of ice on them.
I quickly pulled them out of the freezer, knocked the ice off of them, and placed them back into the freezer. I took a deep breath and then I told my wife we had a little problem developing.
By that evening, I saw that I was right. We never actually saw the water leaking in the freezer, but obviously we did have a water leak so I finally discovered water was dripping from the bottom of the control section of the ice maker, into the Fridge section.
After cleaning out the freezer, again, I jumped onto my PC, and downloaded a set of old NorCold ice maker service and installation manuals. And, after going through them, I realized that I had at least one of several potential problems.
- The water valve assembly in the ice maker was malfunctioning,
- The input water hose was leaking (possibly old and cracked?), or
- The leak was inside the ice maker assembly and the whole thing needed replacement.
So, because I was in a campsite and far away from home, I decided to "jackleg" the problem, at least temporarily, until I got home.
Because the water leak was at the very edge of the control section of the Ice Maker, I modified a plastic storage container and removed the lip along one edge. I then placed the plastic container directly against the edge of the ice maker where the leak was coming from, and then I placed a bag of frozen peas next to it to wedge it in place.
My idea was to just catch the freezing water in the container and continue to use the ice maker for the next couple of weeks that we would be camping.
It worked great!
Each morning, I would open the freezer door, break off the 1/2-inch-diameter shaft of ice that had developed atop the container, and remove all of the ice in the container.
Then I would replace the container against the ice maker (with its bag of peas, of course) and voila! We continued to get ice for the remainder of our camping stay.
The Search for a Replacement Ice Maker
So with my temporary fix, I avoided having an ice buildup problem for the remainder of my camping adventure.
But, once I got home, I had to come up with a "real" fix.
Find the Model Number on the Label
The first thing I did was remove the cover again and take a picture of the label on the Ice Maker. The label was under the cover at the end.
And, I took another picture of the label on the NorCold Fridge itself, just for good measure.
Once we had returned home and put our Retro-Winnie in its storage site, I got online again and went to the NorCold site to find the proper replacement part. And yes, by this time, I had already decided that I would not "just fix" the Ice Maker, but replace it.
In my experience, when you are tempted to replace a cheap part inside a device on your RV, to save a couple of bucks, it is usually best to replace the whole assembly. There are several reasons for this:
- The dis-assembly and re-assembly of old devices can end up generating even more broken parts,
- If the device is cheap it may not be worth your time to repair it (I found I could get a new one for $80-$150 on the web).
- The new unit will have ALL NEW PARTS in, and this means you will probably have a number of trouble-free years before the new device gives you any problems.
A Common Device: The Ice Maker
After the first couple of hours of research, I did learn one interesting thing; this design of ice maker has been the most common device used for at least 15-years in nearly every manufacturer's fridge in the USA.
But, even though they are common, each manufacturer has purchased one "just for them" and labeled with a different model number, of their own.
A replacement part money-making strategy, I guess?
NorCold didn't even have an ice maker model number for my model of fridge (it was too old they said) so I did lose out there.
Anyway, I fell back to the data on the label on the existing ice maker.
Well, the bad thing was; no one, not even eBay, has any information on my specific Ice Maker model number.
I was a little confused and frustrated by this time. I sat back and I stared at my picture of the label and then I saw it. The one in my 2001 NorCold fridge was manufactured in 2010 for Whirlpool refrigerators!
So, after a little thought,I assumed from this that the Ice Maker had already been replaced at least once by the previous owner.
As my search went on, I did finally settle in on two very common model numbers that popped up on sevral sites.
These magic numbers are;
I even found one site, a forum for RV owners, that stated that these numbers are common to nearly all NorCold refrigerators used in RVs for the past couple of decades at least. HooRah!
The Search for a Replacement Ice Maker Goes on
Yeah, that's right, my best solution has turned out to be: either buy on eBay, at some kind of high pricing, or take my ice maker to the Sears parts store, not far away, and compare my unit to what they have on sale.
You see, they list what looks like an identical ice maker, but it has a totally different model number.
I drove to the nearest Sears parts store, it turned out that they did not have the appropriate ice maker in inventory. The online site for Sears said they did, but the guy at the store (a short, frowning, indifferent clerk) denied that one even existed.
Frustrated, I had to regroup.
Online Parts Stores
After returning home, I got back online and after a half an hour of using different search criteria, up popped an "appliance part sales site" that sold replacement ice maker units.
But the great thing was that they said if I sent them my unit's part number, they would cross reference it for me to a list of available units.
They came back with yet another number that is (they said) a direct replacement for my ice maker.
By now, I had become tired of this problem. The price was right, so I capitulated and ordered the replacement unit.
NorCold Ice Maker Water Valve
There was a slow water leak in the valve connector of my NorCold fridge in my old fifth-wheel camper, and I purchased this common replacement. It was easy to change out and worked great.
Ice Maker Tips for RV Owners
Here are some tips for RV owners that they may not already know:
110-VAC Operation Only
The ice maker in all of these older 2-way RVs runs only 110-VAC ONLY. That's right, even though your fridge and its freezer will run equally well on 110-VAC or propane gas, the ice maker is strictly a 110-VAC device.
So, unless you are running your generator, I recommend you flip the ice maker lever to the OFF position when you are not hooked up to campsite power, because your Ice Maker will not operate without 110-VAC, and you could end up with water that has vibrated out of the trays and into the freezer..
Ice Maker Lever Positions
And BTW, the standard arrangement is that the icemaker is OFF with the lever in the UP or lifted position. DOWN is ON, and UP is OFF.
You should lift that lever on the ice maker while traveling. For one reason, a rough road will spill water all over the freezer.
Common RV Ice Maker Replacement
When my icemaker in my old Winnebago finally went bad, I purchased this replacement unit, and it was easy to change and worked great.
Replacing a Typical Ice Maker
Ice Maker Trouble-Shooting Tips
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2014 Don Bobbitt