Stopping an Ice Maker or Refrigerator Leak

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No one likes water on the kitchen floor. Sure, it happens from time to time when you rinse the dishes or there’s a spill. But a random puddle of water on the floor? That’s not just dangerous, it’s bad news. The first thing we all do is check around to see where the water is coming from. Is it the dishwasher? The sink? Nope, it’s coming from underneath, behind, or inside of your refrigerator. That might be an even bigger puzzle than the sink.

Most people don’t actually know how water moves through the fridge or why the refrigerator might be leaking. In fact, often when a refrigerator is leaking, the problem doesn’t even relate to water lines and leaks of that sort. Why is your refrigerator leaking and how do you stop it? Answering the first question will quickly lead to the second answer.

Let’s take a closer look at how to stop that fridge leak. 

Level the Fridge

The first and most likely reason your fridge is leaking is that the fridge is not correctly level. This happens because of the defrost cycle. When your freezer is cold enough to maintain frozen food, it’s also cold enough to build up frost on the walls. So your fridge occasionally eases on the cooling. The freezer warms up just a little, the frost melts and “defrosts” and is supposed to drain neatly out of the fridge into the drain pan.

So even if your fridge drain and pan are in great shape, an unlevel fridge will leak because that defrost runoff runs forward (out the door) instead of back (down the drain). So leveling the feet of your fridge can really help.

Grab a bubble level and open the door of your fridge. Lay the level on the fridge floor along the front edge. Is it level? If not, you’ll need to twist the lower fridge foot clockwise to extend it a little until that bubble is in the center. Then lay the bubble level along the right/left edge of the fridge floor. Is it level? This floor should favor the back, so the bubble should peek just a little toward the front of the fridge. If it doesn’t, raise both front feet a little. 

Clear the Defrost Drain

The next thing to check is your defrost drain. This is the drain that carries frost melt-off from the freezer down into the evaporation pan below. If your defrost drain is covered, clogged, or otherwise blocked somewhere on the way down, you’re going to find yourself with a fridge leak. Find where the defrost drain begins in your freezer and prepare to check it.

Move any freezer items that might be blocking the defrost drain first. Ensure that nothing is sitting over the drain, soaking, or preventing melt-off from running through.

Pour a little hot vinegar down the drain to kill bacteria and test the flow. If the vinegar pours out the other end into the evaporation pan, then you’re golden. If the vinegar doesn’t come through, then there’s a clog that vinegar didn’t melt. Use a long pipe cleaner to clear the drain of any physical obstructions. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to replace the defrost drain tube. 

Check the Drain Pan

Now you’ll want to take a closer look at the drain pan, also known as the evaporation pan. What happens is that defrost run-off water is normally so minimal that it doesn’t need a real drain. Instead, it drains from the freezer into the drain pan. The water then sits in the drain pan long enough to evaporate so the pan doesn’t need to be emptied.

However, enough water drains to form a perceptible leak if the pan doesn’t do its job. Check your evaporation pan for cracks and leaks and make sure it is properly aligned under the defrost drain. If your drain pan is damaged, it can easily be replaced. 

Inspect the Water Lines

Still, no luck tracking down that leak? Pull your refrigerator slightly away from the wall and take a closer look at the water lines. There should be exactly one line for cold water running from the wall into the fridge. From there, you may also be able to see the fridge’s water lines that lead to the water filter and eventually to the ice maker.

Look closely at every water line and connection you can see. If the lines are wet, there is water leaking and running downhill, so check uphill from the wetness. If you see drips, the leak is somewhere in the water lines. Turn off the water before you begin checking, replacing, or re-securing water lines. If you’re not comfortable messing with the water lines, it’s okay to call a technician at this point. 

Suspect the Ice Maker

Finally, look at your ice maker with suspicion. In fact, take a closer look at your entire inner water system. If you have a water dispenser, check around for signs of beaded water and leaks. Change out your water filter, just in case. Then look very closely at your ice maker. Look for breaks, cracked lines, loose connections, and overflowing ice molds. If you find a flaw, look up how to repair or replace that aspect of your ice maker. 

—If your refrigerator is leaking, don’t worry. This is an easier problem to solve than you might think. Always start by leveling your fridge and checking the defrost-evaporation system. Make sure your defrost drain and line are clear and that the evaporation pan is ready to receive. Check the water lines, the water filter, the ice maker, and the water dispenser.

And if you still can’t figure it out, we’d be happy to help. A professional appliance technician can help you hunt down both the reason your fridge is leaking and how to solve it. Contact us today for a consultation on your leaky refrigerator. Whether it’s the defrost or water lines, we’ll get to the bottom of your fridge problem. 

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