DIY – Fix Your Refrigerator Water Dispenser

Some of you may remember this post about my refrigerator going bad. Well, to my dismay (and budget constraints), I didn’t get a French-door refrigerator like I wanted. So fixing it was the next option. One of the things I needed to fix was the water dispenser. 

I drink lots of water. Aside from my one to two cups of coffee/tea in the morning, it’s water for the rest of the day. I found that since my “fridge water” stopped working I’ve been drinking less and less water — which really affected my mood and health. I did not like drinking unfiltered tap water. The water out of my kitchen sink had a funny taste and I’ve been using the bathroom faucet to fill my glass. Not too appealing. (Sorry if you were a guest at my home. You may have gotten bathroom water.)

I knew this wasn’t going to last very long so I had to do something about it. One of the reasons we initially shut off the fridge water was because of a leaky water line. So I pulled out the fridge and found there was a crack in the line behind the fridge. That problem was an easy fix — I just cut the tube and re-inserted it into the line. The water worked again!

Then all of a sudden it stopped. SO FRUSTRATING!

It must be a frozen water line like I suspected in the past. The ice maker was still making ice (and not dispensing — that’s another story) and the water was not dispensing.

I tried silly tricks like sticking a weed whacker line in the tube (It didn’t work, it just got frozen in with the ice). I tried leaving the dispenser light on for 24 hours. (That didn’t work either.)  After much research, I found out that a frozen water dispenser line was a prevalent problem for my refrigerator model (GE GS-something-other). The way you can tell if the line is frozen is by doing a little test:

  1. Get some rags ready for leaks/spills.
  2. Remove the cover from the bottom of the fridge and pull out the water line located underneath the freezer door. You will see a blue connector.
  3. Pull the right tube out by pushing in the white part of the blue connector to release the tube. 
  4. Get a container to catch water from the tube and test the water line by pushing on the water dispenser switch.

 

test_line

If water comes out of the tube, the problem is a frozen line in your door. If water does not come out of the tube, your frozen line is in the refrigerator. 

My problem was a frozen water line in the door—And how do you fix something frozen?

You melt it.

I ordered  a Dispenser Water Tube Heater (Part No. WR49X10173) for GE Refrigerators. 

tubeheater
The line drawings in the instruction were confusing and I had to watch a lengthy video on YouTube to decipher it. So here are my instructions in a much shorter format, in less than 10 steps.

Step 1: UNPLUG YOUR FRIDGE. Very important. Electrocution is no fun.

Step 2: Remove the water catch and the frame of the water and ice dispenser. The frame is attached by tabs and you can carefully pry it off a section at a time until the whole thing detaches. (It would be a good time to de-crust that water catch — you know  you need to.)

frame

Step 3: Remove the button panel and circuit board. Don’t be afraid, it sounds a lot worse than it is. If you take a peek under the panel, you will see three holes towards the front of the door. Just poke a small screwdriver in one of the holes and the panel will pop out. 

remove_panel

Step 4: Unplug the wires from the circuit board. These aren’t the easiest things to remove — especially the 6-prong one. So you may need to wiggle it… just a little bit (at the groove). It will eventually come out. These are the wires that control the water, ice dispenser and light.

circuit

Step 5: Remove the dispenser housing. Easy enough – just unscrew in the 4 corners using a phillips screwdriver. 

unscrew_housing

 You will need to untangle some wires. Two sets of wires stay with the housing, so don’t freak out when you can’t find them hanging off the fridge. (It would be a good time to clean the dispenser unit, too.)

housing_removedStep 6: Clean the indentation. You see how the water heater is perfectly shaped like the indentation in the fridge?

heaterlocation

That indentation needs to be cleaned. Wet a cotton ball or swab with rubbing alcohol and get cleaning.

clean_indentation

Step 7: Seal the water tube with silicone caulk. It’s the same stuff you’d put around your tub. This will prevent the water from leaking onto the heater. Remember to keep the indentation clean while you’re doing this. Allow to dry. You might want to plug your fridge back in as it’s drying so your food doesn’t go bad. Remember to unplug before you continue the next steps.

seal_watertube

 

Step 8: Apply the heater. Remove the backing from the heater and adhere it to the fridge, matching the indentation.

apply_heater

Step 8: Splice the wires. Here’s the fun part. Electricity has to get this heater working, right? That means you need to connect the two wires from the heater to an existing electricity source. No fear – that’s what I’m here for. Take a look at your set of 6 wires hanging off the fridge. (Un-tape them if they’re taped together.) You will only be working with the red wire (second wire) and the black and white wire (last wire).

20130615_130530

This is where you’ll be glad that the fridge is unplugged. Start at about 2 inches from the fridge: Get the red splicers that came with the kit, insert one heater wire on the outer hole of the splicer, then slide the red wire in the groove next to the white wire. Push down on the metal piece of the splicer with pliers, making sure that it’s going through both the red and white wires. Close the splicer. Do the same with the black and white wire and the remaining heater wire.

splice_redwire

 Step 9.  Reassemble. No specific instructions for this (just go backwards from step 5). Make sure that you get the spliced wires arranged in a way that you can re-attach the circuit board. Make sure it’s all working by testing out the light and ice dispenser.

Now it’s fixed! Give the heater some time to do its magic. I went away for two hours and when I got back I had running water from my fridge. Yay!

This project took me about 10 minutes (not including the drying time for the caulk). If I would have hired someone to fix it, it would have cost me in the triple digits! I only spent $35 on the part. **Pats self on back** Good job, Leese, good job. 

Moral of the story: If it’s broke, just fix it.

If you can follow instructions, you’re well on your way. 

The best part was that my daughter was watching me. She said, “Mom, you’re so cool. You can fix pretty much anything! How do you know how to fix stuff?”  Okay, I may have added the “cool” part. But nevertheless, she was impressed. I know that one day she will have the confidence to pick up some tools and not be afraid to tinker with things. 

Now to fix that darn ice dispenser.

Have you found yourself impressed with something that you’ve fixed around the house? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below!

14 thoughts on “DIY – Fix Your Refrigerator Water Dispenser

  1. Your “bottom of the fridge line check” helped me figure that my line was frozen in the freezer door. Since this has never happened in the 4 years I’ve owned it, I raised the temp & then used a blow dryer to melt the line ice. If I keep having problems I’ll do as you did. Thx!

  2. Been hunting the internets all night in search of usable instructions, and you win. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this post! The only problem I had was trying to get enough length in the spliced wire bundle to reach the control board plug. The splice connectors wouldn’t allow enough length as the dispenser housing was cramped. After fiddling with it for hours, I used a hacksaw and just cut out enough room for the splice connectors to poke through the dispenser housing. Problem solved!!

  4. I am very impressed with the tutorial and the pictures that you provided. Thanks a lot!
    Solved our problem with a hair dryer. Lowered the temp in the freezer compartment. I hope that will keep it from happening again. Fridge is in a condo so goes without dispensing ice or water for weeks at a time.

  5. This happened to my GE side by side. I blew warm air up the tube with a blow dryer (off to the side so the water would not drip into the blow dryer) for about 2 minutes. Then stuck a piece of flexible plastic (weed eater line or a nylon zip tie will work) into the water dispenser tube and fed it up the line to loosen the melting ice. Pressed the lever and out came the water! I ran a gallon of water through for good measure and it all took about 5 minutes.

  6. Hey Leese,
    Great instructions. I am an appliance repairman and come across this issue a LOT!

    It’s tough to tell someone they need to pay $180 to have a heater installed. (due to poor design!)

    It led me to create a tool that thaws the frozen line in about 30 seconds. It allows you to squirt microwaved hot water directly on the ice inside the line.

    I thought some of your readers may want to know. Thanks!

    IceSurrender Frozen Waterline Tool:
    http://www.GraceAppliance.com/IceSurrender

  7. I tried all the suggested fixes including blow dryer and even the device with the syringe and IV tubing that the repair guy is selling (I made myself one). The blow dryer didn’t touch it, the syringe thing worked, but it froze right back up. I even paid $120ish for the repairman to come out to tell me that there was only one fix: buying a new freezer door for $700+. I bought the heater device on amazon for around the $35 that was mentioned. I actually didn’t install it right away because I was kind of nervous about the splicing wires part (I’ve never done that before). But, I finally took the leap and installed the heater. In my opinion, the hardest part was applying the silicon caulk, which wasn’t hard, just a little messy. The rest was a breeze. And it works beautifully now. I actually used the syringe thing one more time after installing the heater so I could start using the water dispenser right away, and just let the heater do it’s thing after that. No more frozen lines!! Yayy!

  8. Just FYI, if you call GE and let them know you are aware this is an ongoing issue with all side-by-side water dispensers,they will give you the heater kit for $10 not including s/h . It cost me $17 and shipped to my house. I called the customer relations department.

  9. I love this post. My only problem is that it comes from inside the refrigerator instead of the door. If someone makes a post about the water line freezing in the fridge instead of the door, that’ll help me out A LOT! This post was awesome though. My mom and I are going through this right now and it is tiring and chaos. The water does not come out of the tube AT ALL.

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