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How to troubleshoot your refrigerator water dispenser



Cold filtered water is one of the most refreshing and convenient comforts of a home. Not only is a glass of water healthy, but it’s also clean and delicious, thanks to purifying filters. In many homes, the refrigerator water dispenser is one of the most used features of a kitchen. So, it becomes a major inconvenience when it malfunctions.

Is the dispenser no longer dispensing water? Does the ice maker still work? Is there a weak water flow or spraying? There are many reasons why your refrigerator water dispenser might be acting up. Luckily, troubleshooting a water dispenser issue is an easy task for a handy homeowner.


Why is my fridge water dispenser not working?

There are many reasons why a water dispenser might stop working. Many of these issues are easy to identify and resolve. Only a few need extra tools or the help of a handyman. Best of all, a broken water dispenser likely doesn’t require replacing the refrigerator.

Here are some of the most common problems that cause a water dispenser to stop working and how to solve them.

Dirty or clogged water filter

Refrigerator water filters keep the water clean, healthy and delicious. They remove impurities, sediment and odor in tap water. But this means that they tend to get dirty. Manufacturers recommend replacing your filter every six months, especially if you use your dispenser frequently. Filter replacement is essential for refrigerator maintenance.

If you don’t replace your filters, they can get clogged. This issue will keep water from moving through them and prevent it from dispensing. So, if your water filter is not dispensing water, the water comes out in a slow stream, or the water seems dirty, check your water filter. A new filter will increase the flow of water and improve the quality of your drinking water.

Frozen water supply

Did you know that the water dispenser tube often runs through your freezer? It’s often the case when your refrigerator also has an ice dispenser. One of the most common reasons your refrigerator water dispenser isn’t working is because the water line has frozen.

To determine if this is the problem, locate the water line and follow it to check for ice. You can also blow air through the water line to check for blockages. Defrost a frozen line using a hair dryer on the lowest setting. If you cannot thaw the line with a hair dryer, you can buy a tube and syringe that will fit in the water line. Simply pump warm water into the line to melt the ice.

Frozen lines don’t just affect the water dispenser. Check for ice along the water line if your ice maker is also acting up. Make sure to remove any icy buildup where the water line meets the ice maker. 

Set your freezer to the proper temperature to prevent the water line from freezing again. Freezers should be set between zero and 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water line clog

While checking for a frozen water line, also check for clogs. A water line can clog due to buildup, especially if the water filters are old, allowing sediment through. The water line can also twist, bend and become kinked, causing a blockage and stopping water from flowing through the line. 

To check if there is a blockage, you can blow air through the line. You can also follow the line through the system, checking for bends and clogs. If you find a clog, flush out the water line with vinegar and baking soda. This tactic should remove the clog, clean the water line, and keep the line safe for drinking water. 

Broken water dispenser control board

When you first discover a problem with the refrigerator water dispenser, you might think it’s the control board. Perhaps one of the switches or sensors is no longer working. Luckily, there is a quick way to determine if this is the problem. Are any of the other dispensers working? Are the lights on the control panel working? If so, then the control board isn’t the problem. It’s unlikely that only one function would stop working.

But if the ice dispenser or indicator lights aren’t working, the control board could be faulty. First, check for an electrical current using a multimeter. Replace the control board if there is no power. While some control boards are easy to replace, call a professional for more complicated brands.

Blocked water inlet valve

The next place to check when you have problems with your water dispenser is right at the source. The water inlet valve is where your fridge connects with your home water-supply line. This valve can become clogged or broken over time. First, turn off your home’s water supply and unplug your refrigerator. Next, locate the valve behind the rear panel at the back of the fridge. 

Check the valve for damage or leaks and replace it if needed. Inspect the small screen inside the valve. It can become clogged over time. Clean it with a toothbrush and some distilled vinegar. If the valve itself is in good condition and clear, it might not be getting power.

If you feel capable and have a multimeter, you can check the power to the water valve. First, locate the solenoid coils. Then disconnect the two wires and use the multimeter to determine if they are working properly. If not, call a technician for a replacement. If you don’t feel comfortable working with electronics, call a professional to inspect the inlet valve’s power connection. 

Water pressure too low

Water pressure is vital for a water dispenser to work. The intake valve must have a water pressure of at least 20 psi to move water through the line, while 30 psi is average. If the home’s water pressure isn’t at that level, a dispenser will not work. If a dispenser stops working even though it has the required psi, water pressure could still be the issue and suggests a leak in the water line. 

To troubleshoot a water-pressure issue, check the water pressure at various points along the water line. Start at the intake valve and follow the line through the fridge. If you lose water pressure at any point, it can indicate a leak in the line. A simple patch or replacing the water line will fix the problem. 

What if there isn’t enough water pressure at the intake valve? This could mean a change in low water pressure throughout the home. You can test your water pressure using a water-pressure gauge. Water-pressure problems result from subpar plumbing, pipe buildup, or an issue within the city or neighborhood. Depending on your home, you may be able to increase your water pressure using a valve next to your water meter. But if your home has a water-pressure problem, you may want to call a professional and investigate further.

Faulty dispenser switch

If the control board is working, the problem could be a faulty dispenser switch. This micro switch tells the dispenser to dispense water. If it is stuck or not powered up, it won’t work. Simply locate the switch. Make sure it is clear and turns on when pressed. Then unplug the refrigerator and use a multimeter to check for an electrical current.


Other causes of a broken refrigerator water dispenser

While these are the most common water dispenser issues, there can be other problems throughout the system. Look for these other causes of a broken water dispenser.

  • Broken door switch. The refrigerator door and freezer door must close to dispense water. Check that the door switch is not blocked or broken.
  • Water dispenser actuator. The lever or pad you press your glass against triggers the dispenser switch, which is the dispenser actuator. If it is stuck or broken, it won’t trigger the switch.
  • Dispenser tube. A blocked, kinked or twisted dispenser tube can cause water to leak or spray. It can also block water from dispensing.


Discover how a Cinch warranty covers refrigerators and other major home appliances

If you’re worried about the cost of needing refrigerator repair, make sure you are protected with Cinch Home Services. Cinch home warranty plans can cover refrigerators, free-standing ice makers and other major appliances. The Cinch Appliances Plan comes with a $25 credit for fridge filters and a 180-day workmanship guarantee for covered repairs. 

Find a Cinch home warranty plan that works for you and get a quote today.


Is your refrigerator water dispenser not working? Here are a few ways to troubleshoot the problem and fix the issue.