Assessing Ice Machines

Replacing a water pump makes sense, but refrigeration systems? Consider a new unit.

repair or replace ice machines

Ice machines will often pool water if they’re not taken offline correctly, making them an especially difficult piece of equipment to restart after dormancy. And, as COVID-19 closures have put some foodservice operations on hold for weeks or months, any shutdown longer than a week requires a thorough cleaning, sanitization and inspection of an ice machine.

Sometimes, these inspections will discover problems. Knowing whether these problems arise from parts that need to be cleaned or repaired—or whether it’s time to buy a new ice machine altogether— can save time, money and headaches. The good news: A well-maintained ice machine that was properly taken offline is unlikely to present problems when it’s restarted. With a thorough cleaning and sanitization, it should be back to producing safe, efficient ice.

Dean Wayne, a service sales representative with General Parts Group, recommends a professional cleaning by a service technician to replace filters, run the machine through a few cycles, and diagnose any potential trouble spots. He also suggests replacing water feed tubes at a cost of less than $20 each, rather than cleaning them. Cleaned tubes might still appear darkened, which might catch the eye of health inspectors.

Another common issue that’s larger, but still repairable, is a water pump failure, often caused by a diaphragm that’s dry-rotted. A technician can diagnose this easily; Wayne estimates the cost of a service call to replace that part at roughly $500, much less than replacing the entire machine.

When there are issues with the condenser, evaporator or compressors, it’s worth considering the age of the machine. Most ice machines have five-year warranties that cover repairs to those parts. A machine that’s older than five years, especially if it’s in the seven to 10-year range, is a better candidate for replacement, as it’s nearing the end of its lifespan anyway, says one ice machine manufacturer. In older machines, any problem that would require a new refrigeration system will be less cost-effective than simply replacing the machine.

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