A couple of years ago the water dispenser in my refrigerator started leaking. At the same time I also found that ice was plugging up the chute that allows water into the ice maker; whenever water was dispensed into the ice maker it would hit the ice plug in the chute and shoot water all over the freezer. So that was fun.
After a bit of quality time spent with Lady Internet, I found that these symptoms point to a bad solenoid valve where the water comes into the fridge. Basically, the solenoid slowly goes bad which lets a small amount of water leak out of the water dispenser and into the freezer compartment which slowly freezes and plugs up the water inlet to the ice maker.
This part was pretty cool in that it came with an info sheet from the manufacturer that showed exactly how to install it. That was a pleasant surprise since usually you're left to your own devices in figuring out how to replace the part.
I got it installed in about 30 minutes and then my water dispenser started working again. I still had to remove the ice maker and thaw out all of the ice that had accumulated everywhere, but after some work chipping away the ice and re-installing the ice maker I had that working too.
I also came away from this really impressed with the design of ice makers. They're compact and efficient and are really ingenious. Here's an article that talks about how they work (almost all ice makers use the same design). The article also has a really cool animation that shows how it works graphically.
|Closeup of the old solenoid valve|
|Aren't these awkward angles great? This is the bottom back corner of the fridge where the water solenoid lives|