Why Is My Fridge Water Dispenser Not Working?

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It happens to many of us — you put a glass up to your refrigerator water dispenser, and it sputters or nothing comes out. Here's why, and how to fix it.

Water Inlet Valve

The inlet valve allows water to flow from your home’s main water supply to the refrigerator.  A couple of issues could cause problems with your water inlet valve. Make sure to turn off the water to the fridge before doing any detective work.

The line supplying the fridge often contains a small screen where it connects. Debris can collect in that screen and limit the flow of water. Clean that screen with a toothbrush or try soaking it in distilled vinegar to loosen any stuck materials.

The other issue could lie with the solenoid valve that opens and closes, allowing the flow of water. Trace the water inlet line to the back panel of your fridge. Remove the panel where the line enters. Find the solenoid valve if you’re able and check its continuity with a multimeter. If it’s bad, replace it, or contact a service rep to complete the task.

Filter

This is an easy one. If your fridge has a filter in-line to the ice and water dispenser, it can get clogged. Most filters have a lifespan of a few months before you should change it out, just like a furnace filter. If you haven’t changed your filter in more six months, it’s probably time.

Over time, the filter can become increasingly clogged, reducing or blocking water output. Fortunately, this is typically a simple fix. Most filters are visible inside the fridge. Simply unscrew the old one and twist in the new one.

Note: Some filters require immersion in a glass of water before installing to activate the charcoal filter. Also, many new filters require pumping several glasses of water through the system before drinking one.

Frozen Line

The water line supplying the fridge can freeze in a few places. One is the ice cube maker in the freezer. Check the spot where the line dispenses water into the ice cube tray — you might notice a buildup of ice. If so, remove the ice cube maker and de-thaw the line with a hair dryer.

The line to the door water dispenser can also freeze. Fixing this can be as simple as pumping warm water into the spot where the line ends. Hardware and big box stores often don’t carry tubing small enough to fit inside your fridge’s dispenser tubing. This simple tool from IceSurrender (pictured below) connects to your fridge tubing line to pump warm water inside, melting the blockage.

IceSurrender Frozen Water Toolvia amazon.com

Water Dispenser Actuator

In the water dispenser, the plastic device you push your water glass against is called the actuator. It can also be the source of your fridge’s issues.

Make sure the actuator moves freely. The spot where the actuator pivots may be stuck. When the actuator depresses, it contacts the micro switch behind it. The micro switch — a tiny button that starts the flow of water — can be a problem source.

Micro Switch

When you push the micro switch, it activates a solenoid, which opens the valve that sends water to the door dispenser. If you can access the switch, test it with a multi-meter. Make sure to unplug the fridge first.

Dispenser Control Board

Some refrigerators power their water dispensers via an electronic control board. If the actuator and switch are working, the control board could be the problem.

If this is the case, there are many ways to fix it. Control boards are easily accessed on some fridges and not on others. Check your appliance’s manual for information or find it online. If the control board needs replacing, it may be time to call a licensed repair tech.

Shay Tilander
Shay Tilander is a senior editor at Family Handyman. When he's not enjoying family time with his wife and three boys, he loves tinkering with projects and geeking out on electronics.