Fix that leaky water line without completely removing the refrigerator by following the instructions in this do-it-yourself project.
By Bill Hendrix, F761S
There is one vulnerable water line on RV refrigerators equipped with an ice maker “” the line that runs from the water solenoid valve up the back of the refrigerator to the ice maker’s fill tube connection. This water line is in a very hostile environment where it is subjected to extreme temperatures that may bring about deterioration of the plastic, subsequently allowing water to leak into the refrigerator compartment with every water-fill cycle. The ice maker may continue to operate, but it will yield progressively smaller cubes because of the leakage. Plus, the leaking water may result in damage to the cabinet and the motorhome’s floor.
Since the upper end of the water line is inaccessible (unless an upper side vent is present), the common solution is to remove the refrigerator from the cabinet to gain access to the fill tube connection in order to replace the line. Removing the refrigerator completely would involve some very awkward heavy lifting. However, there is another method that does not require total removal or lifting of the refrigerator. This alternative brings the refrigerator far enough forward to allow it to be turned sideways until the connection is exposed.
Before starting this project, purchase the replacement line. If freeze protection is a factor, purchase the identical equipment with the heated line from Dometic or Norcold. Be sure to give the model number of the refrigerator, as the replacement part is model-specific. If freeze protection is not needed, my first choice would be the “GE SmartConnect Universal Icemaker Water Supply Line,” which is made of Merflex PEX 1/4-inch OD (outside diameter) plastic tube and is available at Home Depot. This $8 kit is intended to connect a residential refrigerator to a water source. The 72-inch tube has two preformed flares and brass nuts of the proper size for the RV water valve, but only one will be used. The next choice, mostly because of common availability, would be 1/4-inch OD polytube. If you choose this route, you will need to reuse the original white plastic nut for the connector to the water valve.
It would be best to turn off the refrigerator and to unload and defrost it before starting this project. Remove the lower outside vent door; unplug the 120-volt-AC cord; and secure the power cord to the cooling unit. Remove the 12-volt-DC positive and negative wires from the low-voltage terminal block, being careful not to short out and blow a fuse. Tape the end of the positive wire and secure both out of the way. Shut off the LP gas at the tank and use two wrenches to break the gas connection. Back off the nut and, with as little flexing as possible, move the LP line so that it is clear when the refrigerator is moved forward. Secure the condensation drain tube to the rear of the refrigerator. Unscrew the water line from the water valve and disconnect the related heat tape wires.
Normal refrigerator installation will have four screws on the front: two upper screws often concealed by the top panel and two lower screws usually near the corners of the hinge plate. There will usually be two larger screws on or near the lower rails in the rear. Refer to the installation instructions or call the RV manufacturer if you have a problem locating the attachment screws. Remove all the attachment screws and get ready to move the refrigerator forward. This will take two people, one on the outside pushing and one on the inside pulling. Move the refrigerator forward approximately eight to 10 inches.
Now you will need something that can support the weight of the refrigerator. This can be a step stool, a cooler, a toolbox, a storage crate, or virtually any item that can support the unit as it is pulled from the cabinet. It is very important that the support be the same height as the distance from the floor to the bottom of the refrigerator cabinet.
When the refrigerator is almost out of the cabinet, and being held up by the support apparatus, rotate the refrigerator sufficiently to access the fill tube connection. Leave the far corner securely resting on the cabinet with your helper stabilizing the refrigerator as the old line is disconnected from the fill tube. This connection will be secured with a spring clamp or a small worm-drive clamp. Remove the clamp and extract the old line from the connection. From the rear, pull the old line out. If you are not using the exact factory replacement item, use the old line to measure the new one, but give yourself an extra inch or two. The new line should be inserted 5/8-inch into the fill tube connection, so place a mark 5/8-inch from the end. After pulling the new line into place, put a clothespin on the end of the line to prevent the spring clip from sliding off. Snug the line into the fill tube to the 5/8-inch mark and secure the connection with the spring clip (or worm clamp).
There will be Permagum sealant around the fill tube. Be sure the fill tube is firmly against the rear of the refrigerator and the Permagum is making an airtight seal. Tape the new tube to the rear of the case to prevent it from loosening due to vibration.
Now you are ready to return the refrigerator to its cabinet. Just reverse the removal process. Be sure to use two wrenches when tightening the gas connection and test for leaks with leak detector fluid or a soapy solution. When tightening the water connector, do not over-torque, as the plastic threads on the water valve can strip.
If you do not feel comfortable with any part of this project, take the motorhome to a service center and let a professional technician do the job.