How to fix a leaky refrigerator by replacing a cracked refrigerator water supply valve and broken plastic water lines for the ice maker and door dispenser. The plastic valve and water lines had become brittle and failed due to heat and age.
I noticed a bead of water along the bottom of the kitchen cabinets that lead back to the refrigerator. I asked my wife if she’d seen that before, she replied with a grin “No, but I guess we need a new refrigerator! I’ll drive!” I’m thinking “Uh oh – this could be expensive! I want to see what’s wrong first.”
Why is my Refrigerator Leaking Water?
I pulled the 9 year old Frigidaire Gallery refrigerator, model #FRS24BGGB2, away from the wall. The leak was coming from the corner near the water valve that serves the ice maker and chilled water door dispenser. I felt along the plastic water line connections at the blue plastic water valve and it was wet. Bingo! Found the problem.
The immediate task is stopping the water leak until I can fully diagnose the problem. I shut off the water supply valve at the wall.
How to Fix a Leaky Refrigerator
Remove the Refrigerator Water Supply Valve
Unplug the refrigerator so you don’t get shocked or electrocuted! The water supply valve is next to the main wiring harness and compressor motor – not a good combination when wet.
The water supply valve bracket is held by a single hex screw that’s simple to remove with a driver and socket:
The cause of the refrigerate water leak is became very apparent. As I removed the blue water supply valve, the plastic tube for the chilled water dispenser broke off. In fact both plastic water tubes were brittle and yellow due to heat from the refrigerator compressor motor:
I also discovered a very fine stream of water squirting from a stress crack in the blue plastic body of the refrigerator water valve. In fact, the leak was caused by several problems:
- Both plastic water lines for the ice maker and door dispenser were brittle and yellowed from heat and age. The tubes had cracked and were leaking at the water valve fitting.
- The water valve body has a stress fracture and was leaking.
I unplugged the wiring harness then disconnected the refrigerator water supply hose with a wrench:
The cracked and broken refrigerator water lines can be seen in the next photo. That big black bell shaped object is the refrigerator compressor; be careful – it’s hot!
Now I need to figure out where to get replacement parts.
Refrigerator Water Valve and Line Repair
I need to replace both the water supply valve and cracked ice maker and door dispenser water supply lines. I wrote down the Frigidaire model # from the sticker on the inside roof of the refrigerator and Googled my number and the term “water valve”, finding a number of appliance parts stores with replacement valves and prices. I didn’t order online because I wanted to fix it today, so I went to Google Maps and searched for “appliance parts” to find stores near me.
I called the appliance parts store near me and they confirmed they had the water valve and tubes. When I arrived at the store counter, I had the choice of two pumps: 1) $84 for the Frigidaire valve or 2) $33 for a substitute GE valve that was recommend by several of the online parts stores.
I asked to see the GE water valve, part #WR57X10051 and compared it to my original Frigidaire water valve. There were some differences, but the GE bracket would fit and the GE valve had the new style push-fit hose connectors. The GE pump also terminal adapters for the electrical connections to fit my wiring harness. Not wanting to spend an extra $50 for no apparent benefit, I bought the GE water valve and a set of 5/16″ and 1/4″ plastic water tubes.
Comparison of the new and old water valves:
The new valve has the push-fit quick style hose connects – just press in the water tube. To disconnect the water line, press the plastic ring inward and pull the tube out. The mechanism works really well and require no tools.
Based on my Frigidaire Refrigerator model number, the store clerk sold me the following replacement water tubes for the ice maker and door water dispenser.
Refrigerator Ice Maker 1/4″ Plastic Water Tube Part #: B5705307. Cost $4.20
Frigidaire 5/16″ plastic water tube, part #218976409 for the door water dispenser. Cost $19.56. Wow! Don’t know why this slightly larger tube is so expensive!
I asked the sales clerk what’s the difference between these plastic water tubes versus buying a generic tube at the hardware store. She said you have to be careful to get the right type of plastic or it will affect the taste of the water.
Refrigerator Water Line Union
I recognized right away that I didn’t want to tear apart the refrigerator to replace the chilled water door dispenser plastic tube. My plan is to cut off about 6 inches of the brittle and yellowed old water lines and splice a new section of tube between it and the water valve. The person at the appliance parts store recommended a John Guest 5/16″ push-fit union, part #PPM040BW. Just want I needed!
The John Guest push-fit union is another one of those “no tool” designs. Just insert the plastic tube until it seats fully for a secure water tight connection. To release the tube, press the ring inward and pull.
The John Guest products remind me of the SharkBite copper plumbing fittings I used in the Basement Bathroom project.
Now that I have the required repair parts I’m ready to complete the job.
Refrigerator Water Valve and Line Repair
The plastic water line for the chilled water door dispenser goes under the refrigerator and routes somewhere inside the refrigerator compartment – exactly where I don’t know. Replacing the entire door dispenser tube would require removing interior panels which is way more effort than I want to get into. But there is another way – cut off the brittle and yellowed end of the heat damaged plastic water tube, then splice on a new section with the John Guest press-fit union.
Be sure to keep the insulating jacket from the original tube which will be reused.
Heat from the refrigerator compressor has damaged the upper section of the refrigerator door dispenser water tube, which has turned yellow and brittle. The tube is covered by the black fabric insulating jacket but this only delayed the heat damage over several years.
I’ll cut off the yellowed section and splice the undamaged white section of refrigerator water line:
After cutting off the damaged end of the plastic tube, the John Guest 5/16″ press-fit union is installed to splice in the new water line:
Refrigerator Water Line Repair Steps
The steps to complete the water line splice and connect the valve are:
- Cut a 1 foot or so length of new plastic water line from the roll – make it much longer than needed.
- Insert the water line into the John Guest Union.
- Hold the water valve bracket against the refrigerator frame in its mounting position. The valve bracket has a hook that fits in the refrigerator frame that makes this easy. You can also fasten the bracket with the single mounting screw if you need a third hand.
- Hold the end of the tube next to the water valve inlet, allowing about 1″ of length to insert the tube into the valve. Check the tube has a generous curve with no pinching or kinks. You’ll need to lay on the floor here to see under the valve.
- Make the cut. A utility knife works well.
- Insert the tube into the water valve.
- Check for kinks and pinches in the tube and union. Everything fits good?
- Unhook the valve bracket from the refrigerator frame and lay it on the floor.
- Measure and cut the insulation jacket to span the tube between the water valve and union.
- Press the quick connection ring on the water valve inlet and remove the tube.
- Slip the insulation jacket over the tube.
- Reinsert the tube into the water valve.
The 5/16″ door dispenser water line with the union and splice is shown in the next photo. I’ve also inserted the 1/4″ ice maker plastic water tube into the new valve and reused the black insulation jacket. Install the full 6 foot length of 1/4″ ice maker tubing because it will be measured and cut to length in a later step.
Install the Water Valve Mounting Bracket
Reattach the wiring harness and fasten the water valve with the hex screw to the refrigerator:
Ice Maker Water Supply Hookup
The refrigerator ice maker water line simply lays against the back of the refrigerator and connects the the ice maker inlet near the top. Route the plastic tube behind the electrical cord and other hoses, taking care to avoid kinks and pinches. Allow about 1″ of tube for the ice maker inlet and cut off any excess length (> 4 inches) of tubing.
Before you insert the tube into the ice maker fitting, slip a small band clamp over the tube – see 2nd photo below. The ice maker fitting is very snug by itself and carries very little water pressure – if you don’t have a band clamp then a zip tie will do.
I used a small band clamp to secure the ice maker tube. Tighten the clamp lightly so as not to crush the rubber inlet or plastic tube, you don’t need much force here.
Refrigerator Water Supply Hookup
Remove the black dust cover plastic cap from the refrigerator water valve inlet and thread the water supply hose on by hand so as not to cross thread the connection. The compression fitting requires no plumbers tape or other sealant:
After threading the hose on by hand, tighten the nut with a wrench. When the nut is snug, tighten an extra 1/4 to 1/2 turn.
Leak Testing the New Valve and Tubes
Check that all fittings and the floor are dry, wiping up any water drips that may have fallen out of the water hoses.
With the refrigerator electrical cord still unplugged, turn on the main water valve at the wall. Check the hose fittings and water valve for leaks with a flashlight. Feel around for any leaks. Everything leak free? If not, either tighten the hose nut and/or check the press-fit water line connections are fully seated.
When your satisfied there are no leaks, plug in the refrigerator. Fill several glasses of water from the door dispenser to flush the lines and check for debris in the water. Open the freezer and make sure the ice maker arm is in the down position to trigger the ice maker operation.
After 15 minutes recheck for everything for leaks before calling it a success and roll the refrigerator back against the wall. Take care not to pinch the water supply hose or roll over the electrical cord.
Refrigerator Leak Repair Cost
My total cost for the repair parts was $64.63 consisting of:
- $33.01 for the GE Water Valve Part # WR57X10051
- $19.56 for the 5/16″ by ~6 foot door dispenser plastic water tube
- $4.20 for the 1/4″ by ~6 foot ice maker water tube
- $4.20 for the 5/16″ John Guest brand press-fit union
with $3.66 sales tax.
The repair required about 45 minutes.
Appliance Parts Store Advice
The sales clerk at the appliance parts store was very knowledgeable and seemed to have the entire warehouse memorized. I asked “What’s the most reliable brand of appliance in your opinion?” Her advice was:
- Avoid all the “bells and whistles” when buying a new appliance because the high-tech features require computer electronics that tend not to last and require the replacement of a $500 circuit board when it breaks. Hmm, guess I won’t be buying that “smart” Internet-connected smart refrigerator.
- Don’t buy foreign brands like Bosch and LG because her store doesn’t carry replacement parts. This isn’t a statement on quality, but the practicality of easily getting replacement parts.
While I was waiting at the counter, an appliance repairman who was picking up parts saw my water valve and cracked plastic tubing on the counter. He said he sees the heat damaged, brittle and leaking plastic water lines all the time, saying “It’s a common problem”.
Thanks for reading,