Help, We Lost the Ice Cube Recipe!
When I left for work at noon on Friday I had checked to be sure that the ice machine was dropping a batch of cubes every 20 minutes or so, and it was.
When I returned from work at 2:15 a few of the inmates told me that the machine was not working and had not dropped a tray of cubes all afternoon and the ice box was empty. I knew that we were going to be running out of ice as it was quite warm and we had been using all the ice up and leaving the box empty a few times this week.
My first thought was just that someone had filled their five gallon buckets and managed to use all the ice. I could hear the water running over the tray so at this point my only thought was to unplug the machine and let it sit for a half hour and see if the rest did it any good.
I was on my way out to music practice and arranged with the officer and another inmate to plug the machine back in and see what happens. When I returned a 5:00 PM the inmate that was assisting me said that right after I left someone plugged the machine back in and took off the sign I had put up asking that the machine be left unplugged.
The machine had not dropped any ice and I could still hear the water being pumped over the ice tray and could feel a cool spot on the top of the machine on what should be the cold side.
It made no sense. Now you have to realize I can not see any of the interior of the machine and have no tools to remove the screws that fasten the top and front panels of the machine.
I asked the officer if he would allow me to attempt to remove the screws from the top of the machine and that if I could accomplish that I might be able to figure out why we were not getting ice. He gave his approval.
The only thing that I had that comes close to a tool is my toenail and fingernail clippers. It is against the rules to modify any personal property in any way. I was able to separate the handle parts from each of the clippers and using the handle from the fingernail clipper and the body of the toenail clipper I fashioned a crude t-wrench that allowed me to remove the four Phillips head screws. The front panel was not really screwed in and once the top was off, I was able to remove the front panel.
Now I am certainly not yet an expert on ice machine repair, but I let out a cry of delight and announced to the inmates watching me that we would have ice this weekend.
What I saw when the front cover was removed was a solid block of ice. What had somehow happened was that when the ice was at the proper thickness to be dumped, it did not get the signal, and so continued to run the water across the vertical tray. This now made clear why the machine felt cold on top, and I could hear the water circulating.
What we now had was a tray of 206 ice cubes attached to a two inch solid piece of ice. Once the machine missed the dump cycle, it just kept building the ice up till it was pushing on the framework and would never have dumped out. I knew that I was partially correct in my initial thought to try and leave the machine unplugged, but not sure if it would have melted in the half hour I wanted to let the machine rest. Those of you that remember (or still have) the single door refrigerators (non-self-defrosting), know what happens when the freezer compartment builds up all that ice.
I defrosted the machine by pouring hot water over the tray and then restarted the machine. In the process of babysitting the machine I discovered a way to force the machine to go into the dump mode, and so between the machine dropping the ice on its own and us catching it when it started to build up too much ice, I have managed to keep us in ice throughout the weekend.
First thing Monday morning I am going to bring up the spare machine we have in the shop and make sure I go over this machine with a knowledgeable expert to find out what parts need to be replaced to get the machine back in working again.
I freely admit that I had no idea what I was doing. As far as I can tell at this point I have done no permanent damage to the machine. Hopefully I have earned some valuable brownie points with some of the inmates. Others still want to say I did nothing special or was responsible for the machine breaking in the first place. Those are the ones that do not under any circumstances admit I might just be a little smarter than the average and willing to do extra for the benefit of others.
Meanwhile, I know I still have a good head on my shoulders and can figure out mechanical things without the benefit of any prior knowledge. I do know one important thing about sticking your hands and arms inside the working compressor area. Some of the copper tubing is very hot to the touch! And I have to admit that I have learned that the hard way quite a few times while reaching in to the box to make it dump a tray of cubes.
Time to go and check it again. Bye for now.