Keep Your Ice Machine Running Smoothly

One Critical Step to Keeping Your Ice Machine Alive

Taking care of your commercial ice maker requires a few simple steps that you probably do on a regular basis. That includes cleaning the air filter, cleaning and descaling the interior of the machine, and changing the water filter when it's time. There's another crucial step that may not have made it to your maintenance checklist: making sure your ice machine's mechanical components are well-lubricated.

Ice Machine Compressor Oil

All ice makers have one big component in common: the refrigerant compressor. This is the component responsible for circulating refrigerant through the system, removing heat from the evaporator to create the freezing temperatures necessary to make ice. The lubrication in an ice machine compressor is handled by oil that circulates with the refrigerant itself.

Because an ice maker compressor and refrigeration circuit are part of a closed system, compressor oil will likely never need to be added to your commercial ice machine. Should your machine's components become damaged or worn in a way that would let the compressor oil escape, the first sign would likely be that your machine stops making ice or begins to take longer than usual to make ice under normal operating conditions. That's because any puncture that would let the compressor lubricant escape would also allow the refrigerant to escape.

If you suspect that your ice machine has developed a leak in its compressor or refrigerant lines, you should contact a factory-certified repair technician immediately. Only a professional will be able to diagnose and repair refrigerant leaks, and only a service company that's been certified by the ice machine manufacturer will be able to provide the right refrigerant and oil mixture for your machine and advise which components may need to be repaired and if any should be replaced. Using a service company that isn't certified by the manufacturer can potentially void the machine's warranty.

Lubricating an Ice Machine Auger

In addition to the compressor, nugget and flake ice machines contain another critical component that must be maintained: the auger. This corkscrew-shaped component is responsible for cutting flake and nugget ice into their respective forms. The auger turns on ball bearings, which must stay properly lubricated in order for the machine to work properly.

Checking that your ice machine auger assembly is properly greased is something that your service technician should do each time he pays a visit for repairs or a routine checkup on your equipment. The ball bearing is usually sealed inside the auger assembly, so unless there's an obvious sign of malfunction, it may be impossible to assess whether the auger is well-greased without disassembling part of the machine. Make sure it's part of your service agreement that the auger components are checked when your technician pays a visit.

Following the ice machine manufacturer's recommended cleaning and descaling routine will go a long way in keeping that component running smoothly. Stress on the auger from mineral buildup can force seals on the auger assembly to rupture, causing the lubricating grease to leak out. If you see grease leaking from around the ice machine auger, your equipment may be in danger of breaking down and you should contact your maintenance technician immediately.

Because the auger is inside the ice machine's "food zone", only food-grade lubricant can be used to grease your ice maker motor. Your service technician will have this grease in stock. Contact your ice machine manufacturer to determine which lubricant is appropriate for your machine.

If you have questions about keeping your commercial ice machine in top shape, call us at 1-888-682-2518 or send us an e-mail at