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The Ultimate Guide


How to Repair Your Dishwasher

Repairing Dishwasher
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Did you know that you can do many common dishwasher repairs by yourself? While it may seem like an intimidating appliance, a dishwasher is, at its heart, a simple device that you can repair on your own.

  • 01 of 07

    How Your Dishwasher Works

    Close-up of woman unloading white dishes from dishwasher.
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    Understanding how your dishwasher works will help you repair the machine smoothly and safely. Your dishwasher heats water as high as 140 F in its lower basin (the area below the bottom rack) with a metal heating element. Spray arms pump that water over the dishes while dispensing detergent. After a second rinsing spray, the heating element kicks in again to dry the dishes. High temperature and water pressure mean that the door and other potential escape points must remain perfectly sealed.

    Most dishwasher issues center around basic, core functions such as those that require only simple tools and basic fix-it skills.

    For repairs that involve removing the dishwasher from its bay, follow the safety shut-down and removal procedures at the end of this tutorial.

  • 02 of 07

    Dishwasher Is Overflowing

    Young woman on phone with overflowing dishwasher
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    Located in the dishwasher basin, the float assembly is a saucer-shaped device that rises as water rises in the basin. When water reaches a certain height, the attached overfill float switch signals the dishwasher to cut off the water. If the float is not moving or switch not working, the water will keep rising until it overflows.

    Fixing the Float

    Often, fixing a stuck float is a simple matter of raising and lowering it by hand a few times to unstick it. The float needs to move freely in order to activate the switch. If this is not happening or if the float is visibly damaged, replace the entire float assembly.

    Fixing the Overfill Float Switch

    The float switch is a relay switch smaller than a cigarette lighter which allows or cuts off a low-voltage electrical current. Lift the float and listen carefully. If you hear a hard metallic click, there is a good chance that the switch itself is working correctly. If not, replace this inexpensive part.

    Access points to the float switch vary between models, so you will need to consult your owner's manual to find the location. Depending on your model, it may be located behind the machine or in front, under the toe kick.

    After performing shut-down procedures, locate the relay switch. Replacement is simple. The current switch will unsnap, with the new switch snapping in.

  • 03 of 07

    Dishwasher Door Is Leaking

    If water is dripping from the bottom or sides of your dishwasher door, most likely your door seal is no longer functioning properly and needs to be replaced. Your door may leak even though the machine is working well or it may be leaking in conjunction with overflow problems.

    Check Door Obstructions

    If the door is leaking at random times, it may be because you have loaded the machine improperly. Large items placed on the lower rack towards the sides may be imperceptibly preventing the door from firmly closing. Water may leak out as a result. Load large items far back, clear of the door. 

    Replace Door Seal

    The door seal, also called a tub gasket, degrades over time. Located on the machine (not the door), this seal is inexpensive and easy to replace.

    1. Pull the seal out by hand. Clean the channel with a mild mixture of dish soap and warm water, as debris will prevent the seal from adhering. Let the channel dry.
    2. Use a hair dryer on low heat to straighten out the seal as it will be creased and folded from being in the package.
    3. Press the seal into the channel, starting at the top and working down to the left and right sides.
  • 04 of 07

    Dishwasher Is Not Draining

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    When the dishwasher does not drain or drains slowly, your machine probably has a blockage that you can clear. Follow these steps in order:

    1. Look at the kitchen sink first. Your sink and dishwasher share a common drainage system. If the dishwasher drain is clogged, the sink might be, too.
    2. While under the sink, verify that the dishwasher's drain tube (a corrugated plastic tube) is not kinked. It should run in a smooth curve from the dishwasher to the drain.
    3. Check out your dishwasher drain filter at the bottom of the machine, in the basin. Some food particles pass through the filter. But the filter is designed to block larger particles. Clear by pulling the particles out (do not force them into the filter).
    4. If there are no visible particles, remove the filter cage by removing two screws from the top of the cage. After removing the cage, clear blockages.
    5. Shut down and remove the machine. Locate the plastic drain tube attached to the back of the machine. Detach it and blow into the tube. If air does not flow freely, the tube is blocked. Clear by forcefully running water into it in a sink. If the block is difficult to clear or the tube appears damaged, purchase a new one.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Dishwasher Is Not Cleaning Well Enough

    Spoons and plates in utensil drainer
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    It can be frustrating to run your dishwasher on a full cycle, only to discover caked-on food. Is your machine on the way out? Maybe not. For machines that aren't cleaning dishes well, try these things: 

    Clean the Spray Arms

    Water leads to mineral build up. Remove all spray arms and soak in vinegar to remove mineral deposits.

    Replace the Water Inlet Valve

    With many models, you can leave the machine in place (but you still need to perform shut-down procedures for safety).

    1. Remove the toe kick access panel. Remove the water line that attaches to the inlet valve.
    2. With Channellock pliers, remove the brass fitting, then with a hex-nut driver, remove the valve bracket from the machine.
    3. Remove the attached electrical harness. Attach the new inlet valve fitting, taking care to first wind Teflon tape on the threads.
    4. Reattach the assembly and the toe kick.
  • 06 of 07

    Dishwasher Is Not Drying the Dishes

    Teenage boy removing plates from dishwasher in kitchen
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    Dishes not dry after a full cycle? That metal horseshoe-shaped heating element at the bottom of the machine, in the basin, is in charge of drying operations. It is relatively inexpensive and is simple to replace.

    How to Replace the Heating Element

    1. Shut down the machine safely and remove it.
    2. On the back of the machine, locate the two wires that attach to the heating element terminals. With a flat head screwdriver, gently pry the wires loose.
    3. Set the wires on the floor, taking note of their positions (left or right).
    4. With a wrench, unscrew the two plastic retainer nuts. Sizes may vary, but typically you will use a 3/4-inch wrench.
    5. Go to the front of the machine and push it halfway back into its bay.
    6. Open the door and remove the lower rack.
    7. Remove the heating element. Since you have already loosened it from the back, it is only a matter of lifting it out.
    8. Replacement works in reverse, carefully tightening the retainer nuts to avoid cracking them.
  • 07 of 07

    Safe Shut-Down and Removal Procedures for Your Dishwasher

    Woman filling dishwasher, close-up
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    For all repairs that involve removing the machine from its location, follow these procedures:

    1. Turn off the circuit breaker at the service panel.
    2. Under the kitchen sink, shut off the water supply line. Disconnect the dishwasher drain and supply lines. Disconnect the power cord.
    3. Open the door. Unscrew the machine where it is attached to its metal frame.
    4. Open the door slightly to gain a hand-hold on the machine. Hold both sides of the door. Gently wiggle the machine side to side while pulling towards you.
    5. Do not open the door with the machine out of its bay as it can tip forward and injure you. Push halfway into the bay to prevent the machine from tipping.