5 Common Dishwasher Problems

Question 1: Why doesn’t my dishwasher work at all?

Answer 1: If your dishwasher doesn’t work at all, check the power supply, door latch switch, selector switch and timer, and the wiring. If your model has a child lock-out feature, verify that the feature is set to the Off position. Make sure cycle has ended. Make sure the Delay Start option is not set for a delayed start.
If you can, verify that you have power at the dishwasher. This might be difficult because many dishwashers are wired directly into the household wiring under the counter. Usually only the portable dishwashers get plugged into a wall outlet. You will also want to check your fuse box or circuit breaker panel for a blown fuse or tripped breaker.
The door latch switch is a safety switch that prevents the dishwasher from working if it is defective. When working properly, the switch doesn’t allow power through it when the plunger is out, and it allows power when the plunger is in. If the plunger is broken or if the internal parts are not working properly, power is stopped at the switch and it needs to be replaced.
The timer and the selector switch are other possibilities. If one of these is defective, your dishwasher won’t operate normally, and the part will need to be replaced.
Running the dishwasher regularly may help prevent any seals from drying out and sticking. This includes the motor seals.
Visually inspect the wiring to see if any looks disconnected or burned. Repair or replace as necessary.

Question 2: Why aren’t my dishes dry when the dishwasher finishes?

Answer 2: If you have problems with your dishes still being wet when at the end of the dry cycle, check to see if the rinse aid dispenser needs filling, check to see how well the dishes are loaded, and make sure a large item doesn’t block smaller items.
Did you use the proper amount of detergent? Too little or too much detergent can have an affect on how well dishes dry. Have you selected the heated drying option? A rinse aid can help your dishes to dry better also. Is the rinse aid dispenser empty?
The next things to check are the filters, drain valve, drying fan, heating element, and the thermostat. Sometimes a clogged filter will prevent all the water from being able to exit the unit. Clean or replace clogged filters. A faulty drain valve that leaves too much water in the cabinet can be to blame. Is there too much standing water left in the unit after the dry cycle is complete? Check for blockages at this valve.
Some dishwashers have a fan that circulates the cabinet air to help dry the dishes. If the fan is not working properly, you need to replace it. At the bottom of the dishwasher is a heating element that warms the air in the dishwasher. The increased temperature speeds up the evaporation process and decreases the drying time. Visually inspect the element and look for any burned or broken areas on it, and if it’s burned out or if you can’t measure continuity with it removed, it will need to be replaced.
There is also a thermostat that measures the water temperature and drying temperature. If the thermostat is faulty, the cycles may not complete properly. If it’s faulty, you need to replace it. You may want to unload the dishes in the bottom rack first so that any water left pooled on dishes in the top rack won’t spill onto the bottom rack’s dishes.

Question 3: Why is there no water entering the dishwasher?

Answer 3: If you have no water entering your dishwasher, check the door latch, the household water supply to the dishwasher, the float switch or overfill protector, and the water-inlet valve. Many dishwashers have a timed fill rather than a metered fill. Some turn-to-start models may take several minutes before they start filling.
To measure the level of the water in the tub of the dishwasher, there is a plastic float near the bottom of the dishwasher that activates a switch once the water has lifted it to a certain level. If the switch is not working properly it could prevent water from entering the dishwasher. Additionally, if the float gets stuck, the switch will be activated and keep the inlet valve from allowing water into the dishwasher. Make sure that the float is moving freely up and down. If the float or the switch are not working properly, they need to be replaced.
All of the water enters the dishwasher through the water-inlet valve. If the water-inlet valve does not close, you can disconnect the power to either the valve or the dishwasher, and the flow of water should stop. If there is any debris or hard water deposits keeping it open, you will need to turn off the water supply to the dishwasher and replace the valve.

Question 4: Why is my dishwasher making noise?

Answer 4: If your dishwasher is getting loud or making a weird noise, you should check the heater fan, motor, water-inlet valve, and pump. Sometimes the bearings in the heater fan may get worn out or rust. If this happens, it may become very noisy, either grinding on the bearings, or scraping against the rust. If this happens you need to replace the fan motor. Sometimes, a fan blade may come loose, and you need to replace it.
Sometimes it’s the motor that makes the noise you hear. The motor has bearings in it which may become worn or get rusty. When the bearings get worn, they allow the shaft to wobble which can get quite loud. If there is a spin seal leak, water may get inside the motor, washing the bearing grease away. If the spin seal is leaking, you’ll notice water leaking from under the dishwasher. There is also a disc attached to the top of the motor called a slinger. It sometimes breaks off and spins around the motor’s shaft while it turns, causing some noises. You will need to replace the motor if the bearings are bad. You also need to replace the motor if the slinger is broken as well.
Newer dishwashers may make a squealing or rattling noise on the first run. This is because it has not had any water in it yet, and the motor seals are dry. You may hear this in a unit that hasn’t been run in a week or more as well. You should operate the dishwasher regularly to keep the sump water from getting smelly, and to keep the seals lubricated. You can add a quart of water to the sump before running it.
Rattling noises may be produced by dishes rattling inside the dishwasher due to the water pressure from the sprayer arms on the dishes. To determine if the rattling is a loading issue, run the unit empty. If the sound is persistent, it may be that there is debris in the pump.
Dishwasher water-inlet valves are noted to make a hum that lasts about 60-90 seconds several times during a washing cycle. This hum is a different hum than the sound of the motor running.
A rhythmic knocking or thumping sound may be caused the sprayer arms hitting something as they go around and around. Rearrange the dishes and resume the wash.
A clunking or clanking may be heard when the detergent cup opens; while a clicking sound may be produced by the timer or electronic control panel.
A solenoid makes a snap sound when it opens. This happens about six times during each load.
Pipes rattling or banging may be caused by a water hammer effect. Water hammer sounds are caused by a valve closing in the system, and yet the water in the pipe is still flowing because of its kinetic energy. The sound is caused by the water slamming into the closed section of pipe. A plumber can install an anti-hammer device.
Small objects can sometimes get stuck in the pump. When this occurs, you’ll need to open the pump and then remove the item that is making the noise or replace the pump. The dishwasher pump is usually mounted directly to the motor and runs off the motor as well. The pump is also attached to the bottom of your dishwasher.

Question 5: Why doesn’t the detergent cup open?

Answer 5: If the detergent cup doesn’t open, check the detergent cup, the bi-metal switch or wax motor, and the timer. Make sure that no dishes are blocking it from opening.
The cup that holds the detergents can get caked and gooped up with old detergent. You should try to clean away any old detergent. If you can’t clean the detergent away, you should replace the cup.
The bi-metal switch is activated by the timer and is an electrically operated device that bends when electricity is applied to it. It uses two different metals that are bonded together. As they warm up, they expand at different rates causing the metal to bend. The degree of bending can be set with a high degree of precision. Many devices use the bi-metal switch. A lot of newer dishwashers use a wax motor instead of the bi-metal switch. The wax motor has a wax block that gets heated up when the timer sends electricity to it. The wax expands as it gets heated up, and it pushes a plunger that opens the detergent door. Depending on how your dishwasher is wired, the switch may be wired through the motor circuitry or through the heating element. If the heating element is broken, there will be no electricity to properly activate the switch or heat the wax block in the wax motor to open the cup. If the motor doesn’t let enough electricity through its circuit, the bi-metal switch won’t operate properly, or the wax motor wax block won’t get heated up to expand and push the plunger.
On many dishwashers, an actuator arm links the timer to the detergent cup. When the timer reaches the correct time of the cycle, it activates a lever that opens the cup. If this link is broken or in any other respect faulty, the cup will stay closed, and won’t let the detergent into the dishwasher. Check this linkage and either fix or replace it.

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46 thoughts on “5 Common Dishwasher Problems

  1. Hello, I have a GE dishwasher that is about 12 yrs old. The dishwasher works just fine through out all the cycles, except the final rinse cycle. The dishwasher will not stop filling in that cycle.

    Thanks, John

  2. Hi,
    We have a siemens dish washer and when the water pump starts it makes a loud clanking noise its just started doing it about a week ago, any ideas whats wrong?

  3. Brand new GE dishwasher had all those switch problems you mention. The repairman ordered all new parts for an all new dishwasher. Which, by the way, took two weeks because no one had the parts readily available. Maddening.

  4. hello
    we have a small siemens cube dishwater and makes noice when working.i found out that the water that fill the mashine is less that it should be and when i fill 1 big glass of water inside (more) noice stops and mashine working perfect.is something that i can check by myself?

  5. I just installed my new dishwasher. I started its first cycle and have the front bottom panel off to check for leaks. Everything looked ok. While putting on the front panel I started to notice very slight clicking sounds that seem to be no pattern but constant. It seems around the junction box but its hard to say. Any ideas?

  6. I have installed a new ge dishwasher, added water to the bottom to moisten the seals as described, fired it up and it pumped the water out of the bottom and will not refill… I definitely have water to the inlet but it wont go beyond that…. does anybody have a fix.

  7. GE Dishwasher less than 2 years old has started making very loud sounds – I am going to stay away from GE from now on. Very poorly made.

  8. Hi

    I have a siemens aquastart dishwasher which has stopped working properly. It seems to be stuck in some part of the cycle. It starts and fills, and will empty on the reset option. All the pans remain dirty and it doesn’t heat the water. I have tried the RESET function, but that hasn’t worked either. It just seems to go through the timer but not changing the cycle state – chip gone?

    Any ideas? I would be very grateful for any response.

    Thank you.

  9. I found another cause for a loud dishwasher: 7 years of vibration caused the leveling legs to work loose and the dishwasher slowly settled until the main circulation motor was resting on the the hardwood floor. A few turns with a wrench raised it back up off the floor and cured the noise problem.

  10. Hi!

    I have a Fridgidaire dishwasher that is about 6 years old. It is making a humming droning noise during the wash and rinse cycle that is making the dishwasher increasingly louder. Any advice?

  11. When I open my dishwasher all the way like if I unload it, when I try to close it it’s like there is resistance and it makes a springy popping noise. We just moved into a new house everything is new in it. I dont know what to do?

  12. I have a GE Profile dishwasher that makes a grinding noise after it has completed the full wash, rinse and dry cycle if the door is shut tight.

  13. I have GE dishwasher model PDW738N10SS. It works fine but makes a clunking noise intermittently throughout its cycle. Drives us nuts!

  14. We have just bought and installed a Bush Integrated Dishwasher model WQP 12-9348. Although we have yer to fit on the decorative door, the dishwasher door spring is so tight that the door will not stay open so we can load it. Any ideas. Lynne

  15. My Maytag dishwasher pump runs continously during the drying cycle. All the water pumps out but pump runs. I know it is going to ruin the pump very soon.

  16. I have Fridgedaire dishwasher that wasn’t heating the water or drying the dishes. We replaced the heating element and it still doesn’t work. Any ideas what might be wrong with it? It’s only 2 years old

  17. I have a whirlpol dishwasher and the normal cycle light is blinking rapidly. I changed the door switches and the thermal fuse and it is still blinking. What else can I do?

  18. I have a GE dishwasher, I do not know model but year is 1996 -97. In the last month it is making a ticking/clicking noise only during the dry cycle, like a time clock.Any ideas? Thanks so much!

    • We have a clicking noise from the base of out Kenmore as well at something between 1 and 2 cycles per second. I thought it might be a bearing going bad or a solenoid valve?

  19. We have a Maytag dishwasher and suddenly the switches don’t start the machine. I can hit the rest (normal/heated dry) sequence and all lights light up and the dishwasher will fill and go through the normal cycle. So I know there is power and the water fills, the soap dispenser works, etc. It’s getting it started normally that is the issue. Suggestions?

  20. I have a GE Profile dishwasher. The fan will not stop on lat heating cycle. Just had a repair guy out who put in a new module control ASM. He left so i started up the dishwasher. Fan still won’t shut off???

  21. My Maytag Model No MDB6650AWW dishwasher threw a great spark and died when I turned i on. Any ides as ti the cause and how to repair?

  22. I have a frigidaire dishwasher and it won’t drain…we checked the drains and they are clear and the pump is spinning but wonder how fast it should spin? anyone know? it is a lil loose inside the pump so wonder if it could be we need a new pump or any ideas would be useful..we were getting a lil water when the pump was turning but it would take forever to drain…

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