Your dishwasher works hard. You run it every day, perhaps several times a day, and since you and your family need clean dishes, when it breaks down, it’s a real problem.
When that happens, your first impulse may be to call a dishwasher repair service, and of course, if you live in Tampa or Tampa Bay, we at A Dichristopher Appliance Repair are always happy to help you. But we also don’t want you to waste your money. Many common dishwasher repair problems are easy to fix, and you may not really need a dishwasher repair technician. Read the information below and see if there would be situations where it would be practical for you to attempt the dishwasher repair yourself.
First, it helps to understand how a dishwasher works.
Dishwasher Repair: How Your Dishwasher Works
Starting from the bottom up, there’s a metal horseshoe-shaped heating element in the lower basin under the bottom rack. It heats water as hot as 140 degrees. Naturally, that hot water needs to reach the dishes, and spray arms get it there while also releasing detergent. Then comes a rinsing spray, and following that, the heating element comes on again to dry the dishes. Because the dishwasher relies on water pressure and heat to clean the dishes, the door and other possible escape points must be effectively sealed.
In its essence, the operation of a dishwasher is pretty basic, and many of the dishwasher repair problems that can arise are pretty basic as well. Sometimes they need only manual adjustments to set them right, and you can address them with common household tools and DIY knowhow.
But even though dishwasher repair can be simple, there are still safely considerations.
Dishwasher Repair: Safety First
If dishwasher repair requires pulling out the machine from its normal location, follow these steps:
Cut off the electricity by switching off the circuit breaker at the service panel.
Shut off the water supply line under the kitchen sink. Disconnect the dishwasher drain and supply lines. Disconnect the power cord.
With the door open, unscrew the dishwasher where it’s attached to its metal frame.
With the door open slightly, you can get a firm handhold on the dishwasher. Holding on to both sides of the door, shift the machine gently side to side while pulling it forward.
Don’t open the door when the dishwasher is completely out of its bay. It could tip forward, fall on you, and hurt you. Before opening the door, shove it halfway back into its normal position to keep this from happening.
Now let’s look at some common dishwasher problems and how to fix them.
Dishwasher Repair: The Dishwasher Isn’t Cleaning Well Enough
It’s aggravating when you run the dishwasher only to discover afterward that the dishes are still dirty. Fortunately, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do the dishwasher repair to fix that.
You’ll need Channellock pliers and Teflon tape, which means the repair cost will be between $15 and $30. The working time will run around 30 minutes for a total repair time of 45 minutes. The skill level required can be considered intermediate.
Sometimes you can fix the dishwasher by cleaning the sprayer arms. Over time, minerals accumulate on them and clog them up. Removing them and soaking them in vinegar gets rid of the deposits.
If cleaning the sprayer arms didn’t do the trick, the next step is to replace the water inlet valve. Often, depending on the model you own, you can do this with the dishwasher sitting in its usual spot. You’ll still need to go through the shutdown procedure, though, to ensure your safety.
To replace the water inlet valve, start by removing the toekick access panel. Then remove the water line that attaches to the water inlet valve.
Now use the Channellock pliers to remove the brass fitting. Then take off the valve bracket wit a hex-nut driver. Then remove the attached electrical harness.
Finally, wind Teflon tape on the threads and then attach the new inlet valve fitting. Put the assembly and toekick back where they belong.
Dishwasher Repair: The Dishwasher Isn’t Drying Dishes Well Enough
If your dishes come out of the dishwasher still damp, you have an issue with that metal heating element in the bottom of the machine. As noted above, that’s what dries the dishes. When a heating element goes bad, it’s fairly cheap and easy to replace.
You’ll need a replacement heating element and a set of wrenches. Expect a working time of an hour for a total repair time of an hour and a half. The skill level required can be considered intermediate.
First, shut down the dishwasher, disconnect, and pull it out of its accustomed place so you can get at the back.
On the back, find the two wires that connect to the heating element terminals. Pry them loose with a flathead screwdriver. Go easy so you don’t damage them. Put them on the floor, and keep track of which goes on the left and which goes on the right.
Next, remove the plastic retainer nuts. Their size may vary depending on the particular dishwasher you own, but a ¾ inch wrench is often the right tool for this particular job.
Go around in front of the dishwasher and shove it halfway back into its usual position. Open the door and take out the lower rack. Lift out the heating element. Since you detached it already, it will come right out.
Finally, replace the heating element. Do what you just did, only follow the steps in reverse. Use care when tightening the retainer nuts. You don’t want to crack hem.
Dishwasher Repair: The Dishwasher Is Overflowing
If the dishwasher is overflowing, the likely culprit is the float assembly. Shaped like a saucer, this device floats upward as the water level rises in the basin. Then, when the water is high enough, the overfill float switch tells the dishwasher to stop bringing in water. If the float doesn’t rise with the water level or the switch doesn’t work, water just keeps coming in and produces the overflow.
To fix this problem, you’ll need a flathead screwdriver and possibly a dishwasher float switch. If it turns out that you actually need the float switch, it may run you around $35. Expect a working time of from 5 to 45 minutes for a total repair time of from 5 minutes to an hour. The skill level required can be considered beginner to intermediate.
Begin by unsticking the float. It may be possible to fix the dishwasher simply by raising and lowering the float by hand a few times to get it to move freely to turn on the switch. If you can’t get it to move easily or it’s clearly damaged, you’ll need to replace the float assembly.
Next, check the overfill float switch, which is a small relay switch. Raise the float and listen. You should hear a metallic click that indicates the float switch is probably operating as it should. If you don’t hear the click, you should replace the switch.
There are various locations for the overfill float switch access point depending on the particular dishwasher you own. It could be in front of the dishwasher, in the back, or beneath the toekick. The owner’s manual will tell you where to look. Wherever it is, after performing the shutdown steps, find the relay switch. It should simply unsnap, after which the replacement will snap in.
Dishwasher Repair: The Dishwasher Doesn’t Drain (or Drains Too Slowly)
The problem here may well be a simple blockage that you can clear by hand.
You’ll want a flathead screwdriver and a Philips screwdriver. Both the working time and the total dishwasher repair time will probably be about 20 minutes, and you shouldn’t have to buy any materials. The skill level required can be considered beginner.
To start, check the kitchen sink. It and the dishwasher share the same drain system. So if the sink’s clogged, the dishwasher can be as well.
Under the sink, you’ll find the dishwasher drain tube, a corrugated plastic tube. Make sure it isn’t kinked. It should make one smooth curve from the dishwasher to the drain.
Next, check the dishwasher drain filter located in the bottom of the machine. It lets smaller food particles through but is suppose to catch bigger ones. In time, the bigger ones can accumulate and clog it.
If you don’t find visible particles, take out the filter cage and clear it. You can take it out by unscrewing the two screws at the top.
Your final recourse is to clear the drain tube. Go through the shutdown procedure and pull the machine out. Find the plastic drain tube attached to the back. Detach it and blow into it. If the air doesn’t flow freely, you have a blockage. With luck, you can clear it by running a strong stream of water into it in a sink. If that doesn’t work or you can see damage, buy a new drain tube.
Dishwasher Repair: The Dishwasher Door Leaks
If the dishwasher door leaks, you likely have a defective door seal in need of replacement. It’s also possible that the door is leaking in conjunction with an overflow issue.
You’ll need a new tub gasket (dishwasher door seal), mild soap, water, a sponge, and a hairdryer. The materials should cost between $15 and $35, and the working time should be about 20 minutes for a total repair time of half an hour. The skill level required can be considered beginner.
Start by looking for door obstructions. If you have large objects on the sides of the lower rack, they can keep the door from closing properly without you noticing. Large objects should go in the rear, well away from the door.
If there aren’t any obstructions, it’s probably time to replace the door seal. (Door seals inevitably degrade over time due to contact with heat and water.)
Pull the old seal out. You can simply do this by hand. Once it’s out, clean the channel with mild soap and water to get rid of any leftover debris that would interfere with a strong, continuous new seal. Then give the channel time to dry.
The new seal will come out of the package folded and creased. Straighten it out by putting the hairdryer on low heat and warming it.
Finally, to finish this dishwasher repair, press the new seal into the channel by hand. Start at the top and work down the left and right sides.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful. If you live in Tampa or a Tampa Bay community and have dishwasher repair or any appliance repair problem you don’t feel comfortable tackling yourself, call A Dichristopher Appliance Service. We’ll be happy to assist you.