How to Fix Dishwasher Problems

Updated March 23, 2017

The modern household automatic dishwasher is a complex machine, and as such there are plenty of things that can cause it to stop washing dishes. While your dishwasher might not run because of something simple, like a lack of electricity to power the unit, it could also be something complex like the water failing to drain from the dishwasher or the soap leaking from the dishwasher door perimeter. Before you can fix the dishwasher, you need to determine what the primary problem is. If you are unsure of what the problem is, complete a series of troubleshooting procedures to determine what's wrong and how to fix the dishwasher.

Unplug the dishwasher from the electrical socket it is attached to. If this is not possible, turn off the circuit that provides the dishwasher power. Ensure power is disabled from the dishwasher by attempting to turn it on.

Turn off any water valves that provide water to the dishwasher. These are commonly underneath the kitchen sink close to the dishwasher. This ensures that no water is transferred to the dishwasher while you are troubleshooting the problems.

Wait until the dishwasher is cold to start troubleshooting inside the device. According to Home Tips, various parts inside the dishwasher can be extremely hot immediately after a wash cycle. Wait until the unit has cooled down before troubleshooting.

Check for a blown fuse or the connection if the dishwasher does not work in terms of water, sound or lights. Check the wiring connections to the dishwasher to ensure there are no burns or breaks. Also check the door latch to see if there are any major problems in terms of locking the dishwasher door. To ensure it is working, restore electricity to the dishwasher and turn it on.

Check the dishwasher motor if the dishwasher hums when it is turned off. The problem may be with the motor of the pump that provides water to the dishwasher. Test the motor after removing any debris that may prevent the motor from running. Depending on the model of dishwasher, the motor may be located on the back or underneath the device. You will need to plug the device into an outlet to test the motor. Repeat the step with the water pump. You should also check the drive belt to ensure it is not broken and properly attached.

Check the sink drain valve if the dishwasher is not draining the water. The problem can be due to drain hose restrictions or due to a jammed motor or pump. If the problem is with the drain hose, you may need to invest in a new one. To check this problem, you need to hook up the water hose to the sink and let the water enter the dishwasher.

Locate the fan and heating element if your dishes are not drying after a washing cycle. While the heating element could be broken, it could also simply be the fan that is not operating correctly due to debris or restrictions.

Clean out the soap compartment of the dishwasher. If you have been using the wrong soap for the dishwasher, such as dish soap, it can severely damage the dishwasher, as dish soap foams much more than dishwasher soap. Clean out any soap debris or dried soap from the dishwasher and start using a dishwasher-friendly soap designed for your specific dishwasher.

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About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.