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How to Troubleshoot Common Dishwasher Problems

A woman unloading her dishwasher, cover for How to Troubleshoot Common Dishwasher Problems.

Dishwashers are fantastic appliances that can save you a lot of time and stress. But not all dishwashers are created equal. While they can provide many years of dependable service if they are correctly maintained, there is always a risk that your appliance might need repair.

But the good news is that dishwashers are actually straightforward devices. So, it’s easy to troubleshoot common dishwasher problems yourself.

Dishes Aren’t Coming Out Clean

Dishwashers will sometimes not clean properly, even when everything is fine with the rinse aid or the detergent. If your dishwasher is not cleaning dishes, try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Check the filter and rinse aid dispenser. Dirty filters restrict water flow and can cause dishes to come out dirty. Check for any debris in these parts and clean them as needed.
  • Look for leaks. A leaky door seal or gasket can cause water to pool inside the machine and create a moldy smell. Make sure all seals are intact and replaced if necessary.
  • Run a cycle without any dishes or food in the machine. If this works, you may have an issue with the dishwasher’s internal components that only show up when there are no dishes inside to soak up some excess water from the jets or spray arms.

Check your dishwasher manual for additional troubleshooting tips if this doesn’t work. Or call your local plumber for a professional opinion.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Run

If your dishwasher isn’t running at all, there could be a problem with the power source. First, ensure power is getting to your dishwasher by turning off breakers or flipping switches in your home’s electrical panel. If there is no power, check for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses in circuit panels.

Image: a woman sits next to her broken dishwasher.
You should also check that the door is closed properly. Check the door latch assembly by pushing down on it while pulling up on the stainless steel handle. If it’s loose, tighten it with a screwdriver until it feels snug when you push down on it while pulling up on the handle.

Image: dish washing meme.
If everything else checks out OK, consider replacing worn-out parts such as gaskets, seals, or other moving parts that may be causing problems with your dishwasher’s operation.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Fill

If your dishwasher isn’t filling with water, it might be because something is blocking its water intake valve, such as a piece of food or other debris. First, check the area around the valve to see if anything is stuck there, then pull out any obstruction by hand. If this doesn’t work, use pliers or wire cutters to cut away whatever is blocking the valve so it can open fully.

Image: a woman looking at her dirty dishes.
Make sure the hoses leading from the water supply line to your dishwasher are clear of kinks and twists. A twisted hose could prevent water from flowing freely into your appliance’s internal plumbing system.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Drain

Dishwashers are designed to drain water from the bottom of the unit, but if your dishwasher isn’t draining properly, it can be a real headache. You don’t want dishes lying in dirty water.

There are several reasons why your dishwasher isn’t draining, including a faulty check valve or drain pump. It is important to identify which part is causing the problem before replacing it with a new one.

Image: Parts of a dishwasher.
The drain hose is the pipe that connects your sink to your dishwasher and allows water to flow from one to the other. If it’s clogged or partially blocked, water won’t be able to flow through it and into your dishwasher. This can happen if you don’t use your dishwasher often enough or if you don’t clean out any food particles left at the end of the drain hose. The best fix is to clean out the end of the drain hose with a wire brush every few weeks.

Dishwasher Smells Bad

The most common reason for a foul odor in your dishwasher is mold or mildew buildup inside the tub. To determine if this is the problem, first open the door and check for signs of mold or mildew on the rubber seal around the door opening.

Image: a woman plugging her nose because of her smelly dishes.
If none are present, turn off your dishwasher and pull out all the racks. Inspect each one for signs of moisture or mold growth around the edges of each tray and under them. If you find mold growing there, you’ll need to clean it off with bleach and wait 24 hours before using your machine again.

Another possibility for bad smells from your dishwasher could be a lack of hot water entering through its jets during operation. A clog could prevent sufficient water from reaching these jets, meaning your dishes don’t get cleaned. As a result, bacteria thrive, causing a bad smell.

Struggling with a broken dishwasher? Call the plumbing professionals at Adeedo and get your dishes sparkling again.

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