Dishwasher Broken? Don’t Lose Hope

Regardless of how high-tech your dishwasher may seem, chances are it works in much the same way as any model manufactured in the 90’s. Basic dishwasher design has changed little over the past few decades, which means you’re likely to be able to perform its basic fixes even if you’re neither an electrical engineer nor a computer programmer.

First, here’s a basic overview of how a dishwasher functions. Dishwashers are likely to run on 115-volt or 120-volt power. The water that pumps through them comes directly from your house’s water heater and ultimately ends up in your sink’s drainpipe. Most dishwashers aren’t even connected to your house’s cold water supply. You can shut off the water to the dishwasher by finding the right valve near your kitchen sink (assuming your dishwasher is in the kitchen). Before you start working on your dishwasher, do keep in mind that it is a large-scale appliance hooked to both your house’s electrical system and plumbing system. To ensure your safety, be sure to disengage it from both before doing any work on it.

dishwasher on fireOk, so your dishwasher isn’t working. First, the basics: Make sure it’s receiving power by checking its power cord and plug. Also check the switch that controls the outlet to make sure that it’s turned on. Most built-in dishwashers are wired directly into a circuit (as opposed to being plugged into an outlet), and if this is the case for your appliance you’re going to need to check the main entrance panel for a blown fuse or tripped circuit. Test the switch controlling your wall outlet with a voltage tester if that’s relevant.

Because dishwashers don’t operate until their door latches are properly engaged, you may want to check the latch as well. If the dishwasher only works if you manually hold the latch tightly in place, you know you’ve got a faulty latch (which is easily replaced).

burned dishwasherAnother thing to look out for is if the issue is actually with your water heater; so long as the water going to the dishwasher is hot, that’s not the case though. Just check and see if you still can get hot water to come out the tap.

Finally, make sure all the buttons at the control panel have been properly set. This may sound stupid, but it’s common for dishwasher issues to be caused by user error as opposed to physical malfunction.

If your issue lies deeper in the dishwasher, realize that access to most of its working components is available just by opening the dishwasher door. The exception is the control panel, for which opening up may involve removing a series of retaining screws, prying off strips of molding, and the like. Control knobs are fitted on shafts or held by small setscrews in the base of the knobs, so sometimes you have to remove the entire front door panel to get to the goods. It’s just a matter of removing some retaining screws though so don’t worry too much about it.

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