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Common Dishwasher Malfunctions and Possible Causes

What's wrong with my dishwasher? Here are some common malfunctions and how to fix them.

Dishwasher Malfunctions and What's Causing Them

Let’s face it: appliances occasionally malfunction, and your dishwasher is no exception. Perhaps you’re finding puddles of soapy, warm water on the floor, or perhaps the machine just won’t start, no matter how many times you pound your hand against the button. We know it’s frustrating — how are you going to get the dishes clean now? — but rest assured that you’re not alone. There are plenty of common dishwasher issues, and it’s important to know what may or may not be causing them.

So, if you’re having some mechanical issues with the most important appliance in your kitchen, here are some of the common problems and potential solutions. You might be surprised by how much you can DIY yourself without hiring a professional, even if you need to install a new dishwasher.

The dishes are still dirty after a wash cycle

This is one of the most common, if not the most common, dishwasher issues, and it’s a big one. A dishwasher is supposed to get the dishes clean, and if it’s not, well...that’s a problem. The issue could stem from a number of sources, though. It could be user error because of overloading or forgetting to pre-wash, or it could be an issue with the machine malfunctioning. There could be a fork stuck in the spray arm or the drain, or you may simply need to clean your dishwasher. You won’t know until you try out a few potential fixes.

The dishwasher is leaking

There’s nothing more disconcerting than stepping in a puddle of warm, soapy water on the kitchen floor, but it can happen if your dishwasher is leaking. Those leaks can be caused by a couple of issues: either you’ve overloaded the dishwasher or you’ve got a mechanical malfunctioning. The best place to start is by checking whether you’ve overloaded it. If you haven’t, the leak could be from the machine’s seals, gaskets, or even the hose. If you’re noticing regular leaks, it’s almost guaranteed to be a mechanical issue.

The dishwasher won’t drain

A dishwasher that won’t drain is a common problem, and it’s often caused by your drain being clogged. It’s easy for bits of food, gunk, and even plastic to build up in the drain, so check there first. If it’s clear, you might have a problem with your drain sensor or pump, both of which require expert help.

The dishwasher is overfilling with water

Believe it or not, this happens, and it can be a huge mess when it does. We’re talking a soapy, wet mess everywhere. If your dishwasher is overfilling with water, it can be caused by a couple of factors. There could be a problem with the timer, which tells the dishwasher to stop filling up, or the issue could stem from the float switch or the water inlet valve, which can, in some cases, get stuck open.

Your dishes aren’t drying

Dishwashers aren’t just for washing -- they also act as a dryer, which is why they’re so darn hot when you remove them right after a cycle. If your dishwasher is leaving your dishes covered in water, you could have an issue with the heating element, which is essential to take your glasses and plates from sopping wet to dry as a bone. Or, your thermostat could be malfunctioning and causing the heating element to shut off before things are dry.

The dishwasher sounds like a clanging, banging nightmare

If your dishwasher sounds like a broken helicopter attempting lift-off, you could have a serious alignment issue that’s causing the spray arm to hit your dishes. Or, it could be a number of other mechanical issues, all of which are probably above your level of mechanical expertise. There’s always a chance you’ve overfilled the dishwasher, though, or placed two large pots or dishes too close to each other, so start there.

The dishwasher won’t fill up with water

You can’t have clean dishes without water, and too little of that H2O can be a real problem. If your machine isn’t filling up with the right amount of water, you could have an issue with the float or your dishwasher sensor on the door could be reading that the door as open when it’s not. The dishwasher won’t run with the door open, so if the sensor is malfunctioning, it could shut the whole operation down.

It won’t start

If your dishwasher won’t start, it could be caused by a number of issues. You might not have power to the machine due to faulty wiring or a failing switch. If it starts but won’t run, your motor might be the problem or you could have a clogged pump. These issues are pretty complex, so you will probably need a professional to step in and get you up and running again.

The door won’t latch

If the door to your dishwasher won’t latch, it could be because you’re all out of alignment. Or, the striker plate is out of alignment, really. It could also be as simple as a latch malfunction. That’s a simple fix, and all that needs to be done is replacing the latch.

Having a broken dishwasher is an aggravation, because it probably means you'll have to wash your dishes the old-fashioned way: by hand. But being able to do a little troubleshooting on your own might save you some costs in repairs, or at least give you a better sense of what might be wrong when you do have to call your local appliance repair service. Unless, of course, you want to throw in the towel and buy a brand-new dishwasher!

Resources— Hometips, Dishwashing Expert

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