Repairing a Dishwasher

Wondering why your dishwasher isn't working? You might be able to fix the problem yourself. Here's what to know before calling a repair company.


Dishwashers save a lot of time and energy—except when they're not working properly. Luckily, there are a few common issues that cause the majority of problems and many are easy to fix.

 "One of the most common dishwasher problems that homeowners experience is dishes that appear dirty when they come out of the dishwasher," says Mark Bledsoe, Technical Services Manager for Bosch home appliances. If dishes have a cloudy, white film on them when they come out of the dishwasher, you may need to switch detergents. Bledsoe recommends using enzyme-based detergents, which are available in either hard tab of soft pack form. Also avoid pre-rinsing dishes, Bledsoe says. If plates are pre-rinsed, the detergent won't have anything to cling to and can end up scratching your dishes—which also makes them appear cloudy. Instead of pre-rinsing, just lightly scrape plates to remove large pieces of food.

If you notice an unusual smell coming from the dishwasher, it's most likely scale build up. To fix this problem, Bledsoe recommends running a cycle with a dishwasher cleaner or descaler once a year (or up to four times a year in areas with hard water) to remove build up from the pumps, heaters, and dishwasher walls. If elements in your dishwasher are blocked or clogged, this can also lead to dirty dishes. To test for this, Bledsoe suggests placing two cups upright on the upper and lower racks of the dishwasher and turning the dishwasher on. "Five minutes into the cycle, stop the dishwasher and check the cups," Bledsoe says. "If the cups are not full, you may have blocked spray arm jets, an obstructed filter, or low water fill."

Dishwasher leaks and draining problems are two other common complaints. Using dish soap instead of detergent can be the culprit behind leaks because dish soap creates large amounts of foam. If your dishwasher isn't draining properly, it may not be a problem with the dishwasher at all. It may actually be a block in the sink drain or where the drain line attaches to a garbage disposal, so Bledsoe recommends calling an appliance service professional to help you pinpoint the area of concern. 

Calling a Repair Company

If none of these DIY fixes work, or you're just not inclined to tackle the problem yourself, be sure to find a repair person who's authorized to do repairs for your specific brand of dishwasher—otherwise the repair may not be covered by your warranty. When describing the problem to a repair person, be as clear and specific as possible. If an error code is shown on the dishwasher's display or if indicator lights seem to be flashing in a pattern, tell your repair professional when you call them. "They may be able to walk you through a phone fix or order a part you might need before coming to your house, ultimately saving you time and money," Bledsoe says. 

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