Common Dishwasher Problems and DIY Fixes


Dishwashers work hard on a daily basis to save us time and energy. A good dishwasher should last around 7-12 years but during that time any number of problems can arise.

Many times these are things you can fix on your own without the need for hiring a professional. One of the best things you can do is to learn how your particular dishwasher works – your user manual is a great place to start.

Dishwasher drain with bits of food and debris trapped in it

5 Common Dishwasher Problems

Household appliances always run the risk of unexpected problems due to wear and tear, age, bad wiring, or any number of other things. Dishwashers are no different, with issues running the gamut from dishes coming out dirty to leaking water, and everything in between.

  • Dishes not getting clean
  • Dishes not getting dry
  • Dishwasher won’t fill or stop filling
  • Dishwasher won’t drain
  • Dishwasher leaking water

If you are familiar with your dishwasher’s inner workings, identifying problems should be fairly easy. From there, you can clean and test components as needed.

Easy DIY Dishwasher Fixes

Some of the most common dishwasher problems can be fixed by cleaning the machine itself or cleaning/replacing the float switch. Other parts to check are the heating element, high-limit thermostat, and rinse aid dispenser.

Clean Your Dishwasher

One of the main causes of dishwasher problems is that the machine itself is dirty. This can cause things like debris on dishes and water not draining properly. Thoroughly cleaning your dishwasher and its key components includes all of the following:

  • Run an empty wash cycle using 3 cups of vinegar in the bottom.
  • Remove the filter and rinse thoroughly under hot water. The filter is located below the dish racks, and usually twists out. Refer to your owner’s manual for more details. For severely dirty filters, soak in hot soapy water for 10-15 minutes then clean with soft brush.
  • Clean the spray arm to remove clogs in the jets, the tiny holes in the arm that spin around. Check your manual to see how to remove the spray arms in your machine without breaking them. Scrub with hot soapy water and soft brush to remove clogs and use toothpicks to remove stubborn clogs if necessary. When done, rinse in hot water.

Inside of clean dishwasher door showing spray arm and other door components

Check Heating Element, High-Limit Thermostat & Rinse Aid Dispenser

If your dishes are not drying properly, check each of these components to make sure they are working. First, test the heating element, which is what heats the air to dry the dishes.

If that is okay, check the high-limit thermostat. A bad thermostat can cause the heating element to shut off too soon. Next, check the rinse aid dispenser to make sure it is completely empty. If any of these components appear to be damaged or broken they need to be replaced.

Clean and Check Float Switch

This mechanism monitors your dishwasher’s water level and can sometimes get stuck in one position or another. When stuck in the down position, the machine will continue to fill up and either overfill or leak.

If it won’t disengage from the uppermost position, the dishwasher won’t fill. To fix it, simply remove debris and make sure foreign objects are not obstructing it.If this doesn’t work, the switch probably needs to be replaced.

Other Dishwasher & Plumbing Problems

There are many other issues your dishwasher can have and it all comes down to testing parts. If you need help or want to schedule a dishwasher repair service visit, just give us a call.

Liberty Plumbing is here to help with all your emergency plumbing repair and other plumbing needs. If you live in the greater Atlanta metro area, call us to speak with one of our professional plumbing technicians.