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Dishwasher Tune-Up: 10 Simple Steps

By Donald Grummett

Ever have your dishwasher fail during a holiday. It isn’t fun. Trying to get a service person out during a holiday is almost impossible. If you do the price of the repair can exceed the cost of a new appliance. To avoid this happening here are a few simple suggestions to keep the dishwasher working at peak efficiency.

  1. Clean the filter. If it is removable (check your manual) clean it in the kitchen sink using a light detergent and a soft brush. Most are not and will have to be cleaned while in the machine. Any major debris such as toothpicks, pieces of plastic, or straws should first be removed by hand. Do not allow them to escape - they could end up in the pump where further damage would result.
  1. Check spray arms. The spray arms are the propeller like things below each of the racks. Remove any debris from the holes in the spray arm. Debris here can cause the arms to slow down and give a poor wash. If arms appear cracked or worn call for service. Also spin the spray arms by hand. If they are noisy, vibrating, or wobbling call for service.
  1. Check spray nozzle. The bottom spray arm may have a nozzle sticking out of its centre. A spray nozzle will have holes at its tip. Treat the same as the spray arms in step #2. Remove debris from the holes. If nozzle parts appear cracked or worn call for service.
  1. Heating element. The element can be used for both heating the wash water and drying the dishes at end of cycle. Gently run your hand along its length. If it feels gritty the element is probably covered with a calcium buildup. Clean it using a light detergent and a wet rag. Do this carefully to avoid the element becoming bent or dislodged from its supports.
  1. Clean detergent dispenser. Open the dispenser door and clean out using a wet rag. Also remove any detergent buildup in or around the dispenser body.
  1. Clean door gasket. Gently clean the gasket surface using a wet rag. Gasket should be soft and pliable. At same time close dishwasher door a couple of times to ensure door latch is closing smoothly. It should be snug yet easy to close. If door latch is difficult to close either the latch or the gasket may need replacement.
  1. Check rack wheels. They should roll smoothly. If loose, wobbling, or binding the wheels are probably coated with detergent of calcium. Remove rack to kitchen sink clean using a soft brush. Gently move wheels back and forth until they turn freely. Do not lubricate.
  1. Check water temperature. Many problems with dishwashers are due to low water temperature. Allow the dishwasher to fill with water and begin to wash. After a couple of minutes of washing open the door. The water should produce a slight steaming effect. If not your water temperature is probably too low. Most require 125 to 140 Degrees Fahrenheit to clean the dishes.
  1. Check the detergent. Many dishwasher problems are because of stale detergent. Dishwasher detergent is one of the few detergents with a shelf life. If the box appears swollen, hard, or the detergent clumps, replace with a fresh box. Stale detergent can lead to many problems including leaking or flooding.
  1. Do a test run. Operate the dishwasher through a full cycle with the heat-dry setting on. If everything appears to be functioning properly give yourself a pat on the back.

Lastly, these simple steps should be done well before any holiday period. Allow at least a couple of weeks prior to its need to test out these suggestions. Don't forget ... Good service companies are always very busy right before any holiday.

So if you are expecting 20 people for dinner and the dishwasher breaks, they won’t be able to help. The only words of wisdom they can offer you at that point are: At least you will have lots of people to help you wash the dishes.

Copyright 2007 by Donald Grummett. All right reserved. Donald Grummett has been in the trade over 30 years as a technician, business owner, and technical trainer. Visit MG Services to learn more invaluable information about your appliances.

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Last Modified: 24 March 2020

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