Remember the days when you had to wash the dishes in the sink by hand? Neither do I. Very few households are without a dishwasher these days. So when it stops working you start to realize just how good you had it.
I had a 17-year-old dishwasher that understandably wasn’t cleaning dishes very well anymore. So when Sam told me his parents were throwing out their 8-year-old dishwasher that wasn’t filling with water, I figured why not try to fix it? I can’t argue with the price tag of free. Plus if I can’t fix it then it’s going in the garbage anyway, but if I can fix it, it would be a 9 year upgrade on my current dishwasher. Seems like a no lose situation to me.
Note: I am not a certified technician, nor do I claim to be a professional of any kind. If you are uncomfortable attempting this repair on your own, contact a qualified professional for help. Do not proceed until you are confident that you can complete the task and clearly understand all the steps. See Disclaimer
The first thing I had to do was figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher. Since I did not own the dishwasher I started a cycle to see what it was doing for myself. I could hear the water running and the motor start running, but no water spraying. When I opened the door to check inside, there was no water, just like Sam had mentioned. There are a few issues that would cause a dishwasher to not fill with water. I will go over a few of the most common ones.
The easiest thing to check is the float. It’s located inside the dishwasher at the bottom of the tub. When water is filled into the tub, the float will rise and activate a switch which stops the water flow when the water level is high enough. This prevents the dishwasher from over filling and leaking on to your kitchen floor. Check to make sure there is nothing caught underneath the float preventing it from allowing water to flow into the tub. Also check to see if the float easily moves up and down and does not get stuck in the up position. If it doesn’t seem to be working correctly, the float may need a good cleaning or you may need a new float.
The inlet valve is probably the most common cause of water not filling the dishwasher. It’s located underneath the dishwasher behind the kick-plate. To check this, turn off the water supply and unplug the dishwasher. Remove the kick-plate and find the inlet valve. The main water line to the dishwasher from the house should be connected to it.
Make sure there are no kinks in the line and unplug the wiring connected to the valve. Test the valve solenoid with a multi-meter for continuity. If it reads infinity then the inlet valve needs to be replaced. If the reading is good, then unscrew the valve from the machine and disconnect the water lines. Check the mesh filter for any clogs.
Float and Door Switch
Test the float switch for continuity using a multi-meter. It’s located under the washer and held in place by a clip. Unplug the wiring and use the multi-meter on the terminals to test. Press the switch button to get a reading, then depress to get an infinity reading. If you get an infinity reading with both the switch pressed and depressed then it will need to be replaced.
Test the door switch in the same manner as the float switch. You will need to take the inner door panel off to get to the switch. Simply remove all the screws on the inner panel. The switch will be located in the door latch assembly. Check the latch for damage and functionality as well.
The Real Problem
I’m not going to lie, it took me quite some time to figure out what was wrong with this dishwasher. When the most common problems seemed to test good, I checked continuity on every part that had wiring connected to it. I tested the pump motor, the drain pump and even the control panel. I simply could not find a fault with any of them. So I decided to take a step back and simplify my approach.
I was convinced it was the inlet valve even though the continuity test came back good. I decided to fill the tub manually with water to verify that was the case, then run the cycle. When the pump motor came on to circulate and spray the water it didn’t sound like there was water to spray. When I opened the door to take a look, there was still water in the tub but the spray arms didn’t appear to move from their original position. This turned my attention to the pump motor.
First I had to remove the pump to inspect it. After draining all the water out I disconnected the main water line (after water was turned off) and the drain hose. Then remove the racks from inside the dishwasher. Turn the lower spray arm counter-clockwise to remove, then unscrew the upper wash arm and tube feed assembly. Twist the lower sump cover to remove the tube feed assembly. Allow yourself enough room to tip the dishwasher on its back.
Once the dishwasher is on its back you should have lots of room to play around. To remove the pump you will first need to detach the diffuser motor. It will be held on by two screws. Unplug the pump wiring and remove the hose clamp from the sump to motor hose. Gently pull the motor out from the machine. Be careful not to damage the grommets or the clip at the back of the pump motor.
Turn the pump housing off to inspect the motor impeller and make sure the impeller and shaft turns correctly. There should be a bit of tension and it’ll turn in a jerky motion. This is where I found the problem. There were no threads left on the impeller’s brass insert and it was no longer attached to the motor shaft. After a lot of searching online I found that the impeller was not sold on its own and I would need to buy the entire pump assembly.
Side Note: Is it Worth it?
On average, a new pump assembly in Canada cost about $280. This seemed like a lot to spend when all I needed was a 50¢ part. I just couldn’t justify spending that much on a motor considering a new dishwasher would only cost a couple hundred more. So I decided to try and reattach the impeller to the motor shaft by using J-B Weld. This worked beautifully for about a dozen cycles, then the impeller broke loose again. So I was back to square one.
I called around to a few repair shops in hopes they had a scrap motor I could take the impeller from, but had no luck. After pricing out new dishwashers I decided to take one more look online for the pump assembly. The Sears Outlet and Amazon.com both had the pump I needed for about $65 USD. This was more the price range I was looking for, but neither shipped to Canada. A couple of days later I was having a few drinks with Sam and the topic came up. He mentioned he was going to the USA for a work function and I could have the pump shipped to where he was going.
It took a few weeks of waiting and washing dishes by hand, but in my mind I got a much better dishwasher than my old one for under $100 and a couple of hours of my time. To me it was worth it. However, if I didn’t have the option of getting the pump picked up in the US, and had to pay the $300 here, I’m not sure it would be worth it anymore. That will be for you to decide if you find that your pump needs replacing.
Back on Track
Now that you have your new pump assembly, grab some dish soap and apply it to the rubber grommets and pump hoses. This will make it easier to slide the new pump in place. After you get the pump fitted, tighten the hose clamps. Plug the pump wiring back in and reattach the diffuser motor. Put the dishwasher back on its feet being careful not to pinch any wiring or hoses.
Look inside the washer and make sure the diffuser is sitting correctly on the motor shaft. There should be a key slot to line up. Reattach the tube feed assembly and spray arms. Slide the dishwasher back in place and hook up both the drain hose and water line. Plug the dishwasher back in and then turn the water back on.
I would recommend running a quick rinse cycle and have a look for any leaks. If everything is working good, tighten the mounting screws under the counter and level the dishwasher if needed. Reinstall the kick-plate and slide the racks back inside the dishwasher.
You are now ready to use your dishwasher!