How To Fix Dishwasher That Won't Clean Properly | Dishwasher Repair

How To Fix Dishwasher That Won't Clean Properly

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Upper Discharge Housing Gasket

If you are experiencing low pressure from the spray arms, the upper discharge housing gasket could be the source of the problem. This housing gasket is located on the discharge cover above the circulation impeller. The gasket may have just come loose, or it may need to be replaced altogether. If you are replacing the gasket, make sure you check that there is no crud or debris left behind that might prevent the gasket from fitting properly.

Spray Arm

The lower spray arm (as well as the upper and middle spray arms if applicable) could be the reason why your dishwasher is not cleaning properly. The function of the spray arms is to spray the dishes with a strong stream of hot water and detergent. Check to make sure that the spray arms can move freely and are not obstructed by the dishes. The spray arm bearing ring may have come loose or be worn down, causing the spray arm to be wobbly and prevent a proper spray pattern. Inspect the spray arms for cracks or plugged holes. Debris, such as food particles, toothpicks, cellophane, glass or other foreign objects may be obstructing the holes in the spray arm and impairing the force or direction of the spray. If some of the holes are plugged then you should also inspect the filter system for a possible problem. Cracks or separated seams in the spray arms will impair the force of the spray as well. If your dishwasher has an upper spray arm also inspect the spray arm mounting bracket to make sure it hasn't become loose, cracked or otherwise restricted.

Docking Station

If your dishwasher has a middle spray arm attached to an adjustable upper rack, then you should inspect the docking station along with its flappers. The docking station can be found at the back of the dishwasher on the water supply tube and it provides water to the middle spray arm, and usually has two outlets. Insure that the docking station is connected securely to the water supply tube. Check the flappers to make sure they can move freely and that they will close securely and not permit a pressure loss when the middle spray arm supply tube is not inserted. Inspect the plastic pieces for cracks and replace if necessary.


The food chopper, chops up the food particles that were left on your dishes into tiny pieces so that they can easily pass through the drain portion of the dishwasher pump. If the food particles are not chopped finely enough, the debris may prevent the dirty water from draining and could possibly get re-circulated in the dishwasher. If your dishwasher is not cleaning properly, inspect the drain portion of the pump, if you find that there is food debris; check the food chopper to see if it is damaged.

Water Inlet Valve

The water inlet valve one of the most common dishwasher parts to fail, and could be the cause of a dishwasher that is not cleaning the dishes well, if it is not providing the proper water level in the tub. The water valve is normally located at the front of the dishwasher behind the lower access panel. If the proper water level is not being reached or if you have no water at all, then first check the inlet to the valve to insure that it is not plugged and verify that power is being supplied to the valve during the fill portion of the cycle. This can be done with a multi-meter. If the inlet is not restricted and power is being supplied at the proper time then the valve needs to be replaced.

Water Delivery Tube

If your dishwasher has an upper spray arm then the water delivery tube may be the cause of the problems. The water delivery tube or wash arm manifold is a tube typically made of plastic that supplies water from the pump to the upper spray arm and on some models to the middle spray arm. Make sure the tube is properly aligned with the spray arms and that there is no restriction impeding the flow of water. Some models may also have a filter in the water delivery tube that could become plugged.


All dishwashers will have one or more filters to remove food particles from the wash water during the cycle. These filters are typically self cleaning, but under certain water conditions or detergent usage these filters can become clogged. Locate the filters in the circulating portion of the pump and/or in the wash arm manifold and clean or replace as necessary. If the filter has become torn or otherwise damaged then food particles or foreign objects can get into the spray arms and impede their performance.

Wash Spinner

The third level wash spinner is a small wash arm located on the water feed tube or manifold at the rear of the tub on some models. If the spinner has come loose, is not properly fitted or is cracked, it may be the reason why your dishes are not coming out as clean as they should be. Check that the spinner is able to spin freely.

Detergent Dispenser

The detergent could be the cause of the dishwasher not cleaning your dishes. First make sure you are using a high quality detergent, and if you are using gel or tablets, consider switching to a powdered detergent as it dissolves faster. If your detergent cup has a prewash compartment, you could consider adding detergent to this compartment. Make sure you are using enough detergent based on your local water conditions. Hard water will require more detergent than soft water, but be careful to not use too much detergent as you could cause damage to your glassware. The detergent dispenser cup could be clogged or caked with old dishwasher detergent, so give it a cleaning if necessary. Also check to make sure that the detergent cup is releasing the detergent during the cleaning cycle.

Heating Element

Dishwashers need adequate hot water to properly clean the dishes, usually about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The heating element, found at the bottom of the dishwasher is used to maintain the temperature of the water in the dishwasher, or to heat the water higher than normal for certain cycles depending on the cycle option selected. It is important to note that the heating element is not used to heat the water for normal wash cycles, so before checking the heating element, ensure that the water entering your dishwasher is hot enough. Please note that water hotter than 140-150 degrees is not recommended as damage to your dishes can occur with very hot water. Before starting a washing cycle, run the hot water in your sink for a few minutes. If hot water is going into your dishwasher, but the water temperature falls during the cycle even with a heating option selected, then you may need to replace the heating element. The element can be checked with a multi-meter.

Pump Impellers

In a dishwasher there are two impellers, the wash impeller and the drain impeller located within the dishwasher’s pump. The wash impeller is the part that actually circulates the water and pressurizes the spray arms. The drain impeller, if used on your model, is used only to drain the dishwasher. Check the impellers for damage to the either the hub or fins and replace if necessary.

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