How to Fix Dishwasher That Won't Dispense Detergent | Dishwasher Repair

How to Fix A Dishwasher That Won't Dispense Detergent

About this repair:

  • Rated as EASY
  • 703 repair stories
  • 6 step by step videos

Detergent & Rinse Aid Dispensers

The detergent dispenser is designed to release detergent into the dishwasher tub during the wash cycles and will typically have two compartments, an unsealed compartment for prewash and a sealed compartment for the main wash cycle. Verify that the dispenser is not simply clogged with caked on detergent and give it a good cleaning if necessary. Also check to make sure that the cover for the dispenser will open easily and is not damaged or broken. Check the release mechanism for worn or defective parts and replace if necessary. The rinse aid dispenser is designed to release rinse aid into the tub during the rinse cycle. Verify that the dispenser is full and is not clogged with detergent and verify that the cap is adjusted properly. The dispensers may be operated by either a mechanical devise or by a bi-metal release or wax motor devise.

Rinse Aid Cap

The rinse aid cap could be the reason why your dishwasher is not releasing rinse aid. The rinse aid dispensing cap is located on the inner door panel of your dishwasher. The rinse aid cap could be loose and may just need to be refitted, but could also be warped or damaged from the heat of the water in the dishwasher. Remove the cap from the door and inspect it for signs of melting or warping and replace if need be.

Door Spring & Hinge Pin

If your dishwasher is not dispensing detergent, the spring and hinge pin on the dispenser door could be the problem. The dispenser door is spring loaded, and is held in the closed position by a catch. Check that the spring and pin are not bent or broken and replace if required. If the catch is not releasing the door, then you should inspect the timer, the bi-metal release or the wax motor.

Wax Motor

The wax motor is used in newer model dishwashers to release the detergent dispenser door catch. If the wax motor is not working properly, then the dispenser door will not open to release the detergent. The wax motor acts like a solenoid when activated by the dishwasher’s timer or control, and the piston operates the mechanism that will release the catch for the dispenser door. Verify that the wax motor is getting power at the proper time and if so then you will need to replace it. You can also check the wax motor for continuity with a multi-meter.

Bi-Metal Release

Some older model dishwashers use a bi-metal release to operate the detergent dispenser door catch. The bi-metal release uses electric current to create a mechanical action to release the door catch. Verify that the bi-metal release is getting power at the proper time and check for continuity with a multi-meter.


Some models of dishwashers will use the timer to mechanically operate the detergent dispenser. At the proper time in the cycle, the timer will activate a lever that releases the detergent door catch. Check that the linkage between the timer and the door catch is working properly, and if not replace it. Verify that the cam on the timer is working properly and replace the timer if defective.

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