When your dishwasher's heating element isn't working
Dishwashers are one of the delights of a modern kitchen. They help keep sinks clear of dirty dishes waiting to be washed, and counters free from the clutter of dish drying racks. However, a dishwasher is only a boon when it's working correctly. If the machine is malfunctioning, a dishwasher can sometimes become more of a nuisance than a benefit. One of the most common issues that arises is a problem with a dishwasher's heating element. Learn what some of the symptoms of heating element malfunctions are, and determine if you want to work to diagnose the issue DIY-style or with the aid of professional appliance installers and repair specialists.
The heating element of a dishwasher serves two primary functions. Number one, it keeps the water coming into the dishwasher hot (note: it does not heat the water itself, but maintains the temperature of the hot water that is pumped into the dishwasher). Number two, it heats the air inside the dishwasher to speed up evaporation, and therefore drying time, during the drying cycle (if your dishwasher is equipped with this cycle). If there is a problem with the heating element, you will most likely notice it in connection with one of these two functions. If your dishes are not coming out of the dishwasher clean, for example, it's highly possible that the water is not staying hot enough to optimize the machine's cleaning power. You should check that you're using the right kind of detergent and that the detergent cup is working properly, but if you are, then there could be a problem with the heating element. If your dishes are still wet and are fairly cool at the end of a drying cycle, that's a clear sign that the heating element is on the fritz. If you've encountered either of these problems, the next step is to either test the heating element yourself, or call in a major appliance repair professional to look at it for you. While a skilled DIY-er can certainly test out a dishwasher heating element on his or her own, an appliance pro will have experience with all major brands, including GE, Maytag, KitchenAid, and Bosch dishwasher repair, and will be able to address your particular machine's issues with ease.
Getting an appliance installation and repair expert to make the diagnosis of a faulty dishwasher heating element is a great option if you're not experienced with home improvement work of this type. If you want to tackle the heating element issue on your own, though, the first thing to do is to disconnect the power to the dishwasher. Then, open the washer to locate where the element is on the dishwasher floor. It's a thin, circular tube, and may be covered or exposed. If it's covered, you may need to remove the lower dish rack in order to remove the cover. Next, find the metal terminals at each end of the element and make a mental note of where they reach down into the base of the dishwasher. Once you've done that, you need to access the actual wiring that connects to the element. Do this by removing the kickplate at the base of the washer (you may have to close the door to do this). Once the wiring is exposed, look to see where the element connects (remembering the location of the element terminals from before). Label those wires so that you can reconnect them correctly later, and then disconnect them from the element by grasping the slip-on connector--do not pull on the wires directly. You may need to use needlenose pliers to do this. Once the wires are free, use a multitester (also called a multimeter) to test continuity. Setting the tester to the ohms setting times one, you should get a reading between zero and infinity if things are working. If you get no movement or if the reading goes straight to zero, there's a problem and you should replace the heating element. If you discover that you have a problem, you can either continue the DIY route, consulting your owner's manual and other print or online resources if you're comfortable with that, or you can get a professional to perform the actual dishwasher repairs.
When you're experiencing issues with your dishwasher in terms of dishes getting clean or dry, chances are that there's a problem with the heating element. When it comes to confirming this diagnosis, you can either have a professional appliance repair person perform the necessary tests and subsequent dishwasher repair work, or, if you're an intrepid DIY fan, you can tackle it on your own to get your dishwasher back in full working order.
Maria Allen is a DIY appliance repair enthusiast and an Internet marketer for Prospect Genius, a leader in online marketing.