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Saturday, February 26, 2005
So, your dishwasher is leaving gookus and slime all over your dishes? Or maybe it seems like it's just not cleaning as good as it used to. Before you run off and buy a new dishwasher and go through the hassle and expense of having it installed (or installing it yourself), take a minute and read this article because the chances are pretty good that it's a simple problem with an easy and inexpensive fix. I know, I know, I'm always telling you to read something. But, unfortunately, the written word is the most efficient medium for transmitting information on the internet. Ok, hang on for another episode of literary excellence in appliance repair.
Start with the simple checks listed below. Notice that the first item is to check the water fill level-- this is the most common cause for poor cleaning in your dishwasher.
To check your dishwasher fill level, start it up using the cycle you normally use. Listen to the sounds: the first sound will probably be the dishwasher doing an initial pumpout. Then that will stop and the dishwasher will start filling. Lots of times, you can hear the water running. Give it a minute or two to fill. When it's done filling, the spray cycle will start. Open the door at this point and check the water level. There should be enough water in the tub to cover the bottom floor of the dishwasher. On many models, the water should just come up to the heating element. If there isn't enough water, you will have cleaning problems, guaranteed.
The most common cause for insufficient water fill is the water inlet valve, shown here to the left. Replace it. Don't freak out; this is a repair anyone can do with just a few basic tools. This repair rates two mugs on the SUDS-o-meter. And I have a folder full of email from people who considered themselves mechanically impaired who have successfully completed this and other much more difficult repairs with a little help from Fixitnow.com. Hey, that's what Samurai Appliance Repair Man is all about: helping you discover your inner Samurai.
Here's how to replace your dishwasher's water inlet valve:
1. Get your dishwasher's model number and enter it here to find and order the exact water inlet valve you need. Water inlet valves have different flow rates so be sure to get the right one for your machine.
2. If your new valve comes with any instructions, read 'em! If you're confused about something, ask me.
3. Turn off the water supply to the dishwasher. The shut off valve is usually under the kitchen sink or in the basement or crawlspace near the location of the dishwasher.
4. Remove the dishwasher's kickplates. The kickplates are usually secured with two to four screws at the upper and lower corners. Several examples are shown in the dishwasher section of the Appliantology Group.
5. Locate the water inlet valve, usually near the front of the dishwasher. You'll see two terminals on the valve with wires attached to them, a water supply line (usually copper tubing) from the house, and a rubber or plastic water feed tube going to the dishwasher.
6. Disconnect the water supply line from the valve by removing the brass compression nut holding it in place.
7. The water supply line is connected to a brass fitting on the valve, usually a 90 degree elbow fittting. Remove this fitting. If you can't get it out of the valve, go to the hardware store and buy another one for $0.78.
8. Remove the screws holding the valve to the dishwasher frame.
9. Remove the wires from the valve by grasping the metal terminal with needle nose pliers and pulling, working it back and forth if you need to. Do not pull on the wires themselves because you could detach them from the terminals.
10. Remove the water feed tube from the valve. You'll see a small hose clamp that you'll remove with a pair of pliers.
11. Reinstall the old brass fitting for the water supply line onto the new valve. Use Teflon tape around the threads to make a water-tight connection.
12. Ok, now just install the new valve in the reverse order of the way you removed it.
13. Turn on the dishwasher water supply and check for leaks.
14. Reinstall the kickplates, turn on the power, and run the dishwasher.
15. Pop a cold one and give yourself a pat on the back. Good job!
If you do end up buying a new dishwasher, this installation kit will make the job easier.
Often the problem is even simpler -- the filter at the bottom is filled with crud. Washing off the filter clears up the problem.
Another simple fix when the dishwasher is not cleaning properly: check the drain hose where it connects to the garbage disposal. Mine was so clogged that the dishwasher was draining slowly and ineffectively.
I had a similar problem with my Whirlpool dishwasher six months ago. I pulled the washer out and laid it on it's front on a towel and looked for the filters to clean. I ran out of time, so put it back intending to work on it again in a few days. However, the next load of dishes we ran came out great. A few months ago when the dishes started looking cruddy again, I pulled the dishwasher out, laid it down for 30 minutes, and put it back. It was as good as new! I don't know if this cleared some filter or what, but it was certainly a lot less painless than a repair person or a new dishwasher.
I am your gracious host, Samurai Appliance Repair Man.
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