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Dishwasher Troubleshooting: How to Repair the Timer Switch

I have lots of experience with DIY plumbing and am here to share my tips and step-by-step pictorial guides with you.

Home Plumbing Made Easy

Home Plumbing Made Easy

Of all of the gadgets, toys, and tools found in our modern kitchen's, the most valuable player may well be that old friend of ours, the dishwasher. It allows us to feel good about using just one more pan, or a couple of extra service platters. Not having to dive tired hands into a kitchen sink full of scalding hot-water frees us from the burden of dirty dishes. Every once in a while, however, even that good-old stand-by needs a little attention.

When something does go wrong with our kitchen MVP, do we utilize a few "fix it ourselves" techniques, call for service, or buy a new dishwasher? When done correctly though, simply doing a little troubleshooting of your dishwasher's health can save you time, frustration, and several hundred dollars!

Initial Troubleshooting Steps

The most common complaint with dishwashers is that they are not washing the dishes properly. Before calling a service person to come to your house and fix this, read the dishwasher operating instructions to assure you are using the appliance correctly. The way each dishwasher brand requires you to pre-clean, load, and which soap specifications apply can differ widely.

How hot should dishwasher water be?

If you find you're using your dishwasher according to the manufacturer's recommendations, the next most probable cause is going to be that the water temperature is simply too low for proper cleaning. The water temperature that flows into your dishwasher needs to be between 140–160°F. Simply check the temperature gauge on your hot-water heater (or tank) to see if it meets the proper water temperature.

Let's take a look at a few other common and not-so-common troubleshooting and repair techniques for your kitchen's most valuable player "The Dishwasher."

Older dishwasher control panels often have problems with the dishwasher timer switch.

Older dishwasher control panels often have problems with the dishwasher timer switch.

Dishwasher Repair and Troubleshooting Chart

ProblemPotential CauseRemedy

Machine Fails to Start

Door partly open

Close door securely.

A

Defective switch or timer

Replace.

B

Check switch linkage

Adjust, if necessary.

C

Open circuit

Check fuse or circuit breaker.

Dishes Do Not Get Clean

Wrong soap being used

Use only recommended detergent.

A

Improper loading

Check manual for proper loading instructions (yes. This does matter).

B

Not properly pre-cleaned

Pre-clean dishes (give them a good rinse at least).

C

Low water temperatuture

Adjust water-heater thermostat.

D

Not enough water

Unclog water inlets.

E

Strainer is clogged

Remove strainer and clean.

F

Timer switch is faulty

Replace timer unit.

G

Solenoid coil inoperative

Replace solenoid coil (call for service).

H

Measuring coil inoperative or out of adjustment

Replace or repair as required (call for service).

Water Will Not Stay in the Tank

Leaking drain valve

Tighten flange on drain valve.

A

Inlet valve not opening

Adjust linkage, have solenoid repaired or replaced as required.

Machine Is Noisy

Solenoid core not centered in coil

Realign core to assure perpendicular and centered action.

A

Motor out of alignment

Realign motor (call for service).

B

Vibration

Machine not on solid footing.

C

Impeller scraping against impeller screen

Check and adjust as necessary.

Door or Cover Will Not Close

Door cover seal is binding inside of the tank

Loosen screws on seal retainer and reset to regain seal.

Won't Fill Completely (Insufficient Water)

Low water preassure

Check water preassure at faucets. Check inlet at machine.

Slow Draining

Drain solenoid inoperative

Check and replace drain solenoid (call for service).

Dishes Do Not Get Dry

Incorrect water temperature

Adjust water to 150°F.

A

Leaking inlet valve

Replace valve-seat washer.

B

Inoperative heating element

Turn timer to heating cycle; check if heating element is working. If not, timer may be faulty. If timer is okay, problem is with element.

Silverware Is Tarnishing

Chemicals in the water

Try reducing amount of detergent. A water softener or mineral filter may be required in areas with hard water.

3 Common Dishwasher Problems

  • Clogged dishwasher strainer: Dishwashers sometimes need some simple maintenance such as cleaning out the drain strainer. If coarse particles and food residue are found on the dishes after going through the wash cycle, a clogged strainer is going to be the most likely cause. Simply rinse it under running water.
  • Leaks around the dishwasher door: A leaking dishwasher door during the wash cycle is another very common complaint. It is actually a minor problem that more often then not is found in veteran (older) machines. What usually has happened is that the rubber seal (gasket) around the door deteriorated as the appliance aged, causing it to lose its sealing ability. On most units, this is a simple replacement task. Buy a new gasket from the same brand or compatible part supplier and install it by doing exactly the opposite steps you did when you removed the old one.
  • Dishwasher won't start: If your dishwasher will not start at all, first check the fuse or circuit breaker before calling for service. Note: If a newly replaced fuse blows right off of the bat, you can be sure it is most certainly time to call for service.
Clogged dishwasher strainers are easy to repair!

Clogged dishwasher strainers are easy to repair!

How to Repair a Faulty Timer Switch

A faulty timer switch is often the cause of dishwasher breakdown. This very important switch is basically the brains of the machine, controlling various wash cycles, while automatically regulating the length of time for each cycle used.

How do I know if it's a faulty timer switch?

  1. Machine will not turn on (circuit breaker and fuses are okay).
  2. Machine runs through one or more cycles, then stops.
  3. Machine continues to operate on one cycle and will not switch to the next one.
Dishwasher timer switch repair step 1: Remove cycle control knob.

Dishwasher timer switch repair step 1: Remove cycle control knob.

How to Replace the Timer Switch for a Dishwasher

Don't worry, replacing a dishwasher timer switch is a fairly simple task. First, check the unit's make and model number. Buy a proper replacement switch from a local dealer.

You will see that the timer switch has a number of wires running to and from it. Reconnecting them will be much easier if (before you remove the switch) you draw a diagram or label the wires so you are certain where each will reattach to the new switch assembly.

For problems that appear NOT to be related to the timer switch or cannot be solved by the simple repairs mentioned, it is probably time to give a service person a call.

Make sure you unplug the dishwasher before touching the switch—and don't forget to note know where each wire needs to go before removing the timer switch.

Make sure you unplug the dishwasher before touching the switch—and don't forget to note know where each wire needs to go before removing the timer switch.

Resources for Locating Dishwasher Parts and Parts Information

  • PartSelect: An easy way to find the right part for your dishwasher. Do it yourself and save!
  • AppliancePartsPro: Search by appliance or part number.
  • Appliance Parts Distributor (APD): If customer service is your thing, APD is dedicated to providing the absolute best customer service possible and high-quality parts.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Tammy from USA on June 22, 2013:

I hate when my dishwasher is on the fritz. I have found though that it is often something simple, like you have mentioned here, and easy to fix. In some cases the repairs were cheaper than buying a new one. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

Sue on January 22, 2013:

I have a GE Nautilust dishwasher that is not draining. It runs through the cycles but doesn't "click" at the drain cycle but it continues past that to the drying cycle. I have tried clearing all of the hoses including the air gap, the drain line to the garbage disposal (have not replaced this, it is the same old one), installed a new "Nut and Piston" and still nothing. The pump goes on but does not drain, what else could be wrong with it?

Rick on September 15, 2012:

Great site

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 23, 2011:

Just Ask Susan~ Thank you for making it by to read about dishwasher stuff! I sure hope you found something to help remidy your washer difficulties; the chart for troubleshooting is designed to offer a lot of info in a compact space. Sure appreciate your support!

HubHugs~

K9

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on August 23, 2011:

K9 Excellent hub wow...there are so many problems that I have been having with my dishwasher and I am so glad that I stopped by to read your hub. Thanks so much.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 23, 2011:

Lady_E~ Thanks for the comment. It always amazes me just how much money we can save by simply doing some of the smaller plumbing projects on our own. Nothing wrong with being your own cheap plumber!

Cheers~

K9

Elena from London, UK on August 23, 2011:

Very useful and will save money. Thanks

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 23, 2011:

Simone~ Thank you for your comments. I hope if ever you have this problem again you will find this a helpful plumbing guide. Nothing is more frustrating then opening the dishwasher to find the dishes are still all yucky. I appreciate the vote!

HubHugs~

K9

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 23, 2011:

Oh my gosh, I wish I had known about these things sooner! For two years, I was stuck with what I thought was an entirely busted dishwasher, but now that I've read this great guide, I know I could have done something about it. Well... now I know! Voted up and useful!

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