Why Is My Dishwasher Won’t Start? Common Causes and Solutions

We all know that a dishwasher is undoubtedly one of the most important household appliances. It’s a total lifesaver when it comes to getting that never-ending pile of dishes cleaned in no time, giving you more time to relax and enjoy your favorite TV show or take a well-deserved nap. But what happens when your dishwasher decides it simply won’t start?

Ugh, right? It’s a total nightmare, especially when you have a dinner party coming up or a pile of dirty dishes that have been patiently waiting to be cleaned for days. But don’t fret, my friend. Today we’ll tackle the question that’s been bugging you – Why Is My Dishwasher Won’t Start?

Understanding Your Dishwasher

why is my dishwasher won't start

Dishwashers are designed to make our lives easier by taking care of the dirty work for us. They combine a few key elements: hot water, detergent, and high-powered jets.

When you start up your dishwasher, the first thing that happens is that the water is heated to a high temperature. This hot water is crucial for breaking down and dissolving the food and grease on your dishes.

Next, the machine uses detergent to help clean the dishes. Different types of detergent can be used for different types of dishes, and some machines even have specific compartments for different types of detergent.

The high-powered jets come into play once the water is heated and the detergent is added. These jets shoot water at high pressures, allowing it to reach every nook and cranny of your dishes. This means that even hard-to-reach areas like the corners of bowls or the bottom of glasses can be thoroughly cleaned.

As the machine does its job, any food particles or grease removed from the dishes are filtered out and flushed down the drain. This keeps the water clean, ensuring that your dishes are washed with fresh water every time.

Common Causes Why Your Dishwasher Won’t Start

why is my dishwasher won't start

Now that you understand how your dishwasher works let’s look at some common causes for why it may not be starting up.

Power Issues

One common cause of why a dishwasher won’t start is due to power issues, particularly problems with the fuse, circuit breaker, or plug.

Fuse and Circuit Breaker Issues: A dishwasher is an electrical appliance, and like all such devices, it’s connected to your home’s electrical system. If your dishwasher doesn’t start, it might be because the circuit that the dishwasher is on has tripped. When a circuit trips, it cuts off power to prevent overheating and potential electrical fires. This can happen if there’s too much load on the circuit.

Another related issue could be a blown fuse. Older homes often use fuses instead of circuit breakers. A fuse will blow if the electrical current is too high, cutting off the power to protect the circuit.

Plug Problems: Sometimes, the issue can be as simple as the dishwasher’s plug needing to be securely inserted into the electrical outlet. Over time, plugs can become loose or accidentally get pulled out. Without a secure connection to the power source, the dishwasher won’t start.

Broken Door Latch

The door latch on your dishwasher plays a crucial role in its operation. Its primary function is to keep the dishwasher door securely closed during a cycle. When you close the dishwasher door, the latch engages and signals the dishwasher’s control panel that it’s safe to start the cycle.

Now, if the door latch is broken or malfunctioning, it can prevent the dishwasher from starting. This is because most dishwashers have a safety feature that stops them from running if the door isn’t properly latched. It’s a good thing, really, as it prevents water from spilling out mid-cycle.

However, when the latch is broken, the dishwasher might interpret the door as open even when closed. As a result, the dishwasher won’t start, leaving you with a pile of dirty dishes.

In some cases, the door latch may still engage but not send the correct signal to the control panel due to a wiring issue. So, even though the door appears to be shut and locked, the dishwasher still won’t start because it’s not receiving the right “all clear” signal from the latch.

So, as you can see, a properly working door latch is essential for your dishwasher’s operation. Without it, you’re likely to run into some frustrating issues.

Control Panel Concerns

The control panel of your dishwasher is like the brain of the appliance. It’s where you select different settings and modes for washing your dishes, such as the type of cycle, temperature, and delay start. Essentially, the command center tells your dishwasher what to do and when to do it.

The control panel communicates with various dishwasher components, including the pump, motor, and heating element. When you press ‘start’ on the control panel, it sends signals to these parts to begin the dishwashing cycle.

However, if there’s a problem with the control panel, it can prevent your dishwasher from starting. Here are a few potential issues that could occur:

  1. Power Issue: The control panel needs electricity to work. If there’s a problem with the power supply to the control panel, it won’t function properly.
  2. Faulty Buttons or Selector Switches: Over time, the buttons or switches on your control panel can wear out or become damaged. If the ‘start’ button or other critical switches aren’t working, you won’t be able to initiate a wash cycle.
  3. Control Panel Lock: Some dishwashers have a control panel lock feature (often used to prevent children from accidentally starting the dishwasher). If this has been activated, it can prevent the dishwasher from starting until it’s deactivated.
  4. Electronic Control Issues: The control panel includes an electronic control board that manages all the dishwasher functions. If this fails, it can cause the dishwasher not to start.
  5. Dirty or Greasy Control Panel: Sometimes, the build-up of dirt, grease, and oil on the control panel can interfere with its operation.

Defective Timer Switch

Your dishwasher’s timer switch plays a crucial role in managing the various stages of the washing cycle. It’s essentially the conductor of the dishwashing symphony, controlling when water is filled, when and how long it’s heated, when detergent is released, and when the water is drained and rinsed away.

When you set your dishwasher to a certain cycle and hit start, the timer switch begins its work. It sends electrical signals to different washer parts at specific times to carry out each cycle phase.

However, if the timer switch is defective, it can disrupt this sequence of operations. For instance, it might not signal the dishwasher to start even though everything else is ready to go.

Sometimes, the timer switch might be stuck at a particular point in the cycle, preventing it from moving forward. In others, it might be unable to send the correct signals due to an internal fault or wiring issue.

Blown Thermal Fuse

A thermal fuse in a dishwasher is a safety device that protects the dishwasher’s motor from overheating. If the motor or another component gets too hot, the thermal fuse will blow to cut off electrical power. This prevents further heat build-up and potential damage to other dishwasher parts or even a possible fire.

When the thermal fuse blows, it breaks the electrical circuit, effectively stopping electricity from reaching the dishwasher’s motor and control panel. As a result, the dishwasher won’t start because it’s not receiving the power it needs to operate.

In essence, the thermal fuse acts like a gatekeeper. When everything is operating normally, it allows power to flow. But if things get too hot, it shuts the gate to prevent potential harm.

Motor Issues

The motor in your dishwasher is the heart of the machine. It powers the pump that circulates water in the dishwasher and sprays it onto the dishes. When you start a dishwashing cycle, the motor should kick into action, driving the pump to start cleaning your dishes.

However, if there’s an issue with the motor, the dishwasher won’t be able to start the cycle. One common problem could be a motor that’s worn out or burned out. Like any mechanical part, motors can break down over time due to wear and tear. If the motor is no longer functioning properly, it won’t be able to drive the pump so the dishwasher won’t start.

Another potential issue could be a problem with the wiring or connections to the motor. If the motor isn’t receiving power due to a loose connection or faulty wiring, it won’t be able to start.

In some cases, the motor might be stuck due to a jam. If something has gotten into the dishwasher that shouldn’t be there – like a piece of broken glass or a utensil – it could jam the motor, preventing it from running.

Possible Solutions for a Dishwasher That Won’t Start

Now that we’ve gone through some potential causes of a dishwasher not starting, here are a few troubleshooting tips you can use to try and get it running again.

Check the Power Supply

If your dishwasher is not starting, one of the first things you should do is check the power supply. 

Start by making sure the dishwasher is properly plugged into the outlet. Sometimes, the plug can become loose or accidentally get nudged out of the socket, cutting off the power supply to the appliance. If that’s the case, simply pushing the plug back into the outlet might solve the problem.

Next, take a look at your home’s circuit breaker or fuse box. Your dishwasher should be connected to a dedicated circuit. If other appliances are drawing power from the same circuit, it could overload and trip the circuit breaker or blow the fuse, interrupting the power supply to the dishwasher. Furthermore, if the circuit breaker tripped, flip it back to the ‘on’ position. If a fuse has blown, it will need to be replaced.

Remember, while these checks are relatively simple to do, always exercise caution when dealing with electricity. If you’re uncomfortable doing these checks yourself, calling in a professional washer repair is best.

Inspect the Door Latch

First off, take a good look at the latch. Is it closing properly? Simply giving it a wiggle or a gentle tug can often tell you if it’s loose or misaligned.

Next, check for any obvious signs of physical damage. A cracked or broken latch may not be able to secure the door properly, and in turn, the dishwasher might not start.

Also, keep an eye out for any foreign objects, like food particles or debris, that might be stuck in or around the latch. These can sometimes prevent the latch from fully engaging. If you spot anything, a quick clean could be all it takes to get your dishwasher up and running again.

And lastly, if the latch seems to be in good shape, but the dishwasher still won’t start, it might be worth checking the door switch that works with the latch. A small device signals the dishwasher to start when the door is securely closed. If the switch is faulty, it might not send the right signal, even if the latch works perfectly.

Check the Child Lock

For most models, you’ll find the lock button on the control panel. Simply press and hold the button for a few seconds until you hear a beep or see a light indicating that the lock has been turned off. Once you’ve done that, try starting your dishwasher again and see if it works.

Of course, if the child safety lock wasn’t actually the issue causing your dishwasher to not start up, then you might need to consider other possible solutions. But it’s always a good idea to start with the simplest and most obvious solutions first, and checking the child safety lock is definitely one of those.

Reset the Dishwasher

Resetting your dishwasher basically means that you are “rebooting” it, allowing it to clear out any glitches or errors that may have caused it to stop starting up. It’s sort of like when you restart your computer to fix a problem.

To reset your dishwasher, the first thing you’ll want to do is turn off the power. You can do this by unplugging it or by flipping the circuit breaker that controls your dishwasher. Then, wait a minute before turning the power back on. This pause allows the dishwasher to power down and reset fully.

Once you’ve turned the power back on, try to start your dishwasher again. In many cases, this simple reset will have done the trick, and your dishwasher will start up without a hitch! If you’re unsure how to do this, check this video for a step-by-step guide.

Test the Timer

When testing the timer, you’ll first want to disconnect the dishwasher from its power source completely. This is crucial for safety reasons – you don’t want to risk getting an electric shock! Once you’ve unplugged the dishwasher, locate the timer. This is usually located near the control dial on the front of the machine.

Look at the timer and see if any of the wires appear to be loose, corroded, or damaged. If so, you may need to replace the timer altogether. Alternatively, you can clean any dirty or rusted contacts with a fine-grit sandpaper.

If the wires and contacts appear in good condition, the next step is to test the timer’s continuity using a multimeter. This will tell you whether the electrical signal flows properly through the timer. If you’re unsure how to do this, plenty of handy guides online can walk you through the process step by step.

Test the Motor Start Relay

Testing the relay is a relatively simple process that you can do yourself at home. 

First, you’ll need to locate the motor start relay, usually near the motor itself. This may require some basic disassembly of your dishwasher, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual for guidance. Once you’ve located the relay, remove it from its housing and inspect it for any signs of damage or wear. 

Next, you’ll need to use a multimeter to test the relay for continuity. This will let you know if the relay is functioning properly or if it needs to be replaced. If your multimeter shows that the relay is not working as it should, it’s time to replace it with a new one. 

While this may seem like a daunting task, it’s a very simple fix that can save you money and frustration in the long run.

Test the Thermal Fuse

Locate the thermal fuse (you can usually find it near the heating element) and remove it from the dishwasher. Use the multimeter to check the continuity of the fuse by touching the leads to each end of the fuse. If the fuse is good, you should get a reading of zero ohms. However, if the fuse is bad, you won’t get any reading at all.

If you’ve determined that the thermal fuse is the problem, you must replace it. You can usually find a replacement fuse at an appliance parts store or online. Just ensure you get the right one for your dishwasher make and model.

Test the Drive Motor

Testing the drive motor might sound like a daunting task, but don’t worry; I’ll walk you through it. Here’s what you need to do:

First, you’ll need to disconnect the power to the dishwasher for safety reasons. Once that’s done, you can access the motor by removing the lower panel of the dishwasher.

Before you start testing, visually inspect the motor for any signs of damage or wear. Also, check for any loose connections or wiring issues that might be preventing the motor from receiving power.

To test the motor itself, you’ll need a multimeter. Set the multimeter to the ohms setting, and then touch one probe to each terminal. The multimeter will then give you a reading.

A normal reading would typically be somewhere between 3 and 30 ohms. If the reading is outside this range, it indicates a problem with the motor.

When to Call a Professional

DIY solutions can be great, but they have their limits. If you’ve tried troubleshooting and the dishwasher still won’t start, or if you’re uncomfortable handling electrical components, it’s time to call in the pros.

Also, if you’ve identified the problem as being a complex part like the motor or the control board, these are usually best left to professionals. These parts can be expensive, and incorrect handling can lead to further damage.

Finding a reliable appliance repair professional can feel like a daunting task, but I’ve got some tips to help you.

Ask around: Word of mouth is often the best way to find a reputable professional. Ask friends, family, or neighbors if they’ve had any appliance repairs done recently and if they were happy with the service.

Read reviews online: These can give you a sense of the professional’s reliability, pricing, and quality of work. But remember, take overly negative or overly positive reviews with a grain of salt. Look for a consistent pattern of good service instead.

Ask questions: Find out about their experience, whether they specialize in dishwashers, what brands they typically work with, and if they offer a warranty on their work.

Get an estimate: A reliable professional should be able to give you a ballpark figure for the work. Be wary of anyone who gives a quote without looking at the dishwasher or whose estimate is significantly lower than others. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. A professional dishwasher repair has the training and tools to solve complex appliance problems safely and efficiently. So don’t hesitate to call one in when your dishwasher doesn’t start!

Prevention Tips to Avoid Future Dishwasher Problems

To prevent further problems, keeping your dishwasher in good working order is important. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

① Clean The Filter Regularly

Regularly cleaning the filter can help prevent a whole host of problems down the line. A clogged filter can reduce the efficiency of your dishwasher, leave dishes less than sparkling, and even lead to unpleasant odors.

Cleaning the filter is usually a simple task. Most dishwashers have a removable filter located at the bottom of the machine. You just need to twist and pull it out. Then give it a good rinse under the tap, scrubbing gently with a soft brush to remove any stubborn bits. Once it’s clean, pop it back in, and you’re ready!

② Rinse Before Loading

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t the whole point of a dishwasher to clean dishes so you don’t have to? And you’re right! But giving your dishes a quick rinse before loading them into the dishwasher can make a world of difference in the long run.

Here’s why: Larger food particles left on dishes can potentially clog up your dishwasher’s spray arms and filter. Over time, these clogs can lead to less effective cleaning cycles and even cause more serious issues like water not draining properly.

So, while it’s not necessary to pre-wash your dishes (after all, that’s the dishwasher’s job), giving them a quick rinse under the tap to remove larger food particles can be a real game-changer. It’s like sweeping the floor before mopping; it just makes the whole cleaning process more efficient.

This small step takes only a few seconds for each dish but can help your dishwasher perform better and last longer.

③ Proper Loading

Loading a dishwasher might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s actually an art to it. The way you arrange your dishes can significantly impact the efficiency of your dishwasher and even prevent future problems.

The key here is to ensure that nothing blocks the detergent dispenser or the spray arms. If these crucial components are blocked, your dishwasher may not clean effectively, or worse, it could cause damage to the appliance over time.

So, how should you load your dishes properly? Here are some quick tips:

  1. Place larger items like pots, pans, and baking sheets around the perimeter of the lower rack. This ensures they don’t block the spray arms.
  2. Position glassware and cups on the top rack at an angle. This helps the water to drain off them, reducing the risk of water spots.
  3. Make sure the detergent dispenser isn’t blocked by large utensils or dishware. The detergent needs to be able to disperse freely throughout the dishwasher.
  4. Avoid overcrowding. While it’s tempting to try and fit in every last dish, an overpacked dishwasher can restrict the movement of the spray arms and limit the flow of water and detergent.

④ Use the Right Detergent

While it’s tempting to use whatever soap is at hand, always using a dishwasher-specific detergent is crucial. Here’s why.

Regular dish soap or hand soap can create too many suds for a dishwasher to handle. These excess suds can overflow, leading to a foamy mess in your kitchen. But more importantly, they can also cause damage to the dishwasher’s components over time.

On the other hand, dishwasher detergents are specifically formulated to be low-sudsing and work effectively in a dishwasher’s unique environment. They’re designed to work with the spray arms’ high pressure and hot water temperatures to get your dishes sparkling clean.

So, always make sure to use a detergent specifically made for dishwashers. Whether you prefer powder, liquid, or pod format is up to you—they all do the job well as long as they’re meant for dishwashers.

⑤ Check and Clean Seals

It’s important to check the seals regularly and clean them as necessary. These are the rubber or plastic strips that line the door of your dishwasher and create a watertight seal when closed.

If these seals become clogged with food particles, dirt, or debris, they can cause leaks from the dishwasher. Not only does this make a mess in your kitchen, but it can also cause other issues, like water damage to your floors or walls.

So, every once in a while, check the seals for debris and give them a quick wipe-down with a damp cloth. This simple task can go a long way in preventing any future problems.

⑥ Regular Maintenance Checks

Finally, it’s also a good idea to get your dishwasher professionally checked out occasionally. A professional can identify any potential issues and give you tips on how to best care for your machine. They can also answer any questions you may have about the specifics of your dishwasher, such as what brands they typically work with and if they offer a warranty on their services.

Regular maintenance checks are particularly important if your dishwasher is starting to show its age. With some care and attention, an older model can perform just as well as a new machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can low water pressure cause problems in a dishwasher?

Water supply is the lifeblood of a dishwasher, and when the pressure is low, it can cause various issues. Low water flow can result in poor cleaning performance, as the water cannot reach all the corners and crevices inside the dishwasher. Additionally, it can cause the dishwasher to run for longer periods, resulting in higher water bills. It’s important to ensure your home’s water supply is sufficient for your dishwasher to function properly. If you notice your dishes aren’t coming out as clean as they should be, it is worth checking your water pressure to see if that could be the culprit.

Q: Can I fix the main control board of my dishwasher myself?

The main control board is the brain of your dishwasher and is responsible for controlling all its operations. Unfortunately, repairing or replacing a faulty control board requires the technical knowledge and skills most people need. So, it’s best to leave this task to a professional. They’ll be able to diagnose the issue more accurately and ensure the repair is done correctly.

Q: Is it safe to use bleach in my dishwasher?

When cleaning your dishwasher, the general rule is that harsher chemicals should be avoided. While bleach can effectively disinfect surfaces, using too much of it can damage the interior components and shorten the lifespan of your machine.

Q: Why is my power cord sparking?

This common problem can indicate an issue with the power cord. Make sure to unplug the dishwasher and call a professional to inspect it, as this could be a sign of electrical problems. If the cord needs replacing, have it done by a qualified technician to ensure safety.

Final Words

It’s clear that there could be several reasons why your dishwasher won’t start, ranging from simple to more complex issues. While it’s always good to understand potential causes and maybe even tackle some minor troubleshooting yourself, don’t hesitate to contact a professional if the problem persists. They’re the real experts and can get your dishwasher back on track efficiently and safely. After all, we rely on our dishwashers to simplify our lives and clean our dishes. So, don’t let a temporary hiccup cause you too much stress – with a little patience and expert help, your dishwasher will be back in action before you know it!

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