How Do You Know If You Have a Bad Dishwasher Heating Element?

A dishwasher can be a great time-saving kitchen appliance, but if the dishware is still wet after the wash and dry cycles have completed then the dishwasher is only doing half the job. Heat and venting are the two things the dishwasher needs to efficiently dry the dishes, plates, glasses, and silverware. Some dishwasher models rely on the heat generated by a final rinse cycle to do the drying, while other models will use an electrically-powered heating element to heat the air inside the tub, to heat the water itself for washing and rinsing, or to sanitize the dishware. The hot, moist air will then exit through a permanent vent or through a vent in the dishwasher door controlled by a solenoid or wax motor.

Testing a Dishwasher Heating Element

If your dishwasher uses a heating element and you’ve noticed the dishware is not drying properly, you should first inspect the element for any corrosion, blistering, or cracks. Any visible damage is a strong indicator that the element has burned out and will need to be replaced. If there is no apparent damage, you can use a multi-meter to test the heating element for continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the part:

  • Your first step is to remove the heating element, or isolate it, from the base of the dishwasher tub.
  • Set the multi-meter to the lowest setting for “Ohms of resistance”.
  • Touch the red multi-meter lead to one heating element terminal and the black lead to the other terminal.
  • If the meter displays a reading between 10 and 50 Ohms of resistance, the heating element has continuity and should be working properly.
  • If the meter display does not change when the leads touch the terminals, or changes insignificantly, then the heating element has no continuity and can be considered defective.

Uninstalling the Dishwasher

In order to remove the heating element for testing or to replace a defective element with a new one, you will probably need to fully uninstall the dishwasher. While this process may vary depending on the model, you can use these steps as a general guide.

  • Shut off the power supply to the dishwasher to prevent shock, as well as the water supply.
  • Remove the screws or fasteners to detach the dishwasher’s lower access panel or panels.
  • Use pliers to unthread the water supply line or elbow fitting from the water supply valve – be prepared for some water to spill out.
  • Remove the junction box cover and separate the power wires by untwisting the wire nuts. Release the grounding wire as well.
  • Unthread the power cable strain relief nut so you can detach the cable from the junction box.
  • Detach the drain hose from the sink drain or garbage disposer.
  • Unthread the screws securing the dishwasher’s mounting brackets to the cabinet, countertop, or floor.
  • To move the dishwasher, you may need to adjust the legs to lower the appliance.
  • Gently pull the dishwasher away from the cabinet and countertop.
  • Place a weight on top of the dishwasher to help stabilize it.
  • Reach under the dishwasher to disconnect the heating element wires.
  • Unthread the nuts securing the heating element terminals to the base.
  • Open the dishwasher door and remove the lower dishrack.
  • You may need to remove the lower wash arm as well.
  • Pull the heating element terminals out of the base and detach the element from any retaining clips.
  • Install a new heating element, or replace the existing one, by securing it in the retaining clips as you insert the terminals through the holes in the base.
  • Reposition the wash arm, if necessary, and replace the lower dishrack.
  • Thread the nuts to secure the heating element terminals.
  • Connect the wires to the terminals.
  • Remove the weight and slide the dishwasher back into the cabinet.
  • Adjust the legs if necessary.
  • Rethread the screws to secure the mounting brackets to the cabinet, countertop, or floor.
  • Reattach the drain hose to the sink drain or garbage disposer making sure the hose is elevated above its connection point.
  • Reinsert the power cable strain relief in the junction box and secure with the nut.
  • Secure the grounding wire then join the black wires together and the white wires together using the wire nuts.
  • Replace the junction box cover.
  • Reattach the water supply line or fitting to the water inlet valve port.
  • Realign the lower access panel or panels, using the screws or fasteners to secure.
  • With the reinstallation complete, turn the water supply and power supply back on.

Find the Right Dishwasher Heating Element with Repair Clinic

Need to find the right heating element that works with your dishwasher? Type the full dishwasher model number into the RepairClinic.com search bar. The website stocks Whirlpool dishwasher heating elements, Kenmore dishwasher heating elements, GE dishwasher heating elements, Bosch dishwasher heating elements, and more, but you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the heating element that is the exact match for your model.

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