How To Test Your Dishwasher’s Drain Valve Solenoid

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The audible beep or the indicator light has alerted you that your dishwasher has completed its cleaning cycle, but when you open the door to begin unloading the dishes you notice there is still water in the tank. Shouldn’t that water have drained out? The answer to that question is dependent on how much water you’re seeing. Dishwashers are designed to retain some water in the sump housing to help prevent the housing seals from drying out and cracking when the appliance is not in use. So, a small amount of water around the sump area is expected and normal. However, if you find water actually pooling near the front of the tank after a cleaning cycle has finished, your dishwasher has a draining problem.

What causes a dishwasher not to drain?

There are a number of potential reasons why a dishwasher will not drain properly:

  • Defective drain pump
  • Clogged garbage disposer
  • Obstructed drain hose
  • Malfunctioning check valve or ball

On select models, such as the GE model GSD4060D35SS and model GSD4800JOICC dishwashers, a solenoid is responsible for opening a drain valve to allow the water to exit the dishwasher.

How the dishwasher drain solenoid works

After the completion of each wash cycle, the dirty water needs to be drained from the tank. For models using a drain valve solenoid, the control board will send voltage to the solenoid causing a metal plunger to rise out of the solenoid. This actuates a lever which, in turn, opens the drain valve in the pump housing to let the water flow out the dishwasher’s drain hose. If the drain valve solenoid is defective, the plunger won’t move, the lever won’t be actuated, and the drain valve will not open.

Testing a dishwasher drain valve solenoid for continuity

If you suspect your dishwasher’s drain valve solenoid is defective, you should first inspect it for any damage, loose wires, or corrosion near the wire connection points. You can also test the solenoid for electrical continuity to determine if the part is broken. You can use a properly-calibrated multimeter to perform this test.

Calibrating a multimeter

If you’re using an analog multimeter, you first want to make sure it’s properly calibrated. If necessary, adjust the needle so it rests at infinite ohms (on the far left side of the display) when the black and red multimeter leads are not in contact with a part or each other. Next, rotate the multimeter range selection dial to the lowest setting for ohms of resistance. Pinch the metal portion of the two leads together then adjust the needle to read “zero” (the far right side of the display). The multimeter should now be calibrated.

While digital multimeters do not normally require calibration, you will still need to rotate the range selection dial to the lowest setting for ohms of resistance in order to conduct a proper continuity test. To perform the test, you will now need to access the dishwasher’s drain valve solenoid.

Accessing the dishwasher’s drain valve solenoid

Depending on the dishwasher model, you may be able to reach the drain valve solenoid by removing the appliance’s lower access panel or panels. Before you attempt this, be sure to turn off the power to the dishwasher. Now unthread the screws or detach the fasteners to release the panel or panels, move any insulation out of the way, and see if you can easily reach the drain valve solenoid. No luck? Then you’ll need to fully uninstall the dishwasher.

Uninstalling the dishwasher

To uninstall the dishwasher, first shut off the water supply to the appliance (remember, the power should already be shut off).

  • Next, unthread the water supply line from the inlet valve (be prepared for some water to spill out).
  • Unthread the screw securing the junction box cover.
  • Unthread the wires nuts to disconnect the power wires and detach the grounding wire as well.
  • Remove the power cord wire strain relief nut to detach the power line from the junction box.
  • Disconnect the drain hose from the sink drain or garbage disposer and feed it through the cabinet.
  • Unthread the mounting screws securing the dishwasher’s mounting brackets to the countertop, cabinet, or floor.
  • You may need to raise the front leveling legs to lower the appliance.
  • You should now be able to gently pull the dishwasher away from the cabinet.
  • You may need to tip the dishwasher back onto its rear panel for better access to the drain valve solenoid.

Uninstalling the drain valve solenoid

Before you test the drain valve solenoid for electrical continuity, you will need to isolate the component from the dishwasher. The best way to do this is to uninstall the part. To do this, disconnect the solenoid wire harness and the return spring. Detach the e-clip securing the solenoid, if applicable, and lift off the actuator lever. You should now be able to unthread the screw or screws to release the solenoid fully.

Does the drain valve solenoid test positive or negative for electrical continuity?

With the component fully isolated, you’re ready to use the multimeter to test the solenoid for electrical continuity. Contact the black meter lead to one of the solenoid terminals and the red meter lead to the other terminal. The meter display should indicate between 15 and 40 ohms of resistance if the solenoid has electrical continuity. However, if the meter display shows little or no change, then the solenoid has tested negative for electrical continuity and can be considered defective. You will need to replace the defective drain valve solenoid with a new one to fix the dishwasher’s draining problem.

Installing a new drain valve solenoid

To install a new drain valve solenoid, first, make sure the plunger is inserted into the solenoid, then align the component on the pump housing and secure it with the screw or screws. Insert the plunger arm into the actuator lever as you align the lever on the drain shaft. Secure with the e-clip if necessary. Next, attach one end of the solenoid return spring to the actuator lever and the other end of the spring to the tab on the solenoid mounting bracket. Connect the wire harness to the solenoid terminals.

Reinstalling the dishwasher

Return the dishwasher to its upright position and you’ll be ready to reinstall the appliance.

  • Confirm that the end of the drain hose is accessible through the cabinet wall.
  • Gently slide the dishwasher back into the cabinet.
  • Adjust the leveling legs if necessary to raise the appliance.
  • Rethread the screws to secure the dishwasher’s mounting brackets to the countertop, cabinet, or floor.
  • Feed the drain hose through the cabinet and secure it to the sink drain or garbage disposal (make sure the hose is elevated above the connection point).
  • Fully position the power cord strain relief in the junction box, securing it with the strain relief nut.
  • Join the appropriate power wires and grounding wire together, securing them with the wire nuts or screw as applicable.
  • Realign the junction box cover and thread the screw to secure it.
  • Reconnect the water supply line to the inlet valve.
  • Reposition any insulation, then realign the lower access panel or panels and secure them with the screws or fasteners.
  • Turn on the water supply and power supply.

The help you need to fix a broken dishwasher

To find model-specific step-by-step guides and videos showing how to uninstall your dishwasher or troubleshoot improper dishwasher operation, you can enter the appliance’s full model number in Repair Clinic’s “Videos & Articles” section. It’s there that you’ll find the help you need to fix a broken dishwasher, such as the correct way to install a drain valve solenoid on a GE dishwasher (model GSD4060D35SS) or how to replace a drain hose on a Frigidaire dishwasher (model FGID2466QF7A).

Use genuine OEM parts to repair your dishwasher

Repair Clinic recommends using only genuine OEM parts like KitchenAid dishwasher replacement parts to repair your dishwasher, which is why all of the drain pumps, drain valve solenoid kits, check balls, and drain hoses you find on the Repair Clinic website come direct from manufacturers like Bosch, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag, Samsung, GE, Frigidaire, LG, and Whirlpool. To find a complete list of parts compatible with your dishwasher, enter the full model number of the appliance in Repair Clinic’s “Search Parts Online & Get Answers” search bar. You can then use the “Part Category” and “Part Title” navigation filters to narrow that list down to identify the exact part you’re looking for.

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