There may have been a time when you were satisfied to wash all of your dishes by hand (or resigned to this fate) before that first dishwasher came into your life. But in the ensuing years, you’ve found yourself placing every spoon used to stir a single cup of coffee into the dishwasher, along with pots, pans, cutting boards, and things you never thought you’d ever let this appliance clean.
You may have even used your much-loved dishwasher so much that the door now has trouble latching. No matter how hard you push, the door no longer holds as tight to the dishwasher frame as it used to. Depending on the dishwasher model, that worn door latch can be more than a mere nuisance that prevents the door from being fully secured; it may be preventing the dishwasher from working… period.
How can a faulty door latch prevent the dishwasher from working?
For many dishwasher models, the door must be securely latched before the appliance will even start. In fact, a defective door latch assembly is the number one cause of a dishwasher failing to start. Once the door is securely latched, a micro-switch inside the latch assembly is actuated, which allows the control to send voltage to a water inlet valve solenoid. The solenoid opens the valve, and the proper amount of water enters into the tub to start the wash cycle. If that latch switch is defective, the control won’t send the voltage to open the inlet valve solenoid even with the door fully closed.
Of course, there are other reasons why a dishwasher door may have trouble latching. The door strike (the part that inserts into the latch assembly) may be broken or bent. One or both of the door hinges could be bent or damaged as well, enough so the strike doesn’t line up properly with the latch slot. It’s also possible that the latch is physically broken or there is debris lodged in the slot the door strike is inserted into.
Upon close inspection, you should be able to determine if a physically damaged part is the cause of the problem. But to determine if a latch assembly micro-switch is malfunctioning, you will need to test it.
Testing a dishwasher door latch micro-switch
Like many switches found in appliances, dishwasher door latch micro-switches can be tested for continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the switch – using a standard multimeter. If the switch tests negative for continuity, you know the part is defective.
When testing a two-terminal latch micro-switch for continuity, be aware that the component should have continuity before the switch is actuated or after. If the switch is supposed to have continuity after being actuated, it is considered to be “normally open”; if the switch is supposed to have continuity before being actuated, it is considered to be “normally closed”. To test the switch:
- Contact the multimeter’s black lead to one of the terminals and the red lead to the other terminal.
- Actuate the switch.
- The meter should indicate close to “zero” Ohms of resistance either before or after the switch is actuated. If not, the switch has no continuity and is defective.
Three terminal switches will have a common terminal in addition to a “normally closed” terminal and a “normally open” terminal. The common terminal is usually designated by the letters “COM”, the normally closed terminal by the letters “NC”, and the normally open terminal by the letters “NO”. To test a three-terminal switch:
- Contact the black lead to the common terminal and contact the red lead to the “normally open” terminal.
- Actuate the switch.
- The meter display should indicate “zero” Ohms of resistance.
- Move the red lead to the “normally closed” terminal. The meter display should indicate “zero” Ohms of resistance before the switch is actuated.
Keep in mind, if a switch terminal test positive for continuity when it should not (such as the “normally open” terminal testing positive before the switch is actuated), then it’s likely the component has shorted closed. This also indicates the switch is faulty and will require replacement. In some cases, you may be able to replace the switch independently of the latch if the manufacturer offers the parts separately. However, the latch and its switch or switches may only be available as an assembly.
3 different ways to install a new door latch
So, you’ve confirmed the dishwasher’s door latch is, indeed, defective and you will need to install a new one. The process to accomplish this varies from model-to-model, but there are generally three different ways to access a latch assembly so it can be replaced. Before you attempt the one applicable to your dishwasher, be sure to shut off the power to the appliance. If the dishwasher has a power cord plugged into an outlet under the sink, simply unplug the cord. Otherwise, you should switch off the breaker for the electrical circuit the dishwasher is on.
- To access the door latch on some dishwasher models, you may be able to simply unthread the screws securing the dishwasher’s control panel to the door. With the control panel detached, your next step is to unthread the mounting screw or screws to release the door latch from the inner door panel or the inside of the control panel. Disconnect the wires from the latch assembly’s switch or switches to fully remove the old latch. Before you install the new latch, you may need to transfer spacers, a handle, or other components from the old latch to the new one. You may also need to transfer the switch or switches or install a new switch. Connect the wires to the switch terminals, then position the latch in the control panel or on the inner door panel and thread the mounting screw or screws to hold the assembly in place. Reposition the control panel on the door and secure it with the screws.
- Other dishwasher models may require you to unthread all of the screws holding the inner and outer door panels together. Separate the panels to detach the door latch and you can disconnect the wire connecter to fully remove the component. For some models, you will need to depress a latch release then adjust the handle to fully remove the door latch. Other models will require the control panel be removed as well before you can access the latch. After separating the inner and outer door panels on some dishwashers, you will need to remove an access cover to reach the latch assembly. Instead of unthreading screws, you may need to bend back retaining tabs securing the latch, then slide the component out. For these models, the new door latch can be snapped into place in the control panel and the retaining tabs bent back to secure. Connect the wire connecter then reposition and secure the control panel with the screws. Replace any access covers as necessary then join the inner and outer door panels together and rethread the screws.
- The third method to access the door latch requires you to pull the dishwasher a few inches out from the cabinet. Unthread the screws or detach the fasteners so you can remove the dishwasher’s lower access panel or panels. Set any insulation aside. Check to see if there is enough slack in the power and water supply lines to pull the appliance out a few inches (if not, you will need detach the lines – remember to shut off the incoming water before removing the water line). Next, open the dishwasher door and unthread the screws securing the appliance’s mounting brackets to the underside of the countertop or the sides of the cabinet. Now gently pull the dishwasher out a few inches from the cabinet (you may need to adjust the leveling legs to clear the countertop). You can now unthread the mounting screws securing the old door latch to the dishwasher’s frame. After connecting the wire connecter, position the new latch in the frame and secure it with the screws. Gently slide the dishwasher back into the cabinet and rethread the screws to secure the mounting brackets to the cabinet or countertop. Replace the insulation, then reposition the access panel or panels and secure with the screws or fasteners.
With the repair completed, restore power to the dishwasher and confirm the door latches securely and the appliance can run normally.
To replace your dishwasher’s door latch, you need to find the right latch that fits your dishwasher. Repair Clinic.com takes all the guesswork out of searching for the correct part; just type the full model number of the dishwasher into the Repair Clinic website search bar to see a full list of compatible parts. Next, choose “Latch” (or “Switch” if you want to see if the micro-switch is available separately) from the “Part Category” filter then select the appropriate part title using the “Part Title” filter (“Door Latch”, “Micro-Switch”, “Door Switch”). The result will be the exact latch assembly or switch that matches your model. Repair Clinic carries genuine manufacturer door latches and switches, as well as all other dishwasher replacement parts, from brands such as Bosch, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag, Samsung, GE, Frigidaire, LG, and Whirlpool, so, once you replace the defective component, you can be assured your dishwasher will be working great for years to come.