Unless you intend to mop the kitchen floor every time you run your dishwasher, this convenient appliance won’t remain convenient for long if every wash cycle results in a puddle of water on the floor. This week’s blog will examine how the water is supposed to enter and exit a dishwasher, the malfunctioning parts that can cause a leaking dishwasher, and what you can do to keep the water inside the appliance where it belongs.
Where the water in the dishwasher is supposed to go
It’s common to think of the dishwasher’s “fill cycle”, where water is allowed to enter the tub, as the start of the dishwashing process. In fact, with most dishwashers, there is a short drain cycle that occurs after the start button is pressed in order to remove old water from the tub. This is because the dishwasher is 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. Once this short drain cycle has completed, the control sends 120 volts of alternating current to the water inlet valve solenoid which opens the valve and allows the proper amount of fresh water into the tub. This process will take anywhere from 90 seconds to two minutes and will usually allow around two gallons of water to fill the tub.
When the fill cycle has completed, the control will send voltage to the circulation pump motor which uses an impeller to force the water through the dishwasher’s wash arms for a wash cycle. The water circulating through the arms is what cleans the dishes, bowls, glasses, mugs, and utensils, of course, with the assistance of detergent which is released into the tub through a dispenser opened by a wax motor or solenoid.
After the completion of each wash cycle, the control sends voltage to the drain pump that uses an impeller to force the water through a drain hose to a garbage disposer or sink drain pipe. Some models without a separate drain pump will use a drain valve solenoid to open and close a flap to drain water through the drain hose or retain the water in the sump. The dishwasher will then go through several rinse cycles, which are similar to the wash cycles, and may introduce rinse aid to the water to help with drying and to reduce streaking if your home uses hard water. Following each rinse cycle, there is a final drain cycle, although, as noted earlier, some water will be left in the tub to help preserve the seals and prevent cracking.
The 8 dishwasher parts responsible for a water leak
If the water in your dishwasher is finding its way onto the kitchen floor, it’s likely that one of eight parts have failed, although there is one more common cause we’ll get to later. With a little troubleshooting, you should be able to determine which of these eight parts is causing your dishwasher to leak:
- Water inlet valve – Mineral deposits in the water can cause the water inlet valve to get stuck in the open position or prevent the valve from fully closing resulting in a continuous drip. This can cause the dishwasher to overfill and, potentially, leak. Attempting to clean out an inlet valve is not recommended as that can actually hasten part failure, so it’s best to replace the old inlet valve with a new one.
- Float switch – The float switch is actuated by rising water where it will then interrupt power to the inlet valve to prevent the appliance from overfilling. However, the contacts in the switch can short closed and not interrupt the voltage to the inlet valve as needed. Since float switches will normally only have electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the switch – before actuation, you should test the switch with a multimeter to determine if the switch has continuity both before and after actuation. If it does, then the switch has shorted and will need to be replaced.
- Wash arm – A cracked wash arm or support can force water under the door and onto the kitchen floor. A new wash arm or wash arm assembly are relatively inexpensive components and are usually easy to install for most do-it-yourselfers.
- Motor shaft seal – If the leak is coming from the dishwasher base, specifically from the area around the motor shaft, it’s likely the motor shaft seal has cracked. Depending on the dishwasher model, you may be able to replace just the shaft seal itself. Some manufacturers will require you to replace the impeller and seal together while other manufacturers require an entirely new pump and motor assembly be installed, which leads us to the next potentially malfunctioning part…
- Pump and motor assembly – If you’re unable to identify where the leak is specifically coming from, or the manufacturer of your dishwasher model doesn’t offer just the shaft seal for purchase (or the impeller and seal as an assembly), your best bet will be to replace the entire pump and motor assembly to resolve the leaking issue.
- Sump seal / pump gasket – Most dishwashers use a sump to collect the water that enters the pump or pumps. A damaged sump seal or pump gasket can result in a water leak. Again, you will need to replace the damage seal or gasket with a new one to fix the problem.
- Drain hose – A damaged drain hose could be causing a leak when the waters enters it during the drain cycle. You should inspect the hose for any small holes and confirm it is secured properly to the drain pump’s outlet port. You should also check to see that the drain hose is properly elevated. To ensure proper draining and prevent the water from flowing back into the tub, the drain hose must have a supported loop that goes above the drain hose’s connection point to the kitchen sink’s drain or the port on the garbage disposer the drain hose is attached to.
- Door gasket – Over time, the dishwasher door gasket may lose its ability to seal the door properly, allowing water to leak out during a wash or rinse cycle. Fortunately, door gaskets are among the easiest components to replace.
Avoid using too much detergent
There is one more common cause of water pooling on the kitchen floor in front of the dishwasher and it’s not caused by a faulty part. It’s the result of using too much detergent. Using more than the recommended amount of detergent can cause the soap suds to build up in the tub and be forced through the bottom of the door. Enough suds will result in a pool, or small pools, of water to form in front of the appliance.
Have you recently changed the detergent type you’re using in the dishwasher? New detergent pods have been rated as having more cleaning power, but their concentrated formula may also be causing excessive suds build-up in the tub. You may need to experiment using different brands of detergent to find the one that is most compatible with your dishwasher. Keep in mind, the softer your home’s water supply is, the less detergent you will need to use.
Have you determined a faulty inlet valve is the cause of the water leak? Or is it a damaged motor shaft seal, drain hose, or door gasket? You’ll need to find the right part that matches your dishwasher model to successfully fix the problem. As your repair partner, Repair Clinic.com takes the guesswork out of this process. Enter the full model number of the dishwasher in the Repair Clinic website search bar (that model number can be found on a label attached to the top or side of the dishwasher door). You can then use the “Part Category” filter (examples: “Valve & Float” or “Gasket & Seal”) followed by the “Part Title” filter (examples: “Water Inlet Valve” or “Shaft Seal”) to narrow that list down to identify the exact part that fits your model.
In addition to stocking thousands of genuine manufacturer dishwasher parts, Repair Clinic is home to hundreds of dishwasher “how-to” videos, articles, and diagrams. This free repair help content will guide you through troubleshooting your problem and, in many cases, show you how to replace that troublesome part step-by-step.