What Causes a Dishwasher Not To Start?

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Like puzzle pieces, you’ve ingeniously rearranged the plates and bowls in the dishwasher’s lower rack to fit in two more plates and a serving tray. The upper rack is maxed out with glasses, coffee mugs, and that rubber duck bath toy your toddler won’t keep out of his mouth. You’ve added the detergent to the dispenser and selected the wash setting, but when you hit the start button… nothing happens.

What is supposed to happen when your press the start button

Depending on the dishwasher model, pressing the start button will allow the user to select a particular wash setting, such as an economy cycle that will avoid overuse of water; a setting that will allow the dishware to be sanitized with high heat; a time-delay start if you’d prefer the dishwasher not be running during after-dinner conversation; a setting that will allow only the items in the upper rack to be washed; a setting for when you’re only washing pots and pans, and numerous other options.

Once the wash setting has been selected, you may need to press that start button a second time which will cause the control to send 120 volts of alternating current to the water inlet valve solenoid which opens the valve and allows the proper amount of 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.

Once the fill cycle has completed, the control will then send voltage to the circulation pump motor which uses an impeller to force water through the dishwasher’s wash arms. As the water circulates through the arms, a wax motor or solenoid causes the dispenser to open and release detergent to mix with the water. Depending on the setting, the control may send voltage to a heating element periodically during the wash cycle to maintain a water temperature between 120-degrees and 160-degrees Fahrenheit.

Five reasons why your dishwasher is not starting

Of course, all the wash setting options in the world won’t do a bit of good if the dishwasher won’t even start. So, without further ado, here are five reasons why the dishwasher might not be starting and the associated parts that may need to be replaced to fix the problem:

  1. Defective door latch assembly – The dishwasher door must be properly latched for the fill cycle to begin. However, if the door latch assembly is defective, the dishwasher may fail to start even when the door is fully closed. For many latches, you can use a multimeter to test the micro-switch inside the latch assembly for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path inside the switch. If the switch tests negative for continuity, the latch assembly will need to be replaced, although you may be able to replace the switch itself independently of the latch.
  2. Blown thermal fuse – Some dishwashers will have a thermal fuse located near the bottom of the tub, or on or near the control board. The fuse is designed to blow if the dishwasher overheats, cutting off power to the appliance to protect other components. As with a door latch switch, you can use a multimeter to test the fuse for electrical continuity to determine if the fuse has blown or not.
  3. Damaged touchpad – Does a touchpad button go “beep” when pressed? Is the button indicator light illuminated? If some of the touchpad buttons aren’t beeping or lighting up, but others do, the touchpad may be damaged and preventing the dishwasher from starting. You can try cleaning the ribbon connecter to improve the connection to the control board, but you may need to install a brand new touchpad to solve the problem.
  4. Faulty main control board – The main control board provides power to nearly every electrical part in the dishwasher, and a faulty control board could be the reason the dishwasher won’t start. While the board cannot be easily tested, you should inspect the board for signs of burning or a shorted-out component.
  5. Defective timer – Similar to a control board, a dishwasher timer allows power to flow to the right part at the right time. A defective timer may be unable to send voltage to the dishwasher to start the appliance. Since timers are often misdiagnosed as faulty, you should inspect and test (if possible) the door latch, latch switch, thermal fuse, and touchpad before considering a timer replacement.

Fix your dishwasher with help from Repair Clinic

Once you’ve diagnosed the cause of the dishwasher failing to start, the next step is to find the right part to fix the problem. This is where Repair Clinic can be a big help. Enter the full model number of the appliance in the Repair Clinic website search bar for a complete list of compatible parts (HINT: the dishwasher’s 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 (example: “Latch”) and the “Part Title” filter (example: “Actuator”) to locate the specific part you need. Repair Clinic carries door latches, thermal fuses, touchpads, control boards, and timers for all the top brand dishwashers including Bosch, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag, Samsung, GE, Frigidaire, LG, and Whirlpool, but you’ll want to make sure you’re purchasing the right matching part for it to work with your model. You should also check out Repair Clinic’s vast library of “how-to” videos, diagrams, and articles to help you do the dishwasher repair quickly and successfully.

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