What To Do If A Washer’s Dispenser Isn’t Working

Have you noticed that your washing machine isn’t getting your laundry as clean as it used to? One reason could be that the washer’s detergent, bleach, or fabric softener dispenser isn’t working. This article will highlight the five troubleshooting steps you can take if you suspect the washing machine’s dispenser is broken and show you how to test for voltage reaching the dispenser water valves or diverter motor to help determine if a component is faulty or not.

How washing machines dispense detergent, bleach, or fabric softener

To assist you in troubleshooting a washer dispenser problem, it’s a good idea to be familiar with how the dispenser operates.

Top-load washer dispenser vs. front-load washer dispenser

A top-load washer dispenser is typically located at the top of the machine and is designed to dispense detergent, fabric softener, and other laundry additives during the wash cycle. The dispenser is usually divided into several compartments, one for each of the cleaning solutions. In a front-load washer, the dispenser is typically located near the front of the appliance and is often a single compartment that can hold multiple types of laundry products.

The washer uses valves and pumps to release the laundry products

When you fill the dispenser with detergent, fabric softener, or other laundry additives, the products are stored in their respective compartments until the appropriate point in the wash cycle. During the wash cycle, the washer uses a series of valves and pumps and/or a diverter motor to send water to flush out the dispenser compartments to distribute them evenly throughout the wash. The exact process for dispensing laundry products can vary depending on the specific washer model. Some washers use a timed-release system, which releases the products at predetermined intervals during the wash cycle. Others may use sensors to detect when the products are needed and release them accordingly.

How a diverter motor works

Washers that have a diverter motor will use the motor to divert the flow of water during the wash cycle. Specifically, it is responsible for diverting water from the washer drum to either the detergent dispenser or the fabric softener dispenser, depending on which cycle the machine is currently in. The motor itself is typically a small electric motor that is controlled by the washing machine’s electronic control board. When the machine is running a wash cycle that requires the use of fabric softener, for example, the control board sends a signal to the diverter motor to activate. The motor then rotates a shaft that is connected to a valve, which diverts the water flow from the drum to the fabric softener dispenser. The motor typically operates on a 120-volt alternating current (AC) power supply, which is converted to direct current (DC) by the control board before it is sent to the motor. The motor’s speed and direction of rotation are controlled by the frequency and duration of the electrical signals sent by the control board. When the cycle is complete, the control board sends another signal to the motor to turn off, and the valve returns to its normal position to allow water to flow back into the drum.

5 troubleshooting steps to solve your washer dispenser problem

Here are five troubleshooting steps you can follow to solve your washer dispenser problem:

1) Check the home’s water pressure – Both top-load and front-load washers depend on good water pressure to flush out the dispenser housing to ensure the detergent, bleach, or fabric softener enters the tub during the wash or spin cycle. You can test the water pressure at your sink. If the pressure seems lower than normal that could be impacting the washer. Water pressure below 20psi can cause the detergent dispenser to not rinse out properly and the tub to fill slowly.

2) Inspect the bleach cup dispenser tubing – If you suspect the bleach isn’t being added to your top-load washer tub during the initial wash cycle, the bleach cup dispenser tubing could be clogged. You can usually detach the tubing from the bleach dispenser tray to inspect it. Spraying water or compressed air into the tubing should help clear out any clogs.

3) Confirm the fabric softener is compatible with your washer – If the fabric softener dispenser on your top-load washer is in the center of the agitator, the softener will dispense during the first spin cycle. However, if the tub does not spin fast enough or the fabric softener you’re using is too thick, the softener may stay in the dispenser. A washer tub spinning too slowly is usually caused by a defective motor or rotor/stator assembly, but you should first confirm you’re using the proper fabric softener for your washer model to ensure it can be dispensed adequately. You should also inspect the fabric softener dispenser for damage and replace it if necessary.

4) Test the water inlet valve – As noted in the first troubleshooting step, good water pressure is necessary for proper detergent dispensing. If you’ve determined there is no problem with the home’s water pressure, your next step should be to confirm the water inlet valve is working properly since some water inlet valves are part of the dispenser or dispenser housing. To help determine this, you can use a multimeter to test the water inlet valve for electrical continuity to confirm the coil doesn’t have an open circuit.

5) Test for voltage reaching the dispenser water valves or diverter motor – If the water inlet valve test positive for electrical continuity, your next troubleshooting step is to test that the control board is sending voltage to the dispenser water valves or diverter motor at the proper times. If voltage is not reaching the valves or motor when it should, the dispenser simply won’t work.

Testing for voltage reaching a washer’s dispenser water valves or diverter motor

Here are the step-by-step instructions demonstrating how to determine if the voltage is reaching your washer’s dispenser water valves or diverter motor:

  • Before beginning any disassembly of the washing machine, unplug the appliance’s power cord.
  • Depending on the model and whether the washer is top-load or front-load, you will need to lift up and support the washer’s main top, detach the control housing, or fully remove the top panel to access the water valves or diverter motor.
  • Disconnect the diverter motor wire connector or the appropriate dispenser water valve wire connector you wish to test.
  • Note the voltage designation on the motor or valve then rotate the multimeter’s range selection dial to the appropriate “Volts AC” or “Volts DC” setting.
  • Plug the washer’s power cord back in and avoid touching any electrical components with your hands.
  • Following the appliance’s technical instructions, access the washer’s diagnostic mode and actuate the appropriate dispenser function (detergent dispensing, bleach dispensing, etc.).
  • Once the dispenser function is actuated, contact the meter leads to the diverter motor power supply connector terminals or the appropriate dispenser water valve connector terminals.
  • Observe the voltage reading on the multimeter’s display. If the appropriate voltage is present, the diverter motor or the dispenser water valve is probably defective and will need to be replaced with a new one. However, if the meter display indicates that no voltage is present, then the washer’s control board is likely at fault.
Washing Machine Dispenser Water Valve – Diverter Motor Voltage Testing

Find the right dispenser water valve or diverter motor at Repair Clinic

Where can you find the correct dispenser water valve or diverter motor for your washing machine? Just enter the washer’s full model number in the Repair Clinic website search bar, then choose “Dispenser” or “Motor” from the “Part Category” navigation filter followed by “Dispenser”, “Dispenser Housing” or “Diverter Motor” using the “Part Title” navigation filter. The resulting part will be the exact dispenser water valve or diverter motor that works with your washer. Repair Clinic stocks thousands of genuine original equipment manufacturer parts from Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, Maytag, GE, Kenmore, Bosch, and Frigidaire among many others, and these OEM parts can be shipped to you quickly so you can fix your washing machine fast.

Repair Clinic offers free washer repair help

Looking for some instructions showing exactly how to replace a part in your washer? Repair Clinic offers free washer repair help like this video showing how to install a new dispenser water valve assembly on an Electrolux front-load washer (Model EIFLS60JIW1). Or, check out this video to see how easy it is to replace a fabric softener dispenser on a GE top-load washer (Model GTW465ASN2WW). Genuine OEM parts and free repair help is what makes Repair Clinic the perfect repair partner to help you fix all of your major home appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and heating and cooling units.

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