Dishwasher Not Draining – How to Fix This Problems

Water is one of the most popular issues in today’s modern households because it can go through pretty much everything. Basically, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, unexpected problems can still arise sooner or later. Every household owner in the world will face water related issues at some point or another. However, they begin in a mild stage, so it is your responsibility to react as soon as they occur. Give them time and they will aggravate. They will never solve on their own, so try to pay attention to any leak and handle it right away.Dishwasher Not Draining – How to Fix This Problems

A dishwasher not draining is by far the most common problem affecting dishwashers. The good news is that you do not have to be a genius to diagnose it because it is obvious. Practically, seeing standing water in the basin is an obvious sign that something is wrong. You can always choose to ignore this issue, but it will inevitably flood your kitchen sooner or later. Another good news is that this fault is usually caused by a blockage in the culprit. In other words, you may not necessarily have to buy expensive replacement parts. If you like fixing things yourself around the household, you do not even have to call an engineer.

Modern units are professional enough to stop the cycle when the dishwasher is not draining. This way, it will prevent leaking and flooding. Besides, they may also give you some error codes. Check the owner’s manual and find the actual source of your fault. This is the easy way to identify the cause and tackle it. If you got an older model, you might need to try more potential causes until you figure the right one. Then, what are the most popular causes? Most importantly, how do you fix them?

Why is My Dishwasher Not Draining Completely?

There are more things that can cause problems when your dishwasher does not drain. Some of them are simple. Some others are more complicated. The same rule applies to the fixes. For example, if your dishwasher has a forward reversing motor that malfunctions, this might explain why the dishwasher is not draining well. Such problems are quite rare and they tend to affect old models only. If your machine barely has a few years, you are less likely to face this issue. This is also among the complicated (yet still doable) problems.

You surely will be bothered if you found out your dishwasher not drying all the way and you wonder what could be the reasons behind it. To give you an idea, here are some of the common causes why dishwashers won’t dry your utensils completely:

  • The heating element is not doing its job. Obviously, if the dishwasher’s heating element is not working, the dishes will never get dry completely. To determine if the heating element is not damaged, use a multimeter to test its continuity. If the heating element is indeed not working, the best and only way is to replace it.
  • It could be that the vent is not working properly. While the machine is drying the dishes, the vent let out the hot, steamy air. If the vent is not working or opening correctly, there will be moisture left on the dishwasher. Thus, your dishes will not dry completely.
  • Vent fan motor malfunction. The fan motor is responsible in the major operation of your dishwasher’s vent. If the fan motor is not working, the vent will not properly function as well. You may use your hand to determine if the fan motor is running, or you may use a multimeter to check of the fan motor’s continuity.
  • The drain system has some issues. If a part of the drain system fails to function, the dishes will not completely dry. There are several reasons why the draining system is not working and the best way to address the problem is to have a professional check it.
  • The water is not getting hot. If the water does not heat up, not only your dishes will not be cleaned well, there is also not enough heat to make them evaporate.

Dishwasher Not Draining: Cause in More Details

On a different note, you should also pay attention to recent changes, since they might be the potential causes. Have you just installed a new garbage disposal? If your problems coincide with this installation, the solution might be fairly simple then. For the garbage disposal to function by the book, you are supposed to remove the knockout plug. Identify it in the construction and take it off. If you forget to do it, the dishwater will not drain. This cause is easy to identify, but also easy to fix with a simplistic operation.

Now, what happens when the dishwasher relies on the same drain as the sink? This is one of the most common installations out there. Is water not draining from the dishwasher? How about the sink? Sometimes, this problem affects both these elements. The cause is clearly in the drain. It is probably clogged, so it needs to be cleared out. How can you tell? Simple. Run the dishwasher and look closely at the sink. Can you hear any bubbling noises? Can you actually see water bubbling? A drain cleaner will solve the problem. If it is too severe, you might have to disassemble the system and check every dishwasher drain hose, only to clean everything manually.

Pay attention to the connection as well. How does the dishwasher connect to the sink? If it uses a hose and the hose is problematic, dishwasher is not draining completely. It might be plugged or perhaps it is damaged. If damaged, you might end up with some leaks as well. Take a peek at its construction, remove it and inspect it thoroughly. Checking this hose should be a routine operation whenever you go under the sink to repair one thing or another.

Finally, do not overlook the dishwasher basket either. After long periods of time, it might get clogged with food. Hard water can also cause similar problems. Luckily, you do not need to be an engineer to identify this cause. Just remove the basket and look. It takes some patience, as well as a gentle touch. Lift it, then look at the deposits. Can you see any materials blocking the drain? They will also release an unpleasant smell. If you see all these, the dishwasher is not draining fully. Gently remove the debris to avoid breaking the parts, then reinstall the basket. It should run smoothly now. If you cannot see or smell anything, the problem is somewhere else.

How to Fix a Dishwasher Not Draining

Many modern appliances are exposed to failure due to their sophisticated systems. Back in the day, the simpler an appliance was, the more it lasted. Today, with so many diversified features, chances are you might need some handyman skills for farther repairs. However, some units face problems due to other factors and not necessarily because of their features. Think about the dishwasher, for example. It is exposed to all kinds of foods, dirt, grease and other elements that can obviously affect its functionality. These are usually the main causes for failure. However, it does not mean that you need an expert, but just conduct some research and keep the right tools nearby.

1. Checking and Unclogging Dishwasher Drain Hose

The dishwasher drain hose is usually the first thing you should check for a quick fix. Even if this is the first time you are doing it, you should not face any problem. When the dishwasher is not draining water, the motivation of fixing it yourself is more than enough. Open the low panel. It usually has clips. If it has screws, you might need a small screwdriver. What does the hose look like? Is it kinked? Straighten it then.

You can also remove it for a deeper inspection. It is usually held with simple mechanisms, such as a spring clip. Take it off the inlet, clean the debris inside it through the sink. A wire hanger is also handy to clear the clog before reinstalling everything back.

How to Know if Your Dishwasher Drain Hose is Clogged

You do not have to be a genius or a professional handyman to tell if the dishwasher drain hose is clogged. After a few uses, you will get used to how much time it needs to drain completely. With time, the draining part tends to take more and more. It slows down. At that point, you know for sure that something is stuck in the hose. Sometimes, the problem might be temporary, so it is gone by the next use. In other cases, it tends to persist. The worst part is that other particles will clog to the current ones, so the clog gains in size.

Sure, not everyone may pay attention to these things. Overlook such water related aspects and you will end up with an unpleasant surprise. At some point, the water will no longer be able to drain at all. What happens then? You open up the dishwasher and the water level is up to the door. Ideally, you should avoid getting there. At that level, you have obviously overlooked the issue for way too much time. But then, how do you unclog the hose?

How to Unclog the Dishwasher Drain Hose

The first step is about safety. Make sure that you do not expose yourself to any risks. The unit should not be powered, so shut it off and unplug it. When dealing with electricity, this is the first step, especially if it is also involves water. Once you are perfectly sure that there is no way to get in touch with electricity, it is time to locate the problematic parts.

Identifying the drain hose is usually the main issue. Sometimes, you might need to pull the dishwasher away from its location for better access. Sometimes, it is “hidden” in a small cabinet below it or perhaps under the sink. The protection cover is usually fitted with some screws. If you are not sure, you can check the owner’s manual. If you no longer have it, chances are you will find it online. Disconnect the hose once you find it. Run water through it and try to eliminate the clog. You can also use vinegar and baking soda to help in the process. Inspect the hose for cracks and holes too. If it is too worn out, you should consider replacement. If water is not powerful enough for the clog, you can get a wire hanger, straighten it and use it on the clog.

If this solution does not solve your problem, the clog is probably in the drain. The hose does its job, but the drain is blocked. Once again, you should check the owner’s manual and find the precise location of its drain. You have to look in the drain catch, as well as the filters. Removing these parts is not hard. You also need to rely on your straightened hanger to extract clogs. Vinegar and baking soda are quite successful because they create a chemical reaction that unclogs and loosens hard buildups.

Finally, reconnect the drain catch and filters. Power the unit and turn it on. You can also use another dose of vinegar and baking soda, then run the dishwasher with no dishes in it. This activity will clear the unpleasant smells, but also the hose. There are simply no other causes for such problems. If the water fails to drain or drains too slowly, these are the steps to go through. The project is excellent and quite rewarding for DIY enthusiasts.

2. Check Dishwasher Top & Bottom Drain Pump

If the problem persists, the dishwasher not draining has a different issue. Most specialists move on to the pump. 90% of all dishwashers come with two impellers in the pump composition – one on top and one on the bottom. The upper one has the main goal to pump water into the machine while the other one does the opposite thing. When the dishwasher does not drain, the problem can be in the second one. In order to access this second impeller, you have to lift the upper one. If you have never done this procedure, you will probably find plenty of trash in there. There are also situations when plastic and broken glass may prevent the operation, so be careful what you touch.

3. Check Dishwasher Drain Basket and Sump

If none of these operations fixes your dishwasher, go in the drain basket and sump. Clean the basket especially at the lower spray arm. Look for slime and debris. Get some gloves before sticking your hands in there. If there is a solid clog, you can try using a wire coat hanger. Poke the clog a few times to dislodge it. Sometimes, it may work. If it does not, you have to remove the basket or the dishwasher will not drain. What does it imply? Unscrew a few nuts and clean the sump manually.

4. Check Dishwasher Float Assembly

There are situations when the dishwasher is not draining well because of the float assembly too. There are two ways to do it, depending on the construction:

  • Unsnap it with a little pressure
  • Unscrew all the screws

What does a working float feel like? Just drop and lift it a few times. Does it move freely? Chances are it does not. This might explain why the water is not draining completely. Clear all the debris, especially the one gathered under the assembly. It prevents the unit from dropping, so the cycle is ceased before it completes.

The float switch might need replacement. It is inexpensive and can be removed by releasing a clip or removing some screws. An overlooked switch is often the cause for water not draining from dishwasher.

5. Check Dishwasher Motor and Drain Valve

If none of these quick fixes solves the issue, the dishwasher is not draining fully from other causes. The motor is the last thing you want to deal with. It can be accessed through a bottom front panel. This construction does not apply to every unit though:

  • Use the multimeter
  • Set it at the Rx1 setting
  • Touch probes to one terminal at a time
  • The reading should get close to zero
  • Place one probe on the metal case and another one on each terminal for ground connection checking
  • No reading should be displayed

These two tests determine the motor efficiency. If the motor fails, dishwasher is not draining because of it. It needs replacement. Sometimes, the problem is in the timer. Use the multimeter on the timer. The reading must be between 2,000 and 3,500 ohms.

Finally, do not skimp on the drain valve either. There is a small panel right under the door, which needs to be removed. You will probably need a screwdriver to take out a few screws. Open the door to access the screws, then close it to take the panel out. The valve is easy to spot close to the motor, yet some dishwashers come with a different construction. Not sure what it looks like? Spot a water hose going from the motor. Follow it and it takes you straight to the valve.

It has a gate arm and a solenoid. The arm has a couple of springs. If you cannot see one of them, it is lost. Some of them may also not work. Anyhow, you need replacement. Test the solenoid as well. Use a multi-tester. If the solenoid displays other values than infinity or 40 ohms, it must be replaced.

6. Check Dishwasher Garbage Disposal

If the dishwasher is not draining water, your fix solutions are quite over. Sure, you can try checking the garbage disposal too. Clear the garbage disposal to ensure that the unit is not clogged. Remove the drain hose that makes the connection and use a screwdriver. When connected to the air gap, lift the cover, take the plastic cap off and remove the debris.

Tips to prevent drainage problems

Dishwasher not draining is certainly a frustrating problem, but a few simple tips will help you prevent such problems in the future.

  • Removed some leftover before placing them into the dishwasher. Cracks and crums could plug the filters and water jets.
  • Do not put bottle with paper-labels cause these labels can come out and stuck in the dishwasher.
  • Be sure to check all spray arms can move freely when placing dishes into machine.
  • Use a drain cleaner every once in a while to prevent dishwasher not draining. Most people have hard water, which has terrible effects on such appliances.
  • Maintaining the basket in a clean and safe way is all about using the right solution. Run vinegar through the dishwasher one or two times a month.
  • Do not wait until the dishwasher is not draining to clean the basket. Inspect it occasionally and clear all the clogging remains and buildup materials.
  • Before running the dishwasher, try running hot water through the garbage disposal for a few minutes. This way, the grease and grime from the pipes will be partially cleared.
  • Updated June 17, 2018
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