Common dishwasher faults and how to fix them - Which? (2023)

You should be able to count on a good-quality dishwasher lasting 10 years or more without breaking down, as long as it's well looked after. However, if your dishwasher is not working as it should, don’t panic. Our handy guide covers a range of common dishwasher problems and the best ways to solve them.

This includes how to fix a dishwasher that's not draining or won't start, as well as how to fix a leak from the dishwasher door. We also explain the four key steps that will make it much easier to repair your dishwasher.

If you can't fix your issue, go for a Best Buy dishwasher that's energy and water efficient, cleans well and that you can rely on.

How to fix a dishwasher that's not draining

If your dishwasher isn’t draining, there are a few quick and easy checks you can make before calling in a professional or buying a new machine.

Watch our video or read on for step-by-step advice to try to fix it yourself.

  1. First turn it off at the mains. Before you do any work on your dishwasher, make sure it's switched off at the mains.
  2. Take out and clean the filters.One of the most common causes preventing a dishwasher from draining is a blocked filter. The filter is found at the bottom of the dishwasher and should be easy to pull or twist out. It's a good idea to clean the filter weekly by running it under a tap and replacing it back into the machine.
  3. Inspect the water hose for blockages.If cleaning the filter doesn't work, check the waste hose at the back of the dishwasher as it may be squashed or kinked, which could prevent waste water draining away. This is easier to do if you have a freestanding rather than an integrated machine, which may require you to call a professional.
  4. Check the sink waste water pipe for obstructions.If the waste water pipe is connected to the sink waste, there may be blockages causing an issue. You can often tell as the water is draining away more slowly than normal - or not at all. A possible fix is to pour in a solution of baking soda and vinegar. Next, wait for a minute and flush it through with boiling water. Alternatively, you could attempt to use a plunger to shift the blockage.

How to fix a dishwasher that won't start

If your dishwasher won't start and the control panel shows no signs of life, the problem could be resolved with a few quick and easy checks.

Watch our video and follow the steps below to help you solve the issue.

If the control panel is not displaying anything, you should first check the plug and socket.

Unplug the dishwasher and plug in another appliance, like a lamp. If it doesn’t work either, there may be an electrical fault.

However, if it does, you have narrowed down the problem to the dishwasher itself.

Plug the dishwasher back in, make sure the door is fully closed, and try to restart the machine.

Check your dishwasher manual for advice on how to perform a program reset. It may be the dishwasher has not finished its previous cycle and needs to be manually restarted.

How to fix a leak from your dishwasher door

Water may be leaking from your dishwasher, but you might not need to buy a new machine or hire a professional to take a look at it.

Watch our video and see our information below to find out what you should do.

  1. Turn off the dishwasher before starting.
  2. Check the spray arms. Water leaking from the front could be caused by the spray arms not spinning properly due to a blockage or dishwasher overloading. In this case, water will often spray towards the door seals and leak out. To fix this problem, you can remove the spray arms found at the bottom of the dishwasher baskets and check for blockages, which can be removed by a needle. When you put the arms back in, make sure they can spin properly when the dishwasher is fully loaded.
  3. Examine the upper door seal. If the spray arms aren’t the problem, there may be an issue with the upper door seal that goes around the side and top of the door. It may have perished or simply be clogged up with dirt and grime that’s preventing the door closing properly. If it needs to be replaced, you can pull out the old seal and push in a new one without too much trouble. New seals should be available from the dishwasher manufacturer or other reputable online retailers. When ordering new parts, you’ll need the model number of your dishwasher, which can be found on the inside of the door.
  4. Look at the lower door seal.If the lower door seal is leaking, you’ll need to remove the door, which is likely to be a job for a professional.

How to fix a smelly dishwasher

The filter sits at the base of your dishwasher and catches large food particles so they don't get into the inner working of the machine and cause blockages.

Filters are designed to clip out easily for regular cleaning. They just need rinsing under the tap once a week. A filter that's excessively dirty or damaged (or missing in the case of a second-hand machine) can be replaced with a new part that simply slots or clips into place.

If this doesn't fix it, read our full guide on how to clean a dishwasher.

How to fix a wobbly dishwasher basket

Common dishwasher faults and how to fix them - Which? (1)

Stuck or missing wheels can make loading or unloading a dishwasher a real pain.

It's a no-brainer to get some replacement wheels. The old wheels can be pulled off and the new ones clipped on with ease.

Contact the manufacturer of your dishwasher and it should be able to advise you where to buy them.

How to fix a broken dishwasher detergent dispenser

The detergent dispenser holds the dishwasher tablet in place until the right point in the cycle to release it.

If the dispenser is damaged, not closing or stuck closed, it can be removed from the machine and a new one clipped in place.

The front panel of the dishwasher, or cupboard door in the case of built-in dishwashers, will need to be removed and any electrical connections will need to be unclipped.

However, it's not complicated to disconnect and push out the old dispenser and reconnect the new one in exactly the same way.

4 steps to make dishwasher repair easier

Common dishwasher faults and how to fix them - Which? (2)
  • Keep the manual - If you've lost the user manual (many of us have at some point), check the manufacturer's' website for a PDF version. Alternatively, try Googling your manual and include 'pdf' in the search query.
  • Watch a repair video - Before scrapping your dishwasher, watch at least one repair video first. There are hundreds of free, short and relevant videos online including some on this page. Watching someone else complete the same fix gives a much clearer understanding of what's involved. You can then make an informed decision about whether to have a go.
  • Find the appliance model number - You'll need the unique model number for your dishwasher to find a suitable replacement part. This information is usually found by opening the door and looking along the top edge and sides. If it's not there, check under the kick plate at the base, the back and the sides of the machine.
  • Learn how to use a multimeter - A basic multimeter could save you hundreds of pounds over the years. Multimeters let you diagnose electrical faults and failures so you can repair appliances and other electrical items when the fault is not visible. This bit of kit is the gateway to understanding and completing more complex - and impressive - repairs.

Consider calling a professional

Common dishwasher faults and how to fix them - Which? (3)

If you can’t fix the problem yourself, it may be time to call a professional. Dishwashers are getting more and more advanced each year. While this opens up a world of useful features, it means they're increasingly reliant on electronics and the printed circuit board (PCB) module that controls them and these are more difficult for a non-professional to repair.

Our free Which? Trusted Trader website lists recommended tradespeople who’ve been through our rigorous screening process.

Also, take a look at our guide to domestic appliance repairs to find out the average costs for a range of jobs, as quoted by Which? Trusted Traders from their years of experience.

Which dishwasher brand is best for reliability?

Dishwashers should last 10 years or more without any issue. However, after surveying our members, we’ve found that as many as a third of dishwashers need to be repaired or replaced sooner – particularly from less reliable brands.

Choosing from one of the most reliable dishwasher brands makes it less likely you will need to repair or replace your machine anytime soon.

Better still, why not buy one of the best dishwashers as tested and reviews by our experts,

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