You should expect your dishwasher to last at least 10 years without breaking down, but many dishwashers can develop faults earlier. Luckily, lots of minor issues can be fixed with simple repairs.
With advice from the repair experts at eSpares.co.uk, we explain how to do easy five-minute and intermediate dishwasher repairs, as well those that are more ambitious and might require a little more skill.
More often than not DIY repairs are not only possible but are also cheaper and more environmentally-friendly, so we encourage you to give it a go.
Dishwasher beyond repair? Our in-depth tests have found great Best Buy dishwashers from £240.
DIY dishwasher repair tips
Regardless of the appliance you want to fix, there are four good habits to get into.
- Keep the manual - If you've lost the user manual (we all have), check the manufacturers' websites for PDF versions. You can also try Googling your manual and include 'pdf' in the search query.
- Watch a repair video - Before scrapping an appliance, make a commitment to watch just one repair video first. There are hundreds of free, short and relevant videos online like the ones on the eSpares YouTube channel. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but watching someone else complete the same fix gives a much clearer understanding of what's involved. Then you can make an informed decision about whether to have a go.
- Find the appliance model number - You'll need the unique model number for your appliance to find a replacement part that will fit. With dishwashers, this information is most commonly 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 will give you change from a tenner, but 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 repairs that will really impress people!
Easy five-minute dishwasher repairs
These issues are quick and simple to fix. There's no need to take the dishwasher apart and no need for any specialist equipment or experience to complete these repairs.
1. Smelly dishwasher? Wash the filter
The filter sits at the base of the 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 brand 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.
2. Wobbly basket? Replace the wheels
Stuck or missing wheels 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.
3. Poor cleaning? Unclog the spray arms
The spray arms are the long flat plastic parts that rotate and spray water around the dishwasher, rinsing and cleaning the dishes.
If your dishwasher is not cleaning efficiently, it's worth taking a look at the spray arms as if they're clogged or damaged it's a quick fix.
Spray arms can be simply unclipped and either cleaned or new ones clipped in place.
And don't forget to give the spray arm mounting a clean while it's exposed too.
Intermediate dishwasher repairs
Fixing these faults may take a bit longer, involve more steps or require the removal of some panels or parts within the machine.
However, none require any special electrical knowledge, so they are still quite accessible to anyone willing to give them a go.
Some basic equipment like different types of screwdrivers or pliers might be required, but most homes have these common DIY tools already.
1. Dishwasher not draining? Unblock the pump
The drain pump is the part that drains the dirty water out of the dishwasher, and can easily get blocked with bits of broken glass or crockery or build-ups of food or even hair.
The pump is found at the bottom of the machine and can be taken apart, cleaned out and put back together with relative ease.
The dishwasher will need to be tilted on its back and the base plate unscrewed and removed to get to the pump.
The biggest challenge with this repair is remembering how to reassemble the machine once you've cleaned out the debris in the pump. Taking photos on your phone can be useful for reference.
Watch our step-by-step video on how to fix a dishwasher that's not draining.
2. Dishwasher leaking? Fix the door hinge and seals
The door hinge lets the door open and close smoothly.
Many dishwasher doors have a hinge pulley system that stops the door from falling open and slamming down onto the floor (or someone's foot).
If the door is loose or heavy with nothing counterbalancing it, remove the side panels to investigate the hinge mechanism. The problem will most likely become clear after some inspection.
You can then source a replacement for the faulty part and watch a video to get familiar with the exact repairs process for your machine.
For more information, check out our guide on how to fix a leaking dishwasher.
3. Detergent dispenser broken? Get a replacement
The detergent dispenser holds the dishwasher capsule 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. Replacing dishwasher hoses
There are two hoses that connect to the back of your dishwasher. The fill hose allows clean water into the machine whereas the drain hose allows the dirty water to pass out of the machine into the drain.
Online spare parts websites like espares.co.uk let you differentiate between the two hoses so that if one develops a leak you can simply unscrew it and source a replacement.
Knowing the difference between the two hoses is also key to installing your own dishwasher. This knowledge is handy when buying a new machine as it will save you money on the installation fee. It's even handier when you're moving house as you don't have to arrange an appliance engineer on top of all the other life admin.
More skilled dishwasher repairs
These are electrical repairs that require more advanced diagnosis knowledge and slightly more advanced equipment like multimeters.
This doesn't mean that they can't be fixed by novices but it's likely that research, appliance disassembly and a bit of diagnosis of different parts will be required to complete the repair.
Appliances should be switched off and disconnected from the mains when undertaking any type of repair and this is extremely important here.
1. Water isn't heating up? Test the heating element
The element is the part that heats the water inside the dishwasher. Limescale deposits can cause the element to fail prematurely so regularly use a dishwasher descaler to help avoid this fault. To test the element:
- Lay the dishwasher down on its back.
- Remove the base (and any other parts blocking access to the element).
- Isolate the element by removing the wires connected to it.
- Use a multimeter to test the resistance of the element by placing the two multimeter probes on the two terminals where the wires were attached.
If the multimeter reading indicates that there is a fault, fitting a replacement element should get the dishwasher heating the water again.
2. Dishwasher isn't filling with water? Fix the broken water valve
The water valve is what lets water into the dishwasher. However, to know for sure that it's the valve causing the issue, the process is very similar to checking the element.
The water valve needs to be accessed at the back of the dishwasher behind the fill hose, isolated by removing the wires attached to it, checked with the multimeter and replaced if faulty.
3. Just not starting? How to diagnose faults you can't see
To help narrow down the cause of a fault, modern dishwashers will display a variety of error codes. While an error code will give an indication of the cause (e.g. a draining issue), most issues can be caused by a few different parts so there will still be some diagnosis involved.
First, familiarise yourself with the process of isolating parts and taking resistance readings across their terminals.
Then learn what different multimeter readings mean. If you can do both these things, you will be able to tell whether any electrical part in your dishwasher is faulty.
For more troubleshooting advice, read how to fix a dishwasher that won't start.
Dishwasher repairs to leave for the professionals
Dishwashers are getting more and more advanced each year. While this opens up a world of useful features, it means that dishwashers are increasingly reliant on electronics and the printed circuit board (PCB) module that controls them.
Faults with PCB modules can be hard to diagnose, specialist equipment may be required and replacing them can be prohibitively expensive.
If you know the PCB module is faulty, it's still worth checking the cost of a new one but you may find it's just not a cost-effective or viable option to do yourself.
In this event, depending on how expensive and old your dishwasher is, you may want to consider just getting a new model rather than repairing your current one.
If you need to call in an expert, find a good, local tradesman on Which? Trusted Traders.