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My Dishwasher Fills But Won't Wash

Nicole LaMarco
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There are a few possible reasons why your dishwasher may be filling but not washing. It can be an easy fix.

My Dishwasher Fills But Won't Wash

There are a few possible causes for your dishwasher filling but not washing. With a little know-how and a lot of confidence, your dishwasher will be working well in no time. The things to check are relatively easy, and may save you a lot of time and money, as well as enable you to be able to use your dishwasher again even faster!

Have You Tried Turning it On and off Again?

Yes, that well-known solution for computers and mobile phones works for dishwashers, too. Unplug it, wait for 30 seconds and plug it in again, then give it another try. Sometimes this resets the device and it runs perfectly well again.

Spray Arm

At the base of the inside of your dishwasher is a long, usually plastic piece that sprays water while rotating. This is called the spray arm. Consult your manual for how to remove it. Usually, there's a cap at the center of it that unscrews. Once it's removed, use a wet/dry vac or your hands to clean the tiny receptacle underneath it. Often, this is where food, excess detergent and grime get stuck and prevent your dishwasher from properly working.

Water-Inlet Valve

If you hear a thumping or hammering noise coming from your dishwasher, it's usually the water-inlet valve. This valve allows the water to go to and from the machine. Before you begin, unplug the machine and turn off its water access. Next, check your dishwasher's manual for exactly where the valve is located. Typically, it's found on the lower right or left side. You'll see the main water line, a rubber tube and two wires attached to it. Disconnect these pieces, and you'll find a screen that often needs cleaning of debris, which prevents the dishwasher from working properly.

Float Switch

The float switch works like a little buoy inside the wall of the dishwasher, and it monitors how much water can enter and leave the machine. Once again, consult your manual for its location, but it's usually found on the dishwasher "floor." It's a plastic cylinder that sometimes gets stuck or trapped in position and won't allow the water to do its job. If it isn't stuck, try replacing it because it could be defective.

Get Your Motor Running

If the other solutions haven’t fixed your problem, then you may want to order a new motor. After unplugging the machine, disconnect the water, pull it away from the wall and lie it on its back. The motor is typically behind the lower kickplate or access panel. Remove the screws to get the panel off. Remove the spray arm and the valves and wires you disconnected for the water-inlet valve in order to get to the pump and motor assembly. You can now drop the new one in and reverse the disassembly order to put it back together.

Your dishwasher should be back in working order now. If not, you may have to call in a plumber or repair professional.


Verify that your dishwasher isn’t covered by any warranties before trying to fix it yourself.