I Fixed Our Dishwasher! Here’s How I Did It…

Jim and I are definitely do-it-yourselfers. In our 6+ years of marriage, we have never once called a repairman to our home whenever something broke or stopped working.

Around the house, if something goes wrong, Jim usually has enough handyman skills in him to get us out of practically any jam.

And with my research skills, I’m usually able to point him in the right direction anytime he’s unsure about something. I guess we’re a pretty good team.

But last week, Jim was out of town — for a total of 10 days.

Just my luck… on Day 1 the dishwasher decided to quit working!

inside-dishwasher1

The water would not drain from the bottom of the dishwasher. The entire tub was FILLED with water… all the way up to the point where the door opens. Ugh!

Believe it or not I managed to fix it myself.

Here’s what I did…

First, I ran the dishwasher again — thinking maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe the dishwasher just hadn’t properly cycled through all its stages the last time.

Naaa… even after another full cycle, the water remained piled up on the tub floor.

 

Dishwasher Water Won’t Drain?

I found out that the most common reasons the water won’t drain from a dishwasher are:

  1. Food & debris are blocking the drainage basket (or drain screen) inside the tub, in the far back
  2. Food is clogging the drain hose — the long tube that runs under the sink

dishwasher-drain-basket-drain-screen

So I started with #1 — despite the fact that I feared I wouldn’t have the strength to loosen the tight bolts which keep keep the basket securely in place throughout wash after wash.

First, I had to use a small plastic bowl to bail out the now-smelly water. I would scoop it out and pour it into a larger bowl resting on the open dishwasher lid. Then, when the big bowl got full, I’d empty that into the sink and get back to scooping. (It’s actually fairly tight quarters inside a dishwasher; there’s definitely not much elbow room in there.)

Eventually, even a tiny scoop bowl becomes too big to capture the last layer of water lining the tub. So, for what seemed like forever, I used a turkey baster to suction out the remaining water from the dishwasher.

 

How To Remove The Drainage Basket

Finally, with all of the water removed from the dishwasher — at least from the drainage basket and higher — I was ready to tackle the bolts that were holding the drain basket in place.

tools in a toolboxI went to our handy-dandy Craftsman toolbox (we actually have a “big” tool box which serves as a shelf for the “little” toolbox in our garage… see we’re handy!) and dug out our set of tiny wrenches. Found the perfect size (1/4-inch) and started wrenching.

There are 2 VERY long screws which keep the drain basket in place in our GE dishwasher… so it seemed like it took forever.

Once the 2 screws were loosened and the basket was removed, I discovered a separate “flapper” thing that was resting inside the drain area. So I removed that too. Both the flapper and the drain basket needed a serious cleaning — there was a very thick film of food & grime covering most of the edges.

Then, I had to precisely lodge my upper body way into the dishwasher in order to suction the remaining water that was at the very bottom inside the drain basket. I noticed small bits of food & grime coming up with the water too.

When I couldn’t get any more water out of the drain, I held a large makeup mirror in the back of the dishwasher — over the drain/basket area — to see if I could find any large pieces of food in there. None.

 

What If The Problem Is In The Tubes?

Since I hadn’t dislodged any large particles of food, I figured my efforts had been in vain. I thought the reason the water wouldn’t drain from the tub of the dishwasher was due to a clog in the lines, as opposed to a clog in the drain basket.

drain-hose-clampsAt first, that bummed me out… because I was sure that I wasn’t going to have the muscle power to adequately loosen and then re-tighten the hose clamps that kept the drain tubes in place under the sink. But I didn’t want to wait 9 more days for Jim to get back and use his manly man strength.

So, what’s a girl to do?

First, jiggle the drain tubes a bit (…at which point I noticed some of the water drained through — like maybe there was just some air in the lines?)

Then, put the drain basket (and the flapper!) back in place and run the dishwasher and hope for the best.

Believe it or not, it ran… full cycle.
And it drained… completely empty.

End of the story:
There was no more water resting in the tub of the dishwasher!

This was the best source I found for dishwasher repairs and tips for fixing things yourself.

 

UPDATE 2 YEARS LATER:

I had to remove the basket from the back (inside) the dishwasher and clean it again. This time, it was just something I noticed during a routine “spring cleaning” procedure, rather than an emergency — because the dishwasher wasn’t backing up with water.

But let me tell you, your dishwasher is backing up or not isn’t the only “sign” that something’s going wrong with your dishwasher. It can also run less efficiently simply from the amount of build-up that accumulates from all of the food particles and grime that collect at the dishwasher basket area itself.

Here’s how I ended up fixing our dishwasher this time… with 2 new steps to prevent this from happening again!

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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Fun From Around the Web

  • Tammy

    Lynette, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I bought my first home 2 years ago, and didn’t use the dishwasher much, since it’s only me! Of course, one evening after having friends over for dinner, I started the dishwasher, only to almost slip in a puddle of water as I walked into the kitchen. I thought about going to the store and just purchasing a new one, but wanted to first see if there was anything I could do, I am always willing to try! I did exactly as you said, it was very easy, and guess what I found??? At least six pieces of glass in the bottom drain, this is after I took the basket and the drain cover off, (mine had the plastic flip connected to it). I had to do this carefully, it was like finding large chunks of diamonds, slow and easy! After I was done, I put everything back together, closed it, ran it, and no flood, no mess, and it drained beautifully!!! I would say this took me about an hour total, that is from beginning to end, including cleaning the pieces, and starting the machine in the end…it ran great! I saved myself an expensive plumber service call, a new dishwasher, and also possibly having to take off time from work for the service call. I agree, there are times when you need to call someone to do a repair, but if you are capable and willing to take the time to learn a little something that is not to difficult (like this was), and save yourself some money…then it is all so WORTH IT!!!! I like to say, “If I can do it, YOU can do it!!”

  • Chris

    Hi,
    I followed what you said, and added my own inspiration and it worked! What I added to the mix was to also blast water through the drain hole with a hose. First I uncloged the end of the hose that connects to the sink pipe, cleared the crap out. Then with the filter and arm still out i used the jet setting on my garden hose to power out the gunk in the washers drain system. I also used vinegar and vola! Drains super! I’m celebrating with a beer!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Great idea, Chris. Congrats… and CHEERS! :-D

  • http://www.slme.org Chris

    works like a charm…easier with a wet/dry vac :)

  • Brandon

    Also… Remember to knock out the plug on the garbage disposer before you attache the dishwasher drain tube to it. This comes plugged for those that do not have a dishwasher. It’s a common mistake from what I hear. :)

  • Soon-to-be Mrs. Thomas

    Yay! It worked!!! Thanks so much for posting this! Turned out the people that lived here before us must have washed something with rocks in it because both filters were filled with little pebbles!

  • Aimee

    Thank you for your tips on fixing the dishwasher I just followed your advice and fixed my parents dishwasher, theirs however took a 5/16 rachet to undo the screws, but I got it and saved my dad some money. Thanks again.

  • hoosiermom

    Green beans! I do not know how they end up there but that was clogging the drain! We are very particular about rinsing the dishes before placing them into the dishwasher, but they were there waiting for me.

    We have lived in this house for about three years, and I am tempted to say the dishwasher is an original from the ’90s when the house was built, after I put the drainage cover away I was surprised that it was very clean, almost spotless but the surprise was waiting for me down there…

    Thank you so much for the detailed explanation and for mentioning the mirror, after draining the water and looking into the drain I thought I was done since I pulled out some plastic pieces that should not be there, then, I felt this thing coming from the wall of the drain and so I got the mirror and found that the real drain connection was there where you cannot see it unless you have the mirror.

    It took me about one hour to get it all done, our basket is secured by two regular screws, so I did not have to get too technical on the tools, I just reach for the first star screwdriver from the drawer on the kitchen counter and that work perfect.

    Thank you again, it made me feel so confident when I finished, run it, and saw that it worked!

  • edwin

    thanks.. if you have replaced the food processor make sure you remove the safety
    cap inside dishwasher drain conecttion. edwin

  • Derry Riddick

    My GE dishwasher wouldn’t drain, but after reading your advice and detailed instructions I was able to FIX IT and didn’t need to call the repairman. It took some real determination as my DW is totally different from the one shown and I just kept at it till I got all the parts and filters out and cleaned, but I have it working like a charm. Thanks so much for the good advice and hints about vinegar and baking soda, hot water, etc. You saved me a lot of $$$ as a
    repair man in northern VA is super expensive!!

  • HeatherF

    This looks like the same exact dishwasher i have that is no longer draining. How did you get the strainer cover off without taking off the spray arm? I cannot get my ratchet in to remove the bolt on the spray arm and can’t seem to get the cover off with it on.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      HeatherF – As you can kind of tell in the photo above, the strainer is shaped such that you don’t have to remove the spray arm at all. Once you remove the screws holding the basket in place, it just slips straight up and out — right around the spray arm itself.

  • squirrelly

    Before you go through all the rigamarole of taking things apart, check your air gap and make sure its not clogged. I did when my dishwasher didn’t drain and it was clogged with food! Here’s a handy youtube clip!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmG2JXQL858

  • GinaOfHope

    You’re amazing Lynnette!!

  • pretty wahine

    Thank you!! I jiggled the tubing and it drained. I would have never thought the solution would be that easy!! tMy husband is a deployed submariner so I’m basically a single parent and rely heavily on my dishwasher. Thank you again!!! I am bookmarking your website : )

  • Tommy

    GREAT JOB 

  • Gjohnson89

    Thank u so much….ur information worked… my dishwasher is fixed thanks to u!!!!

  • Dmkoch92

    Oh my gosh, I can’t thank you enough for posting this. My dishwasher was not draining and I did what you suggested by jiggling the hose, then hit the cancel/drain button on my dishwasher and it worked!!  My husband was really impressed that I was able to fix it, since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      That’s awesome! So glad you were able to fix it. And so glad these tips helped :-D

  • Dmkoch92

    Oh my gosh, I can’t thank you enough for posting this. My dishwasher was not draining and I did what you suggested by jiggling the hose, then hit the cancel/drain button on my dishwasher and it worked!!  My husband was really impressed that I was able to fix it, since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

  • Des

    You saved us at 11:15 pm!!!

  • Booth10kids

    my dishwasher had water lef behind and I was going to tackle it tommorrow which is today lol anyway your directions saved me a lot of time!  I couldn’t believe all the lime hands full pieces the size of my hand.  I put vinegar in and letting it run second time before putting all the parts back in,  but so far running normal.   I would rather have my dish washer than washing machine!  THANKS

  • Heidi Brandt

    OMG>>> We have been trying for 4 days syphining and cleaning>>>>and all it toook was a jiggle of the hose>>>That advice and you are amazing>>>>and a huge savings>>>>Thanks for your advice!!!!

  • Courtaway

    I cleaned out the hose under sink – full of black crud, but I had to give the bearing area on the bottom a good shot of WD40, as the ‘plastic wheel wasn’t turning’  Then, for good measure I dumped a good cup of white vinigar in with the water and voala – it drains, things go whirrrrr – no repair man needed here – thanks for the tips!!

  • Ron

    Thanks for positng this. My wife and I were convinced our dishwasher was dead. A couple of hours of time and some elbow grease, and it is running again!

    Your tips saved us HUNDREDS of $$ as we were getting ready to look for a new dishwasher! Thanks again!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Ron – yay! So glad you found this info helpful and saved some money :-D

  • mary s

    Thanks for letting me read your adventure about your dishwasher drain being plugged when your husband Jim was out of town!
    I have a little problem of my own… I’m here at my condo in the Cayman Islands and things have been going wrong from the time I got here, as I’ve had renters in here and they didn’t report any problems to my property mgrs…
    My cleaning lady was using the dishwasher, a Frigidaire, and we smelled something burning! We opened the dishwasher to find a plastic bottle cap stuck to the element, we removed it and as we were looking in the basket area we noticed a little silver button like cap with the word “T-Fal” on it and also a little plastic oblong shaped, grey in color, Frigidaire clip… along with a very filthy basket, I might add… Now that we have the basket and the bottom of the dishwasher all cleaned out we just need to know where those 2 items go? Does anyone have any ideas?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Mary S.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      mary – the T-Fal cap is most likely from old TFal cookware (pots & pans). As for the Frigidaire clip – it’s impossible to guess where that might have come from. Try running the dishwasher… most likely you don’t need that clip.

  • joe schmoe

    I had a similar issue where the water would not drain. I went through all of the steps that you mentioned. It turned out to be another issue all together, let me explain… I recently replaced my garbage disposal. The dishwasher drain pipe connects to the disposal. It turns out that there is a plastic plug in the disposal that must be knock out so that the water can drain. Problem solved, no $ spent.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Thanks for sharing, Joe – love the extra tips and so glad you got it working again :-D

  • Andy

    Your simple solution made me follow the drainage link into what they called the AIR GAP. It is above the sink, next to your faucet. The drainage link comes to it and then goes to the garbage disposer from there. If your diswasher does not empty, just unscrew the AIR GAP and see if it is clogged. In my case there were two pieces of debris that provided an almost perfect block. I removed them and it now works as usual. Based on another advice I had unscrewed the basket but it turns out that was completely UNNECESSARY!

  • Gordon

    Try not using the dishwasher as a garbage disposal and you won’t need to clean it!

  • Martin

    Thanks ! That really helped me. I was about to call the plumber. You made my day!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Yay! Glad to hear it, Martin. And glad you have a dishwasher that works again :-D

      • Martin

        Actually, the dishwasher did the same thing a few days after. I called a repair man, since I had no time to look at it. THe problem what in the pipe that leads the water to the drain, outside the dishwasher. So if your dishwasher goes wrong again, you may want to check that too. Thanks again, next time, I know what to check! :-)

        • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

          Ah – good to know. Thanks for the update, Martin!

  • Don

    I wouldn’t call regular maintenance “Fixing” something.
    Was anything broke, no. So what did you repair?

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      The dishwasher would not drain. I fixed it. Try to have a good day, Don :-D

    • couldthisbemagic1984

      Moron.

    • Harper

      Don don’t be such a dick. When something stops working and you FIX it, it’s called performing a repair.

      • Jaye

        Hey Don….typical man…totally pissed that us women are smarter than you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gooddeedsleadto Good DeedsLeadTo

    Thanks, The Wiggle technology worked for my DW too. Water was not draining out completely,and giving out bad smell. Thanks for sharing the technology, Please make sure this technology is not transfered or outsourced. Thanks again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/trudie.barraza Trudie Barraza

    well you really impowered me to get this fixed! i missed my dishwasher ! i had resorted doing dishes the old fashioned way so ty

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Yay – glad to hear it, Trudie. Now you can enjoy the convenience of having a dishwasher again :-D

  • Anna

    I had a similar problem and followed your instructions and used baking soda/vinegar/boiling water per an on-line video. The dishwasher is draining beautifully and I will use this solution and jiggle the tubing periodically to keep it running well. I live in NYC so it would have cost a fortune to have a repair person come and take a look. Thank you so much for your detailed instructions and I feel very proud that I was able to take care of the problem myself. Thanks again.

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      That’s great news, Anna! Thanks for sharing how you fixed your dishwasher too :-D

  • Amanda Wesson Rylant

    Just like you, my dishwasher started backing up the day my husband left for out of town work. Since I am already miss fix it around the house I google how to fix it and came across this. instructions were simple and it worked like a charm. who knows how long all that grime and guck had been in that dishwasher. its working better than ever now! thanks so much!!!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      You’re welcome. Thanks for letting us know the tips helped :-D

  • Nathan Owens

    These were great tips, and they helped me out a lot — thanks!

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Awesome – so glad you found the tips helpful, Nathan!

  • Andrea Rowley Skipp

    SO funny…I found this post one hour after my husband left for 11 days, I dropped him off and after being home for a bit realized there was a puddle of water on my kitchen floor! Opened the diswasher and sure enough, did not drain! It’s a GE dishwasher as well. Well, off to empty the basin and clean my basket! lol…

  • Charles Percy

    I also have the GE Nautilus dishwasher that was clogged and smelled and water would not drain. First its a good idea to get a cheap ShopVAC and suck the water out completed and the reserve under the plastic drain guard. Have lots of paper towels handy. Make sure you clean out the ShopVAC first and remove its inside filter and filter disk, this is for wet vacuum mode – read ShopVAC manual. Remember to unplug the ShopVAC anytime you open it and of course turn off the switch and even circuit breaker to the dishwasher. Once you got all the scummy water out and cleaned the plastic drain guards and ensure the drain hose is clean and unclogged to the garbage disposal. If you loosen the clamp and disconnect the large rubber hose from the bottom of the dishwater that connects the drain to the cutter/motor assembly remember to put the little rubber gasket ring back on where the large rubber hose you disconnected or you will have a small leak and a big problem. Put all back together and push the dishwasher back in place and secure. Leave the bottom access panel open and get on the floor level with a flashlight to look for any signs of water drops while you turn the power on and run a rinse only cycle. Keep your hands and pets from going inside the access or you definitely risk serious harm. Hopefully you found the clog and cleaned out the system. Do not ignore any water drops. If you see water leaking a little like one drop per 7-10 seconds you have to fix the leak. The little rubber gasket ring will get you everytime if you disconnected that assembly. Good luck!

  • butch

    I have a GE Triton dishwasher and the water doesn’t drain on the last rinse. All the other cycles will drain. If I just hit reset, it drains al the water. I need suggestions