What to Do When Your Dishwasher Won't Drain

When the dishwasher won't drain, most people have no idea what to do. Appliance repair can be intimidating, and people don't want to make things worse. There's good news: There are several easy steps you can take to clear your drain and make your dishwasher as good as new.

Check the Door Latch
One of the simplest methods of drain repair for a broken dishwasher involves a door that isn't latched. If your dishwasher door isn't closed and properly latched, the dishwasher won't drain. Make sure the door is securely latched as the first step of diagnosing a drain problem.

Did You Install a Garbage Disposal Recently?
One common problem is the installation of a garbage disposal. When you install a garbage disposal, there's something called a knockout plug that must be removed in order for the dishwasher to drain into the disposal. If you forget to take out the knockout plug, the dishwasher won't drain. Remove the plug, and you have a functional dishwasher again.

Water Backing up into the Sink
If water is bubbling up into the sink when the dishwasher drains, the problem lies with your drainage pipe. Remove the pipe and remove any potential sources for clogging. At the same time, take a look at the hose connecting the sink and the dishwasher. When both sources are clear, your dishwasher should drain again.

Clean the Dishwasher Basket
This step requires some familiarity with dishwasher parts, so if you need to resort to this method of drain repair, you'll need to take a look at your dishwasher owner's manual or the online equivalent. Look up directions specific to your dishwasher model to find and open the dishwasher basket. Oftentimes, food and gunk accumulates in the dishwasher basket, clogging the drain. If you open the dishwasher basket and see a lot of accumulation, gently clean all the pieces, removing the gunk and reassembling the dishwasher basket afterwards. If this is the source of the problem, removing the gunk should clear the drain.

Check the Drain Air Gap
The air gap is at the sink, and it is designed to help the dishwasher drain properly and avoid interfering with water in the sink. It's possible for the drain air gap to get clogged with debris, so check the air gap to ensure it's clear and functioning properly. Be careful to replace the air gap properly, as a poor seal or faulty air gap can cause water to leak into the cabinet and also cause drainage problems.

Defective Dishwasher Parts
If none of these fixes repair your dishwasher drainage issue, you might have defective dishwasher parts. Depending on the model of your dishwasher, you could have a broken belt, a broken pump, a damaged solenoid or a broken timer. If the previous drain repair steps didn't work, consult your owner's manual or manufacturer's Web site for information about troubleshooting and replacing these specific parts. These parts vary widely from dishwasher to dishwasher, and some dishwashers don't even have them, so you'll need the specifics for your model in order to figure out what's wrong.

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