Dishwasher Won’t Start?
Troubleshoot in 9 Steps

By Kealia Reynolds | Advertiser Disclosure

If your dishwasher won’t start, save time and money by troubleshooting it before calling a professional. Repairing a dishwasher isn’t as difficult as it might seem and can be done even if you aren’t particularly handy. Use this guide to help you troubleshoot major parts of a dishwasher and determine when professional help is necessary.

What to do if your dishwasher won’t start

Before you start troubleshooting your dishwasher and whenever you check for continuity within your dishwasher, always make sure you unplug the dishwasher and that the power to the appliance is turned off to prevent electrical shock.

  1. Make sure your dishwasher is plugged in—Occasionally, your dishwasher won’t start because it’s not plugged in or there’s an issue within the circuit breaker. Make sure your dishwasher is securely plugged in and that the circuit breaker switches haven’t been tripped.
  2. Make sure the child lock isn’t onSome dishwasher models will have a child lock feature to prevent the dishwasher from starting. Check your owner’s manual and make sure the child lock settings are turned off.
  3. Reset the dishwasher—If your dishwasher won’t start but the lights are on, the start button may have been pressed more than once. While pressing the start button once starts the cycle, pressing it again resets the dishwasher and runs a drain cycle for 90 seconds. Wait until the drain cycle is complete and try starting your dishwasher.
  4. Ensure the door latch is working properly—The door latch assembly holds the door closed during a wash cycle to prevent water from leaking. It also houses the door latch switch that provides power to the dishwasher controls. If the dishwasher door isn’t closed properly, the dishwasher won’t receive power to complete a wash cycle. Locate the door switch at the top of the dishwasher door and check that both switches are mechanically activated when the door closes. You can also use a multimeter to check for continuity, but make sure the power to the dishwasher is turned off.
  5. Assess the timer and electronic control—After you’ve ensured that the door latches properly, look at the timer or electronic control. These parts are responsible for how much power is sent to each component of your dishwasher, like the drain pump, heating circuit, and water inlet valve, during a wash cycle. If these parts don’t get the power they need, they won’t work properly. Turn off the power before checking the timer or electric control with a multimeter.
  6. Check the selector switch—A selector switch allows you to choose different washing, drying, and heating options for a wash cycle. If defective or not depressed correctly, the selector switch could be the cause of your dishwasher not starting. Locate the selector switch on the control panel and make sure it’s not stuck between settings. Check to see if more than one button has been pressed at the same time—if more than one button has been pushed, this will create a no continuity situation for your switch and bring no power to these controls.
  7. Check the motor start relay—If your dishwasher won’t turn on and you’ve verified that it’s receiving power, the motor start relay may be defective. Locate the part next to the motor and use a multimeter to check for continuity. The coil portion of the relay should show continuity at all times while the switch contact portion should only show continuity when activated.
  8. Assess the thermal fuse—When the thermal fuse fails, the control board won’t receive any power and the dishwasher won’t start. Open the access door panel and locate the thermal fuse at the top of the circuit board—it will have two wires attached to it. Check for continuity with a multimeter. If the thermal fuse is blown, it will have to be replaced.
  9. Replace your drive motor—The dishwasher drive motor circulates water during a wash cycle to clean the items during a cycle. If the dishwasher won’t start after the start relay sends power to the motor, your drive motor could be defective. If you’ve noticed loud humming sounds coming from the motor during previous wash cycles, this indicates a failing motor. You should replace your motor as soon as possible.

If you try these steps with no luck, or if you’d rather leave repairs to the professionals, you have a few options. Your limited dishwasher warranty may cover the repair, depending on the age of your appliance and what part needs fixing. It might be worth getting a local professional to inspect and diagnose the problem. Fill out the form below to have someone call you ASAP.


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When to contact a dishwasher service technician

If the previous troubleshooting tips didn’t fix the issue and your dishwasher still won’t start, it’s best to call in a certified professional to solve the problem. If you have a home warranty, your dishwasher will more than likely be completely covered, depending on your specific warranty terms. Home warranty providers like Choice Home Warranty, First American, and American Home Shield provide dishwasher coverage in their home warranty plans. Call your home warranty provider and file a claim on your dishwasher. Once the claim is approved, a local contractor will schedule an appointment to come out and take a look at your dishwasher.

Based on their analysis, you’ll need either a simple repair or a complete replacement. A repair will most likely be done the day of the tech’s visit while a replacement will require a follow-up appointment. Check your home warranty limitations and exclusions and determine whether removing your old dishwasher is covered. Some home warranty companies will make you get rid of your dishwasher on your own while others will include this step within the replacement process.

If you don’t have a home warranty, read reviews on local contractors who have experience in dishwasher repairs and replacement. After hiring a professional to assess your dishwasher, the pro will determine if a repair or replacement is needed. Small repairs will likely be completed the day of the tech’s visit. A replacement will require another appointment for the installation to occur. Unlike those with home warranties, you will be responsible for covering the entire cost of repairs or replacements on your own if you don’t have one of these contracts.

How to avoid a broken dishwasher

You likely use your dishwasher a few times a week, so it’s normal for it to need repairs now and then due to regular wear and tear. Properly maintaining your dishwasher can go a long way in preventing these issues. Follow these tips to avoid having a dishwasher that won’t start.

  1. Read the owner’s manual for your particular dishwasher, brushing up on knowledge of routine maintenance tasks, your dishwasher model number, and who to call if you encounter an issue. That way, you know how to best care for your specific make and model.
  2. Run your dishwasher when it’s full, but don’t overload it. Not only can this help your dishwasher clean effectively, but it saves water, as well.
  3. Clean your dishwasher on a monthly basis and make sure all elements, like the rinse aid, are working properly. Not sure how? Follow these steps.
  4. When part of your dishwasher is broken, address the issue quickly, so it doesn’t continue to break down and potentially cause other, more expensive issues. You can avoid shelling out the costs of future dishwasher repairs with a home warranty. At House Method, we recommend Choice Home Warranty as our top provider for dishwasher coverage.

Frequently asked questions about a dishwasher that won't start

Can you reset your dishwasher?

Yes, you can reset your dishwasher by pressing the Start/Reset button on the appliance and waiting a few minutes. If your dishwasher still doesn’t start, you may need to reboot the entire system by turning off power to the appliance at the house circuit breaker or fuse box.

How do I unclog my dishwasher?

Remove any debris or food particles around the sump pump and filter. If your dishwasher drain is clogged, use a homemade solution of vinegar, baking soda, and hot water to break up the clog.

How can I prevent a broken dishwasher?

To keep your dishwasher in optimal condition, remember to read your owner’s manual and understand how your dishwasher works, clean your dishwasher on a monthly basis, and address any repairs immediately.

Editor's pick: Best home warranty for dishwashers

  • Both the Basic Plan and Total Plan offer coverage for dishwashers.
  • All dishwasher parts and components are included with a short list of exceptions.
  • Enjoy coverage for many other home appliances and systems, including heating systems, electric systems, water heaters, and stoves/ovens.
  • Get your first month free when you sign up for a single payment annual home warranty plan.
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Home warranties for dishwashers

Dishwasher repairs cost an average of $150, compared to Choice Home Warranty’s service fee of $75. Save 50% when you sign up for a home warranty. House Method researches home warranty companies and compiles reviews to make finding the best coverage easy. If you’d like to learn more about how a protection plan can cover the cost of future dishwasher repairs, start by comparing plans from top providers.

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