A dishwasher is an essential appliance that helps to make short work of dirty dishes. In modern life, many people rely on the dishwasher to keep their kitchen clean. Unfortunately, a dishwasher that fails to wash your dishes is not only a time drain but can also cost more in utilities by continually running a dirty load of dishes.
If your Whirlpool dishwasher fills with water but does not wash, the most common problem is a malfunctioning wash motor. The wash motor is responsible for spinning the impeller, shooting clean water throughout the dishwasher, cleaning your dishes. Luckily, a wash motor can easily be tested and replaced, allowing you to fix an otherwise broken dishwasher quickly.
The wash motor is an intricate and essential part of the overall dishwasher functionality. It can easily be tested with the use of a multimeter to determine if it is not working. For those without a multimeter, simply pulling the dishwasher out of the cabinet while it is running and listening closely to the motor can determine its functionality.
If the motor sounds like it is clicking or grinding, it is a good indication that the wash motor is to blame for a malfunctioning Whirlpool dishwasher.
Table of Contents
- What Does a Wash Motor Do?
- How Do I Check If the Wash Motor Has Failed?
- How Can I Replace the Wash Motor?
- Related Questions
What Does a Wash Motor Do?
Although operating your dishwasher may seem like it is a complicated appliance, in truth, it is a very simple and efficient appliance. A wash motor is an integral part of your dishwasher that helps to clean your dishes. The wash pump motor is usually attached under the dishwasher and works to spin the impeller.
Spinning the impeller allows the water to spray throughout the entire unit. When the wash pump motor fails, the impeller fails to spin, which makes the appliance ineffective. When the wash motor has failed, you may notice the unit does not spin at all, or you may notice a decrease in the amount of pressure the sprayer has.
How Do I Check If the Wash Motor Has Failed?
Checking the status of your wash motor is the first step to diagnose the problem if your dishwasher fills with water but fails to wash your dishes. To check your wash motor, you must:
Step 1: Disconnect Power
For safety, make sure that you disconnect the power from the dishwasher. You will want to turn off power at the circuit breaker that corresponds to the kitchen and also unplug the dishwasher at the wall outlet to be safe.
Step 2: Locate the Motor
The wash motor is usually located on the underside of the unit. It can be accessed by removing the access panel or lower kick plate. You may have to remove two to four screws to remove the panel completely and access the motor. Some Whirlpool dishwashers will require you to open the dishwasher door to access this panel. If you must open the door, be sure to close the door when you begin testing fully.
Step 3: Locate Wires
There will be two wire leads located on the motor. These leads will extend from the wire harness that is directly attached to the motor.
Step 4: Use a Multimeter
To test the amount of power running to the motor, you will need a multimeter. Set your multimeter to R x 1 to test the internal resistance of the motor. Use the multimeter probes to touch each terminal on the motor individually. You want your motor to have very little resistance, and it should read close to zero.
Step 5: Check Ground Wire
While you have access to the motor, you will also want to check the ground wire. This part is the bare metal housing surrounding the motor. Touch the probe to the terminal and ground housing one at a time. The multimeter should show a reading close to zero or no reading at all.
Step 6: Interpret Results
You should have nearly zero resistance coming from the motor terminals and a near-zero ground reading. If your multimeter has any different, measurable readings, it is safe to assume that something has misfired in your wash motor, causing your dishwasher to fill with water but not fully wash the dishes.
How Can I Replace the Wash Motor?
Tools Needed to Replace the Wash Motor
To replace your wash motor, you will need very few tools, and many tools are common household items. Be sure to have a:
- Replacement Pump
Luckily, a wash motor is a consumable part of your dishwasher that can be replaced to allow your dishwasher to function again. Many major dishwasher manufacturers, including Whirlpool, will sell replacement wash motors to install in your dishwasher. While this is a relatively easy repair that requires minimal tools, you can always contact a technician to help make repairs to your dishwasher. To replace your wash motor, follow the below steps:
Step 1: Turn Off Power
Be sure to disconnect the power to the dishwasher by turning the power off at the circuit breaker. You will also want to unplug the appliance from the wall outlet.
Step 2: Gain Access to the Motor
To replace the motor, you must gain access to the existing motor. Remove the kick plate or panel located toward the bottom of your dishwasher. Remove the two or four screws securing the panel and entirely remove the panel.
Step 3: Remove Internal Components
To remove the motor, you will need to disassemble parts of your dishwasher. You will want to open the door to the dishwasher and remove the lower dish rack. Next, remove the spray tower in the center of the dishwasher. Remove the bottom spray arm assembly, usually attached with just a single bolt. Also, remove the filter assembly located underneath the spray arm. Set the components aside to install later.
Step 4: Disconnect Motor
Remove the two wire leads located in the wiring harness on the wash motor. Next, remove the drain hose from the pump itself. This process should free the pump and the motor from the dishwasher to remove it properly. Lift the broken motor out of the dishwasher. Be sure to dispose of the broken motor properly or recycle the motor for useful parts.
Step 5: Install New Pump
Install the new pump into the dishwasher, replacing the malfunctioning pump. You will want to follow the reverse steps by reattaching the drain hose and reconnecting the wire leads. If you have a multimeter handy, it is good to test the new motor’s resistance while the dishwasher is disassembled. You will want a near-zero resistance reading and a near-zero reading for the ground wires.
Step 6: Reassemble
Put the dishwasher pieces back together, including the filter assembly, spray arm assembly, spray tower, and front panel restricting access to the motor. You will want to reinstall these items in the same order you removed them from the dishwasher.
Step 7: Power and Test
Restore the power to the dishwasher and give the unit a trial run. Inspect the entire area around the dishwasher to check for leaks. If there are no leaks, and the dishwasher is once again cleaning your dishes, a faulty or failed wash motor was the culprit.
What Other Possible Issues Could Cause My Dishwasher to Not Wash?
Although a wash motor is the most likely problem that can cause a Whirlpool dishwasher to fill but not wash, there are other possible reasons for the problem. A second common issue is a clogged spray arm. The spray arms are located on the bottom of the dishwasher. The arms can be individually removed and cleaned. Use a toothpick or a thin wire to remove any clogs from the individual holes in the spray arm.
If there are particularly stubborn clogs, you can try soaking the spray arm in some vinegar to remove any mineral deposits that may have accumulated. People who live in an area with particularly hard water will often experience more problems with mineral deposits filling the tiny holes required to spray water through your entire dishwasher.
If you live in an area with hard water, make cleaning the spray arms a routine maintenance step about once per year to keep your dishwasher running well.
How Long Does a Whirlpool Dishwasher Last?
A dishwasher is a long-lasting appliance in your home that will give you years of utility. Usually, a Whirlpool dishwasher will last about ten years. This timeframe is a comparable lifespan to other common dishwasher manufacturers, including LG, Maytag, and KitchenAid. The most common reason to see a Whirlpool dishwasher fail is because of a burned-out or faulty wash motor, which fails to spin the impeller needed to wash your dishes thoroughly.
However, if you are looking for a long-lived dishwasher, many top-end appliances can offer 20 years of life or more. The Miele dishwasher typically lasts about 20 years, and the Kenmore dishwasher can last about 13 years. These manufacturers will have a longer lifespan but will also cost significantly more.