How to Replace Your Dishwasher Heating Element

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Your dishwasher is a remarkably self-contained machine. Not only does it wash, rinse, and dry your dishes; it also has an internal heating system. The dishwasher heating element can heat water or create heat to dry dishes. The heating element is an essential part of having clean dishes with a basic kitchen setup. The heating element ensures your dishwashing water is boiling hot, and is also why plastics notoriously can only go on the top shelf.

But when that heating element burns out, the signs are unmistakable. Your dishes may be less clean because their wash water is not as hot. Your dishes may be cold and still dripping wet when you open the dishwasher because the element isn’t supplying that toasty drying heat. So if your dishwasher heating element has stopped working, here’s how to replace it. 

Instructions are generalized to cover the average dishwasher in USA, and instructions can vary by model.

Safety Precautions

Start with your safety steps. Turn off the power and water to your dishwasher to prevent electrocution or spills during the repair.

  • Disconnect Dishwasher Power
    • Flip the breaker that supplies power to your dishwasher. We know that most homes don’t have a visible or reachable power cable for the dishwasher, so the safest way to cut the power is at the breaker box.
  • Switch Off the Water
    • Turn off your water at the nearest valve. This is likely under the sink where you can access the valves that feed both the sink and the dishwasher. Turning off the water will allow you to disconnect and move the dishwasher.

Gather Your Supplies

Put together the supplies you need before starting the repair so you don’t have to stop in the middle. 

  • Replacement Element
    • Look up your dishwasher’s make and model to get the product number for the correct replacement element. Then order your element online and begin the repairs when it arrives.
  • Work Gloves
  • Towel
  • Nut Driver Set
  • Channel Lock Pliers
  • Rinse Aid Bottle

Extract Your Dishwasher

The first step is to take your dishwasher out of the cabinet so that you can access the electrical components underneath.

  • Remove the Bottom Plate
    • There is a lower kick-plate that guards the underside of your dishwasher. There will be two to four screws holding it in place. Remove them and pull the kick plate away.
  • Place a Towel Under the Dishwasher
    • Your dishwasher will likely leak a little as you disconnect the water lines. It may also scratch the floor as you move it. For these reasons, place a towel underneath the dishwasher for the extraction.
  • Reposition the Power Cord if Possible
    • If you can see or reach the dishwasher power cable underneath, make sure it is positioned so that it doesn’t get caught as you pull the dishwasher out from under the cabinet.
  • Detach the Drain Line
    • Find the drain line and disconnect the valve. Use a cup or towel to catch the drips.
  • Unfasten the Cabinet Brackets
    • There are two to four brackets connecting the dishwasher to your cabinetry. The most likely place to find them is just underneath the countertop lip. Remove the screws and brackets so your dishwasher is loose.
  • Pull the Dishwasher Out Onto the Towel
    • With the help of a friend, pull your dishwasher carefully out of the slot and onto the towel. Ideally tip it forward onto the towel and let the towel slide out on the kitchen floor.
  • Disconnect the Water Valve
    • Reach under and pull the valve for the water inlet as well. Your dishwasher may have one or two water intake hoses.

Uninstall the Old Heating Element

Now you are ready to access and remove the old heating element.

  • Remove the Lower Dish Rack
    • Open the dishwasher and remove the lower dish rack. You will need this space to access the heating element underneath. If you want, also remove the upper rack.
  • Close the Dishwasher Door
    • Close up the dishwasher and prepare to work underneath it.
  • Lay Your Dishwasher on It’s Back
    • Carefully lay your dishwasher backward, to lie on its back. You may need another towel.
  • Remove the Wire Nuts
    • You will see a ring if wire nuts. Use your crescent wrench to remove them and detach each from the wires.
  • Tip the Dishwasher Upright
    • With the nuts removed, tip your washer back upright to access the inside.
  • Open the Door
    • Open up the dishwasher again to access the element.
  • Pull Up the Heating Element & Release the Clip
    • Lift the heating element gently and find the clip that holds it into the black tub underneath. Release the clip inside the tub.
  • Pull the Heating Element Free
    • You can now remove and throw away the old heating element.

Install the New Heating Element

Unpack your new heating element and prepare to install it in place of the old element.

  • Wet the New Seals with Rinse Aid
    • The seals of the new heating element need to be lubricated. For the dishwasher, the best substance is actually commercial rinse aid. Squirt a little Jet Dry or other brand of rinse aid onto the seals.
  • Push the Leads Through the Matching Holes in the Tub
    • Line up your new heating element and then push each appropriate set of leads through the matching holes in the floor of the dishwasher or tub.
  • Attach the Mounting Clip
    • Remember the clip that attaches the element to the tub? Reattach it.
  • Lay the Dishwasher on its Back
    • Now it’s time to look at the underside. Very carefully lay your dishwasher on its back again and take a look at those wire leads pushed through
  • Reattach the Wire Nuts
    • Use the wire nuts to fasten the pushed-through element leads.
  • Push Wires Into Element Leads
    • Push each wire tab ends into each nut-encased lead. Make sure not to cross wires so that each nut secures the leads coming through the matching hole in the dishwasher floor.
  • Set the Dishwasher Up
    • Push your dishwasher back upright, it will stay that way now until the end of the repair.
  • Check for Leaks
    • Last but not least, fill the bottom of your dishwasher with a pitcher of water and check for leaks. if the nuts do not leak, then you are good to go.

Reassemble Your Dishwasher

With your heating element properly reinstalled, it’s time to put your dishwasher back together.

  • Return the Lower Element
  • Reattach the Water Lines & Drain Hose
  • Push Your Dishwasher Into Place
  • Resecure the Cabinet Brackets
  • Turn the Power and Water Back On

Test Your Success

With everything put back together, you can test the success of your total installation. Run a load of dishes and see if they come out clean and toasty warm this time. For more appliance repair tips, contact us today!

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