Whirlpool Dishwasher Repair

To paraphrase the old saw, into every life, a little appliance repair must fall. This must be my week. We’ve been living at Roy Creek Ranch since 1996, and the appliances are admittedly getting old. So far, I’ve replaced a well pump, a washer and dryer, a central air conditioner, and various faucets and plumbing doodads. That leaves the core kitchen appliances. Two refrigerators, a stove and a dishwasher.

photo of a blow-dryer defrost

Blow-dryer defrost

A couple of months ago, one of the ‘fridges began acting up. It wasn’t cooling. I’ve run into this before and thought the defrost cycle might be broken. This isn’t a difficult repair, and after removing the food from the freezer (a utility sink lined with terry cloth towels makes a dandy temporary cooler) I removed the freezer back panel to discover a solid block of ice. 30 minutes of so with a blow-dryer before replacing the back panel, and I was putting the food back in. No biggie. I would order parts before it happened again. Sure ’nuff, it happened again last week, and I finally ordered the thermostat, timer and heater so I’ll be ready next time. Smooth sailing for a while.

Not to fast. We had a guest over last Sunday night, and fixed a really elaborate braised beef short rib dinner. Took all afternoon and quite a few dishes. It was really delicious, but we were left with the dishes after our guest left. So we loaded up the dishwasher and turned it on.

The next morning Marilyn put the clean dishes away and loaded it again. This time it wouldn’t start. Lights on, but nobody home. I had to be at the piano shop early, and didn’t really have time to deal with it. But, remembering the quick and easy experience on Repair Clinic.com for the previous week’s refrigerator parts order, I did a quick search. “whirlpool du980qp won’t fill” and their page was the first hit. The three most common causes were a broken fill valve, defective float switch or a clogged fresh water feed pipe. Without time to troubleshoot, I ordered the two recommended parts and left to work on the Weber piano.

Today was the first chance I’ve had to make the repair. Dishwashers aren’t very hard to work on, and the fill valve and float switch are both located at the front of the unit just behind the bottom access panel. After turning off the power to the dishwasher, I removed the float switch. It comes out with one 1/4-inch sheet metal screw. Disconnecting the two leads, I tested it with an ohmmeter. It seemed ok, but it’s a cheap part and I had a new one. Replacement done in a few minutes. Turning the power back on I hit “Normal”. Lights but no fill. Hmmm.

The fill valve took a little longer, and the part they sent was not an identical replacement. I would have to adapt the supply fitting to use it, so I decided to remove the old valve, disassemble and clean it. This took 15 or 20 minutes, and it was clean and functional. The coil wasn’t shorted or open and showed 695 ohms — right within the expected range. I replaced it and tried it again. Still the same symptoms. Also there was water in the copper supply pipe, so it seemed unlikely it was clogged. This may be harder than I thought.

photo of the Inner panel of front door -- 9 torx screws

Inner panel of front door — 9 torx screws

A little cruising around on the Internet, and I had others’ experiences repairing various Whirlpool (and other manufacturers’)  dishwashers. One mentioned the two microswitches in the handle release mechanism and the thermal fuse. Still not too hard, but it would require removing the top part of the door. Six Torx T-15 screws should do it — except this dishwasher is old enough that one must remove the entire inner door. That means removing the outer trim panel as well. Fine. In for a penny …

photo of The control board

The control board

Once I gained access, both the switches and the thermal fuse checked fine. That left only one possibility: defective control board. Typically costing $135 to $200 dollars, this wasn’t good news, but still cheaper and easier than buying a new dishwasher. Back to Repair Clinic.com. I entered the Whirlpool model number in and …

It was $204, backordered. Sears? Not available. Amazon? $224. As I worked my way through the various parts suppliers it became obvious it was expensive. One last thought — eBay. Yes, there were used and tested control boards available, but I would need a part number or at least a photo to match it up. Time to remove the control board for a photo op.

My eBay searches didn’t turn up anything. It was looking like there was a new appliance in my near-future. As a last resort, and with nothing to lose, I decided to look the control board over for anything obviously wrong. Long shot.

photo of Obvious damage. Who let the smoke out?

Obvious damage. Who let the smoke out?

It wasn’t hard to remove the control board from the dishwasher, but it was mounted in a kind of plastic tub. The foil side of the board wasn’t visible, so I carefully pried the board out. They definitely didn’t intend it to be serviced. I finally got it out without breaking it. and — wonder of wonders — there was a charred spot on the bottom of the board. It was in an area with two small relays. One lead of each relay had been hot enough to disconnect from the foil trace. Could it be that simple?

photo of the Repairs made.

Repairs made.

I desoldered each relay and tested it. Both coils still good. Both normally-closed contacts showed continuity. One of the relays had a damaged pin, but I could repair that. I spent the next half-hour repairing the pin, resoldering the relays, and repairing the damaged foil.  Moment of truth time. I replaced the control board in its tub and protective cover, replaced the inner door and hoped. I reset the breaker and pressed the “Normal” button.

photo of the repaired relay

repaired relay

Unbelievable. It started filling. I replaced the rest of the panels and access doors, and turned it on for a complete cycle. Worked fine. Of course, there’s no telling how long my cobbled repair will work, but I’ll take a victory lap anyway. Maybe I can avoid a new dishwasher for just a little while longer …

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