Kenmore Dishwasher Not Washing/Cleaning – Troubleshooting Guide

Kenmore dishwashers are well-designed and highly effective for cleaning kitchenware. However, they do run into their fair share of problems, resulting in them not cleaning as they should.

When your Kenmore dishwasher fails to clean, it’s most likely the result of a faulty water inlet valve or circulation pump. Dirty filters and clogged spray arms can also reduce its effectiveness, affecting one or both racks inside. Lastly, assuming all components are working correctly, the likely cause is an excessively or wrongly loaded bottom rack. 

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the reasons why your Kenmore dishwasher isn’t washing correctly and what you can do to fix it.

Top Reasons Why Your Kenmore Dishwasher Isn’t Washing

When your Kenmore dishwasher fails to clean your kitchenware as it should, the three most likely reasons are a faulty water inlet valve, failed circulation pump, and clogged filter.

Faulty Water Inlet Valve

What it is: Your Kenmore dishwasher must have enough water to fulfil its purpose, which is to clean your dishes and leave them spotless. The water inlet valve is the internal component responsible for controlling the inflow of water into your dishwasher.

How it fails: A lack of sufficient water in your dishwasher will prevent it from cleaning your dishes thoroughly. That can be caused by a faulty water inlet valve, which can fail electrically or mechanically.

Kenmore dishwasher not washing bad inlet valve

Electrically, the inlet valve might not have any electrical continuity inside of it. So, even when the dishwasher sends signals to the valve to open, it will fail to do so.

Mechanically, the valve can suffer from mineral build-ups or corrosion, which keeps it stuck in the ‘closed’ position. That will prevent the appliance from filling with water.

How to fix: Water inlet valves cannot be repaired or cleaned, so you will have to replace yours entirely. You can access the valve from the bottom of the appliance by laying the dishwasher on its back. Next, you’ll remove the mounting screws as well as the water and electrical connectors.

Once that’s done, the replacement can be mounted in the same place, with the water and electrical connectors replaced the same way as before.

Failed Circulation Pump

What it is: Dishwashers like your Kenmore model are required to save water as much as possible. That’s why they’re designed to recycle water by filtering out all the food bits and debris and then redistributing the same water to continue cleaning dishes.

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dishwasher circulation pump

This entire process is driven by a component called a circulation pump.

How it fails: When the circulation pump fails, water cannot be recirculated in the appliance. That sets off a chain reaction, where the spray arms will have no water to clean dishes with, and there will be no more water to recycle.

As a result, the dishwasher will fail to clean the items inside.

How to fix: The circulation pump is only accessible through the bottom of the dishwasher. So, you must first lay the machine on its back. Once you’ve identified and located the pump, disconnect its wire connector and unthread its mounting screws. You can then slide the failed pump off and replace it with a new one.

Lastly, secure the pump in place and reconnect the wire connector.

Clogged Filter

What it is: Your Kenmore dishwasher has a filter located in the sump, right at the bottom inside the appliance. The filter removes food bits and other debris from the water before it’s recirculated or drained from the dishwasher.

How it fails: Water flow becomes restricted when the filter becomes saturated with food bits and other items. Without any water to recirculate, the appliance will fail to clean the dishes you’ve loaded inside.

clogged dishwasher filter

How to fix: Fixing this is very straightforward, as you’ll only need to remove and wash the clogged filter to restore the normal flow of water. On Kenmore dishwashers, you’ll need to remove the lower rack and unscrew the filter to remove it. 

Then, wash the filter thoroughly before reinstalling it in the dishwasher.

Reasons The Top Rack Isn’t Washing

When you find that the items on the top rack aren’t getting clean, the most likely cause is that the top or middle wash arms are clogged or damaged. Besides that, loading tall items into the bottom rack can also cause this problem.

Clogged Or Damaged Top Or Middle Wash Arm

What it is: Inside your Kenmore dishwasher, you’ll find spray arms at the top and in the middle between the racks. The appliance pumps water through these arms, then spray out to wash all the dirt off your dishes. The force of that spraying water will also cause the arm to spin, ensuring that water reaches all items in the appliance.

middle wash arm ports

How it fails: When items in the top rack aren’t being washed correctly, the top or middle wash arm has likely become clogged or damaged. A clogged or broken spray arm won’t spray water correctly, resulting in dirty dishes at the end of the wash cycle.

How to fix: First, remove the affected spray arm and inspect it closely. Then, you can clean any clogged holes by using a toothpick to clear each hole. However, any cracks, breaks, or other damage can’t be repaired. So, you’ll need to replace the spray arm entirely.

Tall Items Loaded Into Bottom Rack

What it is: The placement of dishes in the bottom rack can also indirectly affect how items on the top rack are cleaned.

How it fails: When tall items (like jugs or bottles) are incorrectly loaded into the bottom rack, they will block the bath of the spinning middle spray arm. When that happens, the middle arm cannot spin and clean the items placed in the top rack.

How to fix: You can prevent this from happening by removing or repositioning any tall items in the bottom rack. Plus, you can turn the middle spray arm with your hand to ensure that it won’t get stopped by any other objects when you begin the wash cycle.

Reasons The Bottom Rack Isn’t Washing

Suppose you discover that the items on the bottom rack aren’t thoroughly cleaned. Just like in the previous section, the culprit is likely a clogged or damaged lower wash arm. However, overloading or incorrectly loading the bottom rack will also cause the same outcome.

Clogged Or Damaged Lower Wash Arm

What it is: Much like the top and middle wash arms, there’s also one at the bottom of your dishwasher. This arm works the same way, spinning and spraying, though it targets the items in the bottom rack specifically.

How it fails: The lower wash arm can also get clogged or damaged. When that happens, the arm fails to spray water as it should on items in the lower rack.

How to fix: With a toothpick, you can clean any clogged holes on the wash arm. However, you must remove and replace the arm if it’s damaged. You can do this without any tools by grabbing the arm in the middle and firmly pulling or pushing as needed.

Overloaded or Incorrectly Loaded Bottom Rack

What it is: It’s crucial to load a dishwasher rack correctly, especially the one at the bottom. Proper loading and arrangement of your dishes ensure that each one will get a chance to be cleaned thoroughly.

dishwasher bottom rack

How it fails: When the bottom rack is overloaded, water and detergent will not reach all of the dishes and utensils in the appliance. That’s because some items will shield others from the spray arms, thereby preventing them from being washed.

How to fix: Fixing this requires you to arrange items in the bottom rack according to the instructions in your user manual. Generally, that means providing enough space between each item and angling them correctly so sprayed water will cover each item’s surface.

How To Reset A Kenmore Dishwasher

There are two methods to reset a Kenmore dishwasher.

The first method begins with switching off the dishwasher at its power source. That means removing the plug from the wall socket or switching off the dedicated circuit breaker if it has one.

Next, leave the dishwasher alone for five minutes. After that time, you can reconnect the power supply and continue using the appliance like usual.

The second way to reset a Kenmore dishwasher is to enter its diagnostic mode. That process will reset the washer and also run automatic tests to troubleshoot any errors.

How To Run Diagnostic Mode On A Kenmore Dishwasher

The steps to run diagnostic mode on your Kenmore dishwasher can differ depending on which buttons are available on the control panel for your model. The best thing to do is refer to your user manual or try one of the following combinations:

  1. Press Heated Dry, then press Normal. Repeat this step twice; or
  2. Press Hi-Temp Wash, then press Air Dry. Repeat this step twice; or
  3. Press any three keys in sequence.

One of these combinations will work to put your Kenmore dishwasher into its diagnostic mode, which tests and resets your appliance.

How To Force A Kenmore Dishwasher To Drain

You can force your Kenmore dishwasher to drain mid-cycle by pressing the Cancel/Drain button and closing the door. Doing so will cancel the current wash cycle and force your appliance to begin a 2-minute drain cycle.

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