Whirlpool Dishwasher Fills But Does Not Wash. How To Fix It?

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So, you just finished a meal and loaded the dirty dishes into your Whirlpool dishwasher, only to discover that it fills but does not wash.

This can be one of the biggest inconveniences because you will most likely have to remove all the dishes from the dishwasher and hand wash.

In the meantime, you’ll also have to troubleshoot to see what the problem is.

If your Whirlpool dishwasher fills with water but does not wash dishes, there are 2 common reasons caused by a malfunctioned circulation pump (wash motor) or by clogged holes on the spray arm.

Here’s how to troubleshoot and fix these two common repairs.

Whirlpool Wash Motor (Circulation Pump) Malfunctioned

The most common reason a Whirlpool dishwasher fills with water but does not wash is due to a malfunctioned wash motor.

The first thing you’ll want to do is locate the motor and check to see if it’s bad.

If the wash motor is bad, you can hear clicks coming from the area where the motor is.

You need to pull the dishwasher out from the countertop and listen to the motor.

If the motor will not start washing in a couple of minutes right after it filled with water, 99% wash motor is failed.

You can also check the wash motor for the continuity, this is how to check it:

  1. Disconnect all power to the dishwasher by flipping the appropriate circuit breaker
  2. Locate the motor which should be behind the lower kick plate or access panel
  3. This panel will be secured by either two or four screws, remove all of them so the panel comes all the way off
  4. On some dishwasher models you must open the door to remove some screws. Just be sure to close the door before removing the panel
  5. Disconnect the two wire leads from the wiring harness that are attached to the motor
  6. Using a multimeter, set the device to R x 1.
  7. Touch each of the multimeter’s probes to one terminal each
  8. The motor should show very little resistance, such as a reading of zero or close to it
  9. Also check the ground connection by placing one probe on the bare metal housing of the motor, and the other on each terminal (one at a time)
  10. This test should show no reading on the meter
  11. If either of these tests show readings other than what they should, then the motor is bad and needs to be replaced.

Need A New Whirlpool Wash Motor? Click Here

Here’s how to replace the wash motor on your Whirlpool dishwasher:

  1. Disconnect the power by unplugging the unit or turning off the appropriate breaker
  2. Again, locate the motor which should be located behind the lower access or kick panel
  3. Remove the screws that hold it in place
  4. Open the dishwasher door and remove the lower dish rack
  5. Remove the spray tower
  6. Remove the lower spray arm assembly. This is usually held in place with one single bolt
  7. If your unit has a filter assembly under the spray arm, you’ll need to remove that as well
  8. Disconnect the two wire leads from the wiring harness that are attached to the wash motor
  9. Next, you’ll need to remove the drain hose from the pump
  10. You should now be able to life the pump and motor assembly from the base of your Whirlpool dishwasher
  11. Remember it’s important to keep your work area as dry as possible to prevent dangerous electrical shocks
  12. Reverse these steps to install the new motor assembly.
  13. When you have all components back in place you’ll need to pour one gallon of water into the dishwasher’s tub
  14. Check under the unit for any water leaks
  15. If there are no leaks present, go ahead and restore the power to your dishwasher and run the unit through a test cycle
  16. Check under the unit again for leaks
  17. If you find no leaks, replace the lower access panel or kick plate. If there are water leaks you’ll have to determine where they are coming from and fix them.

Once you’ve replaced the wash motor, your Whirlpool dishwasher should not only fill with water, but it should also wash your dishes. If this alone didn’t solve your problem, keep reading.

Sprayer Holes are Clogged

If your Whirlpool dishwasher is not cleaning your dishes the way it used to, or at all, the problem may be that your sprayer holes are clogged.

This problem can usually be solved with the help of some wire length. For example, you can cut a metal clothes hanger, and use it to clear the holes on the spray arm.

Whirlpool Dishwasher spray arm clogged

There’s no doubt that you’ve noticed the spray arm in the bottom of your dishwasher. This part shoots water out to clean your dishes.

However, over time it can become clogged with food and even hard water, or mineral, deposits. When this occurs you’ll need to clean it.

To clean it, you can use part of a metal hanger as we mentioned above. While you can do it while the sprayer arm is still installed, for best results you may want to disconnect it and pull it out of the unit.

Most Whirlpool dishwashers secure the arm using a simple locking knob on the bottom.

Once you determine if you’ll leave the arm in place or remove it, you’ll use the wire or tooth stick to clear out the holes. Be sure to poke the wire all the way through to the bottom.

This will ensure you remove as much of the food or mineral deposits as possible.

If the sprayer arm is really caked with debris, you can soak it in a tub of warm water with some vinegar added to it. The vinegar will help dissolve deposits inside.

Once the arm is clear you’ll simply put it back in place, and lock it on to ensure it’s securely in place.

The most important step is to make sure you spin it once you have the arm positioned correctly.

It should spin freely, if it doesn’t you’ll have a new set of problems. Your best bet is to also clean the spray arm at the top too. If you do this, the dishwasher will work like new.

Here are the steps to unclogging the spray arm holes:

  1. Remove the spray arm from the dishwasher
  2. Use a piece of wire that is slightly smaller than the spray arm holes to clean it effectively
  3. Put the arm back in place and make sure it turns easily
  4. When the arm is extremely clogged, soak it in warm water and vinegar to dissolve all mineral deposit and other debris

Have you dealt with this issue before? What model Whirlpool dishwasher do you have and what was the problem? Comment now and let’s discuss.

Reader Comments (5)

  1. Hi dear
    Thanks for helping
    I wonder if you could help me with my dishwasher machine issue,
    Recently facing error whenever starts giving F11 which interpreting the cycle of running.
    The whirlpool dishwasher number is WFC3C26
    Thank you so much for supporting

    • My daughter has a Whirlpool 184 Standard dishwasher. Today, the door won’t stay closed. She told me there is no latch on this model. Any idea what might have happened? I will probably be the one to try to fix it.

      • Every dishwasher has a latch system. No exception. Also, check the door to make sure it aligns with the dishwasher (in case if you have a plastic tub)

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