June 14th, 2021

How to fix a dishwasher that's not dispensing soap

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Read time: 6 minutes

If you run your dishwasher and your plates, bowls, and utensils still look really dirty, you may have an issue with your soap dispenser.

Don't worry, we can help. Asurion Experts are trained, certified, and experienced with all sorts of major appliances. Here's their guide to repair a dishwasher that's not dispensing soap.

Why is my dishwasher not dispensing soap?

If your dishwasher's soap dispenser isn't functioning properly, it could be a problem with the following components:

  • The detergent and rinse aid dispensers
  • The rinse aid cap
  • The door spring
  • The wax motor
  • The bi-metal switch
  • The timer

To know which part is causing your soap dispenser problem, you must test each one.

The detergent and rinse aid dispensers

If your dishwasher's soap dispenser isn't opening, first check the detergent and rinse aid dispensers. Both are located on the inside of the dishwasher door. The detergent dispenser has two areas: an open one for pre-wash, and another with a hinged door to release detergent during the wash cycle. The rinse aid dispenser has a round cap.

How to check

Unplug the dishwasher. Check the detergent dispenser for buildup, defects, damage, or discoloration, and ensure the door opens easily. Check the rinse aid dispenser to make sure it's full.

How to repair

If old detergent or other buildup is affecting the functionality of the dispenser or its door, clean it thoroughly with a dish towel soaked in warm, soapy water. Cracks or other damage may require a replacement.

The rinse aid cap

The dishwasher's rinse aid cap is a round plastic component on the inside of the door near the detergent dispenser.

How to check

Unscrew the dishwasher cap to check for damage and ensure that it screws into place properly. Hot water can sometimes cause the cap to melt, crack, or become warped over time.

How to repair

If your dishwasher's rinse aid cap is damaged, you can easily replace it. Check your manual to find the right one for your appliance model.

The door spring

During the wash cycle, your dishwasher's soap dispenser springs open, letting the detergent out into the tub. But if no soap comes out, it could be a problem with a small spring in the dispenser's door hinge.

How to check

In many dishwashers, the detergent dispenser door spring is easy to see . Just open the dispenser and look for any damage or buildup around the spring.

How to repair

If you see or suspect the spring is damaged, replacing it is generally easy. Just check your manual to find the right spring for your model. If you aren't able to access the spring yourself, book a local appliance repair with an Asurion Expert.

The wax motor

If your dishwasher's soap dispenser is not opening, but there doesn't appear to be a problem with the dispenser or its door, the issue could be your wax motor, which releases the dispenser door when the dishwasher gets hot enough.

How to check

Unplug your dishwasher or shut it off at the electrical box if it is hardwired. The wax motor is located near the detergent dispenser on the inside of the dishwasher door. Depending on the dishwasher model, you will need to remove the inner or outer door panel to access it. Disconnect the wires from terminals on the wax motor. Make sure to mark the wires to return them to the correct location later. Remove the wax motor and test it with a multimeter—find out how in our guide to using a multimeter.

How to repair

If the wax motor does not have continuity, or a complete electrical circuit, when you check it with a multimeter, you will need to replace it.

The bi-metal switch

In older dishwasher models, a bi-metal switch is the component that releases the detergent dispenser door when the dishwasher reaches the right temperature.

How to check

First, unplug your dishwasher or shut off power from the electrical box if it is hardwired. The bi-metal switch will be located near the detergent dispenser on the inside of the dishwasher door. Depending on the model of your appliance, you will need to remove the inner or outer door panel to access it.

To check the bi-metal switch alignment, close the detergent dispenser door, then use a screwdriver to press on the bi-metal switch to release the dispenser door catch. If the alignment appears to be fine, you can also check the connection. Disconnect the wires from terminals on the bi-metal switch. Make sure you mark the wires to return them to their correct location later. Remove the bi-metal switch and test its circuit to ensure it is complete with a multimeter.

How to repair

A small adjustment may be all you need to get your dishwasher dispensing soap again if the alignment is the problem. If your multimeter indicates that the bi-metal switch does not have a complete pathway for an electrical current to flow, it will not function properly and you will need to replace it, or call a repair professional.  

A broken dishwasher timer

If your dishwasher has a timer, you may need to replace this part to get your appliance properly dispensing soap again.

How to check

Unplug your dishwasher, or shut off power at the electrical box if it is hardwired. You'll need to locate the timer in the dishwasher's control panel, which may require removing parts and electrical components. Because of the danger and complexity involved in doing so, we recommend contacting a local dishwasher repair professional for help.

How to repair

If your dishwasher's timer is broken, you will need to replace it. Book a repair with an Asurion Expert for help as soon as same day.

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