Frustrated with KitchenAid Diswasher

carolmkaMarch 30, 2012

We have a 6 year old Kitchen Aid Dishwasher. Over the past year we have been fighting a problem where there is dried food grit on the glasses on the upper rack. We have tried tablets, powder and gel. We had the food chopper cleaned out and redid the drain and water hoses. We have used dishwasher magic. Oh yeah we make sure we use hot water and we scrape.

After the cycle is complete, the inside of the dishwasher is always clean and so are the dishes. There is no film, just dried grit on the glasses. I even had a repairmen out to confirm that everything was okay.

Has anyone successfully dealt with this problem? I see posts here and there about the same problem, but know one seems to have solved it. thanks

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You stated you had a repairman out and said everything was okay. Have you opened it as it is running to check that the spray arms are turning? Just wondering if you are blocking the arms. Is dishwasher magic the same as Jet Dry? That would be another suggestion.

I was having the same problem with a 10+ year old Superba. The top rack just wasn't getting clean. It was also becoming very loud. I assumed that the pump and possibly the plastic washers that turn the arms were wearing out. I had replaced some of the rings on the washer arms, a few years back, and it seemed to help. But again you said a repairman gave it an okay.

So I solved my dilemma be buying a new dishwasher. It is so quiet and actually does get the dishes clean. Plus my old dishwasher had actually leaked a few times on my hardwood floors. So I bought one that has a leak sensor. Depending on how much it's worth and what a service call costs, it might be time to go shopping.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I have been going through much the same for the past 6 months with a new Kitchenaid. I have felt like a mad scientist with all of the different detergents and combinations I have tried. Finally, I tried what was actually delivered with the dishwasher, which is the Cascade packs with Dawn, and lo and behold, I have spotless dishes!! Can't believe it!!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 4:10PM
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Just as Suzie 1962 mentions; try Cascade or Finish tablets. Since the zero phosphate detergents went into effect, the tablets seem to be the best performers. Gels & powders not so good.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 4:48PM
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"...repairmen out to confirm that everything was okay."

Assuming that means he verified 1) water-fill proper level 2) temperature in-operation inside the machine 120F or above and 3) pressurized and operating upper wash arm, I am baffled. Seems to me, if those things are OK and your lines are clear, the symptom you've described couldn't happen. Hard for me to accept on the face of it that these items were actually examined. Are you sure these things were checked?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 8:52PM
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I have a 3-yr old KA, and frankly, the competence of A&E servicepeople really varies. Some are very good and some just 'talk a good game'. One guy wired a replacement dispenser unit in reverse, something that a subsequent repairman missed completely. Not until the fourth guy replaced the unit (again; I'm on dispenser #4) did he discover the second guy's miswiring was the cause of my problem.

When you say your glasses are dirty but dishes are clean, are both on the same top rack? asolo is correct (as always) that it's possible the upper wash arm has some holes blocked. Happens quite a lot, actually.

My original KA installer (who was quite good) told me that one issue with the KA DWs is that after 3-5 yrs, the pump fails. He said I would be able to tell because the entire load would gradually come out less and less clean. Since you've got a localized problem, I think you can at least rule the pump out, which is good (because it's expensive).

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 9:52PM
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KA (aka Whirlpool) makes decent machines....and they work just like all the others do. DW's are not particularly complicated devices. If operating properly, assuming proper detergent dosing for the water quality extant, things get clean in ANY of them....without the symptoms OP described. I'm thinking the hired tech didn't stick around long enough to provide competent diagnosis.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Thanks for the notes. I am opened the door after the washer was finished loading water and the water was about a half inch below the heating element.

What level should it be?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 11:53AM
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I am not familiar with KA's in particular. However, my three Whirlpools over the last 20 years have all had water levels touching the exposed element so I am suspicious of the level you described.

Hopefully some people who are familiar with your machine will chime in about now.

Suggest two things, regardless. 1) Maybe call KA help line and/or the dealer and ask them. However, in your situation as described, might try something else quick and easy. 2) After you open the door and see the water-level where you described it, simply add water manually to a higher level. Pay attention to the height of the lip in front so you don't over-fill but as long as the machine can retain the water level, you should be fine. Then turn it on, open it quickly and observe whether of not the upper arm is pressurized. Could get messy.....beware. But you might learn something important quickly.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Your water level may be a little low, possibly caused by the water inlet valve being clogged/obstructed by accumulated debris/sediment. Majority of dishwashers are timed-fill ... the timer or control board allots a specific amount of time (usually 1 to 2 minutes per the machine's design) for filling. If there's a float in corner of the tub, it's to detect an overfill condition (if the valve does not shut off), not to control the normal fill level. Normal fill level is per the allotted time in combination with a flow-washer in the valve that regulates the incoming flow to a specific rate (gallons per minute) over a given range of household water pressures. Thus, for example (which doesn't necessarily represent your machine), a flow rate of 0.7 gals/minute for a 2-minute fill period would fill the machine with 1.4 gals of water.

A low flow-rate (obstructed water valve) will result in a low water level, which starves the pump for water and can result in low spray pressure. Even 1/2" low may be enough to cause a problem. A service tech would normally notice the problem, but it's not unusual to be overlooked. Not saying this is your problem, just saying it's a possibility. The water valve can typically be disassembled for cleaning. I did the "job" on a friend's machine recently, plumbing work on the house dislodged a bunch of debris in the old pipes.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 1:47PM
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Definitely check for blockages in the spray arm.

Also check to make sure the platic pipe that runs under the spray arm (and supplies the arm with water)has not fallen out of it's support that attaches it to the bottom of the upper rack at the back. There should be a flanged connector at the end of that pipe that in turn fits over the upper water inlet at the upper rear of the tub. If that pipe comes out of it's support, the pipe sags and doesn't line up correctly with the water inlet; water won't go into the upper arm and you won't get upper rack spray. So the lower rack spray arm ends up being the only one running and your top rack dishes will be gritty.

This one will sound crazy, but do you use instant mashed potatoes? We found that instant mashed potato residue on the plates will end up on the glasses in the DW no matter what detergent you use. So, if we had instant, we made sure to rinse the plates of all residue before placing them in the DW.

Lastly, the new formulation of the detergents has caused alot of problems. We found Cascade Complete with Dawn packs in our old KA DW worked beautifully & the Finish Powerball Packs (not the tabs) work perfectly in our brand new KA DWs. Haven't tried any instant potatoes with the new DWs though :-) After my favorite cookware set was ruined in the DW following the reformulation of the DW detergents, I will never put them in the DW again.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 10:36PM
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" favorite cookware set was ruined in the DW following the reformulation of the DW detergents...."

Please explain. The "re-formulation" caused the ingredients to become less aggressive, not more. That's what everyone's complaining about. How is it that this new formulation "ruined" your favorite cookware set?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 11:32PM
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Thanks for the tips. Awhile ago, we actually used a video on You Tube and took everything apart. We scrape, etc, etc.

Hop on one foot and cross my fingers before I start it. lol. Anyway I am going to try calling KitchenAid.

I have been told the 'real problems' happened when dishwashers were designed to meet energy star standards. The new models use a lot less water. Who knows? Everyone has theories.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:47PM
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"Awhile ago, we actually used a video on You Tube and took everything apart."

Umm....OK....and why did you do that? And how long is "awhile"? And what was "everything"? Were there previous problems, then?

The plot thickens.

"I have been told the 'real problems' happened when dishwashers were designed to meet energy star standards."

Disagree with this. I have owned several machines before and after the energy star hoopla. (Maytag, KA, and Whirlpool) They've all worked fine. Latest whirlpool, very similar to your KA, works fine. While I write this, it's in mom's kitchen doing an excellent job using a little more than 1/2 the water of the 2001 model it replaced. Has done so for a couple of years, now. I have little doubt your machine will work fine, too, if it's diagnosed properly and made to run as it should again.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:42PM
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You can essentially override the energy star stuff by running a hotter cycle - add hotter water button and/or the pots and pans cycle but you should get clean glasses on a normal cycle.

You do have a high loop in your drain hose, right? If not you may get dirty water heading back into the washer. Also, try Quantum Finish tabs - I get great results.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:47PM
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Is the pump failure after 3-5 years in new KA's valid? It happened to my current 8 yr old KA at about the 5 yr mark. When I replace it with a new DW, if I buy a KA am I looking at this same thing happening again? It was expensive to replace the pump. Since it is a known problem with KA's, one would think that KA would correct it going forward, once it was identified. Right????

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:56PM
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You can't generalize about brands - my 10 year old KA is going strong - no problem with the pump. Some Miele's go 20 years without problems, some have problems after 5 years.

Sadly, known problems aren't necessarily corrected. They really don't make them like they used to. What's the incentive to the manufacturer to make a machine that lasts longer than the warranty?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:38AM
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When I said we took everything apart, I was responding to the post about removing the top spray arm and the piece down the back of the dishwasher, We also took the bottom arm off and cleaned out the food chopper. After I did this I then had a repairmen and he mentioned that we put it back together correctly. We do have the drain pipe looped above the garbage disposal. We always run on Hi temp scrub now.

From what I am hearing, at this point its either the water inlet valve or the pump.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:46PM
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After the machine gets going, open the door. The water should be touching the heater element.

If it is low, then chances are the inlet screen is partially blocked. If you are good at DIY, then this isn't too difficult to do your self. You'll need to turn off the hot water, loosen and remove the water inlet line, then remove/clean the screen.

This could be a symptom of hard water. Your water heater can produce calcium deposits that break loose from the inside of the tank and travel through the hot water lines. You might check the aerators on your faucets. Also your clothes washer.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 1:55PM
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Fill solenoids are cheap and easy...and pretty common problems. Even new ones are sometimes defective. Older ones can get crudded up, typically from calcium deposits in hard water. If that's the problem, strongly advise replace rather than attempt clean-out. Pumps are expensive and a pain.

If you get into the fill solenoid and see calcium deposits, be advised that the problem will likely happen again no matter what you do. Soft water eliminates and/or vastly attenuates the problem.

Have you checked about proper water-level in your machine yet? Attempted operation with added water? Easy/cheap should be first step. Difficult/expensive should be avoided if possible.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 2:01PM
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Sadly, known problems aren't necessarily corrected. They really don't make them like they used to. What's the incentive to the manufacturer to make a machine that lasts longer than the warranty?

You got that right, Weissman. I guess there really is no incentive to make a product last longer than the warranty. Except maybe pride in producing a quality product and having a good reputation, both of which create more sales. [shrug]

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 3:14PM
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