Discovering that the heating element in the dishwasher is failing can be a little tougher than with a clothes dryer or electric range. If you are someone who does not use the hot dry feature of the dishwasher or open the unit while it is running to see if the water is staying hot, you might go for weeks before it become obvious that the heating element is not working. After you make the discovery, replacing the heating element is not a difficult job on most dishwashers. Having installed and repaired a number of dishwashers over the years, I can say that this job can take about one to three hours to complete.
Disconnect the power to the dishwasher.
Never begin an electrical project with the power on. If you are dealing with a portable dishwasher, all you need to do is unplug it. Since the majority of dishwashers are built in, you will need to find the correct breaker and turn it off. You can test this by trying to turn the dishwasher on. If it comes on, you flipped the wrong breaker.
Open the door and remove the racks that hold the dishes.
On most dishwashers, you should be able to leave the arm that has the water jets on it in place. Familiarize yourself with how the heating element rests in the dishwasher. It will connect into the bottom of the dishwasher with two electrodes. The element should rest on a bracket of some sort toward the front of the unit. Look between the bottom of the door and the dishwasher to see if the screws that hold the access panel are located there. More than likely they are not. If they are, remove them now and close the door.
Remove the screws that hold the access panel in place.
If you did not remove these screws in the previous step, locate them and remove them. They may be found on one side of the panel or the other. Usually you must remove the metal trim around the panel to remove the panel.
Locate the wiring that is attached to the heating element.
Look through the access opening to find the wiring for the element. You may need to remove an item or two to have good access to the wiring connections. Since this will vary from dishwasher to dishwasher, you may need to consult the owners manual for additional information. Usually, the wires just pull off of the connectors on the dishwasher heating element.
Remove the nuts that hold the element in place.
Most units will require a 1/2 inch open end wrench to loosen and remove the nuts. In some cases, a pair of pliers will do. Once these nuts are removed, you are finished under the dishwasher until it is time to hook up the wiring to the new heating element.
Reach inside the dishwasher and remove the screws that hold the element to the unit.
Make sure that you remove all of the screws from both sides of the element where they go through the bottom of the dishwasher. Lift the element up and out of the dishwasher.
Compare the new heating element to the old one to make sure they match.
It is always a great idea to make certain that you are installing the correct replacement part in any repair effort. Look at the size of the element. Compare the connectors where the wiring will attach.
Slip the new element into position and reattach it to the dishwasher.
Start by fastening the screws back into the bottom of the dishwasher. Make sure that the heating element rests on any support brackets inside the dishwasher. Reattach the nuts that anchor the heating element beneath the floor of the unit.
Fasten the wiring to the element.
Slip the wire connectors back onto the heating element. Replace any pieces that you had to remove to improve the access to the wiring. Replace the access panel and close the dishwasher.
Turn on the power to the unit.
Start the dishwasher on the drying setting. Let the dishwasher run through a cycle and check to insure that heating element is working. It should continue to heat the water as long as you it on the proper settings. Pay attention that the dishwasher is hot during the drying cycle.
Replace the racks.
If all is working properly, replace the racks. Close the dishwasher or load it up for a wash cycle, and let it run.