How to Tell If Dishwasher Heating Element Is Bad

In the realm of kitchen appliances, the dishwasher stands as a true hero, saving us from the daunting task of handwashing our dishes. One crucial component that ensures our dishes emerge sparkling clean is the heating element. However, like all things, dishwasher heating elements can sometimes go awry, leaving you with less-than-stellar results. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the signs that indicate your dishwasher’s heating element might be on the fritz and explore how to address this issue.

Understanding the Dishwasher Heating Element

Before we dive into the telltale signs of a malfunctioning heating element, let’s take a moment to understand its role in the dishwasher. The heating element, typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher, is responsible for heating the water during the wash cycle and aiding in the drying process during the rinse cycle. It plays a pivotal role in ensuring your dishes are not only clean but also dry and ready to use.

Signs of a Bad Dishwasher Heating Element

  1. Cold Dishes After a Cycle The most apparent sign of a malfunctioning heating element is when your dishes come out of the dishwasher cold and wet instead of hot and dry. If you find yourself reaching for a towel to dry your dishes after every cycle, it’s time to investigate the heating element.
  2. Extended Wash Cycle If your dishwasher’s wash cycle suddenly seems to drag on much longer than usual, it could be a result of a struggling heating element. The prolonged cycle may be an attempt to compensate for the element’s inefficiency in heating the water adequately.
  3. Cloudy Glassware A malfunctioning heating element can also lead to cloudy glassware due to improper drying. If your once-gleaming glassware now appears cloudy or spotted, the heating element could be the culprit.
  4. Unusual Noises Listen closely during your dishwasher’s operation. If you hear strange, grinding, or clanking noises, it could be a sign of a damaged heating element. These sounds often indicate that something is amiss within the heating element assembly.
  5. Visible Damage Sometimes, a bad heating element may display visible signs of damage, such as burn marks, corrosion, or even breakage. If you can visually identify issues with the element, it’s a clear indication that it needs attention.
  6. High Energy Bills A malfunctioning heating element may draw more power to compensate for its inefficiency. If you notice a significant increase in your energy bills, your dishwasher’s heating element could be the culprit.
  7. Inconsistent Cleaning When the heating element struggles, it may lead to inconsistent cleaning results. Some dishes may come out clean, while others remain soiled. This inconsistency is a red flag for a malfunctioning element.
  8. Error Codes Modern dishwashers often come equipped with error code displays. If your dishwasher consistently displays error codes related to heating or drying functions, it’s a clear indication of a heating element issue.

How to Confirm and Address the Problem

Once you’ve identified the signs of a malfunctioning heating element, it’s essential to confirm the issue before proceeding with repairs or replacements. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

1. Check for Continuity

Begin by unplugging your dishwasher or turning off the circuit breaker that supplies power to it. Then, use a multimeter to check for continuity in the heating element. If there’s no continuity, it’s a strong indicator that the element is faulty.

2. Inspect for Visual Damage

Carefully inspect the heating element for any visible damage, such as burn marks or corrosion. If you spot any issues, it’s time to replace the element.

3. Seek Professional Help

If you’re unsure about diagnosing or repairing the heating element yourself, it’s best to consult a professional appliance repair technician. They have the expertise and tools to accurately diagnose and fix the problem.


A malfunctioning dishwasher heating element can be a real hassle, leading to cold, wet dishes and increased energy bills. By recognizing the signs of a bad heating element and taking appropriate action, you can keep your dishwasher running efficiently and your dishes sparkling clean.

Remember, regular maintenance and prompt attention to heating element issues can extend the lifespan of your dishwasher and save you from unnecessary expenses.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How often should I replace my dishwasher’s heating element?

The lifespan of a heating element can vary, but on average, it may need replacement every 8 to 10 years. However, regular maintenance can prolong its life.

2. Can I replace the heating element myself?

If you have experience with appliance repair and the necessary tools, you can attempt to replace the heating element. Otherwise, it’s best to consult a professional technician.

3. Are there any DIY fixes for a malfunctioning heating element?

Some minor issues, like loose wires or minor corrosion, can be fixed by a DIY enthusiast. However, for more complex problems, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance.

4. How can I prevent heating element issues in my dishwasher?

Regularly clean the dishwasher, avoid overloading it, and use high-quality detergent. These practices can help maintain the heating element’s efficiency.

5. Is it worth repairing an old dishwasher’s heating element, or should I buy a new dishwasher?

It depends on the overall condition of your dishwasher. If it’s relatively new and in good shape, repairing the heating element is a cost-effective option. However, if your dishwasher is old and experiencing multiple issues, it may be time to consider a replacement.

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