What Causes a Dishwasher Heating Element to Fail

Have you ever wondered why your dishwasher isn’t delivering sparkling clean dishes lately? One potential culprit might be a failing heating element. In this article, we’ll delve into the various factors that can cause a dishwasher heating element to fail and explore preventive measures to keep your dishwasher in top-notch condition.

1. What Causes a Dishwasher Heating Element to Fail?

A dishwasher heating element can fail due to a variety of reasons. One common cause is limescale buildup, which can occur over time if the dishwasher is not properly maintained or if hard water is being used. The limescale can coat the heating element and reduce its ability to heat up efficiently, eventually causing it to fail. Another reason for failure could be electrical issues such as a short circuit or wiring problems, which can prevent the heating element from functioning properly.

Additionally, physical damage to the heating element, such as corrosion or cracks, can also lead to failure. This damage may occur from regular wear and tear over time or from using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning methods that can degrade the heating element’s surface. Regular maintenance and proper use of the dishwasher can help prevent these issues and prolong the life of the heating element.

2. Understanding the Dishwasher Heating Element

Before we uncover the reasons behind heating element failures, let’s get acquainted with what the heating element does. In a dishwasher, the heating element plays a crucial role in drying the dishes after the wash cycle. It ensures that your plates, glasses, and utensils emerge spotless and dry, ready to be put back into your cabinets.

3. Common Signs of a Failing Heating Element

Spotting the signs of a failing heating element is essential for timely intervention. Look out for damp dishes, a lack of heat during the drying cycle, or unusual noises emanating from your dishwasher. These indicators often point to potential issues with the heating element.

4. Hard Water Woes: The Culprit Behind Many Failures

Hard water is a common woe for dishwashers, and it can significantly contribute to heating element failures. The minerals in hard water can accumulate on the heating element, forming a layer that hampers its efficiency. Regular descaling can be a game-changer in preventing this issue.

5. Excessive Detergent Usage and Its Impact

Using more detergent than necessary might seem harmless, but it can have adverse effects on your dishwasher’s heating element. Residue from excess detergent can build up on the heating element, affecting its performance over time. Stick to the recommended detergent amount for optimal results.

6. Electrical Issues: A Major Contributor

Electrical problems can also lead to heating element failures. Issues like faulty wiring, a damaged thermostat, or a malfunctioning control board can interrupt the heating element’s operation. Regularly check for any signs of electrical problems and address them promptly.

7. Age and Wear: The Inevitable Factors

As with any appliance, age and wear are inevitable factors contributing to heating element failures. Over time, the heating element may degrade or develop faults. Regularly inspect your dishwasher, especially if it’s been serving you for a good number of years.

8. DIY Tips for Preventing Heating Element Failures

Preventing heating element failures can save you time and money. Consider using water softeners to combat hard water, follow detergent guidelines, and inspect your dishwasher’s electrical components regularly. These simple DIY tips can go a long way in ensuring your heating element’s longevity.

9. Regular Maintenance for Prolonged Life

Routine maintenance is key to keeping your dishwasher and its heating element in top shape. Clean the dishwasher interior, check for any debris, and inspect the heating element for signs of scaling. Regular maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of your appliance.

10. Choosing the Right Detergent Matters

The type of detergent you use plays a crucial role in the health of your dishwasher’s heating element. Opt for high-quality detergents designed for dishwashers, and avoid using regular dish soap. The right detergent will not only clean your dishes effectively but also protect the heating element from unnecessary wear.

11. Water Temperature: Finding the Sweet Spot

Maintaining the correct water temperature is essential for the proper functioning of the heating element. Check your water heater settings and ensure that the water entering the dishwasher is hot enough. Inadequate water temperature can strain the heating element and lead to premature failure.

12. The Role of Rinse Aid

Rinse aid is not just an optional addition to your dishwasher routine—it can significantly impact the health of the heating element. Using rinse aid helps in preventing water spots on your dishes and reduces the workload on the heating element during the drying cycle.

13. Quality Installation: Setting the Foundation

Proper installation is the foundation of a well-functioning dishwasher. Ensure that your dishwasher is installed correctly, with all components securely in place. Improper installation can lead to issues with the heating element and other crucial parts of the appliance.

14. Professional Repairs vs. DIY Solutions

When faced with a failing heating element, consider the scope of the problem. While some issues can be resolved with DIY solutions, complex problems might require professional intervention. Knowing when to seek professional repairs can save you from further complications and extend the life of your dishwasher.


In conclusion, understanding the factors that contribute to dishwasher heating element failures is the first step towards maintaining a reliable and efficient appliance. By addressing issues like hard water, electrical problems, and proper maintenance, you can ensure that your dishwasher serves you well for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I use regular dish soap in my dishwasher?
    • It’s not recommended. Always use detergent specifically designed for dishwashers to prevent damage to the heating element.
  2. How often should I descale my dishwasher?
    • Descaling should be done every three to six months, depending on the hardness of your water.
  3. Is it normal for my dishwasher to make noise during the wash cycle?
    • Some noise is normal, but unusual or excessive noise might indicate a problem with the heating element or other components.
  4. What is the average lifespan of a dishwasher heating element?
    • On average, a dishwasher heating element can last 8 to 12 years with proper care and maintenance.
  5. Can I replace the heating element myself?
    • It’s possible for some, but if you’re unsure, it’s best to consult a professional for safe and effective replacement.
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