Dishwasher

Ever since I moved in, the little cup in my dishwasher that's supposed to spring open halfway through the cycle to release detergent has been broken.

Various things I saw online indicated that all I needed to do was purchase a replacement, but I'd been procrastinating. Then I got a renewal notice from the appliance-insurance company.

I'm not sure how I ended up with appliance insurance; I apparently signed up for it sometime during the house-buying process, though I have no memory of doing so. Anyway, it's time to renew, and my first thought was "Why should I renew? I have no use for this," but my second thought was "I wonder if they handle dishwasher repairs."

So I called 'em, and found out that they do handle dishwashers; also refrigerators (even though I didn't have the fridge when I first signed up for the insurance), ovens, microwaves, etc. Not washers or dryers, though; you have to pay extra for that. But they also claim to handle plumbing and electrical/wiring issues. Someone later pointed out to me that that probably means issues related to appliances—dishwasher-related plumbing issues, but maybe not a stopped-up toilet. Not sure; must ask for more info.

At any rate, I told them about the dishwasher, and a day or two later I got a call from an appliance repair guy. He left a message, and I flaked on returning the call. A few days later, he called again, and we arranged a time for him to come by.

He turned out to be Mike Katz of Cool Kat Appliance Repair. He was friendly and entertaining and knowledgeable; he took off the inside of the front door of the dishwasher, messed around with some stuff, and put it back together, and lo and behold, the broken springy-cup-thing now works!

He then proceeded to tell me that GE dishwashers (like mine) have a design flaw: there's a trap at the bottom, underneath a plastic casing held down by screws, where debris collects. Anything larger than, say, a fingertip (I hope you're taking the fingertips off your plates before washing them) ends up there, instead of being washed out the drain. Furthermore, the trap area is right over where the water sprays out, so the water that's being used to clean your dishes is first going through all the debris left over from previous washings. He showed me the underside of the plastic casing (which only had some mildew-looking dark patches; he said he's seen some cases where it's covered with thick green mold), and then he dug out half a dozen melted bits of plastic bags, and an olive pit, and a plastic bread-bag clip thingy, and some bits of broken glass, and other assorted detritus.

It's possible for dishwasher owners to clean that area out themselves, but it requires a screwdriver and it's hard to reach even after you take the plastic cover off. And apparently GE doesn't tell customers they need to do this regularly.

My dishwasher is probably about 15 years old, but apparently more recent GE models have the same problem.

One other thing he mentioned that I'd never heard before, but that makes sense: he noted that the dishwasher starts out by using whatever water is in the pipes, which may be lukewarm or cold. So if you run the hot water in the sink before running the dishwasher, that increases the percentage of the dishwasher's water that's hot.

7 Responses to “Dishwasher”

  1. Tricia Liburd

    Good Lord; I’ve got a GE dishwasher! Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. irilyth

    The appliance insurance thing is often called something like a “homeowner’s warranty”, and it’s standard to get a year’s worth when you buy a house, when you don’t necessarily have a good sense of whether all the appliances work like they should. A home inspection typically doesn’t run the diswasher, crank up the AC, and otherwise push your appliances, so it seems handy to have some protection against the former owner having concealed flaws in the place.

    That’s the theory, anyway. I know people who keep the warranty/insurance after that first year, but it seems to me like that has to be a bad investment, as insurance generally is if you can afford the cost of a loss.

  3. Jed

    Hmm. I guess one question is what the likelihood of a loss is.

    All my appliances are around 15 years old. What are the chances that the dishwasher or microwave will break down completely and need to be replaced during the next year?

    I don’t really have any idea. The dishwasher repair guy said something that I interpreted as meaning my dishwasher isn’t likely to last another year, but I don’t know if he was saying that mine specifically is on its last legs, or just that it’s nearing the end of its average lifespan, or even that he figured I would get tired of it and want a new one soon.

  4. Michael

    If you do need to replace your dishwasher, I highly recommend a Bosch. Rob praised his so much that we bought one when our old dishwasher died in June. We love it. It saves a huge amount of water and energy over our old one. Our only concern was that it didn’t dry the dishes, but that turned out to be because we weren’t using a rinse agent. Now it works perfectly.

  5. Michael

    We were also very surprised at how expensive it was to install a new dishwasher. Several hundred dollars through Sears, or a couple hundred using a handyman. An appliance warranty that would fully cover installation of a replacement appliance would seem well worth it to us, even if we had to buy the new appliance ourselves.

  6. Nao

    Having watched Stephen install the dishwasher we bought last fall, I can only say that I can understand why handymen charge what they do for the task. It was a right pain. I think it was even worse than the drop-in stove we had to replace, which Sears installed for something like $150, but which required some on-the-spot remodeling with a circular saw.

  7. Michael

    Yup. I’m no longer surprised at how expensive it was. Our handyman worked his butt off getting ours in. Our water intake line had been attached with a temporary clamp instead of a fitting, our water outflow had been run across our basement through a set of jerry-rigged garden hoses, and our electrical junction had wires fused together from arcing. He didn’t need a circular saw, but he needed just about everything else. And I’m so glad that I had a jack-of-all-trades doing the work for an hourly rate rather than a store installer who likely would have pulled his hair out halfway through and left the house in tears.

    I love the simplicity of a refrigerator that doesn’t have an icemaker or water dispenser — you just need to plug it in to a normal outlet. There’s an installation that I’m very comfortable handling myself.

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