Dishwasher Spray Arm Not Working: Common Causes

With the dishwasher open and the bottom rack pulled out, the lower dishwater spray arm can be seen.
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What You'll Need
What You'll Need

Since dishwashers are frequently used in most homes, a dishwater spray arm tends to encounter some problems eventually. Usually, problems are evident each time the dishes are unloaded since, when dishwater spray arms malfunction, dishes are not cleaned thoroughly. There will be grit found on glasses and dishes, and in some cases, they will need to be re-washed the old fashioned way. As durable as most dishwashers are, it is recommended to have some basic working knowledge of your dishwasher’s parts and to perform regular checkups.

Spray Arm

The main function of dishwater spray arms is to shoot hot water at high pressures, which serves as the substitute for manual scrubbing in washing dishes. With a malfunctioning or broken dishwasher spray arm, you’ll end up with unclean dishes. The subsequent sections enumerate some of the common causes of dishwasher spray arm breakdown. Tips and some troubleshooting measures are also included.

Blockage and Food Residues

One of the main causes of problems is a blockage. When the spray holes become clogged, it’s impossible for the spray arms to function as they’re supposed to. There are several causes of blockage, the most common being food residue.

Dishwashers normally have a set of spray arms. One spray arm is placed at the bottom while the other is positioned beneath the upper tray. To examine the spray arms, first, empty your dishwasher completely, then remove the bottom tray. The spray arm in the upper part is usually attached to the upper tray, and it is very easy to detach. After taking out the spray arm, let the water run through them. If there is no blockage, water should be able to flow freely through the spray holes. Otherwise, there is a blockage that needs to be cleared. Scrub the spray arm down with soap and hot water to remove any debris, and rinse with clean water. If the obstructions are stubborn, they can be removed by blowing compressed air from a compressor through it from the output openings in the spray arm, removing the dirt in the reverse direction from which they got in. It might be tempting to use a piece of wire to dislodge the particles, which would probably work but would also scratch and damage the inside of the spray arm, causing a rougher surface where even more dirt would keep collecting.

To help prevent future spray arm clogs, thoroughly rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Unclean Water and Coffee Grounds

Another problem with spray arms is when spray arms sprout unclean water. A cause of this is coffee grounds. When coffee grounds are put in the garbage disposal, it can often create problems with the water. In many kitchens, the drain of the dishwasher is connected or goes right into the garbage disposal. Usually, there is the misconception that coffee residue in the garbage disposal cannot get transported into the dishwasher but this is not always the case. So, if you have a persistent problem with dirty water, it might be time to clean your garbage disposal.

Overloading and Dirty Dishes

While blockage causes dirty dishes, the overloading of plates and utensils also causes spray arm problems. Small dishes and utensils sitting on the tray can also sometimes shift leaving a handle, a blade, or some other part coming out underneath and blocking the spray arm's trajectory. Make sure that your dishwasher isn’t too crowded, that the spray arm can rotate freely, and that the water can run from the spray arms as it’s supposed to.