John Torrance - GE Dishwasher Won't Drain

GE Dishwasher Won't Drain

Background

So, you own a GE Dishwasher for a couple years, and now it won't drain? Yeah, welcome to the club. Mine started having this the same problem after about five years. In reading up on this problem, I see many people ran into this sooner. Maybe I'm just lucky.

I can, however, tell you how to fix this problem. Best of all, you probably don't need any tools, and the repair is free. But, first, I have to mention the recall. My model, the GLD4400N (specs and review), and many other models have been recalled by GE due to a fire hazard. Please go to The GE Recall Web Page, click on one of the Dishwasher recalls near the top, then put in your model and serial number to see if yours was recalled. If it's included in the recall, your options are a free repair or a rebate on the purchase of a new GE Dishwasher.

Also, there are many models of GE dishwashers, and yours may not look like this at all. If that's the case, you'll need to find a site or forum where they discuss your model. I've created this page because I hadn't found an illustrated guide to disassembly of my model of GE dishwasher. Hopefully, this is helpful to someone out there. Feel free to contact me if this helps you. I may post your comments here if you don't mind. Also, feel free to contact me with any questions or corrections.

Learn From My Mistake

About a week or so ago, I realized that after running, the dishwasher left quite a bit of water in the bottom of the dishwasher. My first thought was that the drain pump had gone bad. Now, my drain hose is connected to my garbage disposal, so I can look into the sink drain and see whether the water from the dishwasher is being pumped out. So, a trick to check the pump (provided there is water in the dishwasher) is to press the Start button, and then immediately press the Start button again (which resets the cycle). This initiates the drain pump again for a minute or so, so if your drain hose is connected to the disposal like mine, you can see if there is water flowing into the disposal. Chances are, you'll see a weak stream of water. This indicates two things. First, that the pump is working. That's good, since you won't likely need to replace it. Second, a weak stream indicates that there's something partially blocking the drain system somewhere.

I mentioned my mistake. It was at this point that I decided that the drain hose was clogged. Almost all GE dishwashers come with a semi-transparent plastic drain hose, and if you look at it, chances are you see a bunch of nasty gunk inside that hose. So, I naturally assumed that this hose was blocked and I needed to replace the hose. Problem is, I violated RULE #1 of repairs for anything. The very first thing you do is do the repairs that are cheap (or free) and easy. In this case, I actually went ahead and disconnected the whole dishwasher, removed it, and replaced the drain hose. It was fairly cheap at about $16 for the replacment hose, but it sure as hell wasn't easy. And, it turns out, this wasn't the problem...

Finding and Clearing the Blockage

Chances are, you're experiencing a very common problem with these dishwashers, and that is food, grease, and other nastiness has collected in the sump, and is blocking the drain mechanism. The sump, as all sumps are, is the lowest point in the dishwasher, where the water collects and is ultimately pumped out.

So, the repair is to get into that sump and clear out that stuff. Below, I provide an illustrated guide to doing that.

First, you need to drain all the water from the dishwasher if it's not already. Running the Start/Reset trick I mentioned above might do it. If not, you can use a sponge to soak up water and wring it into the sink.

Next you need to remove the upper and lower racks so you have room to work. The lower one just slides out. The upper one takes a little work. In the image here, you'll see one of the four clips that hold the top rack in. As I am doing, pop the two clips in the front (one on each side) off, and then slide the rack out toward you, and do the same with the rear two clips.


Removing top rack clips

In the image below, the arrow is pointing to a basket-looking thing that is the sump cover. (We'll get a better view of this cover as we go.) This is supposed to block food and debris from going into the sump. It doesn't. The only thing it'll block is a chicken leg bone or a small child. Everything else seems to flow right through it.


Sump cover in back

We've got to get that cover off. As you can see, the rigid hose that carries water to the upper spray arm(s) covers it. It is possible to remove and replace this cover without moving that hose, but there are two issues with that. First, it's not easy. And second, even if you get it off, you may not have enough clearance to get your hand down in that sump. So, since I've made this easy for you, and to make this feel like more of a repair, we'll go through the whole disassembly and reassembly process.

To remove the lower spray arm, using two hands, pull up on the spray arm gently. Rotate it to the left (counter-clockwise) about 1/4 turn, and it will snap free.

Then, in the image below, the arrow is pointing to a large nut that is holding in the rest of the assembly. Using a bit of force if you need to (but no tools!) turn this nut 1/4 turn to the left (counter-clockwise), and it will pull free as well.


Arm removed, showing large white nut

The gray part of the assembly, as seen in this image, now simply lifts up and out.


Nut removed

Finally, you'll see how the hose connects. First, however, look about halfway up the back wall and see if there's a screw holding that hose in place. Mine did not have a screw, and I don't know if that was a mistake on my particular unit, or if they stopped putting screws here. If yours has one, remove it. This allows the hose to swing out of the way as we'll see in a bit.


Remove the screw here, if there is one

You'll see a small tab that holds the remaining two pieces together. GENTLY, lift that tab, while turning the circular assembly to the left. This will disconnect the two pieces. If you're like me, you'll lose track, apply too much force, and snap that little tab off. Turns out, that makes no difference and is not a problem. Once disconnected, it will look like the image below. Then, you can simply swing the hose out of the way.


Rotate assembly to separate

So, finally, we can get that sump cover off. It's held in place by a couple of tabs, and it's a simple matter of wiggling it until it comes free. You'll get the feel of it.

At this point, you CAN probably just reach into the sump (the gray tub there) and remove the gunk you find in there. The drain is on the bottom on the left, so that's where you need to focus your efforts. You're doing all this by feel. I have to give a great deal of credit to my wife at this point, because my fat man-hands were too big to be able to reach all the way down. She was able to reach in and remove all the debris she could feel. You can even use a non-sharp poking device, like a popsicle stick, to help loosen some gunk.

I wanted to see what was under the large screen, so I removed it as in the image below. Turns out, I didn't need to do that because there was nothing under there that helped in this process (for me).


The sump, finally exposed

So, once you've removed all the gunk from the sump, before you put it all back together, now is a good time to test it. Making sure there's no loose parts in the dishwasher, pour about 1.5 quarts of water into the bottom of the dishwasher, and again, use the Start/Reset trick above to try and pump out this water. BE SURE that heated dry is not turned on! When the cycle is done, if the water is all gone, we're done! If not, then keep trying to get more gunk out of the sump.

Putting It Back Together

As they say in the business, reassembly is the opposite of disassembly. First, replace the sump cover. Then, rotate the circular assembly and the upper-spray-arm hose back together. Replace the screw that holds the hose in place, if there is one. Place the gray support assembly back in, making sure that the little tube on the back is inserted into the rubber hose on the bottom of the dishwasher. Replace the white nut. Next, place the lower spray arm into position and press down gently and rotate clockwise until it clicks. Replace the racks, and you're done.


Testimonials

  • Thanks for your instructions on unclogging my GE dishwasher…and the handy "Start/Restart" trick! Saved us a bunch of time and money and gave me a great sense of DYI satisfaction! - Sharon

  • Your fix for GE dishwashers that don't drain was perfect. The culprit in our case was Wegman's brand dishwasher detergent. We knew it would sometimes cake in the dispenser. We didn't know until today it cakes in the sump on GE dishwashers. It broke up pretty easily but was clogging the bottom of the sump and the outlet. 6 years of Wegman's detergent left enough gravel to slow things up considerably. Yes, I also broke the little tab and it doesn't make any difference does it. - Jerry

  • I saw your ge dishwasher post for not totally draining and figured it wasnt that hard. You were so right on and it took maybe 15 minutes to twenty minutes and most of that was because att 6'4 and 265 the entrance is kinda small. Thanks for your posting the way to fix it it is working fine now. - Ray

  • Thanks for help on dishwasher not draining! - Randy

     

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