How To Repair Dishwasher That’s Not Dispensing Soap

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Detergent & Rinse Aid Dispensers

Check the detergent dispenser, on the inside of the dishwasher door on most models, to ensure it is clean and the hinge is unimpeded to open during the washing portion of the cycle. Read the other sections on dispenser doors in this guide to learn how to make sure the door’s release apparatus isn’t worn or broken. If it’s the rinse aid that is failing to come out, make sure the dispenser isn’t empty. Check the cap to make sure it fits and hasn’t gotten warped. Depending on your dishwasher model, both dispensers could have doors that open mechanically, when directed by a timer, or through a wax motor, or via a bi-metal release.

Rinse Aid Cap

At the top of the rinse aid dispenser, on the dishwasher’s inner door panel, should be a cap. Make sure it’s threaded or snapped on correctly and not cracked or warped by the dishwater heat. You can replace this cap if it isn’t sealing tightly any more.

Door Spring & Hinge Pin

There is a spring and a catch operating the hinge on the detergent dispenser door. Make sure the spring, pin and catch aren’t bent or broken. If the spring and catch are mechanically ok, it’s time to see if they are receiving the signal to open. The hinge may be operated by a timer, a bi-metal release, or a wax motor: check the owner’s manual for your model and then take a look at the part that ought to be opening that dispenser door.

Wax Motor

In a late-model dishwasher, the detergent dispenser is given the signal to release its hinge catch by a wax motor. The wax motor is triggered by the timer/electronic control board. Its action will be similar to that of a solenoid. A piston-operated structure lets the catch off the dispenser door so it can open. Use a multi-meter to check the wax motor for continuity. Also make sure that the wax motor is receiving power during the wash cycle. You can replace the wax motor if it has power but is not doing its job.

Bi-Metal Release

If your dishwasher is older, the detergent dispenser catch may be opened with a bi-metal release. This is an electrical device that mechanically frees the catch. It can be checked to ensure it gets power during the wash cycle and that it has continuity with the use of a multi-meter.


Some detergent dispensers are opened mechanically with a timer that works a lever to release the dispenser door catch. Make sure the timer cam works and that the linkage is sound between the timer and the dispenser door catch. You can replace the timer if it isn’t working.

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