What to Do if Your Dishwasher is Sparking

Sparks are never a good sign. Especially not in the kitchen. Your dishwasher is designed with layers of insulation to separate the water and electrical functions. As we know, water and electricity shouldn’t mix, but sometimes they do. When that happens, sparks are a result. Sparks can cause electric shock, burns, and start fires.

If you ever see sparks coming from a home appliance, immediately treat it as an emergency situation. Sparks are highly dangerous and the danger must be removed before it is safe to proceed or even spend time in the kitchen or home. Sparks mean that a high charge of electricity is escaping the confines of a circuit so as long as electricity is still supplied, the danger exists.

This article will walk you through what to do if your dishwasher starts sparking.  

Stop Using the Dishwasher Until Repairs are Complete

First and foremost, step away from the dishwasher and keep others away as well. Do not continue to use the dishwasher or allow anyone to load or unload it. Sparks are dangerous to humans and can make the appliance more dangerous to interact with. Warn everyone in the household that the dishwasher is in an unsafe state and begin planning to disable, replace, or repair the faulty appliance. 

Cut Power to the Dishwasher

Establish safety by cutting the power. Unplug your dishwasher from the wall if you can reach the plug. If you can’t reach the plug, then flip the breaker instead. Identify which breaker supplies power to the dishwasher and flip it off. This will stop electricity from flowing to the dishwasher and hopefully will cut power to whatever system was sparking.

If flipping the dishwasher breaker switch also turns off your kitchen lights, then grab a portable light source. 

Inspect the Dishwasher for Faults

Once the dishwasher is no longer powered, take a very close look at every component you can see. Sparking means that something has gone catastrophically wrong. There are three key signs of sparking-related damage.

  • Exposed or frayed wires
  • Corrosion and Rust
  • Scorching, melting, and burn marks

Inspect the inside of your dishwasher, particularly the lower sprayer arm and drain for signs of damage. Then take off the front kick-plate and inspect the components and wires underneath. Look for frayed plastic, exposed wires, corrosion, drips and puddles, and signs of scorching or melting. All of these signs can indicate damage that might result in a spark. 

Possible Causes of Sparking Dishwasher

In addition to surface-level damage like frayed wires or drip-corrosion are failing dishwasher components. When certain components fail, they can result in heat, sparks, and short circuits.

Heating Element

In some dishwashers, the heating element that warms the drying dishes is exposed inside the dishwasher. Most of the time, this is safe because the electric current is contained inside the element. But when the dishwasher heating element fails in particular ways, it can result in sparks. Especially if dishwasher water or drips manage to access the electric current through the heating element.

Capacitors

The capacitors in a dishwasher are one of the most dangerous components. Capacitors carry an electrical charge even after the power is cut through the plug or the circuit. It’s important to discharge capacitors if you need to work around the capacitors or with elements that are powered by them. Because capacitors hold voltage, there is a potential for broken capacitors to create sparks. In this case, possibly sparks that can continue after you have separated the dishwasher from external power.

Shorted Circuits

The dishwasher performs functions through dedicated circuits. These take electricity from the source and run power through each system. One spins the sprayer arm motor, one powers the control panel in the door, and so on. If one of these circuits is overloaded or damaged, then the circuit might “short” and sparks can occur.

Burned Motor

The motor underneath the sprayer arm is a simple device that provides spin. However, any motor can burn out with time and use. When a motor burns out, friction and resistance create heat which can result in sparks. The sparks can come from the motor circuit or even from the motor itself. Pay attention for the smell of burning which is increasingly likely if a motor has burned out. 

Decide to DIY or Call for Repairs

Once you’ve taken a close look at the dishwasher components you can see, decide what to do next. If you fully understand the problem and can identify a part to replace, you might be ready to tackle a DIY repair. If you’re not sure what’s wrong or it’s too involved to fix, then consider calling an appliance repair technician to tackle the job.

You can also make the decision to buy a replacement dishwasher instead. If there is too much damage or the dishwasher is already old and inconvenient, it may be better to start over. A new dishwasher can sometimes be cost-effective and more enjoyable. 

Purchase the Replacement Part

If you do decide to repair the appliance, research and purchase the right replacement part. In many cases, having the replacement part can often save you time and sometimes save you money. Track down the users manual of your dishwasher, which can be found online if you don’t have the original that came with the appliance. Look for the list of replacement parts and the part number.

You may also find a part compatibility guide online to help you find the right replacement part or parts to repair your sparking dishwasher. 

Conduct the Repairs

The final step is to take care of any necessary repairs to stop the sparking. If you are going to DIY the repairs, then gather your supplies and your guide to take care of the job. If you’re going to hire a repair technician, get that scheduled so that your dishwasher is back in commission soon. And if you plan to replace your dishwasher, then do your research on which replacement model you want. In many cases, you can ask an installation team to also take out and maybe even take away your old dishwasher.

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