Anatomy of Appliances - Dishwashers

In our new series, Anatomy of Appliances, we will delve into the components of which your favorite appliances are comprised. Knowing the inner workings of these complex machines can offer many benefits. Being able to identify what each part does, will help you troubleshoot any potential issues you may come across in the future. Additionally, comparing similar appliance models on an elemental level can help you make an informed decision on purchases. Also, it's just awesome to know how things work! In this article, we will explore the main parts of a dishwasher!

Upper Rack/Spray Arm

Lower Rack/Silverware Basket

Air Intake Hole


Filtration System

Cutlery Tray

Drain Pump System

Control Panel

Door Seal/Gasket

Soap/Detergent Dispenser

Racks & Baskets

Third Rack - silverware and small crockery rack

Upper Rack - further from heating element, adjustable to accommodate various sizes of dishes

Lower Rack - holds larger crockery, closer to the heating element

Silverware Basket - located on door or lower rack, holds utensils

Tines (Folding, Expanding) - Adjustable protrusions meant to hold dishware, glassware etc. in place during cycles

Drains, Valves, and Safety Mechanisms

Drain Impeller - When the dishwasher drains, the drain impeller pushes water out of the tub. The seal prevents water from leaking out of the dishwasher

Drain Valve - When powered during the drain cycle, opens a solenoid and allows water to drain properly

Intake Valve - Water supply connects to dishwasher, intake valve opens and water pressure drives water in to the dishwasher

Solenoid - Electromagnet coil with a magnetic plunger, when electricity is applied, the plunger rises and forces the drain valve open

Water Intake (Inlet) Valve - Located behind kick plate, controls water flow into dishwasher

Float Bulb - Switches off water in the event of overflow, typically located in the front corner of the machine

Float Switch - Located under the bulb, when the bulb rises due to overflow, this switch ceases water flow

Cleaning Solutions

Detergent Dispenser Door - Houses detergent solution and allows for proper dispensing during cycle

Inner Door panel/Insert - Holds the detergent dispenser and/or silverware basket

Rinse Aid Dispenser - Located on door, dispenses softener during rinse cycle


Control Panel - Located above the front door panel, comprised of an LCD screen, button controls for functions, displays status and error messages

Cycle Selector - located on control panel, used for choosing appropriate wash cycles

Door Switch/Door Latch - turns dishwasher on or off by connecting or disconnecting the flow of electricity

Timer - located on control panel, controls flow of electricity to different components depending on status of current function/cycle

Pump Types

Reversible - switch between pumping water to spray arms and pumping water to drain by reversing direction of motor.

Direct Drive - motor runs in one direction, direction of flow is switched from spray arms to drain by a solenoid that opens and closes the appropriate valves

Washing Mechanisms

Lower Spray Arm - Freely moving part, sprays the lower rack of dishes, powered by the water pump

Upper Spray Arm - Sprays the dishes located on the upper rack, powered by water pump

Heating Element - Thin circular tube, located at base of dishwasher, regulates and maintains temperature of water entering unit, heats air inside unit during drying cycle to expedite the evaporation process

Macerator (Spring) - Part of the pump mechanism, shreds small food particles, lightens the load for the dishwasher

Motor - Located between wash arm and pump, converts energy (electricity) into rotational motion. Single Direction or Reversing Motor. Dishwashers with single direction motor will have a drain valve

Wash Impeller - Located below the pump system, forces water through the spray arm

Thermostat - Often located under the main tub or behind the door panel, regulates water temp

Construction and Design

Kick Panel - Located below the front door panel, often houses the motors and water pipes. Can be removed for maintenance

Main Tub - Holds most components of dishwasher, larger tub = larger dish capacity

Door Gasket/Door Seal - Made of soft rubber or vinyl, lines the door or tub opening to create a watertight seal

In addition to the common components shared by most dishwashers, select models are designed with advanced iterations of these parts and more. In this section, we will highlight a few of these features and the corresponding dishwasher models with which these add-ons are standard.

Bosch Benchmark - SHX9PT75UC

In addition to many prominent features, Bosch Benchmark's 24" built-in dishwasher features the innovative AquaStop system. The AquaStop system utilizes a precisely engineered tub and advanced sensor system with a solid molded base. Should a leak occur, the dishwasher shuts down operation and automatically pumps out water to avoid damage and contact with the floor. This model is a terrific example of an advanced door gasket/seal and main tub technology working to eliminate the worries of leaks and spills.

Miele - G6987SCVIK2O

Miele continues to be on the cutting edge of appliance technology with their latest innovations. One such innovation for their line of dishwashers is the patented 3D+ Cutlery Tray. The 3D+ cutlery tray builds on the traditional sliding top rack for smaller items and silverware and adds new dimensions of versatility. Adjust the width, height, and depth to accommodate larger or smaller load sizes thus saving space in other sections of the dishwasher.

GE Monogram - ZDT870SPFSS

GE Monogram offers a full lineup of appliances with refined styles and modern features. Their latest dishwasher models merge form and function into several stylish options. One common concern with dishwashers is the proper drying of crockery and stemware after a wash cycle. GE Monogram includes their powerful and exclusive Max Dry system to quell all of your drying concerns. By utilizing a high-output, multi-speed fan after a thorough washing, your dishes will never be cleaner or drier.

Whirlpool - WDT975SAHV

Whirlpool offers many stand-out appliances with modern designs and convenient features. Through a marriage of efficiency and innovation, Whirlpool's latest dishwashers make cleaning your crockery and stemware a cinch. To ensure this goal of maximum convenience is met, Whirlpool now includes their patented TotalCoverage spray arm on their dishwasher models. This modern addition offers twice the cleaning jets for more coverage and uses a smarter sequence of spray patterns from multiple nozzles and increased water pressure for the best dishwashing experience to date.

Having a firm grasp of the inner workings of dishwashers and other major appliances can offer massive benefits in both purchasing and owning one of these models. Being able to discern common components from luxurious add-ons can help you make a more informed decision when choosing your prospective appliance. Understanding the proper functions of each element of your appliances will help identify the optimal troubleshooting procedure should any malfunctions occur. We hope you find this guide informative and be sure to check back for the next chapter of our series, Anatomy of Appliances!

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