A dishwasher heating element is responsible for two things: heating the water to a very high temperature to kill bacteria and provide better cleaning, and drying the washed dishes. The heating element is very similar to the cooking element found in an electric oven. Operated by electricity, it is easily replaced if damaged, though the elements occasionally last the lifetime of the machine without needing replacement. The most common construction for a heating element in a dishwasher is to place a ceramic coating over the heavy gauge heating element wire, with the entire component fitting into several fastening brackets to keep it evenly suspended off the washer floor.
One sign that a dishwasher heating element has stopped working is a dishwasher that suddenly stops cleaning the dishes in the manner that it usually does. This is typically due to the water not being heated to the proper temperature. Opening the dishwasher door directly after the wash cycle has finished and not feeling a hot steam is also a sign of a bad dishwasher heating element. When this happens, a replacement heating element is usually obtained from an appliance supply store and installed at home with a minimum of basic hand tools.
If the dishwasher is a portable type, it must be unplugged while attempting to do any work on the heating element. If the unit is a built-in model, the breaker or power supply to the machine must be disabled before attempting to perform any repairs. Failure to take this precaution can result in electric shock and even death. Even though the replacement of a dishwasher heating element is a relatively simple procedure, it is imperative that time be taken to perform the repair properly to avoid any possibility of shock to the user. It is also important to replace any damaged mounting clips to prevent the element from contacting the floor of the dishwasher and damaging it.
Many dishwasher heating element manufacturers urge the installer to avoid touching the element with bare hands. This can lead to the oil from the skin damaging the exterior coating of the heating element and causing a premature failure of the element at that point of contact. By wearing disposable rubber gloves such as the ones used when doing housecleaning, the dishwasher heating element can be safely handled without fear of damaging the protective outer coating. Most manufacturers also recommend running the dishwasher through one cycle without dishes to allow the element to cycle itself in properly and make it easy to check for proper operation.