The dishwasher bombards dishes with soap, water and heat over several cycles to loosen, break up and break down dirt, which is then washed out an outlet drain. Interrupting this process can result not only in dirty dishes, but also in floods from stored water. Fortunately, several of the most common reasons a dishwasher won't finish cycle have solutions that do not require a service professional.
Door Latch Assembly
One reason the dishwasher is not completing its cycle is because the washer door is opening during the cycle. When the dishwasher door opens, the unit immediately stops all activity as a safety measure against flooding or injury. This safety feature helps when you need a glass in a hurry or you forgot to load a dish into the unit, but when it malfunctions, the lock safety mechanism can shut down the dishwasher at any point in the washing cycle.
You may be able to see small leaks may be visible if the unexpected shutdown is the result of a faulty door locking mechanism. And you may need to replace the whole door latch assembly if this is the reason your dishwasher won't finish cycles.
But even if the door tightly closes, it could be the micro switch that's failing to signal the dishwasher that the door is latched. If this switch sporadically functions, a dishwasher that starts cycling properly may fail to finish.
Overloading the Dishwasher
A dishwasher, like a clothes washer, a refrigerator or any other appliance, has a maximum load limit. This load limit in a dishwasher is not only a maximum number of dishes, but also a certain type of dish arrangement based on the physical dimensions of the washer. When dishes are loaded properly, they are exposed to water but, when rinsed, are heated and dried.
Improper loading can lead to a lack of drying and even an inability for the washer to drain dirty water. This may result in the dishwasher stopping just before the rinse cycle. Additionally, overloaded dishwashers frequently feature instances of pots, bowls, dishes or mug handles that poke out or hang over the edge of the rack. This can prevent the door seal from closing properly and cause a door lock malfunction.
Lack of Water Supply
Even if the door is working properly, a dishwasher will not finish if water is not available for washing. If this happens at the beginning of a cycle, check the water supply to make sure water is going to the washer. If water fills the washing tub but stops in the middle of a cycle, the problem may be a clog in the water inlet valve. Consult a service professional to repair this issue.
Heating Element Problem
If the problem is not so much an interruption in the cycle as dirty dishes at the end of a wash, the problem may be the heating element. Dishwashing detergent only activates at a certain temperature, and may not lather enough if the water is cold.
Dishwasher Won't Finish Cycle
Your dishwasher owner's manual is one of the best go-to tools for troubleshooting your particular model. If your Whirlpool dishwasher won't complete cycle, the fix may be different than, for example, if a Frigidaire dishwasher stops mid cycle.
Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.