If your dishwasher's lights are blinking oddly, it's probably trying to tell you something is wrong. In fact, blinking red lights are how KitchenAid dishwashers convey error messages. Fortunately, it's not hard to interpret these codes. You'll just need to count the number of blinks, then look up the corresponding code to determine the specific problem.
Codes for HE Models
KitchenAid's HE or "high efficiency" dishwashers signal errors by flashing the light next to the "Clean" label in specific patterns. When the machine displays an error code, the control panel is disabled until the problem is resolved.
The pattern indicates the error code by first flashing a function code, followed by a two-second pause, then a code specifying the problem. After a five-second pause, the sequence repeats.
Control Panel Codes
Codes in the first two function series indicate various issues with the dishwasher's control panel.
Code 1-1 indicates that the control board senses a stuck relay on the machine's circuit board, while 1-2 indicates that the memory on the control board has been corrupted or damaged.
Try turning off the dishwasher's power for five minutes, then turning on the machine. If that doesn't resolve the error code, you'll need to replace the electronic control panel.
Code 2-1 indicates that the panel has a key that's stuck, while code 2-2 signals a complete lack of communication between the control board and the panel. If no keys work on the panel, or if the panel itself has been damaged in some way, the issue is probably the control board, which you can replace.
Dishwashers contain an electrical resistor called a "thermistor," which measures and controls the temperature. Codes beginning with "3" indicate a problem with this component or a part that's connected to it. Your model's technical guide should include instructions for testing the thermistor and its related component, the Optical Water Indicator (which detects debris in the dishwasher's water).
Code 3-1 can indicate either a fault in the wiring or a failure of the thermistor or the OWI. Code 3-2 indicates a short in the thermistor/OWI circuit, while 3-2 indicates a failure of the OWI itself.
To repair these issues, first disconnect the dishwasher from its power source. Visually inspect the wiring for the thermistor/OWI circuit (consult your owner's manual or a repair guide). If the problem isn't in the wiring, the thermistor and OWI must be replaced.
Code 6-6 indicates that the water from the source is entering the dishwasher at too low a temperature. Check the water temperature with a thermometer first. If the thermometer reads less than 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's not a problem with your water heater, you'll need to replace either the thermistor and OWI or the electronic control board.
Circulation Pump Monitor Codes
Code 4-4 indicates that the circulation pump isn't operating or at least isn't registering as operational. To address this, disconnect the machine from its power source, then reconnect any loose wires and replace the wire harness if it's damaged. If these actions don't resolve the issue, replace the circulation pump motor.
Door Switch Codes
Function series five codes indicate problems with the door switch. Code 5-1 indicates a failure of the door to latch properly, while the 5-2 code indicates that the door won't open.
For the first problem, try pressing the machine's "start" button then immediately closing the door. Next, disconnect the machine from the power source and visually inspect both the latch and the attached wiring. For code 5-2, start with the visual inspection. As a last resort, replace the door switch.
Water Inlet Valve Codes
Codes with the "six" function prefix (other than 6-6) relate to the water inlet valve (and possibly the detergent dispenser):
- 6-1: No water inflow
- 6-2: Electrical problem with the water inlet valve
- 6-3: Suds or air in the water pump
- 6-4: Float switch in "open" position
Examine the water supply and the referenced components (i.e., check for suds in the bottom of the machine when there shouldn't be any). If these measures don't resolve the problem, you may have to replace the involved component.
Heating Element Codes
Codes with a "7" prefix involve the heating element. A 7-1 code indicates a nonfunctioning heating element, which can be replaced. Code 7-2 signifies a heating element that won't turn off. If turning the machine off and back on doesn't resolve it, replace the control board.
Drain Pump Codes
Codes that start with "eight" indicate drain pump issues, including a slow drain (code 8-1) and an electrical issue with the pump (8-2). To resolve, disconnect from the power source and inspect the drain pump and connective wiring. If that doesn't work, replace the drain pump.
Diverter and Spray Arm Codes
Code 9-1 indicates the diverter's position is unknown. To address this issue, turn off the power supply to the machine and inspect the diverter (the component that directs the water through the spray arms) and its connective wiring. The diverter can be replaced if the wiring is functional.
Code 9-2 indicates the diverter is stuck in the "on" position while 9-3 means the diverter disk is missing. Code 9-4 indicates a potential obstruction for the lower spray arm. You may need to replace the diverter disk or the spray arm.
Codes with the "10" prefix indicate electrical problems:
- 10-1: Dispenser
- 10-2: Vent wax motor
- 10-3: Drying fan
In each case, disconnect the machine from the power source and visually inspect the wiring.
Codes for Other Models
Other models indicate motor problems by a flashing red light next to the "Light/China" label, and electrical issues by flashing the red light next to both the "Rinse" and "Normal" labels. If this happens, your machine has activated the flood switch. Unplug the dishwasher from the power source and schedule a service call.
A red light next to the "Rinse" and "Heavy" labels indicates that the dishwasher isn't filling with water as it should. Inspect the machine visually and remove any blockages.
Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the home repair and decor fields, among other topics. A homebody by nature, Annie particularly enjoys Scandinavian and French Country design, and learning how complicated things are put together.