Why does my dishwasher make noise when NOT running?

Here’s a totally non-hypothetical scenario. I haven’t had much luck finding information online, and I’m loathe to call a repair service to troubleshoot the complaint of “sometimes it sounds funny.”

The dishwasher in my kitchen makes noise when it’s *not *running. Periodically, it makes a sound like a motor or pump is starting to spin up (well, actually it sounds like one of the cats hurking up a hairball, but I’ve confirmed that there are no cats in the dishwasher). The sound lasts for under a second, and is repeated at 1-second intervals several times. Then it stops. If I had to write a cartoon sound to represent it, it would look like this:

It doesn’t appear to be related to any other use of the plumbing (toilet flushing, washer running, sink draining). It doesn’t seem to be related to whether the dishwasher has recently finished a cycle, is empty, or is packed with dirty dishes. I’ll just be standing in the kitchen and the dishwasher starts “whurk!”-ing. If I open the dishwasher while it’s “whurk!”-ing, I don’t see anything unusual.

Can anyone suggest how I might go about troubleshooting this? I’ve found lots of info on “dishwasher makes funny noise while running” but nothing about a dishwasher that makes noise when it’s NOT running.


I’m having a little trouble picturing this “whurk” sound.

If the vent pipe for the drain system near the dishwasher is clogged, it may suck in air through the dishwasher (or through the nearby sink’s p-traps or anything else it could find). That might make kind of a “whurk” noise but I wouldn’t imagine that to be very similar to the sound of a pump starting.

If the drain pump is coming on briefly then maybe there’s something wrong with the drain system (maybe a clog so you end up with standing water in the pipe) and water is coming back into the dishwasher which is triggering the pump to cycle.

How about a defective on/off circuit that keeps trying to turn the unit on?

Did someone cut their hand while loading the dishwasher, or accidentally drop some E-Z Gel tablets into it?

I may know this!

Its trying to empty itself, because the on/off float is stuck in the up(floating =on) position. Find the float and jiggle it around, spin it, push up and down on it… or better yet pull it off and clean the crap out from underneath it, so it operates properly.

Get “dishwasher magic” from Walmart (25% Citric acid) and run a couple of cycles with those bottles in it to clean out the grease and sludge and gunk.
By the way…My Dad’s advice no longer holds up…Instead: don’t EVER buy the most expensive appliance again…buy the cheapest one of the line and spend the extra money on a service plan. I’ve had my dishwasher serviced 5 times in the last 3 years because it wasn’t cleaning, or it was constantly trying to run and drain itself…mostly because of the gunk buildup.

Thanks, ** Sigene**! cwPartner is running a load of dishwasher cleaner. The float looks OK, but I moved it around to confirm that it moves freely. We’ll see if it works.

Dishwasher Magic my ass. I have one of those most expensive appliances, a Bosch that I bought in a period of lots of overtime and extra cash. IT HAS NEVER WORKED RIGHT. Noisy as hell from the beginning. I actually had a service contract on it for a bunch of years. But the heater doesn’t work right, it cycles a wash for 6 or so hours. So at least six service calls to be told a whole range of contradictory reasons why they can’t really fix it, so I was finally done with them.

Oh yeah, Dishwasher Magic. I had been buying it for years cuz one of them said I should, and I even swab out all the build-up of gunk before I use it. And the last time I cleaned out the machine, I put in the dishwasher magic and ran it, heating up the water in the faucet first so only hot water would enter. My water temperature is already higher than my most excellent plumber wants it to be. Cycle over, I open it up. Still not a clean smell. Look at the bottle, which has a little wax plug that the hot water is supposed to melt. Nothing. The bottle is full. It’s never worked. Wasted my money for years. Just make sure you got hot water in there before you buy this stuff.

Start by unplugging the dishwasher from the AC outlet. Does the funny noise stop?

The problem with cheap dishwashers is that they tend to be expensive to divorce.

And don’t even THINK about getting another one before the first is long gone.

Or get custody of the little dishwashers … the small ones take a bit longer but they’ll serve.

My dad-related advice is… never buy anything my dad would buy. The man has an uncanny ability to select technologies that are superior to all current alternatives, but which will nevertheless be banished from the marketplace and thereby rendered impossible to repair or refill. Think Betamax, MiniDiscs, the Osborne 1, etc.

The noise persists (although the dishwasher is much cleaner), so I’ll try disconnecting the power next.

I’ve been assured that cwPartner has not fed the device any blood or growth medium, but I can’t vouch for the house sitters.

Just checking…did you specifically physically clean the float? I have to pop mine off to clean all the gunk out from under it, not just wipe off the outside

I will ask. I’ll bet he didn’t open it.

Floats are replaceable. Use the make, model number, and serial number of the dishwasher to find a parts list online and buy a replacement.

Whatever may be clinging to the inside of your float makes the float not float very well. Float rides lower in the water, the float’s lower position activates a switch, the switch activates a motor/pump, pump makes funny noise. Maybe.

Update: I found the problem, and it’s not the dishwasher. It’s the fancy LED bulb in the kitchen light fixture.

The fixture was designed to take a halogen tube bulb similar to this: https://www.lightbulbs.com/category/double-ended-halogen-light-bulbs. The kitchen’s layout meant that the halogen bulb radiated a lot of heat (as halogen bulbs do) directly onto the head of anyone working at the counter. So earlier this year, we replaced the halogen tube with an LED bulb similar to this: https://www.lightbulbs.com/product/westinghouse-03187. It lights up the kitchen just fine and I no longer feel like the sun is beating down on my balding scalp every time I make myself a snack.

Now, one LED doesn’t generate a lot of heat by itself, but when you build a corncob-style array of them, the unit does get warm. The bulb we got is designed to work in an enclosed light fixture, and it seems to have a tiny little exhaust fan that comes on when the thing heats up. The “whurk” sound seems to be the fan trying to spin up, getting stuck, then getting unstuck. After a few tries, it starts to spin freely and I can hear a sound like an itty bitty computer case fan.

I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to make that noise, so cwPartner will be contacting the vendor for a replacement.

But, what is wrong with your dishwasher?

It had the bad luck to be installed in a kitchen that would one day be home to a light fixture with voice-throwing skills.

Is that covered in the service plan?

I am impressed that a light bulb can have a little fan in it. Hell, I would get a new one and keep the old just to take it apart and see how it works. And post photos we can view.