Dishwasher Won’t Start or Select Cycle?

Woman hand pressing dishwasher start button

Stuck trying to figure out why your dishwasher won’t start or select a cycle?

You’re not alone! I know how frustrating it can be when your dishwasher stops working, especially when you have a pile of dirty dishes waiting to be cleaned.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place for answers.

If your dishwasher won’t start or select a cycle, chances are the circuit breaker tripped, the child lock is enabled, or your appliance needs to be reset. Issues with the door latch, timer, motor start relay, and user interface could also explain the problem.

Ready to get your dishwasher working again? Let’s dive in!

Why trust us? This article was written in collaboration with two appliance repair experts: James Blackford & Andy Fulencheck. We have over 25 years of combined appliance repair experience – please see our profiles to learn more about our backgrounds.

8 Reasons Why Your Dishwasher Won’t Start or Select Cycle

In my experience as an appliance repair professional, one of the most common issues I’ve encountered is a dishwasher failing to start or select a cycle.

Unfortunately, this can happen due to numerous reasons. These are:

#1 Your Circuit Breaker Has Tripped

If your dishwasher doesn’t start, I recommend checking the power cord.

Make sure it’s securely plugged into the wall outlet. If it is and there are no signs of damage, please turn on your garbage disposal.

You might be wondering, “What does my garbage disposal have to do with my dishwasher?” Here’s the connection: In many homes, the dishwashers and garbage disposals are wired into the same circuit.

So, if your garbage disposal isn’t turning on either, there’s a good chance the circuit breaker has tripped.

Check the circuit breaker
If your dishwasher doesn’t start, you’ll need to check the circuit breaker

Please go to your circuit breaker and flip the corresponding switch back on. If you find that the switch is already in the “on” position, try resetting it by turning it off and back on.

#2 The Child Lock Is Enabled

If your dishwasher is turning on but won’t start or allow you to select a cycle, you’ll need to check if the child lock is enabled.

How to disable child lock in a dishwasher
If the child lock is enabled, your dishwasher won’t start the cycle

You see, most dishwashers have a child lock that keeps children from accidentally selecting a cycle or starting the dishwasher.

To disengage a child lock, you need a long-press the padlock or key button (three to six seconds) or press a combination of buttons – as outlined in the owner’s manual.

#3 Your Dishwasher Needs to Be Reset

If your dishwasher won’t start or select a cycle, you’ll need to reset it.

The control board can sometimes experience glitches or errors and cause multiple performance issues. By performing a reset, you’ll be able to get rid of the problem that was keeping your dishwasher from starting.

The process of resetting your dishwasher will vary depending on the specific model you own. However, a common method to perform a hard reset is turning off the power at the circuit breaker and then turning it back on.

Take a look at our specialized guides for detailed instructions on how to reset any Samsung, Bosch, or Whirlpool dishwasher.

#4 Door Latch Issues

If you’ve tried the three fixes above, but your dishwasher still won’t start the cycle, you’ll need to check the door latch.

You see, the door latch has a sensor that tells your dishwasher when the door is securely closed, giving the green light for the cycle to start and for water to flow.

A diagram of where a dishwasher's door lock is located
The door lock must be fully engaged for the dishwasher to start

If the latch is not fully closed, your dishwasher won’t be able to start the cycle.

The door latch switch is located in the latch mechanism, providing power to the machine. It ensures that the door is fully closed before the dishwasher starts to prevent it from flooding your kitchen.

To see if the door latch is the reason why your dishwasher won’t start the cycle, you should locate the latch first and inspect it visually. You can use a multimeter to check the circuit’s continuity and ensure it is working properly.

If it fails the continuity test, I recommend replacing the door latch.

#5 Timer Issues

A faulty timer can also explain why your dishwasher won’t start or select the cycle.

Let me explain: The timer is the electronic control board or mechanical timer responsible for telling your dishwasher to switch to the next cycle. It helps to control the pump, the heating circuit, the water, and more. If the timer is not working well or is not working at all, the dishwasher is not going to start.

Please turn off the power to your dishwasher and access the timer. Then, I recommend using a multimeter to see if the timer is getting the proper voltage (typically 120v AC).

For Bosch + GE dishwashers, the control board is typically on the bottom of the dishwasher, protected by a kickplate. Whirlpool and other brands often have the control board behind the front panel. Mechanical timers (i.e. knob controlled) are located inside the console section.

If you find that the timer is not working, you CAN replace it. However, it can be an expensive repair, ranging from $80 to $300! So, if your dishwasher is over ten years old, it’s best to simply upgrade to a newer model.

#6 Faulty Motor Start Relay

Your dishwasher won’t be able to start the cycle if the motor start relay is not working correctly.

The motor start relay is a sub-part of the main control board and is responsible for supplying power to all the parts inside your dishwasher. Without a proper power supply to the motor, your dishwasher won’t start.

Set your multimeter to the Rx1 setting and test the motor start relay. If you’re not getting the manufacturer’s recommended reading (typically zero or nearly zero), I recommend replacing it.

However, please note that it’s best to call a professional if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself.

#7 Issues with the Circulation Pump

Another important component is the circulation pump. The pump is responsible for circulating water through the dishwasher.

As mentioned earlier, the motor start relay sends power to the circulation pump, which then moves the water. If the circulation pump is not working, water won’t be properly distributed, and your dishwasher won’t start the cycle.

#8 User Interface / Selector Switch Issues

The selector switch or interface tells your dishwasher what cycle you want it to go through and when to start and finish.

The selector switch is part of the control pane, and if it’s not being pressed down, it can keep your dishwasher from starting the cycle.

If the selector switch is stuck between settings, you’ll need to restart your dishwasher or reset it. If that doesn’t do the trick, I recommend unplugging your dishwasher, testing the selector switch for continuity, and then comparing the reading to the manufacturer’s manual.

If the selector switch is not working, please replace it with a new one.


Now that we’ve covered everything, hopefully, you’ll be able to solve the issue that was keeping your dishwasher from starting a cycle.

Remember to check the circuit breaker, turn off the child lock, and reset your dishwasher. It’s also important to check the door latch, timer, motor start relay, and circulation pump.

Thank you so much for reading! If you found this article helpful, please check out our other related posts below.

Good luck!

James Blackford
James Blackford
Appliance Repair Expert
James Blackford is an Appliance Repair Expert with over 16 years of experience. After spending over 15 years working as an Electronic and Appliance Technician for Sears, James is now a Master Technician for SquareTrade and runs his own appliance repair business in New Mexico. Read more