How to Repair a Dishwasher Rack

August 2, 2021
Dishwasher Repair

Over time, dishwasher racks will often require some maintenance. The most common complaint is rust on the dish racks, which can cause rust spots on your dishes. Another common issue is a problem with the track that holds the dish rack. As you may have already found out, replacing the dishwasher rack can be expensive or seem like a waste of an otherwise perfectly good dish rack. The good news is that dishwasher racks with rust or other issues can be fixed without the need for a costly replacement.

Rust on the Rack

Most dishwasher racks feature a synthetic vinyl coating, which covers the metal they are made of. This protective coating ensures that dishwasher racks do not succumb to rust. However, over time, largely due to dishes or utensils scraping against the dish rack and the water pressure, you may start to notice rust on the dish rack.

The small rust spots that first appear will then often then grow and become larger. Therefore, it is good to remove the rust and fix the dish rack before it gets worse. Another reason to remove the rust sooner rather than later is that the rust can clog up and damage other dishwasher components.

When there is rust on the tines – the upright protrusions that hold the dishes up – removing the affected tine may solve the issue. The tines are usually made of a thin metal, which can easily be removed using wire cutters. However, if there is a lot of rust on the rack, or you do not want to lose a tine, purchasing a dishwasher rack coating product is another easy solution. Tine repair kits, with caps to put on the tines, can also be bought to fix the issue.

Dishwasher rack coating products can be purchased online or from a hardware store. Depending on the make of your dishwasher, the manufacturer may also sell a rack coating product designed for your specific dishwasher. To apply the coating, you will first need to remove the dishwasher rack and then remove the rust.

To apply dishwasher rack coating:

  1. Prepare a work area to scrape the rust off and paint the coating onto the rack.
  2. Remove the rack from the dishwasher. Depending on the dishwasher, you may need to use a flat-head screwdriver or your fingers to release tabs that secure the dish rack to the tracks and open the dish rack stops at the end of the track.
  3. File off the rust on the dish rack. Tools, such as a putty knife, sandpaper, a rotary tool with a wire brush, steel wool, or a sharp utility knife, can be used to remove the rust. Trim the vinyl coating back until the clean, bare metal is exposed.
  4. Clean the affected areas with a cloth or paper towel and alcohol or mineral spirits. This will remove any dust and ensure the coating will adhere to the surface. Ensure that the dish rack is dry before moving on to the next step.
  5. Apply the coating to the dish rack with a small paintbrush or the applicator supplied with the coating. Overlap the coating by half an inch over the existing coated metal. Follow the coating’s instructions for drying times and the number of coats to apply.
  6. If necessary, apply the tine caps.
  7. Allow at least 8 hours for the coating to dry (or follow the product’s instructions).
  8. Reinstall the dish racks in the dishwasher.
  9. Run an empty cycle with detergent to rinse off any paint residue.

Damaged Rack

Depending on the make and model of dishwasher, there may be components to the rack, such as the rack adjuster, that need to be replaced. With the dishwasher’s make and model, replacing these parts is usually relatively easy. The parts can be bought online or from some hardware stores. They can then be installed, usually by clipping or screwing them on. If the dish rack has become too damaged to repair, replacement dish racks can also be purchased online or from some hardware stores.

Defective Rack Track

If the dish rack track becomes worn or damaged, the dish rack wheels may fall off or jam. The dish rack may also not move smoothly, perhaps causing glasses to break. Depending on the make and model, you may be able to purchase replacement parts, such as new wheels. However, in most cases, if the dish rack track is defective, it will be best to replace the entire track.

Replacing the track will also depend on the dishwasher’s make and model and how the dishwasher is installed. With some dishwashers, the track can be removed relatively easily by unscrewing the screws that secure the track from inside the dishwasher. Even easier, the tracks in some other dishwashers can be removed by using a flat-head screwdriver to pry off the rear dish rack stops.

Other makes and models, or replacing the entire track assembly, may require the dishwasher to be pulled out from under the kitchen countertop to access the screws that secure the track to the dishwasher.

To remove and replace dishwasher tracks (some models):

  1. Disconnect the dishwasher from the power source.
  2. Turn off the water supply to the dishwasher.
  3. Remove the dish racks from the dishwasher.
  4. Remove the dishwasher mounting screws that secure the dishwasher to the kitchen countertop.
  5. Use a Phillips-head screwdriver or a quarter-inch nut driver to remove the bottom access panel. Determine if the dishwasher can be moved or if a hose or wire needs to be disconnected. If the dishwasher cannot be moved, the water supply line, drain hose, and terminal box will need to be disconnected and  unscrewed and the wires disconnected.
  6. If necessary, adjust the dishwasher legs, and then carefully pull the dishwasher away from the kitchen countertop.
  7. Use channel nut pliers to unthread the nut that secures the air duct assembly (if applicable).
  8. Remove the air duct assembly (if applicable) to access the screws securing the rack track.
  9. Use a 5/16 inch socket or nut driver to unthread the screws securing the rack track.
  10. Remove the old rack track and install the new track.

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