Sometimes, you can take the easy way out

May 29, 2004|By Rob Kasper

ONE OF THE biggest temptations a weekend repair guy faces is the urge to "take this baby apart."

The "baby" begging to be dissembled can be anything from a lamp to a lawnmower that is not functioning as it should. Recently I had an itch to dismember a dishwasher that would not drain.

I had read the repair manuals. I had downloaded the diagrams of dishwasher innards and spread the schematics out on the floor. I had positioned my tools and my trouble light. The testosterone was pumping as I picked up the slip-joint pliers, poked my head under the kitchen sink and looked for parts to pry off.

Then I heard a voice, perhaps my inner plumber, saying "Whoa, bubba ! Look for an easier way."

For a moment I wondered if surgeons hear a similar questioning voice right before they slice open a patient. (That's the only comparison I can think of between my weekend plumbing efforts and surgery.)

In this instance, I heeded the inner voice. Drawn as I was by the lure of finding the dishwasher's impeller, of discovering its drain ports, of popping off the glistening, ever so pliable clamp that held the drain hose to the garbage disposal, I resisted.

Instead of pulling things apart, I left them whole and massaged them. Call it Zen plumbing or common sense, but I chose the simplest path. Rather than removing the drain hose, I pinched it.

There are not many things you can pinch these days without ending up in an attitude-adjustment seminar, but a dishwasher drain hose is one of them.

As its name suggests, the drain hose is a flexible tube that conveys dirty water from the bottom of the dishwasher to the drain pipe. When it is working well, you don't notice it. When it isn't working, you go hunting for it.

Often you find it under the kitchen sink, connected either to a garbage disposal or directly into the sink's drain pipe. I learned this by reading up on dishwasher drainology. (A Web site I liked was the dishwasher section of fixitnow.com, presided over by the Samurai Appliance Repair Man.) When I found a diagram of a drain hose layout that matched the one under my kitchen sink, I felt empowered.

Like a babbling brook, the water in a dishwasher drain hose should flow freely. If there are kinks in the hose, or if the hose gets blocked with debris - or "gookus," as the Samurai calls it - then there is trouble. Dirty water sits in the bottom of the dishwasher and occasionally seeps out of the dishwasher door.

Finding such a pool of water on the kitchen floor was my first clue that there was trouble with the dishwasher. A second clue was when the beer mugs emerged from the dishwasher wash cycle with grit on them.

You don't want to go into a weekend, especially a three-dayer like this one, with grit on your beer mugs.

According to the literature, there are two ways to remove "gookus" from dishwasher drain hoses. One is to remove one end of the hose and - I am not making this up - pucker up and blow air through the line. The other tactic is to shake and pinch the hose at appropriate spots. One of those spots is where it connects to a drain pipe or garbage disposal.

Like a lot of guys, I will do a lot for the good of my family, and for the prospect of clean beer mugs. But I draw the line at putting my lips on a dishwasher drain hose. I chose the rubbing and shaking route. It worked.

After kneading the hose, I hit the "drain" command button on our KitchenAid dishwasher. Earlier, hitting this button had caused a pool of dirty water to gush out onto the floor. Now the water gurgled happily down the drain.

Reveling in my success, I put the rejuvenated appliance through a cleansing ritual. I gave its innards a bath, letting it run through a complete washing cycle with no dirty dishes in it. This, I figured , would help scoot any debris in the drain line that I had freed up with the massage.

The dishwasher was fixed and I hadn't even put a wrench on it. I felt lucky but also strangely incomplete. As I put away my unused tools and started to close the cabinet door underneath the sink, I cast a longing look at the clamp at the end of the drain hose. I promised myself that the next time grit shows up on a "washed" beer mug, I'm taking that baby apart.

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