Hey OEMs, Arduino controlled dishwasher has much potential

I think we can all agree that sometimes projects are a bit of a stretch. We rack our brains for something interesting and unique to bring to the table and end up stretching for that special strange twist trick or technique that will garner that special kind of admiration from our peers. In that sense it is easy to loose sight of some of the best projects, the simple ones that prove you can fix anything anytime anywhere and improve it while you are at it.

This is just such that kind of project, [UnaClocker] had a washer fall victim to its own condensation. Instead of shelling out a ton of money for the repair man he took on the job himself, fitting the washer with an Arduino, relays and a breadboard. A little reverse engineering revealed the (notably well labeled) control board, evidently the control signals involved are extremely easy to interpret. [UnaClocker] also found a temperature sensor to control dish sanitation. At this point he had FULL CONTROL over the dishwasher and was able to design the ideal prewash/wash cycle timings.

Now that a wash cycle is all set [UnaClocker] can now go ahead and embarrass the hell out of the OEM. He plans on adding a real time clock module to time washings and a clean dish indicator, after which we think he should get rolling on some wireless/tweet/ethernet/capacitive touch/voice communication. After that he is going to work on buttoning up the design and making it pretty.

Check out the setup in action after the jump!


  1. Will says:

    Nice! Awesome creativity to save some cash! Bring on the Arduino haters!

  2. Monty Werthington says:

    Now thats the sort of hack I want to see. Arduino or not thats a definite improvement to that appliance. Good show.

  3. TheCapt says:

    I assume the RTC is so he can program start time – good idea. Needs to maybe add the level of wash (light, med, heavy, OMG-burnt cheese). Then add the clean/dirty – my kids never check – and it is done. I like this idea quite a bit. Only other mods would be hardware on dishwasher itself as I’d like to vent my outside to keep the humidity down in the summer(can you vent to the drain stack maybe? hmm), but vent to inside in the winter.

  4. TheBadFrog says:

    There is some serious engineering going on here. I have the same dishwasher and likewise it had gone ape $#!+ on me. After gutting it I found a lot of water damage due to condensation on the ribbon cables. After an alcohol bath (for the cables, not for me) and a little drying time my dishwasher came back to life.

    Now I find out I could have just rebuilt the whole control system with an Arduino. Go figure.

  5. JJ says:

    LOL. Why is the Maytag man “Forever alone”?

  6. johnmc says:

    Shhh! This needs to be kept maintained in the underground hacker space economy. Little Maytag customizing shops all across the country. Dishwashers with 200 fine china settings. Washing machines that *finally* will get the wash clean just like the one a decade ago. All of them tweeting that the task is done.

  7. fartface says:

    Embarrass the $199 dishwasher? yes.

    he is lacking functions that a $2500 dishwasher has. His is primitive compared to the top of the line stuff

  8. tjb says:

    @TheCapt: I would not put pressure on the pluming vent system. Too much potential for noxious gas to leak into the house. In stead I would look at some sort of heat exchanging vent system. A friend has a whole house unit that takes the vents from all of the bathrooms and the dryer and recovers heat or moisture as needed by the season.

  9. Brennan says:

    He’s not “embarrassing” anyone here. There is a reason cheap dishwaters don’t have superfluous ‘features’ – cost.

  10. OiD says:

    Very nice hack! Nothing like a simple, easy to hack interface.

  11. John says:

    This is an awesome project, well done.

  12. Robbo says:

    2 hours and 36 minutes to wash dishes? Do dishwashers take that long normally? If so, is it really worth it economically speaking?

    • UnaClocker says:

      The standard wash cycle was over 2 hours. It’d display 2H on the display until it got down to 99. It had a heavy duty pots and pans mode that took 3 hours.

  13. FredP says:

    He might want to re-think putting the high voltage relays on the ground. If the already dodgy washer ever starts leaking water, gravity is going to guarantee it goes to the same place as the mostly exposed AC power. Get the relays into a place that isn’t going to get wet in case of problems.

  14. brad says:


    no, that’s a reeeeally long cycle time.
    but his dishes are oh-so-clean!

  15. James says:

    It’s fairly standard cycle time with more low-energy washers these days. Ours is a brand spanking new one and it’s normal wash is 2:40, uses 1kWh and 9 litres of water. I believe older ones washed faster but used more water and power. Who cares anyway, it’s rare that you need dishes NOW lol.

  16. Chris says:

    My last dishwasher, a Frigidaire, failed after a couple of years due to a slipping coupling in the pump assembly. It’s a common failure, and appears designed to fail after a certain amount of time. This small plastic part is also the ONLY part in the pump assembly not sold separately; instead you have to buy another $150 assembly. Coincidence? I think not.

    Upon looking for a new dishwasher, I found that virtually all of them have recurring and expensive failures due to known defects. The Magtag control board issue is just one example. It could be fixed by the manufacturer, and should have been by now; but they have not done so.

    It appears manufacturers are no longer happy with selling an appliance, without also guaranteeing a continuing stream of income from avoidable repairs.

    So I bought a 20 year old used GE dishwasher instead. The pump assembly leaked, but was easily fixed because every part likely to fail in the assembly was available together in an inexpensive $15 rebuild kit. It will probably run another 20 years.

    Congrats to UnaClocker, and to everyone else who can find any way to avoid sending these unethical manufacturers any more money. The hackers are the only winners in today’s society!

  17. grovenstien says:

    just wait for it to catch on fire!!! Ive seen two dishwashers start to smoke in my life time! Dont trust the little B’s!

  18. veneficus says:

    I love this hack. Stick it to the man!

    Gotta applaud his wife’s patience and support.

  19. John says:

    This would be even cooler if the dishwasher would notify you via text message, email, or any other means.

    Very cool though!

  20. aztraph says:

    Grats on the great rebuild, as a former maytag repair man (no, I was NOT forever alone, rather the opposite) I have seen this problem many times, usually too far gone to do anything but replace the control. I would be concerned about how the arduino would handle the humidity.

    of course being a recovered maytag repair man means I now have a Bosch dishwasher.

  21. Matt says:

    Supposedly if you open the door right after everything is done, and let the steam out, your plastic items don’t get condensate on them, and your upturned cups don’t have water in the little lips. Perhaps you could automate this? :) well done on a good project btw.

  22. xorpunk says:

    Nice hack, I’m actually not bored by an arduino project..

    I guess the reason everyone is trolling is because this is something aimed towards poor people..I know..eww

  23. Keith says:

    Nice hack! You must have a very understanding/supportive wife to be allowed this sort of privilege.

    Just a tip for the UI portion. I would not necessarily clear the display and keep it blank so long, especially if some of the same items reappear later in the next screen.

    • UnaClocker says:

      Yeah, the display clears due to a flyback issue from the relays. I clear the display and reinitialize it after turning off each relay. I need some optoisolators, or better yet, solid state relays.

  24. Micah says:

    I’ve rigged up almost the exact same dishwasher due to dieing components. Its a lot more ghetto though, Its using a doorbell, a LED scavenged from who knows what and a bathroom stall door latch. Its ugly as heck and can only be used on heavy, but it works, and will probably keep working for all eternity :)

  25. berslan says:

    Now it is sooo easy to integrate it into a home automation system. I am not so sure what improvement this can can bring to life but just the cool factor of being able to schedule the dishwasher from your phone or pc is enough reason to do it. Next, the fridge.

  26. pff says:

    I wash my dishes in a sink
    you all make me sick

    TheCapt: explain why a dishwasher start timer is useful. does it load itself too?

    John: no why would it be cool to get a text your dishes are clean? so you could run home and empty them?

    veneficus: he isnt sticking it to anyone he paid for the original dishwasher. the only person getting it stuck to is a plumber. i dont know about you but around where i live plumbers are actuall going out of buisness due to the economy

    berslan: you sir are full retard. again, scheduling the diswasher is absurd and pointless unless it can load itself. scheduling the fridge however is even less necessary.

  27. google says:

    Hmm… interesting, nice to have some added features, and much better than throwing it out, but I think there’s probably a certain amount of care in the wash cycle design that the pros know and we don’t.
    For example, I know my dishwasher monitors how dirty the water is, and only dumps water when it’s a certain dirtyness, to save water and electricity heating fresh water. I think it also uses this to know when the plates are clean.

    I imagine there’s been a certain amount of research done by the manufacturer to find what temps, heating speeds, and times are safe for the dishwasher, your dishes and saucepan handles, and kill the nasties, while minimising water and energy consumption.

    Great hack, but our hacking community often overlooks the research effort that goes into real products to get these details right.

  28. UnaClocker says:

    Yeah, I did do a fair amount of research on how dishwashers work before completing this project. Between doing some searches to find optimal water temperatures, and other information about how dishwashers normally work, as well as doing my own experiments with the unit to confirm what got the dishes clean, and what didn’t, along with what made the machine appear to take about the same amount of time as the previous controls did.
    I agree that some research went into these things, but nothing that isn’t published online. You have to remember, a generation earlier, these dishwashers were controlled by a glorified egg timer, it was just a dial that rotated around at a set speed and switched the modes as it went. (My controller could retrofit those older models as well) This isn’t rocket science that needs some kind of research department to run.
    @pff: Obvious troll is obvious.

  29. Jeremy says:

    @UnaClocker: Those Egg-Timer dishwashers are still made and yes it would be crazy easy to replace the mechanical timer of those with an electronic system as is what manufacturers do. Great Job on this. I never thought about replacing the control system on a dishwasher before.
    Some tips:
    I would suggest putting diodes on your relay coils to prevent the flyback issue.
    Do not refresh the entire screen except sparingly.
    I’d suggest using a graphic LCD because you can save space and put a ton more info and pictures on them than a standard 4×20 display (I use this one with the arduino: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10168 Piece of cake to integrate)
    You probably can’t do much to shorten your cycle time due to how fast your drain pump is and how efficient your calrod is but you could shorten how long your main pump is cycling the water through your washer.
    And Finally, did you open your dishwasher door up and get the service manual out of it? The service manual would have made your research simple because it tells you how long each cycle is, your needed temperatures, and has the wiring schematics.
    I would also suggest putting your relays in a water tight enclosure under the dishwasher just in case.

    Great Job though! It is nice to see such ingenuity here.

    @berslan: I wouldn’t want to mess with the refrigerator except to add to the current control system otherwise you would risk always throwing your compressor into overload mode which just decreases it’s effectiveness. I would however like to add features like integrating it into my home automation system to tell me that it is making ice, what the temps are, if the doors are open, and possibly be able to change the operating temps. All of this is possible by tapping into the individual manufacturers communication bus (GEA (GE), WIDE (Whirlpool/Maytag), etc).

    @pff: totally a troll.

  30. Blue Footed Booby says:

    A lot of vacuums these days have those prone-to-breakage plastic mechanical parts, too. I wonder how much it would cost to make a 3d printer that can make copies of these parts for me to sell on ebay…

  31. Brian Neeley says:

    @Blue Footed Booby

    How much is a 3d printer? Probably any 3d printer you could build or buy would be sufficent to make all the parts you could manage to sell. I happen to remember this article (http://hackaday.com/2010/08/05/using-makerbot-for-dishwasher-repair/), where someone actually made his own repair part. Making parts to sell online probably won’t pay for the printer, just because your margin would be too low.
    Check the article. If you were a repairman, and used it to make repair parts, you might pay for the printer, maybe.

  32. Nice build! When I get back to the states, I need to get back to some TRS meetings. Thee hacks are exactly what got me into this stuff when I was a kid.

  33. K!P says:

    @brrian neeley: we should croudsource a database with 3d files for smal/hard to find parts that tend to fail. You could just print it in a local hackerspace/ future eco repair shop or something. It’s the first step in replicator technology!

  34. pff says:

    not even trolling lol
    you guys seriously need to chill you are so uptight that the second someone has a valid observation as to the limited usefulness of one of your builds you are all like omg a troll he troll us derp
    well guess what sometimes its true

  35. lexi says:

    Yeah, Embarrass the OEM. “Oh no, have we got egg on our face for making a metric shit ton of money by sticking with these cheap control systems!”

  36. TheCapt says:

    The timer set feature is so you can set it for say, after you go to bed (if you are lucky enough to get a discount on electricity at night). I actually use the delay on ours so that it doesn’t come on while we are watching a movie, but then also I don’t forget to start it either after the movie.

    I didn’t plan on sending pressure (not much at least) into the stack, but simply venting the steam and excess heat into the stack.

  37. Quinn Dunki says:

    Nice work!

    As someone who has built my share of ridiculous things, I can appreciate that the journey is often the point, rather than the destination. Just because there are other ways to solve a problem, doesn’t mean your way isn’t fun and educational.

    With your current setup, you could trivially add the features of the Dish-O-Tron 6000:


  38. asd says:

    “–except that it’s a $150 part.”
    Those boards cost ~$1/piece to mass produce in China.

    Mechanicaly these type of machines would be OK for indefinitely (bearings usualy have L10h rating of 600…3000h -> 4-8 years of 1h/day use), but parts that fail are these electronic boards which have been deliberately desingned to fail after certain number of washing cycles due to corrion/condension problems. No off-brand repair shop is ever going to get the needed documentation from manufacturer to do simple repairs and the one’s that offer those repairs also sell new machines with price tag of $’repair cost’+rand(40).

    Thing is, it would be economical suicide to make washing machines that lasted +20 years. Cost of shielding electronics from water (protip: DIY) is insignificant.

  39. Quinn Dunki says:

    “Thing is, it would be economical suicide to make washing machines that lasted +20 years.”

    I think a case could be made that people don’t want that anyway. Most consumers’ primary concern (right or wrong) is probably price point. They aren’t likely thinking about whether the machine will last 5, 10, or 20 years.

    I wouldn’t frame it as any sort of “conspiracy to make things fail”, but rather, building things as cheaply as possible (which generally means cutting some corners) because that’s what has been successful in the marketplace.

    Arguably, there’s a certain elegant efficiency to how things are made these days. If people are going to replace the product in 5 years anyway (which, let’s face it, most probably do), building it to last 20 years is actually a waste of resources.

    I suspect most readers of this blog would like things to be built better than they are (myself included), but are we representative of the entire market for consumer appliances & electronics?

  40. attrezzop says:

    This would be awesome in home automation. Lots of washers have timers but it’d be awesome to have them statically set to start at a time when you’re not home or won’t be annoyed by it.

    Like many families we usually wash dishes at night. Right now we live in a house where the dish washer is far away from the bedroom, but in the past our bedroom was right next to the kitchen.

    This gives you essentially two choices, either you can start the wash in the evening and have it running while you watch a movie etc and ruin that, or you set it to delay so it wakes you up a few times in the middle of the night.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,312 other followers