Of course the mechanical and electrical parts can fail, but that's outside the realm of this article. We'll talk about the normal flow of water and what can go wrong in that section.
The most obvious thing your dishwasher is fighting against is you and your family. Anything you stick in the dishwasher has the potential of clogging things up. Broken glass, wayward silverware, small lids, and all of that food flying about.
Gravity and the pump's suction sends everything to the bottom drain section. This is the first place to look for problems and this is the area you'll want to clean when you do preventative maintenance.
Even though the dishwasher doesn't use much water it does move it around like crazy, which means the door needs good seals to keep it in. There's also a number of mechanical parts that can die from old age: soap doors, sliding rails, one or two spray arms (which could whack into misplaced dishes and break), and a lot of hoses to move all of the water around.
Moving water around is the busiest part of the dishwasher and that is where we will be focusing most of our efforts.
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