Washer Repair

This Fix-It Guide on clothes washer repair tells how a washer works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a washer problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble a direct-drive washer, how to disassemble a belt-drive washer, how to service a pump, how to test a water level switch assembly, and how to service a water inlet valve. It also refers to other Fix-It Guides for electrical cord repair, appliance controls repair, motor repair, and switch repair.

How Does a Washer Work?

Clothes Washer Repair

Components of a typical top-loading clothes washer.

A clothes washer is a major appliance designed for washing clothes, bedding, towels, and other linens. Knobs and buttons on the machine’s control panel send instructions to a timer and electrically operated valves. The wash cycle begins by filling the washtub with hot, cold, or blended-temperature water. In a top-loading washer, the agitator in the middle of the tub churns back and forth or up and down to clean the clothes. In a front-loading washer, the drum tumbles the clothes clean. In all washers, the spin cycle extracts water from the clothes, and a pump sends dirty water to the drain.

A direct-drive clothes washer uses gears on the motor to turn the agitator and spin the drum. A belt-drive washer transfers power from the motor to the agitator and drum using a belt-and-pulley system.

What Can Go Wrong with a Washer?

The electrical cord may be faulty. Switches can fail. The timer can be faulty. The motor, clutch, and transmission can malfunction. Hoses can become kinked or leak. Filters can become clogged. The pump can fail. The agitator can break.

Fix-It Tip

Modern major appliances, including clothes washers, use digital rather than mechanical timers and other controls. Some include diagnostic tests that report operating problems as trouble codes. Check your machine’s owner’s manual for information on how to activate and interpret diagnostic codes. You may be able to fix the problem yourself!

How Can I Identify a Washer Problem?

  • If the washer doesn’t run at all, or if it hums, first make sure power is on at the electrical receptacle and test the electrical cord. Test the water level switch, the lid switch, the centrifugal switch, and the timer motor (see the Appliance Controls Fix-It Guide). Test the clothes washer motor.Replace any component that tests faulty or hire a service technician do the repairs. Before doing so, inspect the pump for blockage (see below).
  • If the washer doesn’t fill, doesn’t stop filling, or doesn’t agitate, check the water-supply hoses for kinks. Also test the water-level switch assembly (see below), test the water inlet valve (see below), check the water temperature switch, and test the timer motor.
  • If the washer doesn’t drain, test the water level switch assembly (see below). Test the water inlet valve (see below).
  • If the washer doesn’t spin, test the water level switch assembly. If service is needed, consider calling a professional technician.
  • If the washer leaks, straighten or replace the drain hose and inspect the pump for blockage (see below).
  • If the washer is too noisy or vibrates too much, redistribute the load of laundry for better balance and adjust the leveling feet. If these efforts fail, clean the water supply screens. Next, test the timer motor, inspect the pump for blockage (see below), and test the machine motor. If all else fails, call for professional service.

Fix-It Tip

Don’t overload your washer by packing or wrapping things around the agitator. Instead, drop in items loosely, mixing large and small items for a balanced load. Then make sure you match the water level to the load size. Your washer will work less and live longer.

What Do I Need for Washer Repair?

Replacement parts are available from major appliance parts suppliers, larger plumbing and hardware stores and, of course, the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers. The tools you will need to fix a clothes washer include these:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Wrenches
  • Multimeter

What Are the Steps to Washer Repair?

Disassemble a direct-drive  washer:

  1. Unplug the washer from the electrical receptacle and turn off the water supply to the washer.
  2. Remove the retaining screws from the bottom corners, top or back of the console.
  3. Turn the console to expose the timer, timer motor, water level switch, water temperature switch, and the cycle selector switch.
  4. As needed, access the drum by pushing the blade of a putty knife between the washer’s top and body to disengage attachment clips. Some units have clips near the console as well.
  5. Disconnect the control housing from the washer housing, marking and disconnecting any electrical wiring harness plugs as needed.
  6. As needed, remove the front panel by loosening screws at the panel corners to access the drum and motor.

You now can service the agitator, drum, and test the motor and other components using a multimeter.

Disassemble a belt-drive washer:

  1. Unplug the washer from the electrical receptacle and turn off the water supply to the washer.
  2. Remove the retaining screws from the bottom corners, top or back of the console.
  3. Turn the console to expose the timer, timer motor, water level switch, water temperature switch, and the cycle selector switch.
  4. As needed, access the drum by pushing the blade of a putty knife between the washer’s top and body to disengage attachment clips. Some units have spring clips on the sides or front of the body.
  5. As needed, access the motor, pump, water inlet valve, and drive belt) through the back panel by removing screws around the perimeter.

You now can test the motor and other components using a multimeter.

Service a washer pump:

  1. Unplug the washer and turn off the water supply to the washer.
  2. Remove the housing as needed to access the pump (see above).
  3. Loosen the hose clamps and remove them from the pump inlet and outlet. Label the hoses for easier reinstallation.
  4. Remove the clips securing the pump to the motor.
  5. Remove the pump and inspect it for blockage or damage. Clean or replace it as needed.

Test a washer water level switch assembly:

  1. Unplug the washer and access the control console (see above).
  2. Mark and remove wires from the water-level switch.
  3. Remove the air hose from the switch and gently blow into the switch, listening for a click as the switch moves to the full position.
  4. While blowing into the switch, test all terminals with a multimeter set to RX1 (resistance times 1). For most switches, two pairs should indicate continuity and one pair should indicate resistance.
  5. Stop blowing into the switch and retest the terminals. The pair that previously showed resistance should show continuity and the ones that showed continuity should show resistance.
  6. If the test results are different from the description in step 5, replace the water level switch.

Fix-It Tip

If inlet screens are clogged with hardened mineral deposits, soak them overnight in a bowl of white vinegar.

Service a  washer water inlet valve:

  1. Unplug the washer and shut off the water supply to the washer.
  2. Loosen the water hose couplings and remove the hoses.
  3. Inspect the filter screen inside each valve port. If it is clogged, replace the valve.
  4. As needed, remove the wires from the solenoid terminals and mark them for easier reassembly. Then set a multimeter to RX1 (resistance times 1) and touch a probe to each pair of terminals in turn. The meter should indicate between 100 and 1,000 ohms of resistance on each pair. Replace the switch if the test results differ.

Fix-It Tip

If you need to adjust the machine’s feet, it’s better to make them end up shorter rather than longer. The closer the machine is to the floor, the less likely it is to vibrate.

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