How to Repair Your Washing Machine

A washing machine is one of the most used appliances in any household. Like any machine, washers can experience issues and break downs over time. Instead of immediately calling for service or replacing your washer, there are several do-it-yourself troubleshooting steps you can take to get your washer functioning again. With some basic mechanical skills and the right parts, repairing a washing machine is an attainable task for a handy homeowner.

Assessing the Problem

The first step in any appliance repair is to observe and document exactly what the machine is doing. When your washer isn’t working properly, start by asking yourself some questions:

  • Is the washer turning on at all? If not, the issue is likely an electrical problem. Check breakers and plug connections first.
  • Is the washer filling with water? If not, there may be a valve or hose issue.
  • Is it draining properly? Drain line clogs can cause water to back up.
  • Is it actually spinning the tub during cycles? An unbalanced load could stop spin.
  • Are any error codes displayed? Many washers have self-diagnostics to point to specific problems.
  • Does it make abnormal noises during cycles? Unusual sounds can indicate mechanical issues.

Documenting the specific symptoms will help you narrow down the problem and repair.

Common Washing Machine Problems

While symptoms vary by make and model, here are some of the most frequent mechanical and electrical issues with washers:

  • Won’t start – If the washer won’t start at all, it could be a power supply problem. Check breakers and wall sockets. Test for voltage at the outlet during a cycle. If there is power, the start switch or control board could be faulty.
  • Won’t fill – Failures with water inlet valves, level sensors, and control boards can prevent filling. Check hoses and valves for obstructions too.
  • Won’t drain – Clogged or kinked drain hoses and broken drain pumps can cause water to back up. Remove hoses and inspect for blockages. Test the pump motor with voltage.
  • Won’t spin – An unbalanced or overloaded tub can trigger the off-balance switch to stop spin. So can worn out drive belts, bad motors, and problems with the spinning control circuit.
  • Leaking – Door seals, water inlet valves, hoses, and pumps are common leak points on washers. Visually inspect components for moisture and cracks.
  • Noise – Worn drive pulleys, bad bearings, and faulty motors can generate excessive noise during washer operation.

Gaining Access

To properly inspect and test washer components, you’ll need access to the inner mechanical and electrical systems. Washers have a top panel, console panel, and rear panel that can be removed.

Removing the Top Panel

The top panel or lid provides access to the water valves, fill hoses, water level switch, and often the main control board. To remove:

  1. Unplug the washer from power before servicing.
  2. Remove any screws along the back edge of the top panel. Newer models may have spring clips instead.
  3. Slide the top panel back an inch or two to release any front snaps or clips.
  4. Lift up evenly at the back and slide forward off the washer.

Removing the Console Panel

The console houses the start button, cycle selector, and other electronic controls. Getting behind here lets you access the main control board for testing.

  1. Remove power from the washer.
  2. Remove any screws at the base of the console panel near the top.
  3. Pull the bottom edge forward and up to detach any snap clips.
  4. Disconnect any wire harnesses or sensor connectors inside.

Removing the Rear Panel

The rear panel needs to come off to access motor components and drain systems. To take it off:

  1. Disconnect power to the washer.
  2. Remove mounting screws along the top, sides, and bottom of the rear panel.
  3. Locate and remove any trim pieces or caps covering more screws.
  4. Carefully spread the panel open to release any alignment snaps and slide up and out.

Electrical System Troubleshooting

Many washer failures stem from problems with electrical components. Here’s how to systematically diagnose and test the electrical system.

Testing Voltage

Use a multimeter to check for 120V at the wall outlet during a wash cycle. If power is lower than 110V, contact an electrician. If there is no voltage at the outlet, check the home’s breakers and reset if needed.

With good outlet voltage, check the voltage into the washer at the power cord or terminal block. No voltage indicates a bad cord or connection issue.

Testing the Lid Switch

The lid switch cuts power when the washer lid opens. Jump the switch terminals with a piece of wire. If the washer starts, the lid switch needs replacing.

Testing the Water Level Switch

The water level switch cuts power to fill valves once the proper water level is reached. Probe the switch terminals with a multimeter as water level rises. An open circuit means it’s time for a new switch.

Testing the Control Board

The washer’s control or main circuit board controls all functions based on input from sensors. Follow its wiring diagram to systematically check circuits with a multimeter. Swap in a known good board for comparison.

Testing Drive Motor Circuits

Check drive motor windings for continuity with a multimeter. Refer to wiring diagrams to methodically diagnose motor control circuits from the control board out to the motor itself.

Drain System Repairs

Clogged or leaking hoses, pumps, and valves in the drain system are common washing machine faults. Here’s how to service key drain components:

Cleaning Drain Hoses

Disconnect and inspect the drain hoses leading to the drain pump and home plumbing. Clear any lint, debris, or detergent buildup clogging the hoses by flushing with water. Kinked hoses should be replaced.

Testing the Drain Pump

First check that the pump is getting voltage during the drain cycle. If power is present but the pump is not activating, the pump motor is likely faulty and needs replacement. No voltage indicates an electrical issue.

Replacing Drain Hoses

Leaking or burst drain hoses should be replaced. Turn off power and water supply lines. Disconnect old hoses and attach new hoses of the same diameter and length. Ensure tight, leak-free connections.

Unclogging Pump Filters

Many washers have screens and filters inside the drain pump to capture debris. Access and clean out these filters according to model specifications to ensure clear draining.

Drive System Repairs

Issues in the motor-driven drive system will prevent the washer tub from turning properly. Here are tips for servicing key components:

Testing Drive Motor

Check resistance across motor windings with a multimeter. If windings are open or shorted, the motor needs replacement. Check wiring connections as well. Watch motor rotation direction during spin – reverse wires to correct.

Replacing Drive Belt

With power disconnected, use a belt tensioner tool to relieve tension on the old belt. Roll the belt off pulleys and fit the new belt onto the aligning pulleys. Check tension and adjust as needed after fitting.

Replacing Drive Pulley

support pulley with pliers while loosening retaining nut or screw. Slide off old pulley and press on the new, aligning any keys or flat spots. Reinstall retaining hardware and test spin.

Replacing Bearings and Seals

Worn bearings in the drive system will make loud noises. Pull the drive shaft to access bearings and seals. Press in identical replacement bearings and seals using a bench press. Reassemble after replacements are seated properly.

Tub and Suspension Repairs

The large wash tub containing the laundry is mounted on suspension rods or springs to allow spinning. Failing tub components lead to off-balance loads and banging.

Replacing Suspension Springs

Disconnect springs support rods from the wash tub. Compress old springs with locking pliers and detach from the frame. Reattach new springs of the same size and type in the correct positions under the tub.

Replacing Tub Bearings

Gain access from the rear and front to knock out worn tub shaft bearings. Press in new bearings evenly until seated using a socket of the same diameter. Don’t damage bearing seals.

Replacing Tub Seals and Gaskets

Inspect tub seals and door gaskets for leaks and cracks. Peel out old seals and clean mating surfaces. Coat new seals with liquid soap for easier installation and press into place by hand.

Rebalancing Tub

Reset the tub by hand to the centered neutral position. Program a spin-only cycle and mark heavy points as the tub goes off-balance. Add adhesive weights opposite the heavy side until tub spins smoothly.

Water Valve and Hose Repairs

Defects with the water supply components will prevent proper filling of the tub. Here are tips for servicing fill valves and hoses:

Replacing Inlet Hoses

Turn off hot and cold supply valves and disconnect old hoses. Attach new fill hoses by hand until snug – don’t overtighten. Bleed air from lines by running a fill cycle and check for leaks.

Replacing Fill Valves

Shut off water lines and remove electrical power. Disconnect and unscrew old valve. Install new valve in same orientation and thread seal tape onto fittings. Attach water lines securely and test operation.

Cleaning Valve Screens

Locate and remove any inlet screens on fill valves. Remove buildup and flush water through screen to clean. Reinstall screens and ensure proper water flow.

Adjusting Water Level

Consult service diagrams for model and adjust water level by turning adjustment screw on valve. Check fill level and readjust as needed to match clothes load size.

Troubleshooting by Brand

Specific repair steps can vary considerably by washer brand and model. Here is some guidance for three major brands:

Whirlpool Top-Loaders

  • Access components by removing top panel held by clips.
  • Use error flash codes to diagnose – 2 flashes is drain failure.
  • Check drain pump filter inside pump housing.
  • Control board is under top panel on front right.
  • Use multimeter to test lid switch near lid hinge.

GE Top-Loaders

  • Remove top panel screwed on back lip to access components.
  • Error codes are on digital display like E22 for drive system fault.
  • Test fill valve solenoids on valve housing for power during fill.
  • Check motor capacitor and tub bearing for loud spin sounds.

LG Front-Loaders

  • Inspect gasket and drum glides if leaks occur around door.
  • Gain access by removing top panel after taking out corner screws.
  • Use paper clip to enter diagnostic mode on control panel.
  • Check drain pump and filter if water remains after cycle.

Calling a Repair Professional

For major repairs beyond your skill level, don’t hesitate to call a professional repair technician. However, try to complete basic troubleshooting before incurring diagnostic fees. Have model numbers ready and be prepared to explain the detailed symptoms. Get a written estimate or quote for parts and labor costs on any significant repairs.

Here are some instances when professional expertise is required:

  • Complete motor replacement or rebuild
  • Shaft and bearing rebuild
  • Tub replacement
  • Advanced electrical troubleshooting
  • Control board replacement/reprogramming
  • Major water damage repairs

Many independent appliance repair technicians can provide quality servicing at a fraction of the cost of replacement. Find a reputable local pro through referrals or reviews. Major home retailers often have repair departments as well.

Preventative Maintenance

You can minimize repairs by performing periodic washer maintenance according to manufacturer guidelines:

  • Monthly – Inspect hoses and valves for leaks. Clean exterior and interior surfaces.
  • Every 6 Months – Check drive belts for wear and tension. Lubricate any grease fittings.
  • Yearly – Clean inlet screens, drain filters, and drain hoses thoroughly.
  • Every 5 Years – Have a technician conduct water valve tests, suspension inspections, motor checkup, and calibration. Consider internal tub cleaning and gasket replacements.

Simple tasks like leaving the lid open after loads to dry out interior tubs, wiping gaskets clear of lint, and limiting use of abrasive cleaners can also extend the life of your washer.

Know When to Upgrade

With basic skills and tools, many common washing machine repairs are quite manageable for a handy homeowner. However, at a certain point parts wear and machine breakdowns indicate a dying washer. Once repairs exceed 50-60% of the cost of a new energy efficient model, it’s time to upgrade.

New washers offer better ENERGY STAR ratings, quieter operation, and more fabric care features. If faced with major expenses for bearings, motors, rust, or computer control boards, replacement starts to make sense. Weigh costs carefully when deciding between repairing an old unit or installing new.

Key Takeaways and Summary

  • Assess symptoms carefully before attempting washer repairs.
  • Gain internal access by removing top, console, and rear panels.
  • Use multimeters to systematically test electrical circuits and components.
  • Inspect and clear drain pumps, hoses, and filters to ensure drainage.
  • Test drive motors and pulleys; replace belts, bearings, and seals if worn.
  • Check tub suspension rods and springs; rebalance or replace if needed.
  • Examine fill hoses, valves, and water level controls; clean screens and replace parts as required.
  • Refer to service manuals for brand-specific troubleshooting steps.
  • Attempt basic repairs first before calling in professional help.
  • Perform regular maintenance to extend the life of your washing machine.
  • Compare repair costs to new washer prices when deciding on upgrades.

Thorough troubleshooting paired with essential mechanical skills allows many common washer repairs to be completed at home. But for complex electrical issues or major system overhauls, trusted appliance technicians have the expertise to diagnose and fix problems accurately and efficiently.