5 Common Washing Machine Motor Problems

A man holds a washing machine motor.
  • 1-8 hours
  • Intermediate
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Washing machine motors can be one of the most problematic components of this household appliance. After the motor, other common problems can include drainage, electrical, and drum issues.

The washer motor is the central unit that drives the entire device. Without it, nothing would work. If there is a problem with your washer, there is a good chance it is sourced in or directly connected to the motor.

The reason for this is that the motor provides power to the functioning internal elements of the washing machine. These include the agitator, gearbox, pump, and clutch.

If the motor goes out, everything else will fail to function. The five most common signs of motor issues are listed below.

1. Washer Won't Pump or Spin

It may happen that the washing machine fails to pump water in and out, as well as spin. This could occur with the motor running, and if it doesn't, it is likely due to a failed lid switch. This switch is near the door frame, inside the washing machine. If defective, it needs to be replaced.

2. Pumps, but Won't Spin

washing machine

Again, the lid switch could cause the washer to pump water, but not spin. Another possible cause is a broken coupler, the plastic or rubber connector that joins the shaft of the motor to the transmission.

Replacement is the only option when it breaks down. Other possible culprits include a broken belt, a worn clutch, or a malfunctioning drive motor. Drive motors are designed to move in two directions.

It can burn out moving in one direction while continuing to work going the other way. Unfortunately, the whole motor needs to be replaced if this fails.

3. Washer Won't Agitate

The agitator is designed to move the clothes around in the water before the spin cycle. If the washer doesn't agitate, the problem could be many of the same things: a faulty lid switch, the coupler on the motor, a worn belt or clutch, a failed drive motor or pulley, or the transmission.

If the clutch has gone out, sometimes you will notice a black substance on the ground underneath the washer. This indicates that the clutch needs replacing.

4. Clothes Still Wet

inside of a washing machine

After a spin cycle, a washing machine not functioning properly might leave clothes wet. Once again, the cause could be the motor coupler. This varies between brands. For example, with Maytag it could be a worn out belt, while with GE products it may be a worn clutch.

5. Problems in Every Cycle

A washing machine that won't spin, agitate, or fully perform each cycle may have a faulty drive motor, which will need to be replaced. On GE washers, the automatic shift lever of the clutch may have failed, and will need to be repaired by a technician.

Fortunately, issues with washing machines are generally confined to only a few components, many of them connected to the motor. The motor drives the components that enable the washer to fill up with water, agitate, spin and drain.

While some smaller, inexpensive parts are easy to fix yourself, remember that some bigger jobs require an expert or the full replacement of a main component.