Clean Up Common Washing Machine Problems

washing machine lid

Washing machines are taken for granted in most households. If someone had to name which appliance loss would hurt them the most, the majority would say their oven. But if the oven goes, you still have the microwave oven. If the dryer goes, you can still hang the clothes on the line. But if the washer goes, we're back to caveman times, banging clothes on rocks. Well, maybe not so dramatic, but the washing machine has indeed become a necessity for convenience's sake.

Today we're going to go over some of the more common problems that many people face with their washing machines. Hopefully, if you're in a dilemma, this article will help you out of it. Take a minute and read our article on how washing machines work before we get started. It will give you a better idea of where everything is and how it works.

As always, an important rule is to turn the power OFF before troubleshooting unless otherwise noted. Another tip is to keep a notebook nearby so when you remove wires, you can write down the "what goes where" details - you'll thank yourself later. The testing of some parts may require a VOM (volt-ohm meter), which can be picked up at most hardware stores.

back of a washing machine with hoses and power cord

Problem: The washing machine won't run at all.
Solution: Make sure it is plugged in. If it is, then check the outlet with the VOM for voltage. Check the power cord for any damage. If they're all satisfactory, then here's a run through of potential causes:

Lid switch may be bad -- You will need to open the control panel, and find the harness plug that feeds the lid switch. Disconnect the harness plug. With your VOM on RX1, probe the terminals on the wires leading to the lid switch. There are three wires; probe the two that are not green. With the lid open, the reading should be infinity and with the lid closed, the reading should be zero. If not, replace the switch.

Timer may be bad -- Take the leads off of the timer. Set your VOM to RX100. Probe the leads and you should get a reading of 1,100 to 3,000 ohms. If not, replace the timer.

Problem: The washing machine won't fill with water.

Solution: Check the inlet hoses to make sure there are no kinks in them. The lid switch and the timer may be at fault here as well. Check them as detailed above. The water level switch could also be the problem. The water level switch is located in the control panel - it's the one with the clear tube attached to it. With the VOM on RX1, probe the three terminals by probing all the optional pairings. You should get a zero reading on one pair and an infinity reading on all the others.

Problem: The water won't drain from the tub.

Solution: Check the drainage hose to ensure it's not kinked or clogged. If it's clear and in good shape, here's a few other potential causes:

The pump could be clogged -- On the side of the motor, you will see the pump with the drainage tube attached to it. Place a towel underneath the unit to catch any water. There are retaining clips holding the pump to the motor shaft. With a screwdriver, pry off the clips to remove the pump. Check it for any obstructions.

The drive belt could be loose or bad -- If the belt is loose, loosen up the motor mount bolt and pull the motor back to tighten up the tension on the belt. With the tension back, tighten the motor mount bolt. This may require an additional set of hands to help. If the belt is broken, there are more steps to take.

1: Loosen the motor mount bolt.

2: Turn the washer on its side, you will need underneath access.

3: Remove the bolts holding the pump and braces.

4: In the front, there will be a holding post with a spacer. Remove the holding post bolt and remove the spacer.

5: Remove the clutch spring.

6: Install the belt over the pulleys.

7: Replace all the bolts, spacer, and springs.

8: Turn the washer upright and tighten the tension on the belt as described above.

Problem: The washer leaks.

Solution: Check all hoses for damage or loose connections. Check the pump as described above.

Problem: The washer won't agitate.

Solution: Check to make sure no clothing got wrapped around the agitator. Check the lid switch, timer, and drive belt as detailed above. There are other potential causes, such as a bad transmission or bad agitate/spin solenoid, but they are much more involved.

Problem: The washer won't spin.

Solution: Again, the lid switch, timer, drive belt, transmission, or agitate/spin solenoid could be the cause here as well. Sometimes if the load is unbalanced or too heavy, the washer won't spin. Take some of the clothes out and try the spin cycle again with a lighter load.

washing machine agitator and fabric softener dispenser

Problem: The washer is very noisy.

Solution: Most times it's an unbalanced or too heavy load. The washer may not be balanced. Check with a level and adjust the legs accordingly. Worse case scenarios include a bad transmission or a broken agitator. Here are the steps to replace the agitator.

1: Take the fabric softener dispenser off and pry off the agitator lid.

2: Use a socket wrench with an extension bar to remove the stud and seal.

3: Remove the agitator top and bottom.

4: Check the agitator clutch assembly (located in the agitator top) for excessive wear.

5: To replace, just reverse the directions.

There are many things that can go wrong with a washing machine and this list is just some of the more common ones. Don't forget to have the make and model numbers of your washing machine when heading to the appliance parts shop. Hopefully, you can find your solution here and save yourself a visit from an expensive repairman.

Looking to purchase a new washing machine? Check out our Washing Machines Buyer's Guide.