Troubleshooting a Washing Machine That Won't Start

A laundry room with a washer and dryer side-by-side.
  • 1-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Flat screwdriver
What You'll Need
Flat screwdriver

One issue you’ll have to deal with when troubleshooting washing machine problems is that the washer simply won’t start. This can be very frustrating, especially if you have a load of clothes waiting to be washed. In most instances, you should be able to solve the problem easily without having to call in the plumber and spending a lot of money.


If your washing machine won’t start, begin by looking at the power source. First of all, is the washer plugged in? If it is, has it tripped a circuit breaker or blown a fuse? Check and reset the breaker (or replace the fuse) if necessary, then try to start the machine again. Also make sure the door is properly closed. Washing machines will not start when the door is still ajar.

Lid Switch in a Top Load Washer

lid open on a top-loading washing machine

The main control for the washing machine is the switch activated when the lid is closed. It is located right underneath the top panel and is activated by a small lever extending through a special opening in the top panel when the lid is closed. If it is defective for some reason, your washer won’t start.

It’s not especially difficult to troubleshoot this, however, you might have to open the top to access the lid switch. With the power on, depress the switch and listen for a click. If you don’t hear one, the switch has gone and will need to be replaced.

If you do hear the click, investigate further by disconnecting one side of the switch and measuring across both switch terminals for continuity. This can be done with an ohmmeter or a multimeter set on Ohms (Ω).

If the lid switch works but the washing machine still won’t start, check to see if your washing machine has a special fuse inside the control panel for it. If the fuse is blown, replace it and try the washer to see if it works.

Door Interlock in a Front Load Washer

The problem could be with the door interlock. If the lights come on but the machine won’t start, this will probably be the cause. This could either be the wiring that runs to the door interlock, or the door catch not activating the interlock itself. In this instance, you will need to call in a technician to trace and repair the fault.

Water Level Switch

A common source of the problem could be a defective water level switch. As the washer fills to its proper level, the pressure from the water inside the tub is transmitted to the water level switch through a small hose to trigger the fill valve off and at the same time activates the motor.

If this is the case, it would be caused by burnt contacts inside the switch itself and not mechanical. In this case, again, a technician may be required to replace the control.

Timer Knob

washing machine

Some models of washing machine use a mechanical timer knob and won’t run until the water in the machine has filled to the selected level. If the knob doesn’t line up properly with the graphics on the control panel, you can try to troubleshoot the washing machine problem by advancing the timer a little.

When you’ve done this, pull it out a little way and see if the washer will start properly. If it does, that control should be replaced.


If you’ve run several loads, one after another, without any problem but suddenly find your washing machine refuses to start, overheating could be the cause. The simple way to discover whether this is the problem is to give the machine ample time to cool down, say for a couple of hours, and then try it again.

If it works fine, overheating was the case and it should not reoccur as long as you don’t do too many loads in too short of a time.

It is not normal, however, for the washer to behave this way. There is a cause to the overheating problem and it is bound to keep getting worse. So it is best at this time to seek the opinion of a technician.