Repairing a Washing Machine

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Have you ever wondered what the inside of a washing machine looks like? It typically includes a tub and an agitator with various cycles that control the water temperature.

You know it’s laundry day when you’re wearing an eight-year-old shirt that doesn’t match your pants and you’re possibly wearing one black sock and one Navy blue sock. You bring a full hamper to the laundry room and carefully sort the colors from the whites. After cramming as many clothes as possible into the washing machine, adding detergent, and pressing the START button, nothing happens.

It’s frustrating when the machine you rely on the most suddenly stops working. Washing machines are considered the workhorses of household appliances. They are so important that a TED Talk was even given about how they’re the most significant invention of the Industrial Revolution (source: Rosling). When they break, it’s hard to get by without them. Who wants to haul laundry down the street to the laundromat and fight for the privilege of using a strange machine that may not take the gentle cycle seriously?

You have two options: call a repairman or try to fix it yourself. Since washing machines do a lot of things, they may be challenging to diagnose and repair. They are complicated gizmos with unique timing cycles that operate valves, motors that turn water on, spin the tub, drain water, and control the water temperature.

Note: Many newer washers come with electronic diagnostics that can be interpreted from the owner’s manual.

Caution: Before doing any work on a washer, make sure it’s unplugged. Disconnect the grounding wire and the water hoses.

However, diagnosis is possible even for someone who is not a professional. It takes patience and a basic understanding of washing machine mechanics. We’ll explain how to troubleshoot your washing machine and provide quick fixes for common malfunctions in this article.

Keep it Simple: Sometimes the Easiest Answer is the Right One

If these simple operating checks don’t fix the problem, it’s time to get up close and personal with your machine.

As we mentioned, washing machines are complicated. But there are simple steps you can take to diagnose common washer problems.

Is the washer receiving power? The first thing to check for any electrical repair is the hope that it’s as simple as a loose plug, damaged cord, or malfunctioning wall outlet. If all of these are okay, it could be a blown fuse or circuit breaker. Either of these can still be an easy fix. But if the machine is receiving power and still not working, then it’s time to investigate further.

After checking for power, the next thing to examine is the water supply. Knobs may be turned inadvertently, or hoses could become kinked, so a quick inspection of these parts may provide answers. Ensure that both water faucets are turned on, and all hoses are properly extended without kinks. If the washer has a water-saver button, make sure to depress the button.

If there are no issues with power or water supply, the washing machine may not be functioning properly due to the need for cleaning. In the following section, we will discuss how to keep the washing machine clean, as dirty clothes can contribute to a dirty washer.

Washing machines require cleaning just like anything else. A clean washer is a happy washer. It is possible that your laundry may still have a bad odor after a fresh wash because the washer itself is dirty. To clean the washing machine, regularly clean the top and door to prevent dirt and detergent buildup. When washing linty materials, remove the lint from the tub after removing the laundry. Lint buildup can cause water and detergent to circulate improperly, and soap deposits can cause bad odors. To solve this problem, fill the tub with water and add 1/2 cup of baking soda or 3 cups of white vinegar, and run the machine through a complete wash cycle without laundry. If the buildup is severe, wash the inside of the tub with a solution of household ammonia and mild detergent, rinse thoroughly, and wipe the tub with liquid bleach. However, it’s important to rinse the tub thoroughly before wiping it out with bleach to avoid the formation of chloramine, which can cause health issues. Finally, run the machine through a complete wash cycle before adding any more laundry.

If the problem persists, do not worry. In the next section, we will discuss how to disassemble the washer for more thorough repairs. For most repairs and maintenance, the washer cabinet usually requires disassembly, which houses all of the electrical components of the washer. The location of the cabinet varies by manufacturer, but it is typically located on the top of the machine behind the control panel. It may be relatively simple based on the make and model, but it’s important to consult the owner’s manual to disassemble the machine properly. Be sure to disconnect the power cord and water hoses before disassembling the cabinet or tipping it over for service. Removing the control panel is typically the first step and usually requires loosening and/or removing a set of retaining screws. Knobs on the control panel are usually friction-fit and will pull off, while others are held by small setscrews at the base of the knob. Loosen the setscrews with a screwdriver or Allen wrench and pull the knobs straight off the shafts.

Step 2: You need to remove the retaining screws to take off the service panel. Before doing so, ensure that the machine and hoses are drained of water. To access the bottom of the machine, which is typically open and without a service panel, tip the washer over onto its front or side.

Step 3: To remove the top of the cabinet, insert a stiff-bladed putty knife into the joint between the top and side panels and give the knife a sharp tap with your fist. This will release the spring clips, allowing you to remove the top.

Washers can be difficult to repair because they have many control devices, such as switches and timers, that control different functions. However, do not give up yet. In the next section, we will guide you through repairing these slightly more complex parts.

Which Switch to Fix?

Sorry, toaster: You aren’t as complex as your old buddy the washing machine.

Washing machines have complex cycles with multiple settings, which sets them apart from household appliances like toasters that may perform only one or two functions. Here’s how to repair some of the common switches and timers.

Lid Switch

The lid switch on a washer often functions as a safety switch. If it’s not working or if the switch opening in the lid is blocked with detergent, the machine will not run. To check and repair the lid switch:

Step 1: Unplug the machine. You can clear out the lid switch port using a wooden manicure stick or even a chopstick.

Step 2: If cleaning does not help, remove the top of the cabinet to access the switch. With the switch exposed, check to make sure the screws have not become loose. Loose screws can cause the switch to move when the lid is closed or as the machine goes through its cycles. Check the terminals of the switch to make sure they’re tight.

Temperature Selector Switch

This control panel switch regulates the temperature of the water in the tub and plays a role in controlling the fill cycle. If you suspect this switch is faulty, remove it and take it to a professional service person for testing because this requires special equipment.

If there’s a problem with both water temperature and tub filling cycles, both the temperature switch and the timer may be faulty. Procedures for testing the timer can be found on the following page.

Water Level Control Switch

This is another control panel switch, usually located next to the temperature switch. There should be a small hose connected to this switch, which can sometimes become loose and fall off the connection. When this happens, the water in the tub usually overflows. To solve this problem, cut about 1/2 inch off the end of the hose and use a push fit to reconnect it to the switch. A push fit is a simple metal fitting that fastens into place by a row of small teeth that grip the tubing. The switch itself can also malfunction, resulting in tub overflow and other water-level issues in the tub. If you suspect this switch is faulty, remove it by backing out the screws holding it in place and take it to a professional service person for testing.

If your washing machine is still not working, don’t give up just yet. We will discuss why it could be bad timing in the next section. The timer is an important component of the washing machine that controls most of its operations. This includes the water level, tub filling and emptying, length of cycles, and cycle-setting sequences. It is recommended that any repairs to the timer should be done by a professional service person. However, there are some checks you can do yourself if you suspect the timer is faulty. Firstly, unplug the washer and access the timer by removing the control knobs and panel that covers the controls. Examine the wires that connect the timer to the other parts of the washer and push them into position if they are loose or disconnected. To test the timer, use a volt/ohm meter set to the RX1 scale. Disconnect the power leads to the timer and clip one probe of the VOM to each lead. The VOM should read zero if the timer is working. Turn the timer through its cycle and test each pair of terminals in turn. The meter should read zero at all points. If one or more readings are above zero, the timer is faulty and should be replaced. To replace the timer, unscrew and disconnect the old one and install a new one made specifically for the washing machine. Disconnect the old wires one at a time and connect each corresponding new wire to ensure the connections are correct. Check the connections again and screw the timer assembly into place. Hang in there, we’re almost done!

Rub-a-Dub-Dub: Maintaining Your Bathtub and Valves

If the water inlet valves are not working properly, your washer may not fill, overfill, or fill with water at the wrong temperature. To check for faulty inlet valves, first make sure the water faucets are fully turned on and connected to the valves. If the valve screens are clogged, clean or replace them. If the problem persists, set the temperature control to the HOT or WARM setting to test the hot-water and cold-water inlet valves, respectively. If the tub overfills, unplug the washer and replace the valves.

To check the valve assembly, remove the back service panel, disconnect the hoses and wires, and remove the screws holding the valves to the machine. Tap the solenoids gently with a screwdriver handle. If tapping doesn’t work, replace the entire inlet valve assembly.

If your laundry is torn during the wash cycle, check the tub for rough spots. Smooth them out with an emery board or sandpaper. If this doesn’t work, replace the tub or the entire washer.

In the next section, we’ll tackle even more complicated mechanical issues.

Fix Your Agitator: A Guide

To replace a damaged agitator, unscrew the cap on top and pull straight up. Pinching off splinters with pliers and filing the plastic smooth may temporarily solve the problem, but the agitator should be replaced. Drive wedges under the bottom rim of the agitator if it won’t lift off. Then, set the new agitator in place and replace the cap. A damaged snubber or suspension unit can also cause excessive vibration. Check the snubber under the agitator cap and replace the entire snubber if necessary. Look for snubbers at the top of the tub, under the transmission, or as part of the water-pump housing. If the machine doesn’t have a snubber, check the suspension unit between the tub and the machine cabinet for noise. Tighten or replace the basket support nut if necessary. Sudden tub stops can be caused by poor loading or a broken motor belt. Remove the basket or agitator to remove laundry easily.

Next, let’s troubleshoot water leaks.

Troubleshooting Water Leaks

Water leaks in a washer can be caused by loose connections, broken hoses or components, defective seals, or a hole in the tub. Tightening water connections can often solve the problem. Check the lid seal, hoses at faucet and water valve connections, drain hoses, inlet nozzles, and plastic valves. Tighten connections or replace parts as needed. If a hole in the tub is the problem, it’s best to replace the washer.

Step 8: Ensure that the outlet hose for draining is properly connected or replace it if necessary.

Step 9: Follow the procedures on the next page to examine the water pump.

With the most probable causes of water leakage now checked, it is safe to assume that they are not the problem. The next few pages will provide tips on servicing the water pump, motor, belts, and pulleys.

Pump Problems: Servicing the Water Pump

Take apart the water pump and remove all debris from inside the pump and water tubes.

Out of all the parts of a washing machine, the water pump endures the most wear and tear as it is constantly in use. When the pump fails, you will either hear or see the issue: a loud rumbling sound inside the machine or an inability to drain water from the tub. To solve the problem, follow these steps:

Step 1: Check the drain hoses to ensure proper drainage. Detach the water supply hoses from the back of the washer and extract the filter screens from the valve ports using long-nosed pliers. These screens prevent debris from collecting in the hoses and can become clogged. Thoroughly clean the screens, replace them, and reattach the hoses. If the machine still rumbles or does not drain, check the pump.

Step 2: Before accessing the pump, remove any water from the machine’s tub by bailing and sponging it out. Then, using a heavy blanket or pad to protect the washer’s finish, tip the washer over onto its front. Remove the back service panel. The pump is usually located at the bottom of the machine, but it is easier to remove the pump from the back when the unit is tipped over than from the bottom of the washer.

Step 3: Identify the pump, which has two large hoses attached to it with spring or strap clips. If the clips are of the spring type, use pliers to pinch the ends of the clips together, slide the clips down the hoses, and detach them. If these connections have kinks or crimps, straighten them and reconnect them. Test the machine again to see if this was the problem. If the machine still does not drain, remove the water pump.

Step 4: Loosen the bolt that holds the drive belt taut and move the washer motor on its bracket to loosen the belt. Move the motor out of the way and unbolt the pump. As you loosen the last mounting bolt, support the pump with your hand. Then, lift the pump out of the washer.

Step 5: If possible, disassemble the pump to look for any lint, dirt, or fabric pieces. Remove all debris from inside the pump and water tubes. Reassemble and reconnect the pump, and test it. If cleaning the pump does not fix the issue, or if the pump housing cannot be removed, replace the pump with the same type.

Step 6: Place the new pump in position and connect the mounting bolts to the pump housing. Move the motor back to its original position. Tighten the drive belt by pulling it tightly with a hammer handle or pry bar, so that it gives about 1/2 inch when pressed at the center point between the two pulleys.

Step 7: Reconnect the hoses leading to the pump.

If the pump is not the issue, there may be other mechanical problems. If the belts and pulleys are the problem, find out how to fix them on the next page.

Belts and Pulleys and Motors, Oh My!

The drive belt of a washing machine may become worn or damaged, and can cause noisy operation or even stop the washer completely. Fortunately, a damaged drive belt can be easily replaced. To remove it, follow these steps:

Step 1: Loosen the bolt on the motor bracket and move the motor to loosen the belt. The motor bracket is a simple metal brace that holds the motor housing in place.

Step 2: Remove the old belt and replace it with a new one, stretching it into place on the pulleys.

Step 3: To put tension on the new belt, use a hammer handle or pry bar to push the motor into position while tightening the bolt in the adjustable bracket. The belt should have about 1/2 inch deflection when pressed at the center point between the pulleys. If the belt is too loose, it will slip, causing the machine to malfunction. If it’s too tight, it will wear quickly and may start to smoke or smell.

Loose pulleys can also cause problems. Most pulleys are fastened to shafts with setscrews around the hub. These screws must be tight, or the pulley or belt will slip, causing the machine to malfunction. Check the belts and pulleys before working on the motor.

In most cases, motor malfunctions should be handled by a professional. Do not try to fix the motor yourself. However, if the motor is a universal model, you can change worn carbon brushes when sparking occurs. To save money, remove the motor from the washer and take it to a professional service person, then reinstall the repaired or new motor yourself. The motor is mounted on an adjustable bracket, which can be accessed by removing the back panel of the washer.

Washing machines are complicated appliances with many moving parts. However, they typically last around 12 years. With the troubleshooting tips in this article, you should be able to extend the life of your machine and keep your laundry clean for years to come.

Additional Information

Related Articles

  • Instructions for Fixing Large Appliances
  • Should I Replace or Repair My Washing Machine?

More Useful Links

  • Consumer Reports
  • Energy Star
  • Washing Machine Museum


  • “Tips for Maintaining Appliances and Predicting Their Lifespan.” March 27, 2008.
  • Carter, Maureen. “Keeping Your Washing Machine Clean.” DIY Life. July 25, 2007.
  • Citizens Concerned About Chloramine. “Facts about Chloramine.” Sept. 11, 2006.
  • Consumer Manual. “How to Repair Leaks in Your Washing Machine.”
  • Kenmore. “Product Catalog.”
  • Repair Clinic. “Parts for Washing Machines.”
  • Rosling, Hans. TED Talks “Hans Rosling and The Magic Washing Machine.” March 2011
  • Williams, Martyn. PC World. “Surf Among the Suds with Web-Enabled Washing Machines.” Oct. 17, 2000


1. What are some common problems that can occur with a washing machine?

Some common problems with washing machines include not spinning, not draining water, leaks, and excessive noise. These issues can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a faulty motor, a clogged drain hose, or a damaged water inlet valve.

2. How do I diagnose the problem with my washing machine?

You can diagnose the problem with your washing machine by checking for any visible signs of damage or wear, such as leaks or broken parts. You can also test the components of your washing machine, such as the motor and water inlet valve, with a multimeter to see if they are functioning properly.

3. Can I repair my washing machine myself?

If you have experience with appliance repair and the necessary tools, you may be able to repair your washing machine yourself. However, it’s important to remember that washing machines are complex appliances and attempting to repair them without proper knowledge and training can be dangerous.

4. Should I replace my washing machine instead of repairing it?

If your washing machine is old and has frequent problems, it may be more cost-effective to replace it instead of repairing it. However, if your washing machine is relatively new and has a simple problem that can be easily fixed, repairing it may be the better option.

5. How do I replace a damaged washing machine part?

To replace a damaged washing machine part, you will need to first identify the part that needs to be replaced. Then, you can order a replacement part online or from a local appliance repair shop. Once you have the replacement part, you can follow the instructions in your washing machine’s manual to replace the damaged part.

6. How do I prevent future problems with my washing machine?

To prevent future problems with your washing machine, you should perform regular maintenance tasks such as cleaning the lint filter and checking for leaks. You should also avoid overloading your washing machine and using too much detergent.

7. How often should I clean my washing machine?

You should clean your washing machine at least once every six months to prevent buildup of detergent and other debris. You can clean your washing machine by running a cycle with hot water and vinegar, or by using a specialized washing machine cleaner.

8. How do I level my washing machine?

To level your washing machine, you will need to adjust the feet on the bottom of the machine. Use a level to check the machine’s balance, and adjust the feet until the machine is level. This will prevent the machine from shaking or vibrating excessively during operation.

9. How do I fix a washing machine that won’t spin?

If your washing machine won’t spin, the problem may be caused by a damaged motor, belt, or lid switch. You can test these components with a multimeter, and replace any parts that are not functioning properly.

10. How do I fix a washing machine that won’t drain?

If your washing machine won’t drain, the problem may be caused by a clogged drain hose or pump. You can check these components for blockages and remove any debris. You may also need to replace the drain pump if it is damaged.

11. How do I fix a washing machine that is leaking water?

If your washing machine is leaking water, the problem may be caused by a damaged water inlet valve or hose. You can check these components for cracks or other damage, and replace any parts that are not functioning properly.

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