Washing machines have a lot of moving parts, which means there are a lot of things that can potentially go wrong. Having a basic understanding of how your washing machine works, and its various parts will make it much easier to diagnose and fix problems. In this blog post, we will primarily be focusing on top loading style washing machines.
The Parts of a Top Load Washing Machine
Water Inlet Valve
The water inlet valve controls how much water is brought into the machine by the hose. This valve opens by circuit board/timer automatically once you have loaded your clothes into the washing machine, and then closes automatically once your machine has determined how much water is required for this particular load of laundry.
The hose connectors are exactly what they sound like: They connect the water hoses to your machine. The hoses bring clean water in when you start a load and remove the dirty water when the machine is finished.
The drain pipe allows your washing machine to remove dirty water once your clothes are finished being cleaned.
PCB (Printed Circuit Board)
The PCB contains all of the various circuits and electronic components that tell your washing machine what needs to be done. The PCB also tracks things like how many clothes you load into the machine, and how dirty they are so that it can adjust the various settings accordingly. Once the PCB has weighed your clothes and determined how much water and detergent is required it will also calculate how long the washing, rinsing, and spinning cycles should be in order to ensure your clothes are properly cleaned.
Your water pump is responsible for cycling the water through your washing machine while you are cleaning your clothes. During the wash cycle the pump re-circulates water, and during the spin cycle, it helps drain the water.
Top loading washing machines are equipped with an agitator or rotating disk. This part is important because it does most of the work required to clean your clothes. During the wash cycle, your agitator produces strong currents by rotating constantly, causing your clothes to spin inside the tub. When your clothes spin the water and detergent are better able to move through them, gently removing dirt and other particles from the fabric. This, combined with the rubbing action as your clothes churn together, ensures that your clothes are cleaned thoroughly.
The inner tub is responsible for holding your clothes during the washing, rinsing, and drying processes. It is equipped with small holes, which allow water to drain away during the drying process.
The outer tub surrounds the thinner inner tub, and supports it during the washing, rinsing, and drying cycles.
The motor drives the agitator during the washing, rinsing, and drying cycles. Most washing machines use multi-speed motors since different cycles require that the agitator rotate at different speeds. Most modern washing machines are fully automatic, which means the motor changes speeds automatically depending on what type of load you select.
The control panel lets you select your various washing settings, such as delicates or a heavy duty cycle.
Non-automatic washing machines rely on timers to decide how long they should be washing your clothes. New washing machines tend to employ pre-set cycles (such as heavy duty, or delicates) that dictate the length of the wash cycle. However, some older models may still rely on timers that you need to set manually before your load of laundry begins.
Common Problems and Their Solutions
My Washing Machine Won’t Turn On
Washing machines may not turn on for a variety of reasons such as power problems, motor problems, or problems with the lid switch or timer knob.
Power Problems: First, check to make sure you haven’t accidentally tripped a breaker. If all of your breakers are good you should then check if the problem lies with the particular outlet you are using. You can do this either using a multimeter or by unplugging your washing machine and testing the outlet with another electronic device such as a phone charger or a nightlight. If your outlet is the issue you will need to contact a qualified electrician.
Motor Problems: Washing machines are designed so that if the motor overheats they shut down automatically, giving the machine time to safely cool off before you can start it again. If your motor only overheats occasionally simply hold off on starting another load of laundry until the motor has had a chance to cool off. However, if your motor frequently overheats you should call in a professional before using the machine again, since it may constitute a fire hazard.
Lid Switch Problems: If the outlet is working fine your next course of action should be to investigate your washing machine itself. Washing machines are designed with a safety feature that stops the cycle if the lid is opened. This is controlled by the lid switch, which is a small piece of plastic located under the lid of your washing machine and activates when the lid is shut. Check the lid switch for damage, and make sure it is positioned properly.
Timer Knob Problems: The final culprit may be the timer knob. Especially on older models that use knobs instead of buttons, the timer knob must be lined up exactly with the graphics on the control panel. However, general wear and tear can cause the knob to fall out of alignment, making it tricky to get it positioned properly. You can test the alignment of your timer knob by trying it in slightly different positions and restarting the washing machine.
My Washing Machine is Leaking
Washing machines have a lot of parts that work together to keep water inside the machine, so when a washing machine begins to leak there are a lot of potential culprits to blame. Check to make sure that your hoses, water inlet valve, drain pump, and tub are all in good working order and have no visible damage. For front-loading style washing machines you should also check the door seal. If your door seal is the culprit you may simply need to give it a good cleaning.
Your Door Seal is Dirty: Door seals typically leak when debris is allowed to build up around them, preventing the door from sealing properly.
Your Hoses Are Leaking: Make sure your hoses are securely in place, but that they have not been overtightened. You should also check the condition of the rubber washer on each of your hoses, and replace them if they appear to be cracked or worn.
Your Water Inlet Valve Needs Attention: If your water inlet valve has become rusted, or accumulated a buildup of mineral deposits, it may not be closing properly. However, even if there is no visible damage the water inlet valve may still be the culprit. Faulty valves may not be closing or sealing properly, and should be replaced.
Your Drain Pump Seal is Damaged: Drain pumps are often equipped with weep holes, which allow water to drip out of your washing machine if the seal around the pump begins to fail. Even a small amount of water by your drain pump may indicate that it is time to rebuild or replace the pump.
Your Tub is Cracked: Unfortunately, the only way to stop a washing machine tub from leaking is to replace it. This task can be quite difficult, so it is best left up to the professionals.
My Washing Machine Won’t Dispense Detergent
If your detergent dispenser is dirty, or you aren’t using the right product for your machine, your machine may not be able to properly dispense the detergent it needs to clean your clothes.
You Aren’t Using the Right Product: Powdered and liquid detergents and bleaches are not interchangeable, so it is important that you select the right type of product for your washing machine. If you are unsure what type of product to use (liquid or powder) you can consult your owners manual.
The Dispenser is Dirty: You should be cleaning your detergent dispenser at least once per month. To clean your dispenser simply pour a cup of warm white distilled vinegar into the dispenser and run your washing machine on a regular cycle. This should break up any clogs or residue and flush them out.
My Washing Machine Leaves Residue On My Clothes
Washing machines leave residue on our clothes for a variety of reasons, but the likely culprits include:
Using Too Much Detergent or Fabric Softener: When it comes to washing our clothes more is not usually better. If you add too much fabric softener or detergent to your laundry your machine may not be able to dissolve all of it during the washing cycle. Check your owner’s manual to determine how much detergent and fabric softener you should be using. You should never add detergent directly to dry clothes.
Using Powdered Detergent Incorrectly: If you use powdered detergent you need to take extra steps to ensure it is dissolving properly. Powdered detergent doesn’t dissolve as well in cold water, so if you typically use cold water to wash your clothes you should dissolve your powdered detergent in a cup of warm water before you add it to your washing machine. You should also never pour detergent directly onto your dry clothes. Instead, you should add your detergent to the empty washer drum first, and then place your clothes on top so that the powder can disperse evenly.
Using Single Dose Packet Detergent Incorrectly: Just like with powdered detergents you can’t simply throw your packet on top of your laundry. In order to make sure your detergent packet can dissolve properly place it inside the washer drum first and then add your clothes.
Overloading Your Washing Machine: Washing a full load of laundry is a good way to save both money and time. However, if your load is too big there isn’t enough room for your dirt and other residues to properly drain away with the dirty water. How you load your washing machine does affect how well your clothes are cleaned.
Your Water Pump is Clogged or Failing: If your washing machine is unable to drain in a timely manner it may be leaving undissolved detergent, dirt, and lint on your clothing. Where your water pump is located depends on which style of washing machine you have. Most new washing machines have a small door near the bottom of the washing machine that allows you to access your water pump. However, to access the water pump on an older machine you will likely have to go in through the back of your machine. Once you have located the water pump check to make sure there isn’t any lint, buttons, coins, or other debris impeding water flow. If your filter is clear but your washing machine is still not draining properly it may be a sign that the pump itself is failing and should be replaced.
Your Washing Machine is Dirty: Dirty washing machines can leave all sorts of residue on our clothing. You should consult your owner’s manual to determine how to clean your particular style of washing machine and make sure you clean your washing machine at least once per month.
To remove residue from your clothing simply run them through your washing machine again using the hottest water you can use without damaging the fabric. Instead of adding more detergent and softener add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the wash cycle.
My Washing Machine Will Not Spin
Washing machines may not be spinning for a variety of reasons including too heavy loads, or problems with your drain pump, belts, or motor.
Your Load is Too Heavy: If your load is too heavy your washing machine may become unbalanced and be unable to spin properly. This problem may also occur if your clothes are not evenly distributed in the drum. Simply reposition your clothes in the basket, or remove a few items to lighten your load.
Your Belt is Worn Out: Washing machine require a belt to keep it running, but over the time these can become worn, damaged, or broken. You should check your belt regularly and replace it when appears worn. If your belt breaks on you should also check the pulley it was attached to. When a pulley seizes it can cause the belt to break. If you replace the belt but don’t check the pulley you will find yourself in the same situation again soon.
Your Motor Needs Attention: The main drive motor in your washing machine is responsible for spinning and agitating the tub. The washing machine motor uses a clutch to regulate how fast the tub spins. You should check your motor regularly for wear and tear and replace parts as necessary. However, depending on the severity of the problem and what part is to blame you may want to call in a professional for help.
My Washing Machine Smells Funny
A smelly washing machine is usually a dirty washing machine. Washing machines need to be cleaned regularly, or they may begin to harbour salmonella and other germs. Before cleaning your machine you should consult your user’s manual for specific cleaning instructions. However, many modern machines actually have a special cleaning cycle. You should be cleaning your washing machine at least once per month, but if you wash a lot of particularly dirty laundry you may want to consider cleaning it more frequently.
My Washing Machine is Shaking or Moving
An unleveled machine or an unbalanced load can all cause your washing machine to move or shake.
Your Machine Isn’t Leveled: If the floor beneath your washing machine is not level, or your machine’s feet have not been adjusted properly, then your washing machine is much more likely to jump around. To fix this problem you can either adjust the feet underneath your washing machine to compensate or use shims to prop the machine up so that it is level.
Your Load is Unbalanced: An unbalanced load can cause your machine to shake or move. How you load your washing machine has an impact on how well it is able to clean your clothes, so it is important to load your washing machine correctly.
My Washing Machine is Noisy
A noisy washing machine usually means that either your drain line is clogged or there is something stuck in your pump or drain. Also, one of the cause of incorrect sound coming up from the washing machine is the broken gearcase.
Your Drain Line is Clogged: A gurgling noise may indicate that there is something stuck in your drain line that is impeding water flow without fully obstructing it. You should remove the blockage as soon as possible so your drain line doesn’t become fully clogged and cause a flood.
There is Something Stuck in Your Drain or Pump: A clicking, buzzing, or humming noise may indicate that there is a foreign object stuck in your washer drain or pump. Loose items such as loose buttons and coins can cause your pump to jam, which can cause more serious (and expensive problems later). Check both your drain and your pump and remove any foreign objects that you find there.
My Washing Machine Isn’t Draining Properly
If your washing machine isn’t draining properly it may mean that you are either using too much detergent or your pump or drain hose is clogged.
Your Drain Hose or Pump is Clogged: Draining issues can usually be traced back to a clog in your drain hose or pump. Inspect both of these items thoroughly and remove any clogs.
You Are Using Too Much Detergent: If you use too much detergent you will be left with way too many suds, which in turn prevents the washer from draining properly. To determine how much detergent you should be using you should consult your owner’s manual.
My Washing Machine Stops Part Way Through Cycles
Your Timer Is Defective: If your washer keeps running even after the cycle should have finished the most likely culprit is your timer. To inspect your timer you should remove the control panel and look for any signs of corrosion or scorching around the timer. If the timer is defective it will need to be replaced.
Though there are a few things that you can do on your own to repair your washing machine and extend its life there are some things that should be left up to the professionals (like us!). If you aren’t comfortable repairing or performing maintenance on your washing machine you should call in an expert instead of trying to fix the problem yourself. A poorly repaired washing machine can turn a relatively minor problem into a big problem and may end up leaving you with a costly repair bill.