Washing Machine Troubleshooting for Common Problems

Washing machine troubleshooting can save you money. When you call a repairman, you're paying an hourly rate to have him poke around and figure out what's wrong. Add in a trip for parts and the time to install them, and you're out a couple hundred dollars.

With a $20 voltage/ohm meter (VOM) from the hardware store, you can handle most of a washing machine's troubleshooting yourself, and maybe even repair the problem. At the very least, you can tell the repairman exactly what's wrong and what parts you need.

Be sure to unplug the washing machine before opening any panels or performing any tests. Testing while the machine is plugged in could cause electrocution.

Machine Will Not Run
First, check the power. Make sure the machine is plugged in; if it is plugged in, check the breaker.

  • Lid Switch: Open the control panel and look for the harness plug that feeds the lid switch. Disconnect the harness plug. With your VOM set to RX1, probe the terminals on the wires leading to the lid switch. Of the three wires on the terminals, two are green one is not. Probe the two wires that are not green. The reading should be infinity with the lid open. With the lid closed, it should be zero. If you do not get those readings, the switch is bad.
  • Timer: Take the leads off the timer. Set your VOM to RX100 and probe the leads. A normal reading is 1,100 to 3,000 ohms. Anything other then that reading means you need to replace the timer.

Machine Will Not Fill
If your machine won't fill, you first need to check the hose(s) that brings water into the machine. It may be clogged or have a kink in it. A faulty lid switch or timer will also prevent the machine from filling.

The water-level switch could also be the problem. The water-level switch is located in the control panel. It is generally the switch with a clear tube attached to it. Using the VOM set to RX1, probe the three terminals by testing all the optional pairings. You should get a zero reading on one pair and an infinity reading on all the others.

Machine Will Not Drain
This indicates a clog somewhere in the drainage system. Start by checking the drainage hoses for clogs or kinks. If they're clear, the problem is likely a clogged pump.

To check the pump, look on the side of the motor. You will see the pump with the drainage tube attached to it. Using a screwdriver, you need to pop off the retaining clips holding the pump to the motor shaft. Check the pump for blockage.

A bad drive belt will also prevent drainage. If the belt is loose, you will need to tighten it. First, loosen 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. A broken belt must be replaced.

Leaks
If your machine is leaking, check all the hoses. Next, check the pump and the hose fittings. Look for signs of corrosion or wear, and replace the worn parts.

Machine Will Not Agitate
Most often, this is caused by something wrapped around or stuck beneath the agitator. Lift it slightly and try to remove the blockage. Getting rid of the block should solve the problem.

There are other potential causes, such as a bad transmission or bad agitate/spin solenoid. Getting at these parts is very involved, so if you can't find something blocking the agitator, it's best to call a repairman.

Machine Will Not Spin
It may simply be that the load is unbalanced. Try removing some of the clothes and resetting the spin cycle. A broken belt could also keep the basket from spinning. Check the belt, which is usually beneath the basket, to see if it's intact.

Other potential causes are failures in the lid switch, timer, transmission or agitate/spin solenoid. 

Machine Is Noisy
This happens with very heavy loads or a load that is unbalanced. Take some clothes out and restart the machine. Occasionally, a bad transmission or a broken agitator will cause excessive noise.

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