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Top-Loading Washing Machine DIY Troubleshooting and Repair Guide

by 411 on Jan 10, 2020

What Is Wrong With Your Washing Machine?

Some problems that can occur with your top-loading washing machines are:

Note: If your repair problem isn't listed, click here to email or chat with a repair expert.

It doesn't work at all

If your clothes washer doesn't seem to work at all, check these:

No power

Check to see whether power is getting to the washing machine. Is it plugged in? Has a fuse blown or is a circuit breaker tripped?

Lid switch

If the lid switch is defective, your washer can't spin and may not function at all. The switch is inside the washing machine main housing near the door frame. Often you have to raise or open the top or front of the washer to get to the switch. If it's defective, you need to replace it.

Some machines have a special lid-switch fuse near the lid switch, inside the control panel. If this fuse blows, the unit won't fill with water until you replace the fuse.

It won't drain

If your washer won't drain, check these:

It spins, but doesn't pump

If your washer spins but doesn't pump the water out, the drain line is probably clogged. In many washers, a small sock or other piece of clothing can get between the clothes tub and the outer tub that holds the water. If the clothing gets between the tubs, it may then get into the drain hose that's attached to the pump--or even into the pump itself. If it's in the pump, you need to remove the hoses from the pump and pull the item out.

To remove the sock from the outer tub port, open the washer's main access panel and remove the large-diameter rubber hose that connects the pump to the bottom of the outer tub. Then, using needle-nose pliers, try to grab and remove the clothing through the port.

Sometimes you can't remove the stuck clothing from below. Then you have to remove the agitator, top of the outer drum shield, and inner clothes tub. This isn't easy to do--and you may need special tools--so you might be happier getting a qualified appliance repair technician to do the job.

If the drain line isn't plugged, the problem may be with your pump. Even if the pump appears to be turning, the internal impeller may be broken. If so, you need to replace the pump.

It doesn't spin or pump

If your washer doesn't spin or pump water out but the motor is running, your washer probably has a frozen pump pulley. If so, you need to replace the pump. To check the pulley, remove the pump from the washer and try to rotate the pulley manually. If it doesn't turn freely--if it's frozen or stiff--replace it.

It pumps, but the water returns

If the water that pumps out of the machine goes back into the machine after the spin cycle, your washer may be siphoning the water from a laundry tub that has a slow drain, back into the washer. The usual remedy for this is to improve the draining of the laundry tub. (Is something stuck in the drain?) Also, check for these problems:

  • If the drain hose reaches more than about 4 inches into the laundry tub, cut off the excess.
  • If your drain hose is lower than the washer's cabinet, install an air gap/siphon break assembly.

It doesn't spin

If your washer won't spin, check these:

It doesn't pump or spin

If it doesn't pump water out or spin, check to see if the motor is running, then proceed as follows:

  • If the motor is running, your washer probably has a frozen pump pulley or a broken pump belt. To check the pulley, remove the pump from the washer and try to rotate the pulley manually. If it doesn't turn freely--if it's frozen or stiff--replace it. If the pump belt is broken or looks quite worn, replace it--but be sure to check the pump pulley before you change the belt.
  • If the motor isn't running, the lid switch may be defective. If so, the washing machine can't spin and may not function at all. The switch is inside the washing machine main housing near the door frame. Often you have to raise or open the top or front of the washing machine to get to the switch. If it's defective, you need to replace it.

It pumps, but doesn't spin

If your washer pumps out the water but doesn't spin, check these:

  • The lid switch may be defective. If it is, the washing machine doesn't spin. The switch is inside the washing machine main housing near the door frame. Often you have to raise or open the top or front of the washing machine to get to the switch. If it's defective, you need to replace it.
  • The motor coupler may be broken. Many Whirlpool®-manufactured washers use a small, relatively inexpensive motor coupling. It's plastic and rubber and is mounted to the shaft of the motor on one side, and to the transmission on the other. Over time, the coupler wears out and fails. You may need to replace it.
  • A belt may be broken. Many washing machines have one or two belts. If a belt is broken or badly worn, you need to replace it with a genuine belt from the manufacturer. (Some washing machine belts are designed with special characteristics not found in automotive belts.)
  • The clutch may be worn. If your washer is a GE, it may use a clutch to come up to the proper spin speed. As the clutch wears out, it may prevent the unit from spinning well or at all. If the clutch is worn, you need to replace it. For this job, you probably want to hire a qualified appliance repair technician.
  • The drive motor may be defective. Many washer brands use a reversing motor. For agitation the motor runs in one direction, for spinning and draining, the other. It's possible for a motor to burn out in one direction and continue to operate in the other. If this happens, you need to replace the entire motor.
  • The transmission may not be shifting properly. Older washers produced by Whirlpool® have a transmission with an electro-mechanical shifter. If the shifter becomes even partially defective, the unit may drain the water but not spin. This is a complex system, if your washer has a shifter problem, you may want to hire a qualified appliance repair technician to repair it.
  • The spin bearing or basket drive may be worn or seized. These components allow the inner tub to spin freely inside the outer tub. When this is the problem, you usually hear a loud sound during the spin cycle. Call a qualified appliance repair technician.

It spins only with the lid closed

For safety, washing machines are made so that they spin only with the lid closed. The lid switch prevents the spinning action when the lid is up.

It doesn't agitate

If your washer doesn't agitate, check these:

Lid switch

If the lid switch is defective, the washing machine may not agitate or function at all. The switch is inside the washing machine main housing near the door frame. Often you have to raise or open the top or front of the washing machine to get to the switch. If it's defective, you need to replace it.

Motor coupler

Many washers produced by Whirlpool® use a small, relatively inexpensive motor coupling. It's plastic and rubber and is mounted to the shaft of the motor on one side, and to the transmission on the other. Over time, the coupler wears out and fails. If this happens, you need to completely replace it.

Belts

Many washing machines have one or two belts. If a belt is broken or badly worn, you need to replace it with a genuine belt from the manufacturer. (Some washing machine belts are designed with special characteristics not found in automotive belts.)

Clutch

If your washer was made by GE®, it may use a clutch for agitating the clothes. As the clutch wears out, it may prevent the washer from agitating well or at all. If the clutch is worn, you need to replace it. For this job, you probably want to hire a qualified appliance repair technician.

Drive motor

Many washer brands use a reversing motor. For agitation the motor runs in one direction, for spinning and draining, the other. It's possible for a motor to burn out in one direction and continue to operate in the other. If this happens, you need to replace the entire motor.

Drive pulleys

The motor or transmission drive pulley may be worn and unable to turn the drive belt. If so, replace the pulley.

Transmission

The transmission could have either of these problems:

  • Older washers produced by Whirlpool® have a transmission with an electro-mechanical shifter. If the shifter becomes even partially defective, the unit may not agitate properly or at all.
  • The transmission may have a worn or broken gear, or some other internal problem.

If you suspect a transmission problem, you may have to call a qualified appliance repair technician to repair it.

Agitator

The inside of the agitator--where the transmission shaft attaches--can become worn, and strip out the spline that allows the agitator to properly grip the shaft. Then the transmission shaft rotates back and forth as it should, but the agitator doesn't move properly. If this happens, you may need to replace the agitator and/or the transmission spline.

It's noisy

Most noises from a washing machine occur during the spin cycle. If you hear loud thumping during the spin, the load of clothes may have become unbalanced. Stop the washer and redistribute the clothes, then re-start it. Repeat these steps if necessary.

It leaks

Your washer can develop several types of leaks. You can track down a leak based on when it occurs:

During fill only

If the washer leaks only during the fill cycle, check these:

  • Air-gap device -The air gap is a small device found on most washers that prevents the wash water from being siphoned into the household water supply. It's located either mid-way along or at the end of the black rubber hose that comes from the water-inlet valve. Often it's made of translucent plastic. If one of the air-gap components deforms or cracks, you may need to replace it.
  • The tube -There's a rubber tube that runs between the water-inlet valve and either the air-gap or the inlet spout. If it cracks or breaks, it can cause a leak.
  • Inlet spout -Most washers have a plastic spout near the top of the main clothes tub that directs the water into the tub. If the spout cracks or breaks free of its mounting, it can cause a leak.

During drain and spin only

A washer that leaks only during the spin cycle often has a leak in the main drain hose. Inspect the entire hose and correct any problem you find. Alternatively, the steel or plastic outer tubs can rust, split, or be punctured. This may be most visible during large loads and high water levels. If this happens, you may have to replace the entire outer tub--but that may not be an economical repair to make. Consult a qualified appliance repair technician for further details.

All the time

If the washer leaks all the time, check these:

  • Hot and cold water fill hoses - Check the hot and cold water hoses from the household plumbing. If either hose is leaking, tighten it or replace it, as appropriate.
  • Main tub seal - The main tub seal is located between the transmission and the outer tub. It's the primary water seal in the outer tub for the transmission-shaft entry point. If this seal leaks, you can see the leak by opening up the machine's main access panel while the machine is full of water with a small amount of detergent in it. The leak appears at the underside of the outer tub, at or near the center. This seal is difficult to replace. You probably should call a qualified appliance repair technician.
  • Pump - If the pump leaks, you can probably spot the leak when the tub is full of water. The pump has two or more black rubber or plastic hoses attached to it and usually has a drive belt that spins the pump. If the pump is leaking, you need to replace it.
  • Outer tub - Over time, the steel or plastic outer tubs can rust, split, or be punctured. If this happens, you may have to replace the entire outer tub--but that may not be an economical repair to make. Consult a qualified appliance repair technician for further details.

It's off balance

If there's a loud thumping noise during the spin cycle, the load of clothes has probably gotten unbalanced. Open the lid, redistribute the clothes in the washer, then re-start it. Repeat these steps if necessary.

There's no hot water

Some washing machines allow hot water to enter only during certain cycles. Others intermittently allow hot and cold to enter, to temper the temperature of the water. Consult your owner's manual if you are unsure about whether the machine is acting abnormally.

If you're sure the machine isn't working the way it used to--or should--try these tests:

  • Is the hot water turned on? If not, turn it on.
  • Is the washer getting cold water but no hot water? If so, check to see if the control panel settings are correct.
  • Is there hot water coming through the proper hose? If not, check to see if the screen inside the water-inlet valve is clean. (The water-inlet valve is the device on the washing machine that the fill hoses are attached to.) If it's clean, you probably have a defective water-inlet valve. If so, completely replace it.

There's no cold water

Some washing machines allow cold water to enter only during certain cycles. Others intermittently allow hot and cold to enter, to temper the temperature of the water. Consult your owner's manual if you are unsure about whether the machine is acting abnormally.

If you're sure the machine is not working the way it used to--or should--check the following.

  • Is the cold water turned on? If not, turn it on.
  • Is the washer getting hot water but no cold water? If so, check to see if the control panel settings are correct.
  • Is there cold water coming through the proper hose? If not, check to see if the screen inside the water-inlet valve is clean. (The water-inlet valve is the device on the washing machine that the fill hoses are attached to.) If it's clean, you probably have a defective water-inlet valve. If so, you need to replace the valve.

It's slow to fill

Check to see if there's good water volume coming through the hoses attached to the washing machine. If there is, check to see if the screens inside the water-inlet valve are clean. (The water-inlet valve is the device on the washing machine that the fill hoses are attached to.) If they're clean, you probably have a defective water-inlet valve. If so, you should completely replace the valve.

There's no water at all

If there's no water at all, make these checks:

  • Is there water getting to the machine?
  • Is the water-volume selector switch set properly and are the control panel buttons pressed in all the way?
  • If you have a Maytag® washer, is the fuse (if there is one) in the control panel at the lid-switch bracket blown?
  • Is there a faint buzzing or humming noise coming from the water-inlet valve? (The water-inlet valve is the device on the washing machine that the fill hoses are attached to.) If you can't hear anything, the water-inlet valve may not be getting any power. If you can hear some noise and there's water present, you may need to completely replace the water-inlet valve.

The clothes are wet after spinning

When the clothes are wet at the end of a cycle, check these:

Motor coupler

To test the motor coupler, re-start the washer in its spin cycle. Let the machine run for a minute, and then open the lid and notice whether the tub is spinning:

 

  • If it's spinning when you lift the lid, the coupler is fine.
  • If it isn't spinning--and your machine was produced by Whirlpool®--you may have a broken coupler. Many Whirlpool-made washers use a small, relatively inexpensive device called a motor coupling. This plastic-and-rubber component is mounted to the shaft of the motor on one side, and to the transmission on the other. Over time, the coupler wears out and fails. When that happens, you need to replace it completely.

Spin cycle

If the washer doesn't reach its proper spin speed, the clothes may be too wet at the end of a cycle. Check to be sure the load is properly balanced and run a spin cycle again. If the clothes are still wet, you may have a worn or loose belt (Maytag®), a worn clutch (GE®/Hotpoint®), or a worn motor pulley or tub bearing. Replace the applicable component.

Alternatively, there could be clothes caught between the inner and outer tubs. Read the "It spins but won't pump" section of the "It won't drain" section. Also, there could be other things that cause friction on the drive train. Seek the assistance of a qualified appliance repair technician.

Siphoning

If the water that pumps from the machine goes right back into the machine after the spin cycle, it may be because your washer is siphoning the water from a laundry tub with a slow drain, back into the washer. Try to improve the draining of the laundry tub. (Is there something stuck in the drain?) Also, be sure the drain hose doesn't reach more than about 4 inches into the laundry tub. If it does, cut off the excess.

Water-inlet valve

Water-inlet valves eventually fail. One problem that may develop with a water-inlet valve is that it can no longer completely shut off when the electricity is turned off to it. Then, the valve may leak and drip water into the clothes tub--you may notice that your washer has water in it when you haven't used it for a few days. To fix this, replace the valve.

The cycle doesn't advance

When the cycle doesn't advance, it's probably the timer or a cold-water supply problem:

  • It's the timer, if your washing machine fills with water and begins agitating, but the timer never advances--or if the washer is in a spin cycle and the timer won't advance. Then you need to replace the timer.
  • It may be a cold-water supply problem, if the washing machine fills with water, agitates, drains, and spins, but then doesn't fill with rinse water. See There's no cold water.

There's no delicate or regular spin or agitation

If your washer doesn't spin or agitate on either the delicate or regular cycle, check these:

Selector switch

If your washer has a selector switch on the control panel, make sure the button for your selection is pressed all the way in, or set properly.

Clutch assembly

Many GE®/Hotpoint® washers use a clutch and an automatic shift lever. This assembly is quite complicated. If there's a problem with it, you probably should contact a qualified appliance repair technician.

Drive motor

Many washing machines have multiple-speed drive motors. Though it's uncommon, the drive motor may work fine on one speed but not on another. If the drive motor has failed on one speed, you need to replace the entire motor.

It's overfilling

If your washer is overfilling, check these:

Water-inlet valve

A defect in the water-inlet valve may mean that it's no longer able to shut off completely when the electricity has been turned off to it. If this occurs, the valve may leak and drip water into the clothes tub. In time, the water may accumulate substantially. If this happens, you need to replace the valve.

Water-level switch

A defect--or an obstruction--in the water-level switch may mean that it can't tell the water to shut off. So the machine overflows. This switch senses the water level in the clothes tub. It's usually a diaphragm device with a small, clear tube attached between the switch and the bottom of the washer's outer tub. As the water level in the tub increases, the pressure on the air in the tube increases. When the pressure reaches a certain level, it activates the switch, shuts off the water, and signals the timer to begin the agitate cycle. You can either clear any obstruction in the tube or replace the water-level switch.

It's underfilling

The water-level switch regulates your washer's fill volume. This switch is usually a diaphragm device with a small, clear tube attached between the switch and the bottom of the washer's outer tub. As the water level in the tub increases, the pressure on the air in the tube increases. When the pressure reaches a certain level, it activates the switch, shuts off the water, and signals the timer to begin the agitate cycle. If the switch is defective, it may prematurely signal the water to shut off. If so, you probably need to replace the water-level switch.

The water temperature is incorrect

The temperature of the incoming water determines the temperature of the water in your washer. You get either hot, cold, or a mix of the hot and cold water that's currently available to the machine. So if the cold water that enters the machine is very cold--or if the hot water entering the machine is very hot--the warm water is affected.

If you live in a Northern climate, unless you adjust the hot and cold water taps that supply water to your washer, the warm water supplied to your washer is usually hotter during the summer months and colder during the winter months.

Work on these areas of an appliance may require help from an appliance repair person or other qualified technicians.

Warning! To avoid personal injury or even death, always disconnect your appliance from its power source--that is, unplug it or break the connection at the circuit breaker or fuse box--before you do any troubleshooting or repair work on your appliance. Also, because some components may have sharp edges, use caution while working on your appliance.

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vitviz411

411

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