How to Troubleshoot a Washing Machine

Written by carole ellis
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If you are having troubles with your washing machine, before you call a repairman you should take a few minutes to run through a fairly simple list of troubleshooting techniques. Many times washing machines can have a very small problem that sounds very big, and you can save yourself time and money by checking out these common issues. There are three main parts to every washer: the hoses, the electrics and the transmission. Often, the problem will lie within one of these parts.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Two-prong voltage tester
  • Screwdriver
  • Gloves

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  1. 1

    Locate the source of any leaks. If your washer leaks, there are two points at which it will be doing this: at the junction in the back where the hoses are attached or the main seals on the washer itself. If water is running down the back of the unit, that means you have a bad hose or a loose clamp. Inspect all hoses and tighten all clamps. If a hose is broken, it will need to be replaced. This is something that you can do yourself using your owner's manual and a hose from any home repair or hardware store. You will need to turn off the water, then simply unscrew the hose and replace it in most cases. Any leaking that is coming out from the bottom of the unit and not the back is from a main washer seal. A main seal will need to be professionally replaced.

  2. 2

    Use your voltage tester to make sure there is power coming from the wall to the unit. Many times a breaker switch can get thrown and you won't even know it because it is a dedicated circuit just for the washer. Resolving this is as simple as flipping the switch in your breaker box.

  3. 3

    Check out your circuit board function. The circuit board controls all the washer's functions, whether it is attached to a dial, a turning knob or an electronic push pad. If you activate the washer functions and, say, only half of them work, it's a circuit board problem. A professional will need to change that out.

  4. 4

    Check the motor. To do this, you'll have to use your screwdriver and open up the back panel. Be careful as there are usually a few sharp edges. When doing this, you should wear a pair of gloves for protection.

  5. 5

    Unplug the washer. Inside, there will be a large electric motor. Most of these motors have attached circuit breakers that will cut out if the load is way over the washer load limit or some article of clothing gets jammed.

  6. 6

    Check for jams in the motor. Find the large red button on the bottom of the motor and push it in. If you now turn on the washer and it suddenly begins to work, you are good to go. If you now turn on the washer and after a few seconds the power cuts out again, look for something jamming the function of the motor or the wash tub itself. If you can find something, pull it out and attempt to start the washer again.

  7. 7

    Investigate the transmission operation. If the motor keeps kicking off, or you can here the motor running but nothing is happening, check the transmission. With the panel off, the transmission will be attached to the motor and the wash tub. First, check to see if there is something jamming the transmission. A jammed transmission will not turn and cause the circuit breaker in the motor to kick off. Pull out any jam and start the washer. If there isn't a jam, turn on the washer and watch the transmission spin. If it doesn't spin and the motor cuts out, the transmission is bad and needs to be replaced. If the transmission spins along with the motor but the wash tub doesn't move, the transmission is bad and needs to be replaced.

Tips and warnings

  • A handyman can do nearly all of these things, but you will need to use your own judgment when it comes to your ability to do the repairs once you have identified the problem with your washer. Things such as flipping the switches in the breaker box are perfectly simple, but replacing the transmission may require a little more expertise and should often be left to a repairman. However, simply knowing the problem can save you time and money because you will be able to tell the repairman ahead of time over the phone exactly what the issue with your washing machine is.
  • Always make sure that you wear gloves when you are dismantling a washing machine.

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