If you smell a burning odour coming from your washing machine, it is essential that you diagnose the problem and find a solution before using your washer again. Ignoring the problem may lead to more damage, a costlier fix or a potential fire. The first step lies in the determination of your washer's age. An old washer may experience different problems than those that may occur with a newer machine.
Top Loading Washers
Old top-loading washers use a belt drive system to transfer energy from the washer motor to the pump and transmission. If your machine's belt has slipped or broken, a burning rubber smell may signal internal friction and the need for belt replacement. A repair technician will be able to source the proper part and install a new belt. You can also access the belt through the back or underside repair panel, take it to a parts dealer, buy a new belt and install it yourself.
Direct Drive Washers
Most new front-loading washers have a direct drive system. With these machines, the motor connects directly to the transmission. With no belt to malfunction, what you smell may be related to the motor, the transmission or a combination of the two. The odour may be more like an electrical smell and less like a rubber burning smell. It is safest to unplug the machine and call in a professional to deal with this more complicated fix.
A smell that is electrical in nature may also be due to water contacting electrical wiring. If you have had recent flooding or detect water originating from under your washing machine, immediately disconnect the washer from its electrical socket and call for professional assistance. Leaking water can cause an electrical short that can seriously damage your machine, create damage to your floor and pose a shock hazard to anyone standing in the water while the washer is operating.
The owner's manual or past experience will give you an idea as to how many items your washer can handle in one load. Smaller loads will give you better cleaning and rinsing action and avoid stressing your motor, belt, agitator or transmission. Larger loads can overheat your washer's internal parts, resulting in a burning rubber smell. Most new washers have variable water levels you can adjust for smaller loads, thereby conserving both water and the integrity of your machine.