What causes washing machines to shake & vibrate?

Updated February 21, 2017

Washing machines are a common household fixture. They use water and various mechanical parts to wash clothing of all types. Washing machines are available in two main designs, top-loading and front-loading, and both types can encounter the same problems with shaking and vibration. The cause of this problem within both machines is typically the same; however, in some instances the cause may be a malfunction within the machine.


Washing machines utilise rotating mechanical parts, which can cause the machine to shake and vibrate if the unit is not level. As the mechanical parts in the washer begin to move, inertia is created, and if one side of the machine is lower or higher than the other, the machine becomes unstable and excess vibration or shake can occur. In serious cases, the washer can actually move, or "walk," around the laundry room. To determine if this is the cause of excess shake and vibration, place a leveller on the surface of the washer. If the levelling bubble shows one side of the machine to not be level, adjust the feet of the washer until the machine is completely level. If you notice the vibration or shake is worse during the spin cycles of the washer, this is the most likely culprit.

Belt-and-Pulley Motors

Washing machines built before 1991 were typically manufactured with a motor that utilises belts and pulleys to move the washing drum. Due to the numerous moving parts within these types of washers, the amount of vibration and shake is considerably more when compared to newer direct-drive motor washers. If you have a traditionally built washer, you will need to replace the moving parts of the washer every couple of years to prevent excess vibration and shake. An appliance repairman can easily check the condition of these parts, and if necessary, replace all parts to reduce vibration and shake. To determine what type of motor your washer has, review the owner's manual for the machine.

Type of Floor

The type of floor your washing machine is placed on can be a main reason the washer experiences excess vibration and shake. If you live in an older home or apartment, the floor may not be as sturdy as cement floors found in basements. If a floor has any give to it, the washer may not have a stable surface to distribute its weight. This will cause excess vibration and shake, especially in front-load washers that have high-speed spin cycles. To determine if this is the cause, remove the washer from its location and stand on the floor. If the floor dips, or gives, place a flat board of wood on the floor and replace the washing machine. This will give the washer a stable surface; however, if the floor has give due to water damage you should replace the floor to prevent further damage to your home.

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About the Author

Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.