By MyPros Staff
Auto mechanics, plumbers, house painters and appliance repairmen have something in common besides mechanical aptitude. If consumer complaints are to be believed, many of them are con men. The reality, of course, is that very few are rip-offs, but the old saying about “a few bad apples” explains why people think the whole barrel is bad.
The number of actual prosecutions for fraud is low, and most repair people, of all kinds, are honest and hard working professionals. One major reason for the bad PR may be the fact that average consumers do not understand how their cars, microwaves and washing machines work. Their confusion may be compounded by the repair person’s use of unfamiliar terminology. The answer, as in so many situations, is education, so right now we will start by teaching you the top tips for maintaining your washing machine.
“Electro” and mechanical
A washing machine is at once one of the simplest yet most misunderstood modern appliances. Even the latest models with computerized control panels are still, at their core, straightforward electromechanical devices. The more modern components like integrated circuits and LCD display panels are there to control the simpler mechanical actions such as water intake and flushing, the “agitation” of the tub in which the clothes are washed and the final “spin dry” cycle.
Tips for maintaining your washing machine range from the obvious to the arcane, but as in most situations it is primarily a matter of common sense. Following this advice can extend the life of your washing machine considerably, and save you money on repairs.
Washing machine tips
The first set of tips regards choosing the right machine and setting it up correctly in your home:
- Read the consumer magazine tests and buy a well-rated machine.
- Don’t be overly impressed with colored lights and computerized controls, as they are just additional, hard-to-repair electronic systems that can break down.
- Get a washer with a tub big enough to handle your laundry loads.
- Make sure all the hose and electrical connections are tight and strong.
Knowing how your washing machine works will help you diagnose future problems and make you able to fix many of them:
- Above all, read the manual! If you bought a used machine, there are sites online that have them and/or contact the manufacturer to get one.
- There is usually a quick, easy way to remove the front and/or back panel to get access to hoses, belts and other components. Find out how, then take a look inside
- Make sure that the drainage path, wherever it leads, is appropriate for the amount of water that will be pumped.
General safety considerations concerning electrical equipment and water or fire hazards should always be followed:
- Plug the appliance into an outlet and home circuit rated for the higher load.
- Do not plug the washing machine into an extension cord.
- Keep the area around the machine free of standing water, electrical wires and clutter.
- It is also crucial to operate the machine according to its instructions and observe the manufacturer warnings:
- Do not overload the tub, either by overpacking it with clothes or blankets, or by placing too many heavy objects (shoes, comforters, etc.) in it at one time.
- Do not dye clothes or use unapproved cleaning chemicals in the machine.
Finally, stay within the bounds of your own expertise and get help if you need it, particularly with any solid-state electronics:
- You may be able to buy and replace the simple electromechanical switch/timer that runs many “old style” washers, but you may need help replacing circuitry in a new, computerized model.
- If your tub is belt-driven, your manual shows you how to replace the belt and you have the appropriate tools (and aptitude), go for it. Direct- or chain-drive machines are somewhat more complicated, however.
- It is not that uncommon for foreign materials (tissue left in pockets, plastic bags, etc.) to block the outflow of water from the tub. If you have standing water in the tub at the end of a cycle, and you know how to take a look inside, you can often locate the problem. Clear the hoses and/or the motorized unit that creates suction to draw out the tub water, if it’s clearly explained in your manual or an online schematic.
There is a lot of help for home appliance do-it-yourselfers on the Internet, so don’t forget to search for additional information on repairing your model of washer. Knowing your limitations, of course, is key, as you do not want to aggravate any problems by doing the wrong thing. However, there are plenty of things that you can do to learn about your washer, and plenty that you can do to keep it maintained and working well, too.