By MyPros Staff
Truth be told, washing machines are like refrigerators in the sense that they operate pretty much as they always have. Over the last decade especially, electrical and electronic components for both have gotten smaller and more energy-efficient, and the materials used in their construction have also progressed. The actual functions, on the other hand, are largely unchanged.
This presents something of a quandary for the average home handyman. Once upon an “Ozzie & Harriet” time, such as the 1950s and ‘60s, equal levels of electrical and mechanical know-how served you well no matter what device needed repair. Today, while many mechanical functions are the same (with upgraded components, of course), advances in digital technology have resulted in space-age control panels crammed with LEDs, push buttons, touch-screens and color displays.
Ask the right question
With most modern appliances, there are solid-state circuit boards comprising many functions that used to be handled by multiple and separate components. This means that many electronic repairs call for the replacement of entire “logic boards” or “modules,” even when only one item malfunctions or breaks. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach, but this is the “way it is” now and, therefore, it’s what you must deal with.
For washers, then, you will probably leave the circuit board and module replacement to the pros and restrict yourself to some basic mechanical repairs. The water inlet valve is easy enough to replace in some units, for plumbing-oriented folks, and once you learn how to pop off the right panel (front, side, and/or rear), you can access the insides and do a few other home handyman repairs.
Belts and bottlenecks
On washers that use a belt drive to turn the tub, a common problem is slippage or breakage of the rubber belt. Your owner’s manual and/or schematics from the Internet will show you how the belt needs to be replaced, and you should have no problem getting the appropriate part from an appliance distributor or the manufacturer.
If you find that your spin cycle is not evacuating the water from your washer, and you have checked that the external hoses are clear, there may be a bottleneck or stoppage internally. Sometimes there is a small electric motor, often driving a fluted fan that combines with the spin cycle’s centripetal force to “suck” the water out of the machine through the drainage hose. Different machines have slightly different ways of handling this operation.
Whatever the mechanism, your perusal of the owner’s manual will educate you as to the specific means by which your particular machine accomplishes this step. Finding and removing blockages – of debris, fabric, tissue, etc. – is still one of the straightforward and uncomplicated repairs that the average handyman can do, even on a modern washer with a “colorful touch-screen interface.”
Prevention is key
As with anything else that runs on electricity, has moving parts and contains things made of plastic and rubber, some things in your washer are going to wear out and other things are going to break. Taking care of these areas – power, moving parts and “consumables” like belts – goes a long way toward minimizing repair costs and extending the life of the machine.
Make sure you are using the right home circuit, and that you have not defeated the grounding plug. You will ensure that the moving parts such as the tub, the belt and the electric motor shaft have free, unconstrained movement by never overloading the tub. Too many items in the tub, resulting in too much weight, can inhibit the movement of these parts, causing the belt to slip or snap. (On washers with direct-drive and a clutch apparatus, there is no belt to snap, so the unit should simply stop.)
In short, you can work on some parts of your washing machine much easier than you can on others. Control and switch issues are matters for replacement, not repair, and even a “digital diagnosis” may require more than average expertise on your part. Hoses and belts are a few of the lower-tech items you can deal with. With your washer, you may not be able to fix everything, every time, but you will probably know and do enough to save some money. You will also know enough to explain a more serious problem to professional repair personnel – and understand what they say and do about it, too.