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Crazy to try to fix a 27 YO wash machine?
Old 07-14-2013, 04:03 PM   #1
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Crazy to try to fix a 27 YO wash machine?

Our 27 YO Maytag (Model A482) wash machine was purchased when it was just DW and me. It has washed every load of clothes for our growing family (three kids), and I never, ever, not even one time, performed any maintenance on the washer (I have replaces/tightened the hoses, and cleaned the filters in the hoses).

I've been watching the various washer threads here, as I know we are on borrowed time. I get the impression the new ones are just not built like the old ones. IIRC, even samclem's venerable Staber blew a bearing early on.

Well, the past few weeks it seemed to go out-of-balance easily. DW would just fiddle with the load and restart it, I figured if she wasn't complaining I could ignore it. Today, it started making some grinding noise. Hmmm. Then the last load would not spin up - it wasn't draining.

So do you try to fix a 27 YO washer? Washers are complicated beasts, funky transmissions, pumps, level switches, out-of-balance switches. But I'm thinking if I fix this, it might last longer than any replacement. So out come the tools....

I spent too much time trying to get it to finish the cycle, and then trying to pump/bail the water out. If I had just removed the two screws that allow the front panel to lift away, I would have seen there was no belt attached to the pump pulley. And I would have seen there was a convenient drain plug on the tub!

So I expect to find a broken belt, but I pull out an intact belt that looks in decent shape. So next, I try to spin the pump shaft pulley, expecting it to be jammed, which would explain the thrown belt. Nope, it spins fine.

Some more looking around, and I see the main drive belt is in bad shape, a ~ 1" chunk is missing. So, I re-fit the old pump belt, start it up, add some water then advance to 'rinse', and it pumps the water out just fine, and it spins it up just fine. No bad noises either. I run it through a full cycle, and it runs like new!

So I find a belt set on amazon for $15 with shipping. Other than removing those two screws to pull the panel out, no other tools are needed - the belts just slip over the pulleys, the motor is spring-loaded to tension the belts, so that's it. I thought about taking the pump apart, to see if something might have caused the thrown belt, but thought better of it. Will wait and see.

Maybe I'll get another 27 years out of it? Celebrated my success with a first sample of my recently brewed Spruce Wheat Ale. Hmmmmm, beer!

-ERD50
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:27 PM   #2
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It appears you like to tinker with things, and perhaps the enjoyment and satisfaction you got from fixing it was more important than the savings associated with not buying a new machine.

I switched from a traditional washing machine to a "high efficiency" machine over ten years ago and never looked back. The clothes endure less wear, the machine uses less water, and they come out of the washing machine almost completely dry, which means less time and energy in the dryer before they are ready to go, and again less wear and tear on the clothing, which hopefully translates into them lasting longer.

If it is still working, no need to make any immediate changes. But before you spend anything more than $15 or so, take a look at the benefits of the newer machines. Technology has changed quite a bit over the years for the better. The next one may not last you for 27 years, but it will save in energy and wear and tear enough to justify it at some point.
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:49 PM   #3
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Congrats on the repair job! I am glad that I moved on to newer cars and computers over the years without regret but for all other things, especially appliances, it has been disappointing. I think it is logical and good for you to hang on to Betsy the washer.
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Old 07-14-2013, 04:57 PM   #4
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As long as the parts needed are reasonably priced I would fix it. Sometimes the parts cost more than a new machine.

And I just spent this afternoon repairing one at my mothers place ( 15+ yrs old ). The lid switch was bad. Ordered a replacement last week and installed it today and it's ready to go.
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Old 07-14-2013, 06:09 PM   #5
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Yes, I agree with another poster. Appliances today are very poorly built and definitely not built to last like the old ones. I recently had to purchase all new appliances for my newly remodeled kitchen. In fact the dishwasher died about two months ago, and the refrigerator just went. (27 yrs old)

In all my research on appliances that I did, I learned that the average live span for a refrigerator today is only between 6-8 yrs, dishwashers around 5-6 yrs, stoves around 7-8 yrs. Read reviews on major appliances today and you will see a lot of very unhappy customers. Also, the price escalation of appliances has increased markedly in the last several years, way in excess of other items. So, environmentally, you may feel greener with a newer appliance, but if you are expecting these $2,000 + refrigerators to last 15-25 years, you will be in for a rude awakening.

We can now add major appliances to our list of large scale periodic purchases, right along with your AC unit, and car, only more frequently.
People with deeper pockets can afford to be greener than others.
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ready View Post
It appears you like to tinker with things, and perhaps the enjoyment and satisfaction you got from fixing it was more important than the savings associated with not buying a new machine. ...
Well, I do kinda like to tinker with things, and I get some satisfaction from making a repair. But in this case, the diagnosis and repair was very simple, easy and cheap. I hate shopping, so for me, this was far preferable to the time involved in selecting a new machine, going out and buying it, arranging delivery, hooking it up and learning the new stuff. I think I'm way ahead with a fix.

As others have said, the new appliances just don't seem to be as reliable. That is counter to most other newer things IMO, but I think it's true.

Now that it's mostly the two of us, I doubt I'd see savings from water efficiency over the cost of a new machine (on a well, water is very cheap, NG water heater). Maybe the supposed less wear & tear on clothes would factor in, but OTOH, I've read from a lot of people who are dissatisfied with the newer machines.

-ERD50
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Old 07-14-2013, 07:33 PM   #7
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In a way, you were lucky that it is 27 years old. That means it could be fixed. A newer one would have an IC on a board that you could not possibly diagnose or repair, and the cost of replacing which would exceed a new washer. I much prefer machinery that I can understand and repair as necessary.
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Old 07-14-2013, 08:14 PM   #8
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In a way, you were lucky that it is 27 years old. That means it could be fixed. A newer one would have an IC on a board that you could not possibly diagnose or repair, and the cost of replacing which would exceed a new washer. I much prefer machinery that I can understand and repair as necessary.
This is also true. I was in high volume manufacturing, so I understand the cost-effectiveness of building things a certain way and why that can make repair near impossible. But it also means a shorter average life-span for many things.

That Staber machine that samclem mentions is designed to be repairable (basic mech timer, etc). I will consider it when the time comes.

I recently tried to salvage a stereo receiver that was acting up and intermittently deciding to just start changing inputs, volume, tuning - all this stuff was controlled by a micro-chip. When I couldn't isolate the problem, I figured, no problem - I can just use it as an amplifier, I'll hard-wire the input jacks to the pre-amp. I only need one input, as I just use a portable player or my laptop as the music source, and I'll give up the tuner.

Not so easy. The micro-chip controlled everything. It apparently did some checks before turning on the power supplies to the amps, and there were feedback loops in all of this. I couldn't find any easy way to bypass this stuff, it was all too interactive. Off to re-cycling, which was a shame, it was just a few years old, and worked 98% of the time.

I replaced it with this:

Dayton Audio DTA-100a Class-T Digital Amplifier 50 WPC Provides Power To Computer Speakers, Bookshelf Speakers, Headphones, And More! 300-383

small, light, efficient, cheap. Kicks out plenty of power for our bedroom system with some small high-quality B&W monitors. Great sound quality. I can't believe you can get this for the money. It's about 1/50th the size of that receiver.

And this one:

Lepai LP-2020A+ Tripath Class-T Hi-Fi Audio Amp w/Power Supp 310-300

to power external speakers for our kitchen TV.

-ERD50
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Old 07-14-2013, 10:51 PM   #9
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I've been working on washing machines for over 35 years. IMO, that washer of your's was the best one ever made. Ditto the Whirlpool/Sears dryer.

With today's Youtube, the homeowner could do 90% of the repairs.
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Old 07-15-2013, 04:27 AM   #10
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Nah, the belt's bad. Throw it away and get a new one.

No seriously, get a new one if you want new features, more efficiency, or it's going to cost more to repair than to buy a new one, but not because it is 27 years old. The great thing about YouTube and internet shopping is that you can fix these things yourself now and cut out the repairman's $100/hr. So your Maytag is likely to last another 27 years more, or as long as you're willing to keep watching YouTube.

I busted the charging USB port on my Android phone a few weeks ago, and I figured I'd need to spend a few hundred dollars to replace it. Well, after a half hour on YouTube and a Google search, I sent $5.99 to a shop for a new USB port and installed the part myself in about a half hour's time. 23 steps to disassemble the phone, and 23 steps to put it back together! As a side benefit, now I know what the inside of my smartphone looks like!
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Old 07-15-2013, 07:46 AM   #11
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... So your Maytag is likely to last another 27 years more, or as long as you're willing to keep watching YouTube.

I busted the charging USB port on my Android phone a few weeks ago, and I figured I'd need to spend a few hundred dollars to replace it. Well, after a half hour on YouTube and a Google search, I sent $5.99 to a shop for a new USB port and installed the part myself in about a half hour's time. 23 steps to disassemble the phone, and 23 steps to put it back together! As a side benefit, now I know what the inside of my smartphone looks like!
I hope it does - from some of the comments here, it sounds like the odds are not too bad that it could last quite a while longer. The average person would have sent this to the landfill, and used more energy to make the replacement. I feel so 'green'!

As far as your less serious comment, yep - now that I know it's the belts, it's not at all crazy to fix it (it would be crazy not to fix it). It was really the 'try to fix it' that I initially was wondering about. It might seem crazy to even try to troubleshoot it, but it worked out for me.

I'm impressed you were able to get the phone apart, connector soldered, and back together again. But as you say, a good guide on the web sure helps. Those new USB connectors are tiny, tiny, tiny. I need to get a good magnifying glass and stand, my eyes are not good enough for that kind of work anymore.

I was trying to pop a panel off my laptop to track an intermittent connection. I finally found some info on the web, and I never could have done it on my own w/o breaking it. There was a little part of it that had a hidden latching part - once you knew to push that with a tiny screwdriver, it popped right off, and back on again. I found a loose ground shield, pushed it into place, and all is well.

-ERD50
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Old 07-15-2013, 08:53 AM   #12
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ERD50,
Congrats on that repair, if you get 8 more years out of her that will be one new, glitzy, disposable washing machine you saved from the recycling bin--and a bunch of money.

I still can't understand why there's (apparently) not much of a market for easy-to-maintain appliances (and cars). It wouldn't even have to be the homeowner doing the fixing. We're probably optimists at heart, find it hard to believe that shiny machine will break, and see little objective difference between the models regarding repairability anyway.

Yes, I did have to replace bearings on the Staber, which was a disappointment. It wasn't a hard job and I was glad the machine was designed to allow it to be done. Some washers have the bearings bonded into the plastic drum--when the bearing goes, the machine can't be economically repaired--but it saved 3 bucks during manufacturing.
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Old 07-15-2013, 09:14 AM   #13
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Most anything can be repaired. The hard part has usually been finding the service manual, google helps a lot with that. I think a lot of the problem with the expensive, fancy new appliance is the electronics/control systems. Basically an onboard computer, if it gets fried it can cost more than a new replacement appliance. The mechanical have not changed much in a long time. And in some ways it is easier to repair, pull the old board out, plug the new one in and your done, except it cost more than new appliance.
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:22 AM   #14
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I'm impressed you were able to get the phone apart, connector soldered, and back together again.

-ERD50
No soldering involved. I bought the entire usb assembly which connects with a tiny ribbon cable. More steps to disassemble and install but no soldering. You're right, a large magnifying glass would have been a big help.
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:40 AM   #15
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Good for you if you can fix it yourself.

The issue with older appliances is not confined to the cost of repair.

Depending on the appliance, the cost of energy may also be an issue. The older products are not energy efficient. Those dollars need to be factored into the equation. Though this may be a mute point is you do your own repairs. Spending $100. or so on a service call may tip that equation.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:07 PM   #16
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I have found washer and dryer repairs to be relatively straight forward, with ample youtube videos showing how to do diagnostics and repairs. And ebay or amazon are usually available to get me a new part for a few bucks or a little more. Ours are going on 10 years and 19 years (washer, dryer respectively). Mechanically they aren't too complicated and once you pull them apart they are fairly easy to work in/around.

And if you break them, you're only out a few hundred bucks to buy a replacement unit. Can't say the same about cars, which is why I'm more reluctant to work on my own car.

And as for the concern over "modern" appliances with 21st century tech (ICs and integrated control boards), you can usually pop out a bad one and replace for a fraction of the cost of a new appliance. Did that with my in laws stove/oven a few years back. $80 for a refurb control unit board and 15 minutes of power screwdriving later, and they have a brand new fully functional $600 stove/oven.
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Old 07-15-2013, 01:32 PM   #17
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We have a GM Frigidaire refrigerator in our garage that was bought in 1976 when our first daughter was born. It has been in steady operation and in 4 houses since that time. I did replace the thermostat/timer in it in the 1980's period. I remember buying the part at a local appliance repair parts place (do they exist anymore?) and installing it myself. Moved it to garage duty in the early 1990's.

The thing is an electricity hog but is handy and does the job of cooling a few cases of drinks and keeping some items frozen. One of these days I plan to replace it with a smaller, more efficient garage fridge. I believe I said that before.....

The newer, more fragile, one we have in the kitchen is a low energy use machine that has quit a time or to for a compressor relay change out. DW wanted this newer one (or maybe it was one before that?) because of the door/ice dispenser.
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Old 07-15-2013, 01:37 PM   #18
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I found out I'm not a tinkerer when I tried tinkering with my previous washing machine. I usually get 10 years out of my low end washing machine purchases and I'm satisfied with that.
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Old 07-15-2013, 01:45 PM   #19
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ERD50

I had a similar Maytag washing machine aboout 25 years ago maybe more. I found it on the curbside while living in NY state. Into the pickup truck it went. At home initial checks showed it needed two roller/wheels for the tray which held the motor. At the appliance store got the wheels for $3.-. After install it worked fine, 6 yrs later, when I sold my NY house, left it there.

By the way thanks for the link to the Lepai LP-2020A - been looking for an amp for my camp where most everything runs on 12VDC and solar panels. This should do for playing tunes via Ipod and drive a pair of speakers.
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:26 PM   #20
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I have a satellite TV decoder that has a known design issue (which the manufacturers refuse to fix outside the 12-month warranty ) which causes the power supply to fail because two capacitors are under-specified for the temperatures at which they run. I've now fixed it twice (once per capacitor - I should have changed both the first time, but I didn't find out about the double problem until I celebrated in a online forum about fixing the first one!) with my trusty not-exactly-subminiature soldering iron and two $1.50 components. The feeling of satisfaction is huge.

But, I still don't like tinkering with stuff that isn't "properly" broken. If it's dead, fine, I can't make things worse (unless it explodes and leaks oil and gunk everywhere). But if it's limping along, I tend to get a replacement and then repair the original for a "spare" (which I will probably never use).
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