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Freaky Washing Machine Problem
Old 02-20-2008, 12:17 PM   #1
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Freaky Washing Machine Problem

I figured I might as well dovetail onto simplegirl's request for help with the dryer.

Our washing machine has been acting weird the last two weeks. I really know nothing about these things, so forgive the ignorance.

Here's the problem: the centerpiece that spins, the agitator, will lock up when we have even a medium sized load. When there is a light load there is no problem at all. Sometimes it is fine on a medium-sized load, but other times it stalls and won't spin, making a humming sound (the motor is working but something is preventing the agitator from turning). Under a heavy load it will not work. The agitator just doesn't have enough force behind it to turn when there is a heavy load. This is causing DW to do twice as many loads of laundry.

It seems to me that a nut for the agitator is loose or perhaps even a belt of some kind has gotten loose. I have absolutely no idea, though. I haven't even begun to take this thing apart.

Anyone have any experience working on a washer and/or have an idea of what I could check? I'd really rather not replace this washer. It's only about 6 years old.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-20-2008, 12:29 PM   #2
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I had the same thing happen some years ago. The agitator eventually just quit moving. Went to the web-site of the manufacturer to no avail. Then went to some of the web-site appliance repair sites and found out what it was. It was some kind of plastic part that was very simple to find. I actually found a appliance part store and took the broken part in with me - you have to remove the agitator (can be a bit tough to get them off but a towel under the agitator to protect the hands and a big pull (after removing the retaining bolt at the top) will usually do it) and below it you should see some broken parts. The store guy knew just what it was. Put the new part on and to this day my Son and his Wife are still using the washer (about 12 years old now). BTW I posted one of the web sites on "simplegirl's" thread.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:37 AM   #3
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There is a nut on the top of the agitator, that is used to hold it on a spindle which goes down to the transmission.
You have to pop off the agitator itself ... sometimes there's just a plastic cap on top the agitator, and sometimes the whole agitator has to be removed.

If the water is being emptied OK, then chances are it's not the belt, because the same belt is used for both the transmission and the water pump.

I haven't worked on them for about 20 years now, so it may be slightly different.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:54 AM   #4
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What brand of washer is it? When you say it won't spin, do you mean it doesn't spin out during the spin cycle or the agitator won't turn?
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Old 02-22-2008, 10:08 AM   #5
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Its also possible we've figured out where one of your missing socks is

Whats the brand? If its a whirlpool, it might be the motor coupler that R Wood mentioned. If its a GE, its probably a worn clutch. It might also be a bad drive motor. Is the unit made to stop agitating when you open the door? If so, it might just be a loose door switch thats getting jiggled when the unit has a full load but not when its got a light load in it.

Washing machines arent too complicated and dont have an awful lot of parts, unfortunately its tough for a novice to figure out whats broken since they dont work very well while on their sides being examined.

Unfortunately, if its a clutch or motor you might be looking at a $100-200 repair.
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Old 02-22-2008, 11:50 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by cute fuzzy bunny View Post
Unfortunately, if its a clutch or motor you might be looking at a $100-200 repair.
Which is also the price of a good used Craigslist washing machine.

I have to admit, though, sometimes a challenging troubleshooting/repair problem ticks me off enough to keep at it until it's fixed, even if it's not worth my time or my money. I spent $12 and an hour of tweaking to turn a $20 broke weedwhacker into a working $40 weedwhacker just because I thought I finally had it figured out...
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Old 02-22-2008, 02:11 PM   #7
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What brand of washer is it? When you say it won't spin, do you mean it doesn't spin out during the spin cycle or the agitator won't turn?
Thanks for the responses, everyone.


It is a Hotpoint, which I think is a pretty low-end model. It was a gift so I really have no clue how much it cost or if it is decent. I've never priced or looked into buying a new one.

To answer your question, I mean that the agitator will not turn. It's as if can't get the strength to turn a full/heavy load.



Quote:
Originally Posted by cute fuzzy bunny View Post
Its also possible we've figured out where one of your missing socks is

Whats the brand? If its a whirlpool, it might be the motor coupler that R Wood mentioned. If its a GE, its probably a worn clutch. It might also be a bad drive motor. Is the unit made to stop agitating when you open the door? If so, it might just be a loose door switch thats getting jiggled when the unit has a full load but not when its got a light load in it.
Don't think I haven't thought about the sock issue. I imagine if I turn the washer over there will be twenty crammed up inside it.

Yes, it has a shut off that automatically stops the agitator when you lift the lid. Never thought of that! I'll check it out tonight.

Thanks again.
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Old 02-22-2008, 04:14 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses, everyone.


It is a Hotpoint, which I think is a pretty low-end model. It was a gift so I really have no clue how much it cost or if it is decent. I've never priced or looked into buying a new one.

To answer your question, I mean that the agitator will not turn. It's as if can't get the strength to turn a full/heavy load.





Don't think I haven't thought about the sock issue. I imagine if I turn the washer over there will be twenty crammed up inside it.

Yes, it has a shut off that automatically stops the agitator when you lift the lid. Never thought of that! I'll check it out tonight.

Thanks again.
You can verify if the belt is bad, by pulling it out, and taking the back plate off (it's usually about 18" square or so).

As for the shutoff, we used to short those out. The older models used a mercury switch (of all things), so we would remove them. I'm not sure why my employer wanted us to do that, especially if it was going to be sold to someone with kids (who may be able to open up the lid and climb in with it running ... outrageously dangerous!!!).
If no kids are in the house when it's running, you can bypass the switch by simply cutting the wires but keeping hold of the wires that won't be connected to the switch, and using a wire nut to wire nut them together.
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Old 02-22-2008, 05:16 PM   #9
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Which is also the price of a good used Craigslist washing machine.
And here's a deal:

pedal powered wahing machine and blender
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Old 02-22-2008, 07:00 PM   #10
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Silly Al, *all* washing machines are blenders...

Hotpoint's made by GE.

Here ya go...
The GE and Hotpoint front serviceable washing machine agitator coupler

Watch your fingers...

A few of the potential bad parts (belt, coupler, door switch) are cheap. A clutch is $100-150 and if thats shot the motor is right behind it, so get a new/new-used one. Seems the hotpoint/ge's of that era didnt handle big loads very well.
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Old 02-22-2008, 08:47 PM   #11
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Okay, I think I'm gettin' somewhere. After getting the *$%^& agitator off and checking the agitator coupler, I think that's fine. It doesn't look worn and when it is assembled I can't even turn it with both hands. Put another way, it's not slipping. So, I took the front panel off to look at who-knows-what. I guess, as I do with a car, I'm expecting there to be some simple hose or wire disconnected in plain view and I'll only have to put it back. Course that never works.

But, I did notice this black powder/dust under the motor. After doing a little googling, I found this site, which says black powder is possibly caused to a bad motor coupler. American A/C & Appliance

So, I'm off to figure out how to find the motor coupler and what to look for when I do. Any words of advice before I jump in feet first?
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:01 PM   #12
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Actually, I think I just figured out what CFB told me in an earlier post. I don't think there is a motor coupler on Hotpoints. lol. I might've been looking for it for a while. On to the next bright idea...
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:15 PM   #13
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The black dust may just be from the belt - normal wear.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:17 PM   #14
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How about a picture or two?

Otherwise my good advice was "watch your fingers". Past this point, I'd suggest buttoning it up, telling the wife it was a bad flux capacitor and getting a new spiffy front loader.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:19 PM   #15
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I got the motor out. Not sure what good it has done me.

You might be right. But the belt just slipped right off the pulleys, so maybe it has gotten loose? Too loose? Hell, I don't know. My experience with belts is that they are really tight on the pulleys and usually a pain to remove. This one just slipped off, like I said. I'll do some more googling and see what I can find.

Thanks for your help. Another couple beers and hours and I might just have this thing fixed. Either that or know that it's time to get a new one.
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Old 02-22-2008, 09:32 PM   #16
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Uh uh. Remember what happened to me the last time I had a bunch of wine, a reciprocating saw and a locked safe...

If the belt was that loose, that was your problem.

If you're lucky, you can get the motor back in and get a new belt on it without anyone being the wiser.
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Old 02-22-2008, 10:07 PM   #17
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We had a problem with our Maytag "Neptune" front-load washer a few months back. The washer stopped running the spin cycle, resulting in loads of soggy, wet, but otherwise clean clothes.

I did an Internet search on the problem, and there were plenty of people who had the same problem, a thing called a "wax motor" that shorted out, causing components on the washer's main board to burn out. The wax motor problem was the subject of a recall, but we seem to have missed the boat somehow and not gotten it replaced. Now it seemed we were on the hook for replacing the $450 main board.

Fortunately there were also web sites that described the exact main board components that this failure tended to fry, and some bright business people who were willing to sell little plastic baggies of replacement parts, solder, and desoldering wick along with instructions on how to replace said failed components, all for $35. ($4 of components and a password to an online repair manual for $35 + shipping via an eBay store front . . . good business model.)

A couple hours of web surfing, some time and skill disassembling, troubleshooting (to confirm the diagnosis), some delay for shipping time and repairing the main board, reassembling the washer and . . . tada! . . . I could finish last week's laundry.

Best of all I got to impress my wife as one of those handy-guys who is really useful, even intelligent, and definately good to have around the house. (Shall I go on to say good looking and . . .)
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Old 02-23-2008, 10:21 AM   #18
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The belt was likely loose. It would grab on the pulley when the load was light but slip under a heavier load. The black dust is belt shavings. The belt is probably glazed from friction heat developed while slipping. Replace the belt, adjust the tension properly and you are likely golden. If you didn't screw up the agitator too much getting it off all the better. Sometimes, with what you've described, it's an agitator problem, but usually not; and getting the s.o.b. off can be like removing an impacted wisdom tooth. Hot Point/GE are oddly designed, in my opinion, but not that hard to work on and they seem to do the job. By the way, you can usually find a way to bypass the lid switch w/o jumping it by sticking a screwdriver into the slot and pressing on the lever that closes it while it runs. But if you get hurt, don't blame me! Good luck!
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Old 02-23-2008, 11:16 AM   #19
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I fixed it! You're exactly right, ronin. The belt does look very shiny and is slick (rather than grip-like), so I assume that's what you mean by glazed. I basically just moved the motor outward to adjust the tension, tighten the four nuts and it appears to be working well. We did a very large load this morning and it worked like a charm. However, I'm still going to order a new belt ($11) and put that on, b/c there were so many shavings that I can't imagine that this belt is working optimally.

Thanks everyone. You saved me several hundred dollars. I owe you all a beer. This'un is on me, take your pick:

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Old 02-23-2008, 06:11 PM   #20
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I want the one with the resealable mason-jar type top.

Now if I could just figure out why thats needed...
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