Household Repairs: Fixing Common Washer Problems

Save money by trying simple washing machine repairs and maintenance solutions before calling a professional. Topics include washers that won't fill, won't agitate, and won't drain.

Nobody likes handing over hard-earned money to a washing machine repair technician, especially when the repair takes only five minutes. The savvy homeowner knows a few simple repair tricks to attempt before getting out the yellow pages and a checkbook, and never thinks, "I could have done that myself" as the repair tech walks away. A broken washing machine may seem scary, but the self-satisfaction of having fixed it yourself will more than validate your efforts.

Washer Won't Turn On

If the washing machine won't turn on at all, check the circuit breaker. Make sure that the switch is on. Then make sure the machine is plugged in. If your washer has an off-balance switch, check it. Perhaps your teenaged son tried to wash all of his towels and jeans at once, and tripped the switch. If you can't hear the familiar click when you close the lid, you may have a broken lid switch, in which case you'll need to call a professional.

Washer Fills Slowly or Does Not Fill

Most do-it-yourselfers can fix a washing machine that does not fill or that fills slowly. First, before starting any repair, unplug the washing machine. Then look at the two smaller hoses leading to the washing machine. Are they kinked? Unkink them as you would a garden hose. Or, look at the two faucet handles at the tops of the hoses. They allow water into your washing machine, so turn them clockwise to be certain they are all the way open. If none of these repairs fix the machine, remove the hoses where they connect to the washing machine. Each hose connects to the washing machine with a fill valve, and the screen inside the fill valve sometimes clogs with dirt or mineral deposits. Remove the dirty screens and replace them or clean them with vinegar and warm water, and your water should be flowing freely. If your washing machine still does not fill at all, fills slowly, or fills with only hot or cold water, call a repair person. You could have a faulty fill valve, which requires a professional.

Washer Shakes and Vibrates

When your washing machine shakes so hard that it drowns out even your colicky baby, redistribute the clothes inside. If that doesn't help, or if the machine always sounds like that, the feet may not be level. You can check with a carpenter's level. If the bubble isn't centered when you set the level on the washer going front to back, lift the back of the machine a few inches off the ground and drop it. This will engage the self-adjusting back feet. If the bubble isn't centered when you place the level along the front edge of the washer, use an adjustable wrench to raise or lower the screws on the front feet as needed. Turn clockwise to raise, counterclockwise to lower.

Washer Does Not Drain

Sometimes a washing machine will fill with water and wash clothing, but won't drain. If your washing machine won't drain, locate the drain hose. The widest of the three hoses attached to the washing machine, it does not have a faucet handle. If the drain hose has a kink, unkink it. If it looks fine from the outside, unplug the washing machine and bail out the water, then remove the drain hose and clear out any clogs. If you determine that water should flow freely through the hose, the problem is most likely a faulty lid switch or water pump, either of which require a professional repair.

Your own comfort and skill level will undoubtedly guide which of these repairs you choose to attempt. Remember to exercise all reasonable safety precautions, and do not try any repairs you feel uncomfortable with. Knowing a little bit about washing machine repair may save you some money, and will certainly help you better understand your repair bill if you are unable to fix the problem yourself.

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