Common Washing Machine Problems in 2023

By Terry Mehilos | Oct. 13, 2023 2:20 am PST

Common Washing Machine Problems

You never fully appreciate your washing machine until it breaks down. The challenge is knowing how to fix it — fast. Some washer problems, like washing machine odor, you can solve on your own. Other issues, like a washer that won’t spin, sometimes require a repairman. And some problems suggest that it may be time to buy a new washer.

In this article, we’ll describe common washer problems and describe how to fix them on your own. When you’re unable to complete the DIY repair yourself, you can schedule service or replace the washer.

Diagnosing and fixing top-loading washing machine problems often differ from troubleshooting and repair for front-load washers. We’ll cover the common problems in these types of washers separately.

Common Top-Load Washer Problems

Here are the most common top-load washer failures and how to fix them.

Washer is Noisy or Shaking

There’s an uncomfortable urgency to the sound of the washer banging against the dryer or walking across the laundry room floor. It’s a noise that compels us to drop what we’re doing and dash to the laundry room to try to calm the gyrating machine.

Here are top causes and solutions for a noisy or vibrating washer:

  • The load is unbalanced. If you loaded the washer with heavier clothes on one side, or if they shift to one side of their own volition, the load becomes unbalanced. Unbalanced loads are especially common with large or bulky items, especially if the load is small. The solution is simple – open the washer and redistribute the load.
  • The leveling legs need to be adjusted. All four leveling legs should have full contact with the floor. To check, place your hands on the corners of the empty washer and rock it slightly side to side. If the washer rocks, adjust the legs following the directions in your owner’s manual.
  • Flooring under the washer is weak. Above-ground floor installations or pier-and-beam foundations may not offer adequate support for some washing machines, particularly washers with a high-speed spin. Securing a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood to the floor under the washer base sometimes resolves the excessive vibration.
  • Something in the washer is broken. The problem might be that components that stabilize the washer have broken. Possibilities include suspension springs, balance rings, snubber pads and shock absorbers. Inspect these parts and replace any that are broken.

When you can’t find the cause of noise or fix the problem yourself, schedule a Sears Technician to fix your washer.

Washing Machine Won’t Start

If the washer is getting power but doesn’t start, the switch that senses whether the lid is shut or locked might have failed. A failed timer, main electronic control board, user interface board or motor control board can also prevent the washer from starting.

Washers with an electronic control system often signal an error code on the display when the washer won’t start. If your washer display signals a code, use our washer error code charts to determine the cause of the code and fix the problem.

Vertical modular top-load washers signal a component problem in a unique way. This type of top-load washer locks the lid during the cycle because it spins the basket at a high rate of speed in the spin mode. A vertical modular top-load washer flashes the Lid Lock light instead of displaying a code when the washer won’t start. Our How to troubleshoot flashing lid lock errors on a vertical modular washer video provides DIY tips on fixing your washer when you see the Lid Lock light flashing.

A top-load, direct-drive washer uses an electro-mechanical timer to control washer functions, so it won’t signal error codes. This type of washer doesn’t lock the lid because it spins the basket at lower speeds than a vertical modular top-load washer. Instead, the direct-drive, top-load washer stops if you lift the lid. The wash cycle won’t start if the direct-drive washer doesn’t fill or the water-level pressure switch doesn’t detect that the washer filled. Our Troubleshooting a direct-drive top-load washer that won’t fill video shows you how to fix a direct-drive washer that isn’t filling:

As shown in the video, a failed water inlet valve assembly or bad water-level pressure switch can prevent a direct-drive, top-load washer from starting.

Washer Won’t Spin

Many components come into play to drive the washer’s spin basket, and a problem with any of them could prevent the washer from spinning.

For top-load, direct-drive washers (washers whose lid doesn’t lock during the wash portion of the cycle), a bad clutch, worn clutch band or broken drive block could prevent the basket from spinning. A broken motor coupler, failed lid switch or bad timer could also prevent this type of washer from spinning.

On top-load, vertical modular washers (washers whose lid is always locked during the entire wash cycle), a failed shifter assembly or worn drive belt can prevent the washer from spinning the wash load. Watch our Troubleshooting a top-load washer that won’t drain or spin video to see how to diagnose and fix a top-load washer that won’t spin. That video provides solutions for spin problems on both types of top-load washers.

Water Won’t Drain

First check for a kink or clog in the drain hose or a backup in the house drain system. If the drain path is clear, the drain pump might have failed or a broken water-level pressure switch might not sense how much water is in the washer. A failed lid switch can also keep the washer from advancing to the drain and spin cycle in some top-load washing machines. A failed timer or problem with the drive motor can also prevent a top-load washer from draining.

Watch our Washer won’t drain or spin video to see how to fix your washing machine when it won’t drain.

Common Front-Load Washer Problems

Here are common problems that you may face when you have a front-load washer.

Bad Smell

Musty odor is the number one problems with front-load washers. These machines are tightly sealed around the door to prevent water leaks. The moist environment around the door boot seal quickly causes mold and mildew to form and start stinking up your laundry room. Fixing this issue is something that you can do yourself. Follow these steps to get rid of mildew and odor in your front-load washer:

  1. Empty all garments from the washer.
  2. Mix 3/4 cup of liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of warm tap water.
  3. Put on protective gloves and wipe the door boot seal area with the bleach solution. Be sure to wipe in between folds and thoroughly around the outer edge of the door boot. Let the solution stay on the boot for 5 minutes.
  4. Rinse the area thoroughly with plain water.
  5. Insert a washer cleaner tablet such as Affresh® into the washer and run a clean cycle or normal wash cycle using the hot water setting.
  6. Clean out the drain pump filter as shown in your owner’s manual and illustrated in the image below.

Image of how to clean the washer drain pump filter

You can prevent washer mold from forming by doing the following:

  • Leave the door slightly open when you’re not doing laundry.
  • Frequently check for small items, such as socks, that can get caught in the door seal. Pull back the seal and carefully inspect all areas. If a small item goes undetected, it becomes moldy.
  • Always use high-efficiency (HE) laundry detergent. Regular detergents encourage mold buildup. They also generate more suds than the machine can handle.

The Control Panel Displays an Error Code

Most front-load washers use an electronic control board that detects problems in the machine and displays a code on the control panel when failures occur. You can fix some problems yourself while other failures typically require you to schedule a service technician to fix the washer.

To see whether you can fix a failure indicated by an error code on your washer, look up the code on our Washer Error Code Charts and view the troubleshooting recommended to fix the problem. If the washer troubleshooting is beyond your level of expertise, call in the technician.

When to Replace Your Washer Instead of Repairing It

When your washer is over 10 years old and a repair is going to cost you half as much as buying a new washing machine, then it’s typically time to replace the washer instead of repairing it.

Image of Sears upgrade page

When the time comes to replace your washer, or both of your laundry appliances, visit our Upgrade page to easily select the products you need and get help with financing.

We’ve consolidated all help, financing offers and savings into one location on our Upgrade page to make it easy for you to replace your appliances now. No hassles and no waiting. Get your new home appliances today.

Efficient and durable appliances help make a house a home. Whether you just need a new washer and dryer or you’re buying a whole set of appliances, Sears carries a wide selection of home appliances from top brands like Kenmore, Frigidaire, GE, Samsung and LG.

No matter what you need, we have all the products and resources to make managing your home easier.

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