On any top-loading washing machine, the agitator is such an essential part that the machine cannot clean without it. Though repairing a washing machine is often best done by a professional, removing the agitator is a fast, easy project that can be done by most do-it-yourselfers with just a few simple tools.
What a Washing Machine Agitator Is
The agitator is located in the center of the washing machine drum. It is responsible for agitating or moving the clothes in the water-filled drum.
Shaped like a screw or an auger, a washing machine agitator rapidly moves clockwise and then counter-clockwise, randomly sloshing the clothes in the water and cleaning them. In the spin cycle, the agitator is locked into place and moves cyclically with the drum.
When to Remove a Washing Machine Agitator
Composed of two pieces of solid plastic, the washing machine agitator is so durable that it rarely breaks. But sometimes it needs to be removed and replaced to take care of a different problem.
Clothes can get tangled under the agitator base. When other methods fail, removing the agitator will always free the clothes. Since it's difficult to reach down into the washing machine drum, cleaning the agitator is much easier when you can remove it. You'll also need to remove the agitator for a common do-it-yourself washer repair: replacing the plastic dogs—or ratcheting teeth—when the agitator no longer spins.
Always unplug the washing machine before working on the agitator to prevent the agitator from accidentally spinning.
Equipment / Tools
- Socket wrench set
- Wrench extension
- Replacement agitator (if needed)
Unplug the washing machine's electric cord from the outlet.
Remove Top Agitator Cap
The agitator cap is the round disk on top of the agitator which sometimes contains fabric softener or laundry detergent. Depending on your type of machine, you may need to pry it off with a screwdriver. There may be a small slot where you place the screwdriver or the cap may have a gap all the way around it.
Remove Inner Cap
Directly below the top cap is the inner cap designed to prevent water and detergent from entering the agitator mechanism. Remove this by hand or with a screwdriver.
Remove Agitator Bolt
Fit the extender on the socket wrench. Fit the 7/16-inch socket (or whatever size is necessary for your machine) on the end of the extender.
Hold the base of the agitator with one hand. With the other hand, fit the socket onto the agitator bolt located deep in the center of the agitator. Turn counter-clockwise to remove the bolt.
Reach to the bottom of the washing machine drum. Grab the lip of the agitator base with your fingers. Pull straight up to remove the agitator from the drum.
Separate Agitator Mover From Base
If you need to separate the upper agitator clothes mover from the agitator base, have an assistant hold the base firmly on the ground while you pull the clothes mover up.
Replace the agitator by reversing the removal steps. Reattach the agitator top and base. Slide the reassembled part back into the machine. Screw the bolt back on by turning the bolt clockwise. Finish by adding the two caps on top.
Troubleshooting Washing Machine Agitator Removal
Removing Tangled Clothing Without Removing Agitator
For tangled clothing or sheets at the base, determine the direction of the machine's spin cycle. Hold the drum steady with one hand. With the other hand, spin the agitator in the opposite direction of the machine's spin cycle.
As you do this, have an assistant slowly pull out the clothing. If this doesn't work, then proceed with removing the agitator.
Agitator Is Stuck
After removing the agitator bolt, loop a flat nylon strap (such as a dog leash) around the bottom of the agitator base. Draw the loose ends of the strap up and out of the drum.
Lay a broom handle across the top of the washer. Wrap the loose ends of the strap around the broom handle. Use the handle as a lever to pull the agitator up.
Agitator Bolt Will Not Turn
Make sure that you are using the correct socket for the bolt. A socket even one size too large will strip the bolt head.
If the socket set has been used frequently, the socket might be rounded down on the inside. Purchase a new socket and try that.
When to Call a Professional
Corroded or rusted parts may prevent you from removing the agitator bolt or the entire agitator. If you cannot do either without the risk of stripping the bolt or breaking the agitator, call an appliance repair expert for help.