How to Repair Your Washing Machine

Repair Clothes Washer
Alex Wilson / Getty Images

One day it was faithfully churning and spinning your clothes; the next day it wasn't. Has your washing machine started to misbehave? 

For a machine that works so hard, it isn't surprising that your clothes washer will stop working or will work poorly every so often. Instead of calling in an expensive technician, how about trying to repair your washing machine yourself? Most of these repairs require only simple tools and can be performed by homeowners who have only limited appliance repair skills.

  • 01 of 07

    Washer Will Not Start

    Problem: You have put the clothes in the washer, pressed the "On" button and nothing happens.

    • Check the power cord behind the washer to make sure that it is plugged in. Due to washers' vigorous movements, they may come unplugged.
    • Is the circuit breaker to the washer flipped off? Check this. To reset a circuit breaker, you first need to flip it in the "Off" direction and then "On" again.
    • Your front loader washer's lid switch strike may be faulty. This is the area of the door frame that communicates to the machine that the door is properly closed and it is okay to begin filling with water.
    • Your top loader washer's lid switch may be faulty. You can test this by setting the machine to "On" and then pushing into the hole with the blunt end of a pen. If working correctly, the water should begin filling even though the lid is open.
  • 02 of 07

    Washer Leaves Clothing Covered With Lint and Debris

    Problem: After washing your clothing, you remove it only to find your supposedly clean clothes covered in lint, hair and other light debris.

    • Avoid overloading your washer. An overly full washer does not have enough space for the clean rinse water to pull out the detergent and debris. Consult your owner's manual for specific load maximums.
    • Use less detergent. Too much detergent can redeposit lint and other debris back on the clothing, rather than pulling it out.
    • Wash pet-related items (bedding, toys, etc.) separately from the rest of the clothing. If the pet load is especially dirty, clean the tub by hand after the wash.
  • 03 of 07

    Washer Will Not Spin

    Problem: Your washer has agitated but it refuses to spin.

    • Try to redistribute the clothing. When the washer is out of balance, it will automatically stop until you can get the clothing back in balance. After redistributing the clothing, close the lid again. The machine should start spinning automatically if the load distribution is correct.
    • Check the machine's level. Much like the above step, an out-of-level machine will stop spinning. Check with a bubble level and bring the machine back to level by adjusting the legs.
    • Check the drainage and the drain hose. Small items may clog up the machine's drainage system. You may be able to check the washer's drain pump without removing it. Finally, the drainage hose that leads from the back of the machine to a drainage point may be clogged.
  • 04 of 07

    Washer Is Making Loud Noises

    Problem: When the washer is spinning, it makes thumping, grinding or clunking noises.

    • The tub bearings, located directly below the tub, may be worn out and in need of replacement. 
    • If it is a squeaking sound, the tub bearings may need lubrication. 
    • The washer motor drive belt or pulley may be worn out. This is a rather involved repair, where you need to take apart a significant amount of the machine to get to the motor.
    • The pump pulley belt may be cracked, frayed or otherwise out of shape. Often the belt will smell like burning rubber, too.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Washer Will Not Agitate

    Problem: Your washing machine tub may fill with water, but once full, its agitator will not move.

    • Agitation is the back and forth motion that cleans the clothing. This action is performed by the central plastic cone-shaped device called the agitator. Small plastic directional cogs (also known as "dogs") connect the upper portion of the agitator with the bottom portion. Open the lid while the machine is in agitation mode. Depress the lid switch with the blunt end of a pen so that the machine does not stop while the lid is open. If the machine is making normal sounds of agitation or even a grinding noise, yet the agitator is not moving, the dogs may be worn down or broken and in need of replacement.
    • Your machine's washer motor may have been affected by a power spike and needs to be reset. All brands have different reset procedures; check your owner's manual for possible information about motor resetting. For example, many GE washing machines require you to unplug the machine, plug it back in, then lift and lower the lid six times within 12 seconds, raising the lid a minimum of two inches in order to break the lid switch magnetic connection.
  • 06 of 07

    Washer Will Not Drain

    Problem: Your washing machine's tub fills with water but will not drain.

    • Your machine's pump may be clogged with a piece of fabric or some other item related to washing. Bail the water and unplug the machine. Take off the screws on the front panel. Tilt the machine up and prop up the front of the machine on wood or bricks for easier access. Your machine's pump housing may be transparent, making it easy to assess whether you have a clog in the pump. If so, use pliers to gently untwist the clog from the pump.
    • Alternatively, the clog may be located in the corrugated tube that leads to the pump. Unclamp the tube. Have a bucket or bin nearby, because this tube will be filled with water. Drain the water. If there is a clog in the hose, it will be at the end of the hose. Pull it out by hand or with pliers.
  • 07 of 07

    Washer Vibrates and Shakes Too Much

    Problem: When your washing machine is running, particularly during the spin cycle, it violently shakes or vibrates, often so much that the machine "walks." This may be pronounced if you have a high-efficiency machine, which has a faster spin cycle than top loading machines.

    • Your machine may need to be rebalanced. Use a bubble level to assess the level of the machine from side-to-side and front-to-back. Readjust level by turning the machine's legs up or down. Unlike the dryer, which has just two front adjustable legs, most washing machines have four adjustable legs.
    • With stacking washer-dryer combinations, the connection straps may have loosened, causing shaking. This can be a dangerous situation. Tighten the connection straps.
    • The classic and most easily fixable cause is an unbalanced load. Drape long, heavy items around the central agitator so that they are not grouped on one side. Or move large items to the other side of equally large items.
    • Consider purchasing an anti-vibration pad. Consumer Reports tests have shown that pads that are three inches thick do an excellent job of deadening shaking and vibration. While not inexpensive, these pads can be a valuable tool for reducing the transmission of washer vibration to your home.