How to Repair Your Washing Machine

Repair Clothes Washer
Alex Wilson / Getty Images

One day your washing machine was faithfully cleaning your clothes, and you barely even gave its operation a second thought. Then, any number of scenarios occurred. Perhaps the machine's basin fills with water but it will not drain. Or it drains but does not spin. Or the clothes are washed but are not very clean. In short, your washing machine does not work at its peak performance or has entirely stopped working.

For a machine that works so hard, it is hardly surprising that your clothes washer will occasionally break down or its performance will degrade to the point where the clothes are not getting sufficiently clean. Instead of calling in an expensive appliance technician, you can repair your washing machine by 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

    Washing Machine Will Not Start

    It is the most basic of all washing machine breakdowns: the machine will not start. You have put the clothes in the washing machine basin, pressed the "On" button or turned the dial, and then nothing happens.

    • Check the power cord behind the washer to make sure that it is plugged in. Due to washers' vigorous movements, especially when the load is imbalanced, machines may move. When a machine moves, it may inadvertently unplug the power cord. Cords that have been shortened with ties have no give. In this case, untie the cord to allow for more flexibility.
    • Is the circuit breaker to the washer flipped off? To reset a circuit breaker, find the electrical service panel. Locate the correct circuit breaker, flip it in the "Off" direction, and then back to the "On" position.
    • 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. Close the lid and watch as the part on the door connects with the part on the machine. The top part should seat into the bottom part.
    • 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

    Washing Machine Does Not Adequately Clean the Clothes

    This may be one of the more frustrating clothes washer problems because you notice it only after running the clothes through a full cycle. After washing your clothing, you remove it and 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 such as blankets, cat and dog beds, and chew toys separately from the rest of the clothing. If the pet load is especially dirty, clean the washing machine tub by hand after the wash.
  • 03 of 07

    Washing Machine Will Not Spin

    With this all-too-common washing machine problem, the basin has drained of water but it refuses to spin. Spinning at a high rate of speed is the action that squeezes water out of the clothing so that it can be dried in the dryer.

    • Try to redistribute the clothing within the washing machine tub. 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. Loads that include high-absorption materials like towels, sheets, and thick clothing like jeans and sweaters often become imbalanced.
    • Check the machine's level on the floor. An out-of-level machine will stop spinning; this action is programmed into your clothes washer for safety. Check the machine's level 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

    Washing Machine Makes Loud Noises

    One of the more annoying washing machine problems is when the washer makes thumping, grinding, or thunking noises during the agitation or spin cycles. Repair this problem as soon as possible, since the errant movement can damage the washer and create new problems.

    • The tub bearings, located directly below the tub, may be worn out and in need of replacement. 
    • If the washing machine is making a squeaking sound, the tub bearings may need lubrication. 
    • The washing machine motor drive belt or pulley may be worn out. This is a rather involved repair, where you need to take apart a significant section of the machine in order 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

    Washing Machine Will Not Agitate

    One common problem associated with washing machines: The machine's basin or tub fills with water but the central agitator does 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 cogs 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 General Electric 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

    Washing Machine Fills With Water But Will Not Drain

    Many homeowners have had the unpleasant experience of lifting the washing machine lid, only to discover clothes floating in a tub filled with murky gray water. If you catch the machine early enough, the water is still hot or lukewarm.

    • Your machine's pump may be clogged with a piece of fabric or some other item related to washing. Bail the water out with a kitchen measuring cup and then unplug the machine. Take off the screws on the front panel. Tilt the machine up and prop the front of the machine on two-by-fours or bricks for easier access. Your machine's pump housing may be easily visible, making it simple 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 usually be at the end of the hose. Pull it out by hand or with pliers.
  • 07 of 07

    Washing Machine Vibrates and Shakes Too Much

    When your washing machine is running, particularly during the spin cycle, it may violently shake or vibrate, 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 the machine's 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 the unit to shake violently. This can be a dangerous situation, since the dryer may fall off of the washer. Tighten the connection straps or replace if necessary.
    • The classic and most easily fixable cause of a shaking clothes washer is an unbalanced load. Drape long, heavy items around the central agitator so that they are not grouped on one side. Move large items to the other side of equally large items.
    • Consider purchasing an anti-vibration pad. Independently testing has shown that pads that are three inches thick do an excellent job of deadening the shaking and vibration. While not inexpensive, these pads can be a valuable tool for reducing the transmission of washer vibration to your home.