How to fix your washing machine

We explain how to fix six common washing machine faults.

19aug how to fix your washing machine hero default

I’ll wager that your washing machine is unloved.

It’s most likely tucked away in the laundry and cleaned reluctantly and rarely. Yet it’s expected to remove the grime of life on a daily basis without fuss. Everything is fine and dandy until, one day, it isn’t, and your dirty clothes start piling up.

So, what goes wrong with a washer and what can you do to keep yours spinning? The good news is that you can cheaply and easily repair most common faults.

Percentages are the proportion of faulty machines reported in our latest reliability survey that exhibited the particular problem.

Before you start

  • If you’re not keen on tackling the repair yourself, enlist the services of a local specialist. They can access spare parts that can be hard to locate, and you won’t be left rueing your over-ambition as they’ll guarantee their work should something go wrong.
  • Most washers report an error code when something goes wrong. Deciphering the code will help point you to the fault. The manual should explain the codes, otherwise you can likely find it online (just search the code and your brand/model).

It won’t turn on

Electronic circuits 25%, Controls not working 14%

Have you checked the machine is plugged in, switched on at the wall, and the fuse hasn’t blown or the circuit breaker tripped?

Next, make sure the door or lid has shut properly. Most front loaders have an interlock that confirms the door is closed. If the interlock has failed, it’s relatively simple to replace. Top loaders have a lid switch that does the same job.

If you’re unlucky, the control board or power supply is cooked (though these are relatively rare faults). Those are expensive parts to replace, and you’ll need to call in an expert.

You can’t open the front-loader door

Check the machine isn’t stuck mid-cycle, that any child lock function hasn’t been inadvertently switched on and there’s no water sitting in the drum. If these pass muster, you may have a broken door handle. It should be a cheap and easy repair (though some machines need a whole new door).

The drum won’t empty

Not draining 21%

Inside the machine, water from the drum flows through a sump hose, a filter (if your machine has one), then the pump, before exiting through the drain hose.

You can use gravity to drain water without the pump – unplug the drain hose and make sure it is lower than the drum. If it doesn’t drain, it’s likely you have a blocked hose or filter.

If the pump’s kaput, it doesn’t mean the whole machine is ready for the scrapheap – pumps aren’t expensive and can be replaced relatively easily.

The drum’s not turning

Not spinning 12%, Out of balance 11%, Motor broken 8%

The wash cycle runs, but the drum doesn’t spin. You might notice because your clothes are soaking wet after a programme has finished.

First, check the load isn’t too big or small – both can result in the drum getting unbalanced while spinning. To prevent damage, some machines won’t spin an unbalanced load.

If the drum isn’t turning during the wash or spin cycle, check the motor belt hasn’t broken or slipped off – when you rotate the drum by hand you should feel some resistance to it turning (that’s the belt turning the motor). A belt is an easy fix.

A less likely cause is worn motor brushes. These consumable parts wear down over time. If your machine is older than five years, you may need to replace them. New brushes are cheap, though you may need to remove the motor to fit them. Least likely of all is a broken motor or control module. Those are expensive and need specialist repair expertise.

It’s making an awful noise

Noisy 12%, Bearings 7%

First, work out what type of noise it is and where it’s coming from.

If the noise is coming from low down, sounds like a loud rattle, and only happens when water is being drained, you could have something stuck in the pump or filter. Most of the time, the pump will push these objects out with the water, but sometimes they lodge and can cause damage.

Bearing failures cause a grinding sound when the drum spins. Bearings should be a relatively simple replacement, but many are now built into the drum assembly, which makes them impossible to repair economically. Bearing failures are rare, though. To confirm, try turning the drum by hand – it should turn smoothly with little noise.

Leaks

Leaks contributed to a mere 6% of faulty machines in our survey. That’s probably because we only asked about failures in washers less than five years old. As rubber hoses and seals get older, we’d expect them to figure more prominently in the stats.

You should check water supply hoses periodically for signs of cracking, and replace them every five years to prevent a flooding disaster. Regularly examine the door seal for damage and cracking. If you need to replace a failing (or mouldy) door seal, it’s a surprisingly cheap and easy job.

Member comments

Get access to comment

Adrian M.
18 Sep 2019
Spend $50 and a few minutes and keep your old machine

One fault you did not mention that happens with F&P machines is with the small out of balance switch. This results in a 'freeze' of the machine which thinks the drum has an out of balance load. It is an easy fix by undoing the control panel cover and the replacement part is available for about $50 from F&P. These machines self-diagnose. You can find information about fault codes and how to read them, by searching for the manual on the internet.

Paul S.
02 Sep 2019
Be careful when ordering parts online

I have repaired our washing machine a few times. The drain pump was the first thing to go. The actual motor was okay, but the impeller had broken off. I was able to buy a replacement for $35. I would say that anyone with some basic knowledge of electronics should be able to replace it.

The second issue we had was a loud clunking noise on spin. This was a button caught in the drain pump impeller and would occasionally get picked and spun around. On our machine there was a cover on the side of the machine which gives access to the impeller and I was able to see the button and eventually remove it.

When purchasing parts for washing machines, you need to make sure that the replacement part is for the specific model, and even where it states it is for your model, check the dimensions. We bought a lint filter for our machine from homeappliancesonline.co.nz, and when it arrived it didn't fit, despite the website saying it was for our model. The dimesions were slightly different, a few mm out.

Shaun J.
31 Aug 2019
clean washing machine

check with manufacturer, LG told me to use dishwasher powder for LG front loader

Heather Armishaw
31 Aug 2019
Drain/pump in front loaders

One reason for a front loader not draining or spinning is that the drain has something stuck in it - often a hairclip, coin or one of those pesky plastic collar stiffeners. The drain is generally accessible from the front but in opening it, water will pour all over the floor - so have a container handy. One way to minimise this is to tilt the whole machine back a little (not too far, you don't want it to tip right back). The object stopping the small fan from turning can generally be removed with your fingers.

Deborah R.
21 Aug 2019
Do you need to "clean" a washing machine.

I wonder if the proprietary washing machine cleaning fluids being sold at the supermarket are necessary, and if there is a cheap and easy alternative (I've heard some people mention vinegar.

Steven P.
31 Aug 2019
Just run a hot water wash cycle

I just every now and then run a hottest cycle the machine can do with nothing in it.
My washer (a F&P front loader) has a drum clean cycle which runs a very hot 90 Deg C cycle and that dissolves any "gunk" build up.

On a washer without that special cycle;
* choose a high water level (large load)
* max agitation
* hottest water
Allow it to fill, agitate for say 15 minutes and then just advance the program to the end spin cycle.

You could add vinegar but I just use hot water.