A washing machine is basically a big tub that repeatedly fills and drains with water, spins to wring clothes dry, and has a device for stirring things up— either an agitator in the middle of a top-load machine or a rolling drum in the case of a front-loader. The four cycles that every washer performs are fill, wash, drain, and spin.
Though there are a number of problems that you can fix quite simply, washing machines have a variety of devices and controls that, when they go wrong, are better left in the hands of an appliance repairperson.
Some problems that commonly occur with a clothes washer are that it doesn’t agitate; doesn’t drain; doesn’t run; shakes, vibrates, or rocks; doesn’t spin, fills improperly or water temperature is wrong, leaks.
If your washer doesn’t run, be sure it’s plugged in and that the receptacle works (the circuit hasn’t overloaded). Before working on the washing machine, be sure to unplug it.
If it doesn’t fill, the water inlet screens may be blocked. Clean or replace them. (Check your owner’s manual for the location of the screens; they’re often located at one end of the supply hoses, or you may have to remove a panel to access them.) Other reasons for not filling may be that either the timer or temperature selector is broken—both of these are repairs for an appliance repairperson.
If your washer doesn’t spin, check to see if the clothes have jammed or are unbalanced in the drum before calling a repairperson. Unbalanced clothes will also cause a washer to shudder or walk. If straightening out the load doesn’t stop the washer from shaking, look at the feet underneath and be sure they are properly adjusted to keep the washer sitting level on the floor (you just turn them to move them up or down).
To prevent problems, follow good maintenance procedures. Use the right amount of detergent for your washer and your water hardness, make sure the machine is level, and don’t overload it for the cycle chosen.
Because washing machine hoses are under constant pressure, check periodically for wear because they can flood your home if they burst when you’re away. You can prevent this tragedy by installing lever-type shutoff valves, shown at top right. With these, you can easily turn off the levers for both hot and cold water between wash days.