Tuesday, November 08, 2011

repairing our front-loading washing machine

broken shock absorber

We've generally loved our front-loading Kenmore/Sears washing machine. It doesn't use much water or electricity, gets clothes cleaner, and leaves clothes dryer than our old top-loading machine ever did.

But for a while, it's been behaving strangely. It was vibrating a lot during the final spin, occasionally spilling water from the hose, and sometimes making a whomping noise audible in the rest of the house. Still, it was getting clothes clean, so I didn't worry about it too much. Then last week it stopped in the middle of a cycle—it had tripped the GFCI breaker, and resetting that didn't do any good.

That meant I actually had to do something about it—at least after some hours at work, then taking the half-done laundry load to the nearest laundromat to wash. I took the front panel off and immediately noticed the broken shock absorber-type thingy that connects the drum to the frame. There wasn't a great puddle of water or anything else obviously wrong that I could see, so I let it sit while I got some replacement parts.

After it sat and dried for a couple of days, I tried it again, and it was ready to go. My theory is that it splashed itself during one of its violent episodes. So I unplugged the washer again, and set to replacing the shock absorbers. The old ones were challenging to remove, and the new ones almost as challenging to put in. Fortunately the parts came with instructions which helped, but it still involved a lot of awkward reaching, grunting and pushing and pulling pieces to get done. I ended up taking the back off, too, which helped get access to the plastic pins that hold each end of the shock absorber.

I also took the opportunity to clean out the water inlet filters. The hot water (which we don't use much) was pretty badly clogged. It was also interesting to note that there's a lot of empty space and some cement blocks (attached to the drum, to reduce vibration) inside the washer. And interesting to note that the replacement shock absorbers use a different design—I don't think we're the only ones to have this particular breakdown.

In any event, $35, some banged knuckles, and a test cycle later, the washing machine is back to its wonderful self.