help fix my broken washing machine
October 17, 2008 10:28 AM   Subscribe

So my washing machine doesn't spin during the spin cycle anymore, but all other cycles and functions work fine. What does that mean?

This (a Kenmore 80 series, I think) is the first washing machine I've owned. Bought it used from a refurb-appliance place, and (of course) it starts acting up about a week after the 30-day free repair period has ended. Water input, agitation, and water drainage all function normally, it's just the spin cycle that is broken. Sometimes though, if I manually start spinning the tub then something will catch and the spin cycle will proceed normally.

So, a few questions: what exactly might the problem be? It's not the motor if the agitator still works, right? Given that I paid $125 for this thing, is it worth finding a repairman to fix it or just go out and buy a brand-new washer? how difficult would it be for a reasonably mechanically-inclined guy such as myself to locate a replacement part and swap out the broken one?

I've browsed through a few appliance-repair threads and watched a few DIY videos online, but everything I've found is either incomplete, doesn't help diagnose the problem, or has been given up on by the original poster/answerer. So, I'm turning to the green. Thanks for any help you can provide!
posted by xbonesgt to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A few weeks ago our washer was doing the same thing - everything worked but the spin cycle. Our landlord sent a repairman and it turned out the problem was that the thing wasn't properly leveled. Apparently the spin cycle won't engage if it's off-balance. Try playing with the legs to change the balance and see what happens.
posted by prozach1576 at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2008

It could also be the safety switch on the door. disconnect it & see what happens
posted by patnok at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2008

If it’s a Kenmore go to and click on “parts”, type in the model # of the machine and you’ll get access to schematics and parts lists. The full model # might be on the back or on the inside of the door. I’ve fixed a ton of appliances thanks to the Sears site.

I was originally going to think it was the kill switch that shuts off the spinning when the door opens. That happened to me once, everything else would work but, even with the door closed, the machine wouldn’t spin. There’s a little switch that gets pressed when the door is closed and that switch broke so the machine “thought” the door was always open and wouldn’t spin up. This is a safety feature so you don’t get your arm ripped off when the machine is spinning at high speeds.

However, the fact that you can spin it up by hand and it’ll “catch” makes me think perhaps it’s belt driven and the belt is slipping. Do you hear the motor even when the machine isn’t spinning? If so, then it could be that. If the motor doesn’t turn on at all then I’d think it might be something else.

In any event, look for that kill switch. Check around the door. There’s probably a hole somewhere and a corresponding “peg” on the door that presses down on the switch when the door closes. It might also be a little button near the hinges on the back of the door.

Unless you’re talking about the electronics (and even then, if you’re handy with that sort of thing), washing machines are pretty simple devices. Usually a couple of screwdrivers, some pliers, and a parts source are all you need to fix them. The hardest part is often getting the cover off. Just unplug is when you’re taking it apart and if you need to plug it back in while you’re troubleshooting it, stay away from any wires.
posted by bondcliff at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2008

Response by poster: great, thanks - now I've got a few things to try when I get out of work today.

anything else?
posted by xbonesgt at 11:01 AM on October 17, 2008

Our washer stopped spinning a week ago. When the repairman came out, he initially diagnosed a broken coupler (a cheap plastic thing that joins the tub to the motor, and is designed to break under stress, to save the motor, or other higher value parts from taking the stress when things aren't right.). After taking the machine apart, we saw that the coupler was fine, and it turned out that it was, I believe, the linkage between the motor and the tub that was broken. Ended up costing ~$100 to have it repaired.

That said, if you can start the spin by hand, it could likely be something else entirely.
posted by jcruden at 11:31 AM on October 17, 2008

We had this recently, it was that the 'brushes' had worn down (easily replaced, I'm sure DIY if you're handy but read your manual if unsure; google "problem" "model name and number" if you don't have a manual), but in our case the tub wasn't turning at all unless pushed, but the rest of the cycle was okay.
posted by goo at 12:00 PM on October 17, 2008

"Water input, agitation, and water drainage all function normally, it's just the spin cycle that is broken. Sometimes though, if I manually start spinning the tub then something will catch and the spin cycle will proceed normally."

This is a classic symptom of your spin tube not dropping on older non-direct drive models. If you look at the back of the washer do you have either an opening or grey sheet metal door about 14" on a side? If so then you have one of these models. If so the problem is usually either a defective solenoid on the wig-wag or a broken wire leading to it. Both of these are cheap to fix. More unlikely but possible is a bad timer or something physically wrong with the spin tube assembly (I've seen the brake separate for instance). In which case not worth fixing.
posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2008

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