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Washing Machine Troubleshooting & Repairs

Washing machine need repair? Troubleshoot and fix common problems with your clothes washer with this expert DIY advice, including step-by-step instructions.

Front-loading washer must be empty before you can open the door to work on it. Here, a technician is tightening a screw that had fallen out and was rattling in the drum.Bacho / Shutterstock.com

Front-loading washer must be empty before you can open the door to work on it. Be sure all screws and components are tight.

A washing machine is basically a big tub that repeatedly fills with water and then drains, spins to wring clothes dry, and has a device for stirring the contents up—either an agitator in the middle of a top-load machine or a rolling drum in a front-loading machine.

The four cycles that every washer performs are fill, wash, drain, and spin. Though these functions are pretty basic, a number of things can go wrong with them.

There are a number of problems that you can fix quite simply; some issues, however, are better left in the hands of an appliance repair person. Before working on a washing machine, be sure to unplug it.

Washing Machine Doesn’t Run

If the washer doesn’t operate or make any noise when set on any cycle, it may not be receiving electrical power.

If it stopped when it should have continued on to the next cycle, the machine’s overload protector may have tripped. In this case, take out some of the articles to reduce the load and let the protector reset itself. Then restart the machine.

The Anatomy of a Washing Machine

The Anatomy of a Washing Machine ©HomeTips


1Be sure the machine is plugged in and turned on. If necessary, check the receptacle it’s plugged into for power, using a working lamp, appliance, or voltage tester. Be sure the washer lid is closed completely.

2If the receptacle seems dead, check the circuit breaker or the fuse that serves it.


3Check the power cord. Unplug the washer and check its cord for a break or frayed area. If necessary, replace the cord.


4Open the lid and check the lid switch and the tab on the lid that it pushes against. Press and release the switch. If it doesn’t click when you do this, it’s probably broken. Remove the switch, test it, and replace it if needed.

5If the washer still doesn’t work, the controls may be faulty. Call an appliance repair person.

HomeTips Pro Tip: To prevent problems with your washing machine, 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.

Washing Machine Doesn’t Rinse Correctly

If residue remains on your clothes or in the washing machine following a cycle, the problem may have any of several causes. First, make sure you’re using the machine properly—putting the right amount of soap in the load, not overloading the machine, and so forth. Check your owner’s manual for this information. Just an overly bulky load can cause improper rinsing.

If these types of issues are not causing the problem, the chances are good that the rinse water is not getting into the drum or is not draining out properly.

1Check the supply valves. Make sure the water supply valves that serve the supply hoses are open all the way.


2Make sure the supply hoses are not kinked. 


3Check the drain hose to make sure the machine is draining fully. A blockage can cause dirty rinse water to back up and remain in the drum. When you run a load, watch the machine to make sure it empties completely after each wash and rinse cycle.

4Check to make sure the cold water supply hose isn’t blocked. Turn off the valve to the hose, and then disconnect it from the machine. Put the end into a bucket and turn the faucet back on. It should deliver a strong flow. If it doesn’t, the hose may be partially obstructed. To determine if it is, disconnect the end from the valve, screw it onto a hose bibb outdoors, and try again. If the flow is still constricted, either clear or replace the hose.

5If these measures don’t work, call a washing machine repair person.

Washing Machine Leaks

Lever-type shutoff valves

Leaking water from a washing machine usually comes from hoses or connections. Be sure that water appearing to be a leak isn’t drain water from a backed-up standpipe. To prevent potential flood damage, which can occur if washing machine supply hoses burst, be sure to install “no-burst” stainless-steel mesh hoses and lever-type shutoff valves, as shown at right. With these, you can easily turn off the levers for both hot and cold water between wash days.

1Check the fittings where the hoses connect to the faucets and to the back of the washing machine. Also look for worn or leaky hoses. Tighten couplings or hose clamps if needed, or replace the hoses altogether. Be sure to turn the water off before removing the hoses, and then drain them into a bucket after disconnecting them.

2Determine whether the machine is oversudsing, which can cause it to overflow. Reduce suds by pouring in 1/2 cup white vinegar in 1 quart water. Then switch to either less detergent or to a low-sudsing variety.

3Check seals and bearings. The machine may have a faulty basket gasket or tub seal and bearing that must be replaced; in this case, call an appliance repair person.

Plastic tray protects the floor if the washing machine has a small leak.

Plastic tray, available at home improvement centers, protects the floor if the washing machine has a small leak.

Other Washing Machine Repairs

For troubleshooting and repairing specific problems with a washing machine, please see the following articles:

Call for free estimates from local pros now:

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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