how to fix a washing machine

How to Fix a Washing Machine That Won’t Spin

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Despite the huge amount of money that can be saved this way, many people believe that they can’t do plumbing, appliance repair or other DIY work because they simply don’t know where to start when their washing machine won’t spin. Pipes seem to go everywhere and even getting the cover off seems to be a task beyond human comprehension.

Handymen who charge $100 an hour didn’t understand those things either, at first. The fact is that even rocket science is simple once you know what you’re doing, and fixing a washing machine is very far from rocket science. For the most part, domestic appliances are designed to make common repairs simple, and parts are cheap and easy to obtain.

Some people who make their living in this way like to pretend that they’re practicing some kind of secret art that only the initiated can hope to understand; others are totally upfront about the fact that people are really paying them for their experience and the convenience they provide, not for any kind of special knowledge. All I can tell you is that, when my washing machine won’t spin or drain, I reach for the toolbox instead of the phone, and whatever the repair bill would have been is spent on ice cream instead.

Why Won’t My Washer Spin? Two Simple Checks that Take Under Ten Minutes

Many of us are prone to assuming the worst the minute an appliance stops working. At least half of washing machine repairs, however, involve changing out a part that costs less than $10, and it usually requires no special skill to diagnose the problem. The following quick fixes won’t always work, but will often be all you need to avoid an expensive repair bill that can ruin your personal finance plan.

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Broken washing machine / Photo by Wapster

The Door Switch

Today’s lesson on surviving the robot uprising is this: a spinning drum full of clothes can easily break your arm or rip off some of your fingers. To prevent this from happening, all washing machines have a switch on the door that stops the rotation when opened. Unfortunately, if this cheap and simple part is broken, it tells the washing machine’s control module that the door is open even when it isn’t and the motor will refuse to engage.

This door switch should be easy to find, just look for a slot near the latch that matches a tab or other protrusion on the door itself. The switch assembly can be removed by undoing two small screws. You may be able to see the problem visually – look for cracks or a buildup of gunk on the mechanical parts. To really make sure that it’s working, though, you’ll need a multimeter.

Simply touch the meter’s probes to the contacts where the wires meet the switch and check that the continuity changes when you toggle it. If this isn’t the case, you’re in luck: you’ve just found the problem, probably in less time than it took you to locate your screwdriver.

The Motor Coupler

If my washing machine’s not spinning but makes a rattling noise when it’s supposed to enter the spin cycle, to the first thing I would suspect is the component that transfers power from the motor to the drum’s transmission, called the motor coupler. This consists of two plastic parts (called drive forks due to their teeth), usually white, that fit into the motor and transmission respectively and are connected to each other with a rubber insert. Motor couplers are commonly found on top loader washers.

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Washer motor coupling / Source:

The reason these drive forks are made of plastic rather than metal is that this assembly is designed to break if the drum is stuck or overloaded, preventing damage to the much more expensive motor. You can normally tell if the coupler is good just by turning it with your fingers: if it feels loose or you can see cracks or other damage on the white plastic parts, it’s probably time to replace it.

Simply disconnect the electrical cord from the wall socket, turn off the water and tilt your machine back against the wall, and you should be able to access it from the bottom without removing the casing. If you think you need to replace it, simply undo the clips or screws holding on the coupler and pump, then do the same for the motor. You should be able to pull the coupler right off or perhaps use a flathead screwdriver for leverage. When replacing it with a good part, make sure that both drive forks and the rubber insert are seated firmly and just put everything back the way you found it – taking a photo or two before you start is often helpful.

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The major parts of a typical top-loading washing machine

How to Fix a Front-Loading Washing Machine that Won’t Spin

Most front load washers use a drive belt instead of the motor coupler to transfer power from the motor to the drum. To get to this, you’ll need to (after disconnecting the electric and water supply) remove your washer’s back cover.

If the belt has snapped, my washer won’t spin or agitate. However, it’s also possible that the belt is no longer grippy enough to turn the drum at high speeds when it’s weighed down with wet clothes. Get someone to hold the drum steady and see if you can slide the belt around by hand; it doesn’t require a great deal of effort, replacing the belt may fix your problem while fast saving money.

Simply loop it over the drive pulley, which will be the small one at the bottom, fit it into the grooves on one side of the larger wheel, and rotate it until it climbs into place.

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Belt / Photo by Wapster

What If My Washer Fills But Does Not Agitate?

There are few things more frustrating than when your washing machine stopped working full of water, leaving you with a mass of sodden clothes and nowhere to put them. Assuming that the drive coupler or belt is okay, there are still two things you can try before phoning up a repairman.

The first is simply to unplug the machine and see if you can turn the drum by hand (many top-loader machines have the brake engaged when switched off, so this isn’t a sure-fire troubleshooting method). By some combination of quantum physics and bad luck, socks and other small items do sometimes make it into the innards of the machine and can physically jam the working parts. Finding and removing the obstruction will generally mean taking off the cover, but this is just a matter of removing a couple of screws, which may be obscured by plastic plugs you can pull out using a small flathead screwdriver.

Another possibility is that the washer’s control electronics have just become confused and need to be reset. This process is described below; if it doesn’t work, it may be that your drive motor has burned out. This is far from the most common problem, but it does happen and can be expensive to fix – doing some Black Friday shopping instead may end up being cheaper.

Why Is My Washer Not Spinning Clothes Dry?

For the most part, there are two possible reasons for a washer that doesn’t spin clothes dry enough: either the machine isn’t draining properly, or (assuming that it does agitate) the clutch or drive belt is worn and doesn’t work properly at high speeds.

If no water, or only a trickle, is coming out of the drain hose, you probably have a blockage of some sort. Ensure that there are no kinks in the hose, clear the drain filter and use a length of wire to dislodge any obstruction in the pipe itself.

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A clean drain filter / Photo by Wapster

Taking Care of a Washer That Spins too Slowly

When a washing machine doesn’t spin dry even though it’s going round and round, but it drains normally during the rest of its cycle, chances are that it’s just not getting up to its proper speed due to the motor not being properly connected to the drum. This generally means a problem with the belt or clutch. Changing out a drive belt is a simple five-minute fix that’s described above, but replacing a clutch requires a little more patience. These, on top-loaders, allow the machine to vary the amount of tension between the motor and drum, but they do get worn and start slipping.

A typical clutch consists of one metal ring embedded inside another. The inner ring has a spring to push it against the outer one, creating friction on a series of pads along the edge. If these are worn, however, they can’t grip the outer ring tightly enough and don’t transfer enough power to spin the drum.

To check or replace it, you’ll first need to take the plastic cover off the agitator, which is the central column in a toploader. Just find the bolt at its top and undo it, which may require you to pull off a plastic cover. Make sure to take a photo of what the assembly you now see looks like, as this will pretty much fall apart when you take off the transmission.

Next, with the washer titled partway on its side, remove the pump, as well as whatever bolts and clips, are holding on the motor/transmission assembly and slide the whole thing out of the machine. Once it’s out, you should see the clutch on top of the transmission.

Testing it is simple: if you can use your fingers to move the inner part and shaft while the outer part and motor are kept stationary, it’s worn and needs to be replaced.

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Clutch / Source:

The outer ring will almost certainly be fine, so compress the spring using a pair of pliers and pop out the inner ring. The new component may come disassembled, but looking at the old one should make joining together the various pieces easy.

Now comes the part where you’ll be glad you paid attention and took plenty of photos as you went along: putting everything back together without having bits left over at the end. Take your time with this; if you can play Lego, you’ll figure it out eventually. Just remember to push up the brake assembly (the part between the clutch and drum, with a plastic tab hanging off at an angle) to ensure that you’re able to seat the transmission firmly in its place.

Finding Parts for Your Model Washer

While you can try to order generic parts that should work on more than one kind of washer, it’s usually a good idea to pay a little extra for branded spares. This way, the quality of the replacement is backed by a well-known company, and you won’t need to guess whether or not it will actually fit. The following distributors allow you to order anything your washing machine might need online:

  • Samsung:
  • GE:
  • Whirlpool:
  • LG:
  • Maytag:
  • Amana:
  • Kitchenaid:
  • Roper:
  • Hotpoint:

Is There a Reset Button on a Washing Machine?

When you encounter some weird problem, like when a washing machine will not agitate but will spin and drain or flashes an error code you don’t recognize, it could be that the problem lies in the control electronics and software. Most modern washing machines contain a small computer and, like any digital advice, it easily loses its mind when it encounters an unexpected condition.

On many models of washing machines, you can clear this type of error by unplugging the machine for two minutes, turning it back on and rapidly opening and closing the door six times. Others require you to hold the Start button for a few seconds or have a dedicated Reset switch in some out-of-the-way place; the manual, assuming that you didn’t throw it out as soon as you got it, will tell you where to find it.

Final Words

There really is no special magic to knowing how to fix a washer that won’t spin. Troubleshooting a problem like this can sometimes get a little frustrating, but it’s enormously rewarding to know that you’ve fixed something yourself and saved some money doing so. If you can’t fix your washing machine, you can easily get a short-term loan and hire a real pro.

We’d like to end with a word of caution, though: some repairs really are better left to the professionals. Replacing the drum bearings on a frontloader, for instance, basically means taking the entire machine apart, and not properly reconnecting something like a shock absorber afterward can lead to a whole new set of problems and cause your Christmas savings plan to get diverted to buying a brand new washer. So, while you’re probably capable of taking on more jobs than you imagine, stay within your wheelhouse, or at least get a friend to help if you’re unsure of what you’re doing.


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    20 thoughts on “How to Fix a Washing Machine That Won’t Spin

    1. Nelt says:

      Ooooh, so many problems with my LG washing machine…But I’m so happy that my friend knows how to fix it 😀

      1. Joseph says:

        I’m happy too 🙂 Thanks!

    2. Teo says:

      Thanks a lot! I fixed that **** !!! Woohoo!

      1. Joseph says:

        Haha, that’s great!

    3. John says:

      Thank you for such useful info

      1. Joseph says:

        You’re welcome!

    4. Stephen C says:

      I know basic stuff on fixing things like how to replace parts and stuff like that. So this is a really useful article for people like me who need simple guidance on finding the problem. Cheers mate!

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you, Stephen!

    5. Preston Cole says:

      This is a must read for anyone who needs fast help with their washing machine. These tricks mostly work on newer models though. Old machines don’t really have a restart button.

      1. Joseph says:

        Thank you!

    6. Virginia says:

      OH MY GOD! I was looking for reasons why won’t my washing machine spin and found this article. I took your advice, tries the door switch and it was broken! My neighbor took care of it and everything’s fine now.

      1. Joseph says:

        That’s wonderful! Thank you, Virginia!

    7. Henry Kissings says:

      I appreciate you helping me to understand that a washing machine that doesn’t drain properly can have issues with not drying clothes. Last week I was trying to wash my pants when I realized that the machine was still full of water when I tried to swap them over to the dryer. Oh, that was a surprise. Now my washing machine looks normal, thank you mate!

      1. Joseph says:

        That’s great! Good luck!

    8. Harold’s Wife says:

      I complained to my husband that my washer will not spin and he decided to fix it himself. That didn’t turn out so well and he just damaged it even more. We had a good laugh and called a professional!

      1. Joseph says:

        Be attentive. Good luck!

    9. Cindy says:

      My mom used to worry about washing machine stuff but I wanted to be a grownup and leave alone. This article saved my life LITERALY! I wonder why don’t we have school classes about how to fix a washing machine.

      1. Joseph says:

        I’m happy for you. Thanks!

    10. Mike Mikey says:

      I’m a repairman and I can tell you that too many people try to fix things by ruining them. If you have no idea what you’re doing it’s better to take an emergency loan and let a professional handle it.

    11. Rachel says:

      My washing machine is not spinning when I power up the button. I’d consult this with my husband, maybe he knows where we could find a supplier for appliance replacement parts but now it’s better to show your guideline.

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