Washer and dryer troubleshooting for common problems
Minor malfunctions call for a DIY approach, but save major repairs for the pros. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Wayne B. of Bellevue, Wash.)
Did your washer quit spinning or dryer quit heating? Before considering replacement or hiring an appliance repair professional, try these troubleshooting tips to get the appliances up and running.
Washer or dryer won't turn on
• Sometimes the problem is something as simple as the machine not receiving power, which can be caused by a faulty outlet, a circuit breaker that has tripped, or mechanical timers and knobs that have stopped working.
• If the machine is under constant heavy use, its motor can overheat and momentarily stop working. If, after giving the motor time to properly cool down, it again fails to turn on, contact a professional to repair the machine. There could be more serious issues, such as a faulty thermal fuse or thermostat.
Machines fail to spin or tumble
• The most common reason for this is a broken or loose belt. When the belt is the culprit, you can hear the motor running even though the machine's drum is not spinning. A loose, snapped or worn belt needs to be changed.
• If the door doesn't properly close or the door's switch isn't working, it will stop the machine from spinning.
• Other more serious problems are issues with a washer's transmission or clutch, or it could be a dryer's pulley, glides or drum rollers.
Dryer produces little or no heat
• The dryer will produce little to no heat if it can't get the right amount of air. Proper airflow is crucial.
• Also, if your settings (amount of time, type of fabric, temperature, etc.) do not correspond to the kind of clothes or fabrics you are drying, the dryer will appear ineffective. Avoid putting too many clothes in the dryer.
• A malfunctioning heating element, ignitor or thermal fuse can cause a dryer to stop producing heat and will require professional repairs. A heating element can break or burn. The ignitor can also break or develop white or yellowish deposits that hamper its function, and the thermal fuse can blow.
Washer won't drain
• Kinks and lint filters on the hose are common culprits, as is the hose not sitting above the level of water in the tub.
• A malfunctioning water pump can also be the culprit. Removal and replacement requires an experienced technician.
• Bad seals or gaskets can cause a washer to leak water. The tub has a main seal that can begin to leak after heavy use. A bad main seal usually requires professional help to replace.
• Leaks on a front-load washer are caused by the door's seal. If it continues to leak after a good cleaning, have the gasket replaced to ensure a proper, tight seal when the door is closed.
• A water pump with a bad seal will let water drip out and needs to be fixed.
If the repair seems too intense for your DIY homeowner skills, be sure to hire a qualified appliance repair service.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Sept. 14, 2012.